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.”
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.