How a faithful JW is to approach their leaders with a disagreement

Quoted from p. 15 of the October 15, 2012 Watchtower Study Edition:

12 Differences of viewpoint can become a source of irritation in the congregation—even among the overseers. The Bible’s counsel can help us in this regard: “In showing honor to one another take the lead” and, “Do not become dis- creet in your own eyes.” (Rom. 12:10, 16) Instead of insisting that we are right, we should acknowledge that there is often more than one acceptable way to look at a situation. If we try to see others’ point of view, we can contribute to the unity of the congregation.—Phil. 4:5.

13 Does this mean that it is wrong to offer our observation if we see something in the congregation that we feel needs adjustment? No. In the first century, an issue arose over which there was much disputing. The brothers “arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (Acts 15:2) No doubt each of those brothers had an opinion on the subject and an idea of how the matter might be handled. However, once each one expressed his thought and a spirit-directed decision was made, the brothers did not continue to bring up their individual opinions. After the letter with the decision reached the congregations, “they rejoiced over the encouragement” and were “made firm in the faith.” (Acts 15:31; 16:4, 5) Likewise today, once we bring a matter to the attention of the responsible brothers, we should be content to leave it to their prayerful consideration.

The whole issue of “independent thinking” has always interested me as i’ve pondered over how a JW might express his disagreements with the organization; that is, if he or she has any.  In most cases, every jot and tittle is agreed upon.  And I have good reason to believe the Watchtower endorses this; namely, that all faithful JW’s have absolute unquestionable obedience to anything this particular Brooklyn printing corporation puts in print.  And while the above quote appears to be a step in the right direction, I noticed a few perplexing elements.

12 Differences of viewpoint can become a source of irritation in the congregation—even among the overseers. The Bible’s counsel can help us in this regard: “In showing honor to one another take the lead” and, “Do not become dis- creet in your own eyes.” (Rom. 12:10, 16) Instead of insisting that we are right, we should acknowledge that there is often more than one acceptable way to look at a situation. If we try to see others’ point of view, we can contribute to the unity of the congregation.—Phil. 4:5.

Would this admonition likewise be applied to the Governing Body?  If a rank-and-file JW sought to approach them in pointing out an error in their teaching, would the Governing Body “insist that we are right?”  Probably so, for they have been quite explicit in print declaring,

*** w57 6/15 p. 370 par. 7 Overseers of Jehovah’s People ***

It is vital that we appreciate this fact and respond to the directions of the “slave” as we would to the voice of God, because it is His provision.

Also,

*** w83 1/15 p. 22 par. 21 Exposing the Devil’s Subtle Designs ***

How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization

The implication in these two quotes is that you probably shouldn’t be questioning the Governing Body in the first place.  Otherwise, you are “independently thinking” and not “responding to the voice of God.”  So why would the rank-and-file be provided such an admonition in the first place?  Perhaps this is strictly in reference to personal problems and not doctrinal issues?  The following makes this doubtful,

13 Does this mean that it is wrong to offer our observation if we see something in the congregation that we feel needs adjustment? No. In the first century, an issue arose over which there was much disputing. The brothers “arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.” (Acts 15:2)

If its not wrong, then why is “independent thinking” wrong?  Furthermore, the Acts 15 dispute was certainly related to doctrinal issues.  And interestingly, the Watchtower is using the very text which they use to defend their Governing Body ecclesiastical structure!  Therefore, why wouldn’t this article be relevant to a rank-and-file questioning the Governing Body’s teachings?  Furthermore, I find the example interesting on a number of levels, but i’ll just mention one.

In the first century congregation, there was “much disputing” according to the Watchtower.  However, what if there was a doctrinal dispute amongst JW’s today?  All the Watchtower would literally have to do is put the answer or resolution in print.  There is no debate or discussion necessary.  Unfortunately, the rank-and-file would have little to no input in the discussion.  Instead, they would unquestionably obey.

No doubt each of those brothers had an opinion on the subject and an idea of how the matter might be handled. However, once each one expressed his thought and a spirit-directed decision was made, the brothers did not continue to bring up their individual opinions. After the letter with the decision reached the congregations, “they rejoiced over the encouragement” and were “made firm in the faith.” (Acts 15:31; 16:4, 5) Likewise today, once we bring a matter to the attention of the responsible brothers, we should be content to leave it to their prayerful consideration.

While there is much I would like to say, i’d like to keep this article brief and focus on the last sentence.  This is the inevitable result if such a thing were to happen.  It is highly doubtful, if not impossible, that the Governing Body would give a second thought to a JW who is seriously questioning the accuracy of a doctrinal matter such as the massively complex and confusing elements of the blood doctrine, Jesus as Michael the Archangel, 1914 as Christ’s invisible presence, or 1919 as the year the JW’s were chosen exclusively by Jesus.

The question the Governing Body would ask the rank-and-file may very well be, “why are you questioning us?”  Is the Watchtower changing their perspective on “independent thinking” and perhaps becoming more lenient and tolerant of dissenters?  Or is the Watchtower confusing more than clarifying?

It would probably be helpful in sharing these questions and concerns with a JW at your door.  Perhaps it will open an opportunity towards thinking independently and subsequently question many of the teachings they’ve held due to their obedience to the Watchtower leadership.

4 thoughts on “How a faithful JW is to approach their leaders with a disagreement

  1. Kyp says:

    “Perhaps it will open an opportunity towards thinking independently and subsequently question many of the teachings they’ve held due to their obedience to the Watchtower leadership.”

    I still don’t get the point. Are there really essential teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses that blame, that belie, the believe in Lord Jesus? I say: No. Everyone who is reading (sincerely) and really understanding God’s word might agree that Jehovah’s Witnesses are simply more bible based than most other religious groups. As I told you yet, there is not that big deal about the 1914 issue. As it seems, the Lord’s time had come to reveal that the apocalyptic riders startet WITH Jesus starting just afore them – just as the book of relevation tells us. So, before the time of the end Jesus was inthronized. And if Jehovah’s Witnesses interprete this issue wrongly, God knows for what reasons they interpreted that way. If it was interpreted sincerely (and it was), he might have reasons why they didn’t understand the issue. If they interpreted rightly…

    May the Lord guide us

    Kyp

  2. theapologeticfront says:

    Kyp, this article is more relevant to JW’s who believe that you cannot understand the Bible without the WT, who believe independent thinking is wrong, etc. If there are JW’s out there who think that WT doctrine, by and large, can be concluded apart from the Society’s publications, then that’s fine. However, this would be irrelevant to the target audience for this post; which includes most JW’s who hold absolute unquestionable obedience to anything the WT puts in print.

  3. Kyp says:

    Well, one thing should be clear: When a doctrine is not grounded in the bible in a way that a normal human can read those verses and conclude whether the doctrine is bable based and right or not – then the doctrine simply fails and has no right for existence. Definitely, this rule of logic and reason is applicable on doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If it was not, there would be no reason for any human to become or be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,

  4. Ian Haynes says:

    As far as freedom of discussion is concerned, notice that, unlike the lamentable treatment often received by JWs, the early Church did not shun all disputants, in order to “keep it clean”. The faith was not so fragile that it could not tolerate open debate.

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