The April 15, 2013 Watchtower Study Edition contains some noteworthy thoughts that i’d like to draw some attention to.
6 How could we use the Bible to a fuller extent in our teaching? If you have the privilege of teaching the congregation from the platform, use specific Bible references. Rather than paraphrasing key scriptures or reading them from a computer printout or an electronic device, open the Bible and read from it, and encourage the audience to do the same. Also, take time to apply the verses in a way that helps the audience draw closer to Jehovah. Instead of using complicated illustrations and experiences that merely entertain, use the time to expound on God’s Word. -p. 13
This is good advice. Where I may differ is regarding “electronic devices” such as the iPad, which can be of great help. But I won’t make an issue out of this. Something else to add is the exposition or exegesis the Scriptures. This would help the Bible student to avoid taking verses out of context from their surroundings. Elsewhere, the Watchtower has correctly stated as much:
***w03 1/1 p. 27 What Can Help Us to Handle the Word of the Truth Aright?***
That example illustrates how important the context of a statement can be. Taking words out of context can distort their meaning, just as Satan distorted the meaning of Scripture when he tried to mislead Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-11) On the other hand, taking the context of a statement into account helps us to get a more accurate understanding of its meaning. For this reason, when we study a Bible verse, it is always wise to look at the context and see the verse in its setting in order to understand better what the writer was talking about.
Unfortunately, in my experience through listening to JW presentations, I have rarely heard the exposition of Scripture. While Scriptures are regularly cited, they are rarely exegeted in light of their surrounding context. In addition, while much is taught in the area of doctrine and what to believe,very little is instructed in the area of Bible exposition and exegesis. I have my opinions as to why this is so with the organization, but my point is to show that if Bible instruction is to be given as paragraph 6 states, then exegesis and exposition should be mentioned and strongly emphasized.
7 What do we need to keep in mind while conducting home Bible studies? As we use our Christian publications, we must be careful not to skip the Bible references. We should encourage the student to read cited texts and help him to grasp their meaning. How? Not by giving long explanations that turn the study into a series of lectures, but by encouraging the student to express himself. Instead of telling him what to believe or how to act, we can ask well thought out questions that will help him arrive at proper conclusions. -p. 13
This is interesting. Just one paragraph earlier, the Watchtower was emphasizing teaching from the Bible in the context of public meetings in the congregation. On the other hand, the so-called “home Bible studies” are to use “Christian publications” (i.e. Watchtower publications) along with “Bible references.” Is this really a “Bible Study” when the publications are the primary focus? What if the Bible teacher decided not to use the publications in his teaching, but instead decided to study the Bible with the interested student? It is doubtful that the Governing Body would approve. But why?
10 When writing to the Christians in Corinth, Paul described the strategy that he used to reprove himself. (Read 1 Corinthians 9:26, 27.) He struck at his imperfect human nature with well directed spiritual blows. Very likely, he looked for points of counsel in the Scriptures, supplicated Jehovah for help to apply them, and worked hard to improve. We can benefit from his example because we wage similar fights against our imperfect inclinations. p. 14
I must admit that this is excellent advice and the Watchtower should be commended. But I would also add doctrinal matters to the list of things in which the Scriptures be searched for counsel. I’m sure there is an extent to which Jehovah’s Witnesses would agree with this. However, the line is drawn when so-called “independent thinking” is involved. In other words, the Watchtower has expressly advised the Bible student to not read the Bible apart from the publications. In fact, the Bible cannot even be understood without them.
***w10 9/15 p. 8 par. 7***
We cannot hope to acquire a good relationship with Jehovah if we ignore those whom Jesus has appointed to care for his belongings. Without the assistance of “the faithful and discreet slave,” we would neither understand the full import of what we read in God’s Word nor how to apply it. (Matt. 24:45-47).
*** w90 12/1 p. 19 par. 13 How Can We Respond Unselfishly to God’s Love? ***
Let us face the fact that no matter how much Bible reading we have done, we would never have learned the truth on our own. We would not have discovered the truth regarding Jehovah, his purposes and attributes, the meaning and importance of his name, the Kingdom, Jesus’ ransom, the difference between God’s organization and Satan’s, nor why God has permitted wickedness.
Therefore, the Watchtower’s advice needs to be very carefully qualified when they recommend the Bible student to “read the Bible” for guidance.
IT IS awe inspiring to contemplate that we are part of a vast universal organization. The visions recorded in Ezekiel chapter 1 and Daniel chapter 7 vividly portray Jehovah maneuvering matters to a grand climax. Jesus is taking the lead in directing the earthly part of Jehovah’s organization to focus on preaching the good news, to care spiritually for those carrying out this work, and to promote the true worship of Jehovah. What confidence this gives us in Jehovah’s organization!—Matt. 24:45. -p. 27
When is Jesus directing the earthly organization? All of the time or some of the time? And when did this “direction” begin? Surely, Jesus was not directing the organization when falsehoods were proclaimed for years (i.e. organ transplants forbidden, etc.)? Therefore, the answer must be at best that Jesus is directing some of it. But this simply doesn’t work for the Watchtower. The Governing Body’s expectation is that all faithful Christians accept everything they print as true and directed by Jehovah. But we all know that not everything they put in print is true.
11 Jehovah has provided a bounteous supply of written spiritual food to give us strength. No doubt, you can think of a time when after reading a publication, you thought: ‘That is exactly what I needed! It is as if Jehovah had that written just for me!’ That is not a coincidence. Through these provisions, Jehovah does instruct and guide us. He has said: “I shall make you have insight and instruct you in the way you should go.” (Ps. 32:8) – p. 30
Without calling the Watchtower “inspired,” this is as close as it gets. Notice that its not the Bible that is instructing and guiding us. Instead, its “the publications.” When it was taught (now as an admitted falsehood) that the the “faithful and discreet slave” included all anointed Christians, was this “Jehovah instructing and guiding” or someone else? If the Watchtower publications really are “Jehovah’s instructions,” then how can they not be inspired? In addition, if they really are Jehovah’s instructions, then there is no basis by which the faithful Christian can question whether it’s true or false. And this is exactly what the Governing Body expects.
But what is most noteworthy in this paragraph is the quotation of Psalm 32:8 where Jehovah instructs the Psalmist. How does Jehovah instruct the Psalmist? Through His word. But according to the Watchtower, Jehovah instructs Jehovah’s Witnesses through…the publications. Therefore, it appears that the Watchtower publications are a fulfillment of Psalm 32:8. Does this mean that if one chooses not to obey a particular teaching of the Watchtower that they are, as a result, disobeying Jehovah? This seems to be the inevitable result of such an application.
Do we strive to take in all the spiritual food we receive and meditate on it? Doing so will help us to continue to bear fruit and not wither spiritually in these difficult last days.—Read Psalm 1:1-3; 35: 28; 119:97…May we be diligent in partaking of all the spiritual food we receive through Jehovah’s organization.—Ps. 119:27. -p. 30
Notice again that the “spiritual food” is not explicitly qualified as the “words of Scripture.” (though the publications do contain some Scripture) But the subtle insertion of “all” is quite noteworthy and should not be missed. Is the Watchtower really declaring that everything in their publications be received and meditated on? Even those teachings which remain in print but are admitted to be false (i.e. “old light” with Matt. 24:45)? Or is it just the most recent publications which we are to accept and meditate on? These are questions that should be answered by the Watchtower and its apologists.
14 In like manner, the great crowd fully supports the work of Christ’s anointed brothers who are still on earth and who are taking the lead in the organization today. (Read Zechariah 8:23.) -p. 30
Since the “anointed class” is no longer of the “faithful slave class,” then what exactly is their role? In what way are they “taking the lead”? It seems irresponsible for the Watchtower to be making such a statement in light of their recent doctrinal change without explaining basic questions such as these.
It appears that the Watchtower continues to avoid self-reflection on their statements and their consistency (or lack thereof). Lord willing, Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue to see this and begin questioning the teachings of the Watchtower in light of Scripture (Acts 17:11).