Spirit-directed and Spirit-inspired: is there a difference?

We all know that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have denied claims of inspiration.  For example:

In most ways Jehovah’s Witnesses are like everyone else. They have normal problems—economic, physical, emotional. They make mistakes at times, for they are not perfect, inspired, or infallible. But they try to learn from their experiences and diligently study the Bible to make needed corrections. They have made a dedication to God to do his will, and they apply themselves to fulfill this dedication. In all their activities they seek guidance from God’s Word and his holy spirit. (jt pp. 3-5)

While the Watchtower doesn’t mention the Governing Body, i’m sure all JW’s will claim that they too are “not perfect, inspired, or infallible.”  Yet, the Governing Body is constantly making claims that suggest otherwise.  Take, for instance, the following statement as found in the August 15, 2014 Watchtower Study Edition:

Today, Jehovah guides his people by means of the Bible, his holy spirit, and the congregation. (Acts 9:31; 15:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) The guidance that we receive from him is so clear that it is as if ‘our own ears hear a word behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.” ’ (Isa. 30:21) In effect, Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) We need to take this guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience.—Heb. 5:9. (p. 21)

While this is nothing new, I think it would help to contrast their claims of non-inspiration with their claims of guidance from Jehovah.  What are we to make of this?

Consider the above quotation along with a few insertions:

Today, Jehovah [infallibly] guides his people by means of the Bible, his holy spirit, and the congregation. (Acts 9:31; 15:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) The [inspired, infallible] guidance that we receive from him is so clear that it is as if ‘our own ears hear a word behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.” ’ (Isa. 30:21) In effect, Jesus also [infallibly] conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he [infallibly] directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) We need to take this [infallible, inspired] guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience.—Heb. 5:9. (p. 21)

What guidance is being referred to here? Are they referring to the guidance offered by the Governing Body through the Watchtower publications?  Indeed!  The Watchtower assures us that they are fallible, non-inspired, and make errors just like anyone else.  Yet, they claim the guidance they provide is from Jehovah’s.

Before we jump to too many conclusions here, let’s see how the Watchtower has applied “spirit direction” and “spirit leading” in times past:

*** w72 3/1 p. 139 par. 20 How to Stand Firm in This Time of the End ***

In order to assist us to acknowledge the provision of strength to stand against an archenemy, we might look to the fine spirit-directed counsel that Paul wrote to the Christian congregation living in the wicked city of Ephesus.

*** w03 5/15 p. 15 par. 1 Listen to What the Spirit Says! ***

JEHOVAH’S servants must pay attention to the spirit-directed words of Jesus Christ to the seven congregations named in the Bible book of Revelation. Indeed, each of these messages contains this counsel: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”—Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.

*** w79 2/15 p. 17 par. 4 Visits from Older Men Benefit God’s People ***

But now the receipt by the Antioch congregation of a spirit-directed letter, coupled with this visit of the two “prophets,” had settled the matter. The congregation had reason to rejoice.—Acts 15:2, 22-31.

There is no denying the fact that “spirit-directed counsel” is synonymous with “inspired counsel” in these cases.  Yet, I foresee an objection from the JW that may go as follows: “While ‘spirit-directed’ in these context refers to inspired revelation, not all contexts of ‘spirit-direction’ is necessarily meant to imply inspired revelation.”

For instance:

Our speaking with boldness and our using the Word of God skillfully in the ministry demonstrate that we are directed by God’s spirit. That spirit also plays an important part in our having a regular share in the Kingdom-preaching work. (w10 2/15 pp. 14-18)

17 We are wise to take stock of ourselves to be sure that our words and actions give evidence that we are directed by holy spirit and are producing its fruitage. (2 Cor. 13:5a; Gal. 5:25) If we see that we need to cultivate some aspects of the fruitage of the spirit, we can cooperate with holy spirit to a greater degree in producing such qualities. We do this by studying each aspect as it is revealed through the pages of the Bible and discussed in our Christian publications. Thus we can discern how the spirit’s fruitage should be manifested in our everyday life and then work to cultivate it to a greater extent.* As we observe the results of the operation of God’s spirit in our own life as well as in the lives of our fellow Christians, we clearly see why we must be guided by it. (w11 12/15 pp. 13-17)

While there is some sense of spirit direction in play here for all Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t think this is a parallel.  Insofar as what the Watchtower speaks of spirit direction, it is in the context of it’s very words.  It would be like a JW leaving a comment on the blog saying something like, “The spirit has directed me to utter the following words, which you are to believe with absolute, unquestionable obedience…”  While such a statement doesn’t explicitly state inspiration, it strongly implies it.

Let’s get back to the issue at hand.  The Watchtower has unequivocally stated that the spirit directs and guides us through the Faithful Slave.  And as a result, we must listen to this guidance as our very salvation depends on it!  If the Governing Body are simply fallible men who make mistakes like anyone else, then it follows that Jehovah’s direction must likewise be fallible.  Otherwise, should I take the Watchtower’s advice as fallible and uninspired or not?

I would also like to consider the manner in which Jehovah and His spirit is supposedly guiding the Governing Body.  Is it through the Scriptures only?  Or is there some other means of communication in play?  The Watchtower does not tell us, so we can’t speculate.  However, such a mechanism would be very important to know since they expect me to accept whatever they say as unquestionably authoritative and as a result of Jehovah’s direction.  Unfortunately for the Watchtower, it’s hard for me to accept such direction when it has contained much error in times past.  Therefore, I have every reason to question and challenge what the Watchtower teaches, just as every thoughtful JW should do.

14 thoughts on “Spirit-directed and Spirit-inspired: is there a difference?

  1. rotherham2 says:

    I think one thing that you are forgetting is that when we say we are sirit directed, that does not necessarily imply that we are infallible. Far from it, actually. You see, you can be directed by the spirit in different ways. One is directly by God via inspiration which is the one you are referring to. The other is by allowing his recorded words to guide your life. If he tells Christians that they have a commission to preach the word, than that commission is spirit directed because it came from the pages of the Bible.

    Special insight can come about by GOd using his spirit to prod your thinking in the right direction. He can cause you to ask the right mental questions and hopefully as you ponder those questions, you make the right choices.

    How do YOU know that you are led by God’s spirit, Mike? Or are you?

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Rotherham,

      Does the spirit direct the congregation through the FDS in all that is published by the Watchtower or only some things?

      In answer to your question, you really have to define what you mean by “led by God’s spirit.” Are you referring to Romans 8:14 (which apparently doesn’t apply to the great crowd)? If so, then I know this is true of me because of the previous verse, “by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh.”

      1. rotherham2 says:

        Hello Mike,

        The spirit, as mentioned, can cause an individual to ask the right questions mentally, and hopefully they arrive at the desired result. Because of human imperfection and limited knowledge, the result is not always what was intended and the proddings continue until that day when full understanding arrives.

        Being led by God’s sprrit can mean being led by God’s Word as well, paying careful attention to not teach things that are not precedented by scripture. Those things are the concoctions of men, not the productions from God.

        You said: I know this is true of me because of the previous verse, “by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh.”

        Is that it? Does it take more than that?

        Regards,
        Rotherham

  2. Octavio says:

    Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:53,54). However, the Watchtower says: “Few or perhaps no one will eat the bread, just as in most congregations at the Memorial in 2013.” (ws13 12/15, pages 21-26). So, Jehovah’s Witnesses are preaching a heretical gospel, not the Good News of Jesus. Accordingly, no Holy Spirit can be behind those false leaders in New York. Furthermore, the Watchtower claims that “the faithfult and discreet slave” was appointed by Christ in 1919. Who represented this “slave” in 1919?: Joseph Rutherford. He, as a president of the Watchtower Society wrote that the Holy Spirit ceased to be the Helper (Paracletos) since 1918. Therefore, no holy spirit can lead this religion led by the Watctower Society.

    1. theapologeticfront says:

      Octavio-

      Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, Rotherham will not reply to you. But perhaps he will reply to me by reposting the following:

      “Furthermore, the Watchtower claims that “the faithfult and discreet slave” was appointed by Christ in 1919. Who represented this “slave” in 1919?: Joseph Rutherford. He, as a president of the Watchtower Society wrote that the Holy Spirit ceased to be the Helper (Paracletos) since 1918. Therefore, no holy spirit can lead this religion led by the Watctower Society.”

      This isn’t something i’ve personally studied to verify its legitimacy. But Rotherham, if you have an answer to this i’d be interested in hearing it and i’m sure Octavio would as well.

  3. rotherham2 says:

    Hell Mike,

    Why don’t you start another topic with this so everything doesn’t get so jumbled together and then I will respond.

    Regards

  4. Octavio says:

    Hi Mike,

    I want to read how the Watchtower apologists will rationalize the following references:

    “Those that are chosen and brought into the temple have no further need for the administration of the holy spirit as a helper” (The Watchtower, September 1, 1930, article: “The Holy Spirit”, page 262)

    “After the holy spirit as an advocate or paraclete ceased to function in behalf of the consecrated, then the angels are employed in behalf of those who are being made ready for the kingdom” (Preservation, page 51)

    Note that in the book “Preservation”, it is explicitly said that Rutherford was the author.

  5. Octavio says:

    ….In addition, in the book Preservation, in page 194 Rutherford said: “when the conforter was taken away………in 1918”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s