Watchtower apostasy is an important issue that every JW should consider. Though i’ve thought through it in the past, this discussion provoked me to consider writing about it; in particular, this comment by a JW apologist. But before I address his comment, it is important that we set the stage with some context.
The Watchtower has long held that all true Christians must worship Jehovah in association with them. Otherwise, they aren’t a true Christian. This has been discussed HERE, so there is no need to belabor this point and most JW’s would agree. But what happens if the Watchtower begins to teach apostate doctrines or even go so far as to join themselves with so-called “christendom?” I will post the JW response (linked above) to this question and interact throughout.
The Watchtower has never addressed the idea as to what would happen if they apostatized because the notion is considered ridiculous. From what I know of them, I would agree.
Its ridiculous that a Christian organization can apostatize? According to the Watchtower, isn’t that what happened in the early church? Or what about Saul, the one whom Jehovah chose to rule his people (1 Sam. 9:17)? Is there something in Scripture which would somehow imply that the Watchtower is exempt?
On the contrary, the Watchtower even admits that apostasy will happen in the “last days,”
*** w80 8/1 p. 19 par. 8 Remain “Solid in the Faith” ***
8 But other scriptures make it clear that even during “the last days” of the present system of things, cases of apostasy would occur within the true Christian congregation. The apostle Peter wrote:
“In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his?’ . . . You, therefore, beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness.”—2 Pet. 3:3, 4, 17.
Granted, this isn’t admitting that this can or will happen with the entire leadership, but it is difficult to imagine why such a notion would be “ridiculous.”
The Bible takes precedent in any teaching within the JW congregations. If there were clear and unquestionable deviation from an established Biblical teaching, if that were maintained and not expeditiously corrected, they would lose God’s favor and be rejected as his earthly organization and God would establish another.
But what would be a “clear and unquestionable deviation?” Since the Governing Body expressly forbids their authority to be challenged, then how could the faithful JW even know that they are deviating? Perhaps their “deviation” is actually “new light?” As a matter of fact, this is the very reason why many JW’s leave the organization; because they feel the Governing Body has deviated from established biblical teachings. Yet, faithful JW’s will consider them apostate with little hesitation.
This is further complicated when the Watchtower advises that JW’s can’t even understand the Bible without them. Therefore, if the JW can’t understand the Bible without them, then how could they know when the Watchtower has truly deviated?
Those who appreciate the Bible as the final word would follow as it would naturally result in a schism.
So how would the JW know who to follow? Would this require independent thinking? What if the organization disbanded completely, as it is said to have happened in the early church?
The WT is considered to be like the eyeglass that helps one understand the true teachings from God’s word. It is however, recognized as fallible. The scriptures, as far as they are translated properly, reflect the perfect word of God and the Bible is well known to be our primary textbook. It is infallible and takes full precedent in any understanding, teaching or practice. Therefore, with the Bible at the helm, your above contrived scenario is not an issue.
This is fine, but the JW is still to recognize the Watchtower publications as “instructions from Jehovah.” In addition, you are not to challenge them and accept what they put in print; even if you think they might be wrong. After all, could you really know better than them? This is precisely how the Governing Body expects JW’s to think. Claiming “fallibility” does little to alleviate these concerns.
Although the organization is considered God’s arrangement, that would only be as long as they were devoted to the teachings of the Bible. Just as Israel was rejected for corruption, so could the WT. Israel was God’s nation but became corrupt to the point that God rejected them as a nation. Not individually but as a nation. Jesus told them that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to nation producing its fruits.
So can they or can’t they apostatize? But again, it is always assumed that the Governing Body is “devoted to the teachings of the Bible.” In fact, that is the very thing that you aren’t supposed to challenge.
Those who adhere first to God’s Word would clearly see the reason for their rejection, but as I said, the notion is a purposeful contrivance on your part.
What exactly is a “purposeful contrivance?” Is my concern not legitimate? I do agree that those who “adhere first to God’s Word would clearly see the reason for their rejection.” Where I disagree is whether a faithful JW could do this.
The WT has proven faithful in changing as they discern error, as they should. They are lovers of truth and will change as the revelation and clarification of truth continues.This would be in harmony with the idea presented in the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
Its interesting when a rank-and-file JW “discerns error” in a Watchtower teaching, it is regarded as “doubting Jehovah.” Yet, when the Governing Body does it, its regarded as “new light.”
Besides, one can question what they will. The problem is not questions or doubts, it is the promoting of teachings against what has been accepted by the governing body. In the first century, that was the Apostles as all congregation adhered to the teachings of the Apostles. In the harvest it would be the FDS as mentioned in Matthew or the wheat as mentioned in the prophecy about the wheat and the weeds. Ephesians 4:11-17 would be in full support of that type of arrangement.
Actually, even in the first century, at least one apostle expressly denied this (Gal. 1:8). Contrary to the Watchtower, Paul advised that even apostles can be opposed when they distort the gospel. But even then, how can we compare the first century apostles to the Governing Body of today? Where does Scripture make such a connection? Is my JW friend really suggesting that we should obey the Governing Body in the same way that the first century church obeyed the apostles? If not, then what is the real difference?
This issue of apostasy should be of concern for any faithful Christ follower. When one renders their leader(s) as exempt from this, we should question where their allegiance really lies.