The leaders of any organization will influence the members both by their actions, their talks, and their writings. Because the true Christian religion solely bases its faith and practice on the Bible, the elders who are leading the organization have a special responsibility: they must curtail their personal viewpoints and be careful not to dilute the Word of God. The problem is that the members of the Governing Body have done the very opposite. In many cases, the members of the Governing Body at different times have made decisions that have been the exact opposite of decisions they once held in connection with the same issue, decisions that were not based on the Bible. And the Governing Body demands that all Witnesses must obey their present decision on any matter, also when this decision is the exact opposite of their former decision relating to the same issue.
A basic part of this study is a discussion of the diametrically opposite views the Governing Body has expressed in connection with alternative civil service when a Witness refuses to do military service. From 1930 to 1996, the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses as ambassadors for God’s kingdom was stressed. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Because of this position, Jehovah’s Witnesses did not accept that any state should impose any compulsory service on the Witnesses. When a young Witness refused to do military service, the government required that he had to do alternative civil service. However, he also refused civil service, not because it was something wrong with the service per se, but because he was an ambassador and did not accept any compulsory service. In 1996, an article in The Watchtower said that to accept alternative civil service or not was something each Witness had to decide. This means that the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses as ambassadors was rejected. There were no arguments to show that the new view was based on the Bible.
After the detailed discussion of civil service, examples of how the viewpoints and the decisions of the Governing Body have changed over the years are given.
After World War II, money contributions from the state or the municipality were rejected because such contributions would compromise the neutrality of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But in recent years, millions of kroner have been accepted from the Norwegian state.
Gambling was first viewed as extortion, and then it was viewed as greediness. Many Witnesses were disfellowshipped for different forms of gambling, which no longer are disfellowshipping offenses.
For 40 years, from 1973 to 2013, methadone used as a medicine was forbidden. Today it is no longer forbidden. This has prevented thousands from quitting their hard drug habit, living normal lives, and being reinstated as Witnesses.
The GB has clumsily botched its handling of several Greek words and read into them meanings that they do not have:
Particular sexual actions were wrongly included in the meaning of the word porneia (“sexual intercourse”), which resulted in these being applied inside the marriage arrangement. This egregious error led to great problems for thousands of Witnesses. After three and a half years, this view was retracted and abandoned.
The word akatharsia (“uncleanness”) was given new definitions, and on this basis, eight new disfellowshipping offenses were made-up and invented.
The abstract word aselgeia was given the concrete meaning “brazen conduct,” which has no linguistic basis, and again, many new disfellowshipping offenses were created around this made-up definition.
The word synanamignymi (“mix together; associate with”) was also mishandled by reading into it the connotation of “not greeting and not speaking to,” and so the misunderstanding of this Greek word was used to justify the practice of shunning. The Watchtower of August 1. 1974, softened the custom of shunning but The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, reaffirmed and solidified this unscriptural custom.
This history of vacillation in connection with constantly changing decisions and viewpoints show that we cannot trust the views and decisions of the Governing Body.
In any organization, be it religious, political, or social, the personality and viewpoints of the leaders will play an important role. This simply is unavoidable because the leaders will influence the members both by their behavior, their talks, and their writings. Because of this, the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the only true religion that claims to build its faith and practice solely on the Bible, must be particularly careful not to dilute the Word of God. The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, had two articles with a balanced view of disfellowshipped persons. On page 472, we find the following wise words, which are the maxim of this study:
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.
From the death of J.F. Rutherford in 1942 and for 40 years, the words in the quotation to a great extent were followed. But from 1973, when the first disfellowshipping offense without a basis in the Bible was made-up and invented by the Governing Body, these words have not always been followed. And in the last part of the 20th century and in the 21st century, a full-fledged violation of these words has occurred.
The most important violation of the words is that the members of the Governing Body no longer believe in the full inspiration of the Bible. Their claim that many parts of the Hebrew Scriptures have no meaning is in reality false teaching, and a detailed discussion will be found in the article, “The members of the Governing Body reject the full inspiration of the Bible” in the category “The Governing Body.” Another very important violation of the Holy Scriptures is that the members of the Governing Body reject important sides of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ and do not accept everything that the Scriptures say about the resurrection. This is discussed in the article “The members of the Governing Body have devalued and restricted the ransom sacrifice of Jesus” in the category “The Governing Body.”
In this study, I will discuss how the constantly changing subjective standpoints and viewpoints of the Governing Body have influenced individual Witnesses in a bad way. The most important example will be the different standpoints regarding alternative civil service for those who refuse military service and the rejection of the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses as ambassadors for God’s Kingdom.
BIBLE STUDENTS OR PARROTS?
The members of the Hebrew congregations in the 1st century CE got the following admonishing: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive.” (Hebrews 13:17 NWT13). The congregations were led by bodies of elders, and because the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures were not yet gathered into one unit, some Christians were given miraculous knowledge by the holy spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8) as well as other spiritual gifts. The elders had to make several decisions that would influence the congregation members, such as arranging meetings and educating the congregation members. For the unity of the congregation, it was important that all the members accepted the leadership of the body of elders.
The leading brothers connected with the Watchtower Society introduced the elder arrangement in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1972. And one year earlier, in 1971, they introduced a group of elders to lead all the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The words that were written to the Hebrews would naturally also apply to the body of elders who were known as the Governing Body. In a worldwide organization, a great number of practical decisions must be made. And it is important that all members of the organization accept these decisions in order to maintain the unity of the organization. However, unity should not be upheld at any cost, but only when the decisions clearly accord with God’s Word the Bible —“neither minimizing what they [the Holy Scriptures] say nor reading into them something they do not say.” The article, “The members of the Governing Body are twisting God’s thoughts” in the category “The Governing Body” shows that our obedience to the elders and the members of the Governing Body must be relative and not absolute.
In his account of his life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for several decades, A.H. Macmillan had an interesting observation about how N.H. Knorr, the president of the Watchtower Society from 1942, viewed unity:
Have you ever noticed how different ministers, representing the same religious organization, teach somewhat different ideas on the same subject? Conferences within their church systems are continually trying to iron out these differences, yet they persist. Knorr believed that not only should all Christians be ministers, but all should teach in exact unity of thought. Would this be possible without making “parrots” of them? Knorr believed it could be, and set out to do it…(some brothers in) the organization were recognized as accomplished speakers…But Knorr wanted everyone in the organization to be “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
Now the training program began in earnest. In April of 1943 special schools were organized in every congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses which became a regular part of congregational activity. These schools provided for an intensified course in public Bible speaking. All male persons attending the meetings were invited to enroll, since training was to be voluntary, and most did. Each week an instruction talk on some feature of public speaking, composition, grammar and related subjects was considered and, later, the Bible itself was discussed from every aspect. Then three student talks were given by those enrolled, each taking his turn. They spoke on assigned Bible topics and then were given counsel for improvement by the one in charge of the school. These schools, called Theocratic Ministry Schools, are still a vital part of the program of each congregation, and as new male persons become associated they are encouraged to participate.
The view of Knorr accords with the words of Peter about being ready to answer every man, and therefore, his view was based on the Bible. I can testify that this teaching program was excellent; the reason why I am a Bible scholar today is that I enrolled in this teaching program in 1961 and made full use of it. Unfortunately, this program, with the goal of making each Witness a qualified teacher who is able to use the Bible to defend his or her faith, has been terminated. The way the congregations function today shows that the view of the Governing Body today is different from the view of Knorr. Today, the Witnesses in the congregations, the elders, and the full-time preachers are parroting the views of the Governing Body. The Bible knowledge of the congregation members is extremely low, just a fraction of what it was in the 1960s and 1970s, and when a brother or sister is a student of the text of the Bible, that is the exception.
Daniel (12:9) shows that some of his prophecies would not be understood before a particular time in the future, and the same is true with other prophecies. The understanding of the text of the Bible may also increase. But the important point in both instances is that a better understanding must be based on sound principles and data. However, in the last part of the 20th century and in the 21st century, a great number of new understandings have been based on the shifting viewpoints and decisions made by the members of the Governing Body. So, the situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses today is much like that of the Catholic Church in this respect; as the faith of the Catholic Church is based on the Bible and its traditions sanctioned by the pope, so is the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses based on the Bible and on the viewpoints and decisions of the Governing Body. But the true Christian faith should only be based on the Bible.
I will now show how the decisions and views of the members of the Governing Body influence the Witnesses in the congregations, and I will start with a discussion of civil service as an alternative to military service.
. This name is inappropriate because some Christians should not govern other Christians. Only the king Jesus Christ has the right to govern his followers.
. A.H. Macmillan, Faith on the March (1956), pages 169, 170.
THE SHIFTING VIEW OF CIVIL SERVICE
Before I discuss civil service as an alternative to military service, I will say a few words about military service from the point of view of the Bible. The Watchtower, of December 15, 1957, speaks about military service. On page 756, we read:
“In Jehovah God’s wisdom his inspired Holy Scriptures refrain from giving direct advice. His Scriptures merely state the theocratic principles that should govern Christians and then leave it to the dedicated Christians . . . to maintain integrity toward God. Apart from explaining what the true Scriptural Christian principles in God’s Word are, no individual Christian or body of Christians has the divine commission or the responsibility to instruct another Christian directly what to do in this matter. Each one must decide for himself what to do.” [italics mine.]
The first point here is that no passage in the Bible says that a Christian should not do military service, and therefore, no one should advise another person in connection with military service. The second point is that the Bible has principles that can guide a Christian in connection with military service. What are these principles? The Watchtower February 1, 1951, page 79, illuminates this question:
Being such ministers and preachers, they have not abandoned their neutrality as conscientious objectors and turned aside to engage in military support of this or that side of any worldly conflict. Jesus predicted their neutrality and their preaching activities at this militant time…
8 To these Christian witnesses the apostle Paul wrote: “He committed the message of the reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’” (2 Cor. 5:19, 20, NW) As “ambassadors substituting for Christ” Jehovah’s witnesses have conscientious objection to serving in the military and related establishments of the nations.
19 Ambassadors are exempt from military service in the nation to which their government sends them, especially in a hostile nation. Remember, in Bible times ambassadors were sent, not to friendly nations, but to nations at war or threatening war. God’s ambassadors substituting for Christ are not sent to friendly nations, but to hostile nations. All nations of this world of Satan are hostile to God. The message given these ambassadors to deliver is, “Become reconciled to God.” This shows that the nations are not friendly. How, then, could these ambassadors Scripturally serve in the military forces of such nations or Scripturally consent to do so when required by national law?
The answer is that Christians should behave as ambassadors to the nations of this world. When Witnesses in Norway after World War II refused to do military service, they could do alternative civil service instead. But when they refused to do this alternative service, they were put in jail.
Why did the young Witnesses not accept alternative civil service? I use the following illustration: If a young man gets a fine because the police believe he has broken the law, and if the young man pays the fine, he admits that he is guilty and has broken the law. However, if he does not concur that he is guilty, he will refuse to pay the fine. In that case, he will be taken to court, and the ruling of the court may be that he has to pay the fine. In that case, he has two options. He can pay the fine decided by the court, or he can refuse to pay. If he refuses, the police will either take him to jail or garnish a small amount of money from his salary every month until the fine has been paid. Paying the fine under these circumstances does not represent an admission of guilt for breaking the law. It is simply an acknowledgment that he is powerless in relation to the ruling of the court.
The viewpoints of young Witnesses in Norway when they refused both military service and the alternative civil service are based on The Watchtower February 1, 1951, which is quoted above, and the book Let God Be True (1946). (See the section “The rejection of the status of Jehovah’s Witnesses as ambassadors for God’s Kingdom” in the article “The implementation of the elder arrangement was a blessing — the creation of the Governing Body has been a disaster.”
JW claim to be ambassadors for God’s kingdom, and they want to behave like ambassadors in a foreign country. If an ambassador is summoned to serve 18 months in the armed forces of Norway, he will refuse. If the authorities demand that as an alternative to military service, he must accept 18 months of civil service, the ambassador will likewise refuse. He will not refuse civil service because there is something inherently wrong with this service. But he will refuse it because he is an ambassador, and the authorities have no right to demand any kind of compulsory service from him.
After World War II, Jehovah’s Witn4esses took a similar standpoint. They refused military service and the alternative civil service because they did not accept that the state had the right to demand any kind of compulsory service from them because they were ambassadors. The Norwegian authorities understood the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they made a law that was designed for the Witnesses and the few others who took a similar stance.
When a young Witness refused military service and civil service, he was taken to court. The court used the aforementioned law to rule that the young Witness “would be forced to fulfill his conscription under the administration of the jail authorities.” There was a farm at Dillingøy, near Moss, in south-eastern Norway, and young Witnesses were sent to this farm to do different kinds of farm works. Because of the court ruling, the Witness who accepted to work on the farm for 18 months, did not do it because he accepted that the Norwegian state had the right to impose compulsory service on him. He only accepted that he was powerless in relation to the ruling of the court.
The young Witnesses in the Netherlands had the same problems as the Witnesses in Norway. To ease the situation, three brothers from the branch office had a meeting with the authorities, and a report of this meeting in Awake! of December 8, 1974, page 24, says:
On March 26, 1971, three representatives of Jehovah’s witnesses met with a forum representing the ministries of Defense and Justice. The discussion lasted two and a half hours.
One of the first points of discussion presented by the forum was this: “That you wish no part in performing military service is clear and needs no further explanation. But what really is your objection to civil, alternative service?”
The Witnesses explained that it is not that they are opposed to civil service as such, but, rather, it is a matter of strict neutrality. Therefore, any work that is merely a substitute for military service would be unacceptable to Jehovah’s witnesses.
Other questions narrowed the issue down still further. “When a person objects to military service,” the government’s agents declared, “he passes from military jurisdiction on to civil jurisdiction and from that moment has nothing at all to do with the military. Why, then, is the accepting of such civil service still so objectionable?”
Willingly accepting such work is objectionable to the Christian because of what God’s law says about the matter: “You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men.” (1 Cor. 7:23) Civilian servitude as a substitute for military service would be just as objectionable to the Christian. In effect, he would thereby become a part of the world instead of keeping separate as Jesus commanded.—John 15:19;17:14-16.
The arguments of the Dutch Witnesses were similar to those used in Norway, though being presented from a different angle. In Norway, we stressed that because we are ambassadors, the authorities have no right to impose any compulsory service on us. To accept civil service as a substitute for military service would therefore be a compromise. The Dutch Witnesses stressed that by accepting civil service, we would compromise our neutrality and become slaves of men and a part of the world. The bottom line of both approaches was that accepting civil service as an alternative for military service would be a compromise of Christian neutrality.
However, an article in The Watchtower of May 1, 1996, presented a completely new view of civil service as an alternative to military service. The question to paragraph 16 on page 20 is: “In some lands, what nonmilitary service does Caesar demand of those who do not accept military service? ” The following answer is given:
16 However, there are lands where the State, while not allowing exemption for ministers of religion, nevertheless acknowledges that some individuals may object to military service. Many of these lands make provision for such conscientious individuals not to be forced into military service. In some places a required civilian service, such as useful work in the community, is regarded as nonmilitary national service. Could a dedicated Christian undertake such service? Here again, a dedicated, baptized Christian would have to make his own decision on the basis of his Bible-trained conscience.
- Is there a Biblical precedent for nonmilitary civilian service?
17 It seems that compulsory service was practiced in Bible times. One history book states: “In addition to the taxes and dues exacted from the inhabitants of Judea, there was also a corvée [unpaid labor exacted by public authorities]. This was an ancient institution in the East, which the Hellenistic and Roman authorities continued to maintain. . . . The New Testament, too, cites examples of corvée in Judea, showing how widespread it was. In accordance with this custom, the soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into carrying Jesus’ cross [torture stake] (Matthew 5:41;27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26).”
- With what nonmilitary, nonreligious types of community service do Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently cooperate?
18 Similarly, citizens in some countries today are required by the State or by local authorities to participate in various forms of community service. Sometimes this is for a specific task, such as digging wells or building roads; sometimes it is on a regular basis, such as weekly participation in cleaning up roads, schools, or hospitals. Where such civilian service is for the good of the community and is not connected with false religion or is not in some other way objectionable to the consciences of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they have often complied. (1 Peter 2:13-15) This has usually resulted in an excellent witness and has sometimes silenced those who falsely accuse the Witnesses of being antigovernment.—Compare Matthew 10:18.
- How should a Christian approach the matter if Caesar asks him to perform nonmilitary national service for a period of time?
19 What, though, if the State requires a Christian for a period of time to perform civilian service that is a part of national service under a civilian administration? Here again, Christians must make their own decision based on an informed conscience. “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Romans 14:10) Christians faced with a requirement of Caesar should prayerfully study the matter and meditate on it. It may also be wise to talk the matter over with mature Christians in the congregation. After this a personal decision must be made.—Proverbs 2:1-5;Philippians 4:5.
- What questions and Scriptural principles help a Christian to reason on the matter of nonmilitary national civilian service?
20 While engaged in such research, Christians would consider a number of Bible principles. Paul said that we must “be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers, . . . be ready for every good work . . . be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men.” (Titus 3:1, 2) At the same time, Christians would do well to examine the proposed civilian work. If they accept it, will they be able to maintain Christian neutrality? (Micah 4:3, 5; John 17:16) Would it involve them with some false religion? (Revelation 18:4, 20, 21) Would performing it prevent or unreasonably limit them from fulfilling their Christian responsibilities? (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 10:24, 25) On the other hand, would they be able to continue to make spiritual progress, perhaps even sharing in the full-time ministry while performing the required service?—Hebrews 6:11, 12.
- Whatever his decision, how should the congregation view a brother who is handling the matter of nonmilitary national civilian service?
21 What if the Christian’s honest answers to such questions lead him to conclude that the national civilian service is a “good work” that he can perform in obedience to the authorities? That is his decision before Jehovah. Appointed elders and others should fully respect the conscience of the brother and continue to regard him as a Christian in good standing. If, however, a Christian feels that he cannot perform this civilian service, his position should also be respected. He too remains in good standing and should receive loving support.—1 Corinthians 10:29; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 3:16.
- Whatever situation faces us, what will we continue to do?
22 As Christians we will not cease to render “to him who calls for honor, such honor.” (Romans 13:7) We will respect good order and seek to be peaceful, law-abiding citizens. (Psalm 34:14) We may even pray “concerning kings and all those who are in high station” when these men are called upon to make decisions that affect our Christian life and work. As a result of our paying back Caesar’s things to Caesar, we hope that “we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.” (1 Timothy 2:1, 2) Above all, we will continue to preach the good news of the Kingdom as mankind’s only hope, conscientiously paying back God’s things to God.
If we compare the article from 1996 with the other articles that are quoted above, what conclusions can we draw? At first glance, we could draw the conclusion that this article accords with the article from December 15, 1957, that because the Bible only has principles and not laws in connection with military service, each one must decide what to do. But that would be a wrong conclusion!
As a matter of fact, the 1996 article turns the position of Christians being ambassadors and not being a part of the world upside down. And there is no biblical reason given for this. But the reason is that the members of the Governing Body had changed their minds. So, the important question is: Are Christians obliged to follow the decisions of the Governing Body when they change to an opposite view based on their own subjective viewpoint instead of providing a clear scriptural reason for the change? My answer is an emphatic No!
Consider the details. First, the status of being ambassadors, as expressed in The Watchtower of February 1, 1951, in Let God Be True, and in later articles, has been abandoned. When a Witness refuses military service but accepts alternative civil service, he is no longer acting as an ambassador because no ambassador would accept compulsory service in any form.
Second, to accept civil service as a substitute for military service would make us slaves of men and a part of the world, as it is expressed in Awake! of December 8, 1974. This was the very reason why young Witnesses refused alternative civil service, as it was stated to the authorities of the Netherlands, according to the Awake! article. The 1996 Watchtower article is a direct contradiction of the Awake! article of 1974. In effect, the Governing Body says, “You are not slaves of men, you are not a part of the world, and you are, somehow, still ambassadors of Christ even when you accept alternative civil service.” But this is wrong.
The two biblical references to justify the new view are strange indeed. First, the principle “we must be paying back Caesar’s things to Ceasar” is used (red text). But we must remember that Matthew 22:21 also says that we must pay God’s things to God.” And the view among Jehovah’s Witnesses until 1996 was that to accept alternative civil service would be the same as paying God’s things to Caesar. But now the view of the Governing Body had changed to the very opposite view.
Third, the words of Paul in Titus 3:1 “to be obedient to governments and authorities” (blue text) are used. But Acts 5:29 shows that our obedience is relative because we “must obey God as ruler rather than men.” Using the two mentioned scriptures as arguments for alternative service does not even begin to justify this change in viewpoint.
The abandonment of the assignment of ambassadors and of not being a part of the world is clearly seen by the admonition focusing on the nature of the of the civilian service instead of whether the authorities have the right to impose compulsory service on the Christians in the first place.
|The Christian Greek Scriptures show that Christians are ambassadors of God’s kingdom. The Governing Body has implicitly abandoned this position by accepting alternative compulsory civil service when military service is refused.|
I have now discussed alternative civil service for those who refuse to do military service. But the article of 1996 also discusses different forms of community service that are required by the state, for example, digging up wells and building roads. In such situations, the article showed that each one must make a personal decision to participate or not. This is, of course, good advice.
But what principles should be considered when making that decision? I will apply the basic principle that has been abandoned by the Governing Body, namely, the status of all of Jesus’ followers as ambassadors. In my view, the first question to ask is: Would an ambassador have accepted such a compulsory service? If not, the Christian ambassador cannot accept this form of service.
To make a rule for every situation is, of course, impossible, and some situations may not be subject to the ambassador question. For example, a Norwegian citizen will pay taxes to the state and to the community. But an ambassador will not be paying taxes. If a situation of compulsory service can be shown to be comparable to paying taxes, which is a biblical requirement (Romans 13:6), this service may be acceptable for the Christian. For example, a Christian lives in an African village without a road. The authorities decide to build a road and demand that the villagers work on it. Otherwise, the villagers must pay the price for the work done by others. In another village, a well is needed, and the chief of the village decides that every young man must take part in the work of digging up the well. Such compulsory work under these circumstances does not compromise the status of Christians as ambassadors or make them slaves of men.
. I have shown above that the changed view of civil service as an alternative for military service, the position of being ambassadors, was rejected. However, the book How to Remain in God’s Love (2017), page 61, says: “Ambassadors represent their government in a foreign land, and they do not get involved in the politics of that land. The anointed, who have the hope of ruling with Christ in heaven, are in a similar situation. Paul wrote to anointed Christians: “We are ambassadors substituting for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) The anointed represent God’s government. They do not get involved in the political and governmental issues of this world.” (Philippians 3:20). This is the same standpoint that was expressed in The Watchtower of February 1, 1951. But this view is still not applied in connection with military service and civil service. So the members of the Governing Body say one thing, but they do something different.
WE MUST NOT ACCEPT THE SHIFTING VIEWS OF THE GOVERNING BODY
I have already mentioned that in a worldwide organization, a great number of decisions must be made by the leaders. And it is important for all in the organization to accept this, so that unity can be upheld.
However, laws and rules that regulate the personal lives and the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses that are made up and invented by the Governing Body without any biblical basis need not be followed. This includes 37 of the 48 disfellowshipping offenses that are not found in the Bible, as well as the compulsory service rules derived from abandoning the Christians’ position as ambassadors.
The purpose of this study is to show that many of the rules and laws in the organization are arbitrary, based on the ever-shifting viewpoints of the members of the Governing Body. Therefore, we must not blindly follow the latest new viewpoints that are expressed in the Watchtower literature, but we should take the same approach as the Beroeans. Paul and Silas preached in the synagogue in Beroea for Jews and for persons of the nations. The Hebrew Scriptures were regularly read in the synagogue, and those who attended the synagogue knew these Scriptures. Paul and Silas evidently used the Hebrew Scriptures as a point of departure, and on this basis, they preached about Jesus Christ. This was a new message, and what was the reaction? We read in Acts 17:11(NWT13):
Now these were more noble-minded than these in Thes·sa·lo·ni’ca, for they accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
The Beroeans were not skeptical persons. But they wanted to be certain that they understood and could accept the message. And therefore, they were examining the Scriptures. The only religious group whose doctrines build on the text of the Bible is Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most articles that are written in the Watchtower literature are based on the Bible and contain the truth. Therefore, we should have a positive mind when we receive a new copy of The Watchtower, “accepting the magazine with the greatest eagerness of mind.” But at the same time, for the sake of our own conscience and our own faith, we must check everything against the text of the Bible, particularly when a new view that has great consequences for individual Witnesses is presented.
One bad example where we need to be particularly cautious is the book Pure Worship Of Jehovah — Restored At Last (2019). Here the Governing Body has not analyzed the Hebrew text of Ezekiel’s prophecy and shown the meaning of the text for us, as we find in the book The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah — How? (1971). But what the text reminds the Governing Body of is what is presented to the readers. This takes the authority away from the Holy text of the Bible and transfers the authority to the minds of the Governing Body. This book cannot be accepted “with the greatest eagerness of mind.” How this new approach to the text of the Bible is tantamount to rejecting the full inspiration of the Bible is discussed in the article “The Governing Body Does not Believe in the Full Inspiration of the Bible” in the category “The Governing Body.” A detailed discussion of this book where many errors are shown is found in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, pages 281-310.
I will now present some situations where the members of the GB have changed their minds without any biblical reason.
ACCEPTING MONEY FROM THE STAT OR THE MUNICIPALITY
In Norway, there is a Lutheran state Church, and a small amount of taxpayers’ money is transferred to this church every year. Other religious organizations also receive money from the state. Fourteen million kroner are transferred to Jehovah’s Witnesses every year.
When I was the circuit servant (overseer) of the circuit in south-western Norway in 1965, I found a paper in the files of the Stavanger congregation showing that several thousand kroner were transferred to the congregation from the city government. But this money was returned to the city government. The congregation would not accept any money from the state or the city, although other religious denominations accepted such money.
This was the view of that time, that to get funds from the state or the municipality would compromise the independence and neutrality of the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses . I am not certain when this was changed. But I remember that from the late 1970s, we had to send lists of all the members of the congregations to the authorities, so the Watchtower Society could get a certain sum of money for each member. The point is, regardless of when this change occurred, it is yet another example of an arbitrary shift in viewpoint with no apparent scriptural reason to justify it.
THE CHANGING VIEWS OF GAMBLING
The view of gambling has changed substantially during the last 68 years. In 1961, gambling was viewed as extortion, but this was changed in 1972 when it was redefined as a form of greediness. However, both definitions are made up and invented by the Governing Body, so neither of them is relevant.
How Witnesses who have participated in different forms of gambling have been treated, has changed considerably over the years, as seen in figure 1.1.
Figure 1.1 Different views on gambling
|1954||A Witness is allowed to be employed in a gambling enterprise.|
|1961||A Witness is not allowed to be employed in a gambling enterprise.|
|1988||Gambling in any form appeals to greed.|
|1992||Any form of gambling, small or great, is wrong.|
|1994||To use free tickets for gambling is wrong.|
|1996||Every form of gambling is tainted with greed.|
|2019||Petty gambling for entertainment is not wrong.|
|2019||If gambling reveals a course of greediness, that is a disfellowshipping offense.|
|2019||To be employed in a gambling enterprise is a disfellowshipping offense.|
The most noteworthy change is that being employed in a gambling enterprise was allowed in 1954. But in 1961, it became a disfellowshipping offense. Since 1954, all forms of gambling were declared to be wrong, even petty gambling for entertainment and getting a free ticket. However, in the 2019 book for elders, “Shepherd The Flock Of God”, petty gambling for entertainment is allowed. Only being employed in a gambling enterprise or showing greed in connection with gambling are not allowed. Both are disfellowshipping offenses. But the other forms of gambling are now allowed.
Just think of all the Witnesses since 1954 who have been disfellowshipped because of the shifting views of the Governing Body on gambling. They would not have been disfellowshipped today when most kinds of gambling are now considered acceptable. (A detailed discussion is found in the article, “Gambling” in the category “Reversed view of disfellowshipping offenses.”)
THE CHANGING VIEW OF METHADONE
Methadone is an opioid that does not make the user intoxicated. In Norway, persons who take methadone every day can legally drive a car, but a person who has drunk one pint of beer is not allowed to drive.
When a person becomes addicted to heroin, he or she will crave the drug so intensely that, even if the consequences are dire, he or she is unable to resist the drug. Very few users are able to quit using heroin. Even if some are able to mobilize all their willpower to quit, a great number of them relapse to heroin again.
In this situation, the drug methadone can be of help. It fills the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin does. So, by using methadone, a person can live a normal life without relapsing to heroin. In the US, there are about 100,000 persons who used heroin who participate in programs where methadone is used as the treatment and, because of this live normal lives.
A number of JW have been hooked on heroin and other hard drugs. Some of them have worked hard to quit their habit, and they want to live normal lives with the help of methadone. But The Watchtower of 1 June 1973 made the statement that using methadone was a disfellowshipping offense. Additionally, persons who had been disfellowshipped and were now using methadone, despite having quit their heroin addiction, would not be reinstated.
No scripture in the Bible says that addiction to drugs is a disfellowshipping offense. And that alone shows that the rejection of the use of methadone was a very bad decision. 1 Corinthians 5:11 shows that persons who are permeated by overdrinking and habitual intoxication deserve to be disfellowshipped. The analogy of this suggests that persons who become habitually intoxicated by drugs would likewise deserve to be disfellowshipped. But persons who use methadone do not become intoxicated.
For 40 years until 2013, the ban on methadone was upheld, and after that, the ban was lifted for those who participated in programs where methadone was used. But the ban was lifted covertly, without any notice about it given. This means that to get the information that the members of the GB changed their minds, one has to contact the Service Department at the branch office.
We can only imagine how many drug addicts who had been Witnesses, and who had quit their drug habit but who gave up their fight against drug addiction and for a normal life and a place in a JW congregation because the GB denied them the drug that could have helped them. (A detailed discussion is found in the article “Methadone and Disfellowshipping” in the category “Reversed View of Disfellowshipping Offenses.”
NEW INTERPRETATIONS OF GREEK WORDS
The life stories of the members of the Governing Body show that none of them have studied the languages of the Bible, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. That does not prevent them from being good Bible teachers. But it is a real drawback when the nuances and subtleties of original words are important.
We must remember that in the judicial system created by the Governing Body, the meaning of single words can be a matter of “life-and-death,” that is, a matter of whether a Witness will be allowed to continue to be a member of his or her congregation or not. That the meaning of single words can be used to seal the future of a Witness and can even ruin the life of him or her and their families is in itself questionable.
Enhancing this problem is the fact that it is very difficult to pinpoint the real meaning of a Greek word. In order to come as close as possible to the real meaning of a Greek word in the Bible, one should not only know New Testament Greek but also be educated in linguistics and lexical semantics. And the members of the Governing Body are a long ways off from this.
A basic error in the Watchtower literature when the meaning of words is discussed is that Greek-English wordbooks and lexicons are used in an uncritical way by cherry-picking meanings that fit the current views of the Governing Body. This cherry-picking is seen in two procedures, 1) the Governing Body writer takes one or more entries from the lexicon and use this as the meaning, and 2) The meaning of a word presented by a lone Greek scholar is, without scrutiny, taken as fact, as the meaning.
The fallacy of this method is that Greek-English lexicons include a wide range of meanings and references from Classical Greek so that the meaning of a word given by a Greek scholar is his or her opinion and not necessarily the correct meaning. Many Greek words in the Christian Greek Scriptures have different meanings compared to Classical Greek. So the only way to come close to the meaning of a Greek word is to study the contexts where the word is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
I will now give some examples of how the Governing Body has given wrong meanings to particular Greek words over the years. The result is that thousands of Witnesses have been disfellowshipped because of these errors, and great harm and suffering have been the result for thousands of others.
Each of the words I will consider is discussed in detail elsewhere. Therefore, I only give an overview in this context.
Porneia inside marriage
The meaning of the word porneia can only be found by studying the contexts in which it occurs in the NT. It occurs 25 times, and the corresponding verb porneuō occurs eight times in the NT. The only conclusion we can draw from the contexts where these examples occur is the term “sexual intercourse” for the substantive and “to commit sexual intercourse” for the verb. The references of porneia are, 1) sexual intercourse between a married person and one to whom he or she is not married, 2) sexual intercourse between unmarried persons, and 3) sexual intercourse between homosexuals.
When The Watchtower for 1974, page 189, says that porneia “designates all forms of immoral sexual relations, perversions and lewd practices such as might be carried on in a house of prostitution, including oral and anal copulation,” that is pure fantasy. No context where the word occurs in the Christian Greek Scriptures in any way supports this definition. This is a clear violation of the wise words that are found 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.” In connection with the Greek word porneia, the Governing Body has read many things into the text of the Christian Greek Scriptures that is not there.
|The only meaning we can construe from the use of porneia in the Christian Greek Scriptures is the term “sexual intercourse between persons who are not married to each other”|
The Watchtower of November 15, 1974, page 703, extended the definition of porneia—again without the slightest biblical evidence. Now the definition was that porneia included oral and anal copulation and different lewd practices, and this was applied to the sexual relations between marriage partners. The decision was also that if porneia occurred inside marriage, that would be a basis for divorce.
This wrong view resulted in great problems. Husbands were disfellowshipped because of their sexual relations with their wives, marriages were dissolved on unbiblical grounds, and husbands, wives, and children suffered.
This bad situation lasted for three and a half years. But The Watchtower of February 15, 1978, page 31, reversed the situation. Marriage mates could not be guilty of sexual immorality (porneia) inside their marriages. The reason given for the reversal was “in view of the absence of clear Scriptural instruction.” However, The Watchtower of March 15, 1983, pages 30 and 31, had a partial reversal of the reversal of 1978. The new view was that oral and anal sex inside marriage was again disfellowshipping offenses, but such actions could not dissolve the marriage. So, the Governing Body’s view of porneia was still based on the fantasy definition they invented and not on lexical semantics.
The conclusion is that we cannot trust the viewpoints and decisions of the Governing Body. But we should always test them against the text of the Bible. (See “porneia-inside-marriage” in the Category “Reversed View of Disfellowshipping Offenses,” and “Sexual immorality (porneia) in the category “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.”
“Gross uncleanness” and “Uncleanness with greediness”
The Greek word in this context that has been abused is akatharsia, which simply means “uncleanness,” without any further definition. The terms “gross uncleanness” and “uncleanness with greediness” are used as umbrella terms for eight different actions that the Governing Body views and disfellowshipping offenses:
- Momentary touching of intimate body parts or caressing breasts.
- Immoral conversations over the telephone or the Internet.
- Viewing abhorrent forms of pornography.
- Misuse of tobacco.
- Use of marijuana, betel nut.
- Abuse of medical, illicit, or addictive drugs.
- Extreme physical uncleanness.
- Oral and anal copulation inside marriage.
The problem with these five kinds of actions is that they are not mentioned in the Bible. Making them disfellowshipping offenses, therefore, are human commandments without any basis in the Bible. Moreover, the terms “gross uncleanness” and “uncleanness with greediness” are also human-made constructions that have no basis in the Bible.
In my book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, pages 236-240, there is a detailed analysis of the word akatharsia (“uncleanness”). It is obvious that when persons who have no knowledge of Greek and of lexical semantics have the final say in definitions of Greek words, the results cannot be good. And this is clearly the case in connection with the eight mentioned unbiblical disfellowshipping offenses.
|The only meaning we can construe from the use of akatharsia in the Christian Greek Scriptures is the broad term “uncleanness.” To attach modern actions to this term is an abuse of lexical semantics and of the text of the Scriptures.|
The Greek word in this context that has been abused is aselgeia, which NWT84 translates as “loose conduct” and NWT13 translates as “brazen conduct.” The meaning of any Greek term can only be construed by a study of the contexts in the Christian Greek Scriptures where the word occurs. There is no context where aselgeia refers to actions, but the use of the word suggests that the meaning is abstract. The word “conduct” in both translations, therefore, is misleading, and the word “brazen” in NWT13 has not Greek linguistic basis.
In my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, pages 224-234, there is a detailed linguistic analysis of aselgeia, where also lexicons with the Classical Greek references of the word are listed. The Classical Greek references cannot be used to find the meaning of the Greek word aselgeia in the Christian Greek Scriptures; they only show how extra-biblical sources used the word. However, not even among the extra-biblical sources do we find the sense “brazen” connected with aselgeia. So, there appears to be no basis whatsoever for this choice. Because the word aselgeia is abstract, and it is connected with desire in the Christian Greek Scriptures, I render the word as “unrestrained lust.”
The word aselgeia is also used by the Governing Body as an umbrella term for all actions and attitudes that the elders assess as brazen and can lead to disfellowshipping. Two particular actions are mentioned in the book for elders. But a third application of numerous actions is implied:
- Dating though not free to remarry.
- Unnecessary association with disfellowshipped or disassociated individuals.
- Any situation where the elders view the conduct of a Witness as brazen.
The third application of “brazen conduct” can be applied to any situation, and the subjective view of the elders in detecting “brazen conduct” in a person can lead to disfellowshipping. This is another arbitrary and ambiguous example of disfellowshipping offenses.
The important point is that the concept “brazen” as applied to aselgeia has no linguistic or biblical basis, and the concept “conduct” is also misleading because the word is abstract and does not refer to any actions. In addition, none of the three applications of aselgeia to disfellowshipping offenses are mentioned in the Cjhristian Greek Scriptures. But these are made-up and invented by the Governing Body.
|The word aselgeia (unrestrained lust) is abstract, and no actions are connected with the word in the Christian Greek Scriptures. To attach modern actions to this term is an abuse of lexical semantics and the text of the Scriptures.|
“Stop keeping company with”
The words in the heading are taken from 1 Corinthians 5:11 (NWT13), and they have loosely been used to show that persons who are disfellowshipped and disassociated must be shunned. I use the word “loosely” because the custom of shunning was introduced in The Watchtower of March 1, 1952, but the magazine has no arguments from the Bible supporting the custom of shunning.
The Greek word that is translated as “keeping company” is synanamignymi (“mix together, associate with”). During the 70 years since the introduction of shunning, there has been no linguistic or biblical analysis of synanamignymi or any other Greek word showing that shunning persons is based on the Bible. In texts discussing shunning, the three scriptures 1 Corinthians 5:11, Matthew 18:17, and 2 John 10, have been repeatedly referred to. But because there has been no detailed analysis of the passages — in most cases just references with no explanation—I can rightly say that the scriptures have only been “loosely used.”
When 1 Corinthians 5:11 is used in connection with shunning, it is implied that the word synanamignymi in the text includes “not greeting and not speaking with.” But this is not true and is a violation of the wise words in the first quotation in this study: “neither minimizing what they [the Scriptures] say nor reading into them something they do not say.” Applying 1 Corinthians 5:11 to shunning is to read something into the text that it does not say. The word synanamignymi is also used in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 in connection with a person who was marked for not accepting the words of Paul. In connection with this marked person, the congregation members should “continue admonishing him,” and this means that they would have to speak with him and greet him. Therefore, using synanamignymi as evidence for shunning is absolutely wrong. The web article “Stop keeping company with” in the Category “Shunning not based on the Bible” shows that Christians should not fraternize or socialize with disfellowshipped persons. But, like marked ones, they should greet and speak with such persons.
The Watchtower has, in some articles, shown that not greeting disfellowshipped persons have no Bible basis. In a discussion of Matthew 18:17, The Watchtower of March 1, 1974, page 465, says:
There is, however, nothing to show that Jews with a balanced and Scriptural viewpoint would refuse to greet a “man of the nations” or a tax collector. Jesus’ counsel about greetings, in connection with his exhortation to imitate God in his undeserved kindness toward “wicked people and good,” would seem to rule against such a rigid stand.—Matt. 5:45-48.
The words of Jesus in the reference clearly speaks in favor of greeting all people, including our enemies. The two articles in The Watchtower of March 1, 1974, express a balanced view of disfellowshipped persons and a softening of the custom of shunning. Unfortunately, some of the balanced conclusions were not carried forward or implemented by the Governing Body after 1974. (See the article, “A man of the nations and a tax collector” in the category “Shunning not based on the Bible.”)
Most readers of The Watchtower believe that 2 John 7-10 refers to disfellowshipped persons and that the words of verse 10 “do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him” must also refer to disfellowshipped persons.
The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, shows that this is not true because the reference is to active propagandists and antichrists who deny Jesus “as coming in the flesh.” And the magazine shows why 2 John 10 has been repeatedly referred to when it comes to shunning disfellowshipped persons, not because it refers to disfellowshipped persons, but because the Governing Body says that disfellowshipped persons are like the antichrists. So, the shunning of disfellowshipped persons is based on the subjective decision of the members of the Governing Body and not on the Bible.
|The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, shows that the custom of shunning disfellowshipped persons is based on the subjective decision of the Governing Body and not on the Bible. None of the three mentioned scriptures support shunning.|
An important point in this study has been the shifting views of the Governing Body. And the real problem is that the members of the Governing Body demand full obedience to the current view they have at any particular moment, even though this may be a view that is the exact opposite of the view they had some years ago.
I have already mentioned the two balanced articles on disfellowshipping in The Watchtower of August 1, 1974. Seven years later, The Watchtower of 1981 had an article on disfellowshipping. It seems to me that this article was written to counter several of the balanced statements in The Watchtower of 1974. I will use one example, namely, how persons who have been disfellowshipped should be treated by blood relatives. The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, page 471, says:
Thus, if a disfellowshiped parent goes to visit a son or daughter or to see grandchildren and is allowed to enter the Christian home, this is not the concern of the elders. Such a one has a natural right to visit his blood relatives and his offspring. Similarly, when sons or daughters render honor to a parent, though disfellowshiped, by calling to see how such a one’s physical health is or what needs he or she may have, this act in itself is not a spiritual fellowshiping.
The words in the quotation express a balanced viewpoint. However, after 1974, this was not implemented in the organization. Only those in the household of a disfellowshipped person could have contact with him or her. All other persons, including blood relatives not living in the household, could not have any contact, or else they could be disfellowshipped. The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, page 25, says:
27 But it is not wrong to be loyal to the righteous and just God of the Bible. He tells us that he will accept ‘in his holy mountain’ only those who walk faultlessly, practice righteousness and speak truth. (Ps. 15:1-5) If, though, a Christian were to throw in his lot with a wrongdoer who has been rejected by God and disfellowshiped, or has disassociated himself, that would be as much as saying ‘I do not want a place in God’s holy mountain either.’ If the elders saw him heading in that direction by regularly keeping company with a disfellowshiped person, they would lovingly and patiently try to help him to regain God’s view. (Matt. 18:18; Gal. 6:1) They would admonish him and, if necessary, ‘reprove him with severity.’ They want to help him remain ‘in God’s holy mountain.’ But if he will not cease to fellowship with the expelled person, he thus has made himself ‘a sharer (supporting or participating) in the wicked works’ and must be removed from the congregation, expelled.—Titus 1:13; Jude 22, 23; compare Numbers 16:26.
Regarding expelled family members outside one’s household, the article says on page 29:
DISFELLOWSHIPED RELATIVES NOT LIVING AT HOME
The second situation that we need to consider is that involving a disfellowshipped or disassociated relative who is in the immediate family circle or living at one’s home. Such a person is still related by blood or marriage, and so there may be some limited need to care for necessary family matters. Nonetheless, it is not as if he were living in the same home where contact and conversation could not be avoided. We should keep clearly in mind the Bible’s inspired direction: “Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person . . . , not even eating with such a man.”—1 Cor. 5:11.
Consequently, Christians related to such a disfellowshiped person living outside the home should strive to avoid needless association, even keeping business dealings to a minimum.
When we compare The Watchtower articles from 1974 and 1981, we see a stark contrast: The 1974 article contained a softening of the custom of shunning and the 1981 article contained a hardening of this custom. The natural right to visit blood relatives were no longer valid in 1981! In fact, this right was not practiced after the two articles of 1 August 1974 was published. This is shown in the article from 15 September 1981. The article says that there “may be some limited need to care for necessary family matters.” The words “limited need” have been interpreted as an almost total shunning of the disfellowshipped relative, except for special situations, when for example, papers must be signed in connection with inheritance when someone has died. It does not include “calling to see how such a one’s [the disfellowshipped relative] physical health is or what needs he or she may have,” as the 1974 Watchtower article said. By refusing to refrain from his “natural right to visit his blood relatives” that are disfellowshipped, the person himself may be disfellowshipped. This is an example of the cadaver discipline of the present organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses; disfellowshipped persons are treated as if they were dead or did not exist.
We should also note the words in the first quotation above that persons who have been disfellowshipped “have been rejected by God.” These are very strong words, and they show in reality that the members of the Governing Body have given themselves and the elders the right to play God and take the position of God. My book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, chapter 5, shows that 37 of the 48 disfellowshipping offenses are not made by God, but they are invented by the members of the Governing Body without any basis in the Bible. So, when a person is disfellowshipped on the basis of the will and decisions of the members of the Governing Body, God is supposed to have accepted that and has rejected that person. Moreover, many of the disfellowshipping offenses are ambiguous and unclear, and the decision to disfellowship a person often is based on the subjective opinion of the three elders in the judicial committee. So, when a person is disfellowshipped because of the gut feelings of three elders, the claim is that God accepts that and rejects that person. This is a way by which the members of the Governing Body have elevated themselves to a supreme position, and this position is anti-Christian!
. A detailed discussion of how to find the meaning of words is found in My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, pages 222-224.
After World War II, N.H. Knorr initiated a worldwide teaching program with the goal of making every Witness of Jehovah a Bible teacher who could defend the faith. Unfortunately, this excellent teaching program was terminated in the last part of the 20th century. Today Jehovah’s Witnesses are more like parrots who repeat what the Governing Body has written, from what they are reminded of when they read the Scriptures.
The important question is: Can we trust the words of the Governing Body? The answer is an emphatic No! And the reason for this answer is that the Governing Body has introduced a great number of rules and laws that are not based on the Bible. And, as I will repeat below, the views of the Governing Body on important issues have repeatedly changed, often to the very opposite stance they once held. The Governing Body demands that all Witnesses believe in and obey the view the Governing Body has at any given moment, even when this view is the opposite of the view they had some years earlier. But this obedience would mean that the Witnesses were slaves of men.
In this study, I have shown how the views of the Governing Body have changed in the following areas.
- The view that Jehovah’s Witnesses are ambassadors of the kingdom has been effectively abandoned inasmuch as those refusing military service can accept alternative civil service.
- Previously, accepting money from the state or municipality was viewed as a compromise and was refused. Today, millions of kroner are accepted from the Norwegian state.
- Gambling was first viewed as extortion, and then it was viewed as greed. All forms of gambling were wrong. But today, only employment in a gambling enterprise or showing greed is wrong. Many Witnesses have in the past, been disfellowshipped for forms of gambling that are no longer viewed as disfellowshipping offenses.
- For 40 years, from 1973 to 2013, the use of methadone was viewed as a disfellowshipping offense. But today, it is accepted as a medicine. Because of the previous view, thousands of disfellowshipped Witnesses were denied the medicine that could have helped them quit hard drug addiction and restore a good relationship with Jehovah.
The Governing Body has mishandled several Greek words and read into them meanings that are not there. This has resulted in a number of disfellowshipping offenses that are not based on the Bible.
- The only meaning of the Greek word porneia that is seen in the Christian Greek Scriptures is “sexual intercourse between persons who are not married.” Three references to actions that are porneia are seen in the Scriptures. In 1974, the Governing Body tried connecting particular sexual actions with porneia and this led to the egregious error of applying these actions inside marriage. Great problems occurred, and the view was reversed in 1978. Nevertheless, the unscriptural definition of porneia, with its comprehensive list of man-made actions, has been retained to date.
- The word akatharsia has the general meaning “uncleanness.” The Governing Body has modified this word and created the phrases “gross uncleanness” and “uncleanness with greediness” These phrases have no biblical basis. Even so, eight different disfellowshipping offenses are connected with these unbiblical expressions.
- The word aselgeia is connected with “brazen conduct,” and if the elders assess that a person has demonstrated brazen conduct, he or she can be disfellowshipped. In reality, the word aselgeia is abstract, and therefore does not refer to any conduct. The concept “brazen” is constructed by the Governing Body and has no linguistic basis whatsoever.
- The word synanamignymi has the meaning “mix together; associate with.” It has been used as a basis for shunning disfellowshipped persons. But the meanings “not greeting and not speaking with” is read into the word by the Governing Body. The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, has a balanced view of disfellowshipped persons, including a softening of the custom of shunning. This softening was not implemented after 1974, and The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, revived and hardened the custom of shunning.
The maxim of this study and all other studies on my webpage is: “Holding to the Scriptures, neither minimizing what they say nor reading into them something they do not say.” The members of the Governing Body have definitely violated this maxim over and over again. In all the eight points above, the members of the Governing Body have either expressed two diametrically opposite views of the same situation, or they have read new meanings into Greek words, meanings that are not included in these words.
I therefore, draw the conclusion that is expressed in the heading: We cannot trust the views and decisions of the Governing Body.
One elder who read this article expressed his opinion that the presentation of the article and the arguments were unassailable. But he asked: “Will not the reader who is a Witness conclude that he or she has to leave the organization when we cannot trust the decisions of the Governing Body?” I will answer with the words in John 6:66-68 (NWT13):
66 Because of this, many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve: “You do not want to go also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.
We have nowhere else to go! In my statement of belief on this webpage, I say:
I believe that Jehovah God has used the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society from the days of C.T. Russell to restore the only true religion and that all the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses are based on the Bible.
The problem is that we have a leadership consisting of eight men who have followed the course of some elders in the Christian congregations in the second century CE who elevated themselves and became bishops. These eight men function as a government and have unlimited power. In some instances, as described in this article, the members of the Governing Body have made up and invented human commandments that are not based on the Bible. And we should realize that. But the fact that the members of the Governing Body in some situations have erred should not cause us to forget the basic doctrines of the organization that all are based on the Bible, or forget the worldwide preaching work as a fulfillment of Matthew 24:14. This is Jehovah’s organization, and we should stick to what is good and right as long as Jehovah permits errors to occur in the organization.