Rotherham’s arguments are more directly related to THIS POST, but COMMENTED ON the article, “Did the Watchtower’s ‘Faithful Slave’ claim the Holy Spirit’s functions ceased?”
I would recommended reading Rotherham’s comment before proceeding to read my critique. I’m posting this here rather than the comment section because it highlights many of the common responses JW apologists offer. I hope this will be helpful to those who engage with JW’s and challenge the authority of the Watchtower. The key thing to keep in mind is: are they consistent with their own claims?
Another noteworthy concern is when JW apologists will create parallels between their “spirit directed” leaders who make a lot of mistakes and certain persons or groups portrayed in the Scriptures. These parallels must be challenged, as I hope to do below.
“But the claim is further made by opposers that Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be Jehovah’s organization directed by His holy spirit and His son because they have in the past made interpretations, pointed to certain dates, and taught teachings that were proven to be wrong or were later corrected. Jehovah’s spirit is never wrong. Jesus is never wrong. Then how can it be that Jehovah’s Witnesses are directed by Jehovah and Jesus? ‘Impossible!’ opposers say.”
This is only a part of it. It would actually be nice if JW apologists quoted from a source rather than provide hearsay. We quote from the Watchtower all the time, so it would be nice to get the same in return. I say this because I don’t know of an “opposer” (perhaps I should call JW apologists “opposers”?) who makes this argument. Perhaps Rotherham has.
Anyway, it’s not simply the claim:
I. The Governing Body claims to be spirit-led
II. The Governing Body makes mistakes
III. Therefore, the Governing Body is not spirit-led
The objection is actually much more precise:
I. The Watchtower publications are spirit-directed (i.e. directed by Jehovah)
II. The Watchtower publications contains doctrines A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc.
III. Everything published in the Watchtower is directed by Jehovah, including doctrines A, B, C, etc.
IV. Doctrines A, C, F, G have been shown to be unquestionably false
V. Jehovah directed the false doctrines A, C, F, G, etc.
VI. Therefore, Jehovah directs false doctrines.
It’s one thing to claim a spirit-leading in areas of sanctification (Rom. 8:16), but another to claim that all of your published works are directed by Jehovah as Jehovah’s voice, sole channel of communication, etc. In addition, because these publications are spirit-led from God’s sole channel of communication, you must believe everything they teach.
Another point. We all agree that the spirit did not lead the Governing Body to publish false doctrines, such as the ceasing work of the spirit. But if the spirit wasn’t leading them to teach this, then who was?
But would anybody make the same argument about the seven congregations that John wrote letters to in the book of Revelation? Take a look at all their problems stated in the letters:
“you have left the love you had at first….
you have there those holding fast the teaching of Ba´laam, … to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication….
you, also, have those holding fast the teaching of the sect of Nic·o·la´us likewise…
you tolerate that woman Jez´e·bel, … and she teaches and misleads my slaves to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols….
I know your deeds, that you have the name that you are alive, but you are dead….
I have not found your deeds fully performed before my God….
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.
you say: “I am rich and have acquired riches and do not need anything at all,” but you do not know you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire that you may become rich, and white outer garments that you may become dressed and that the shame of your nakedness may not become manifested, and eyesalve to rub in your eyes that you may see.”
Someone could very well say of those seven congregations: ‘Can you believe that this is God’s organization? They certainly can’t be spirit directed. They certainly do not have Jesus as their leader. There is no way that these congregations make up God’s organization.’
This is apples to oranges. Was anyone in any of these congregations making the same claims as the Governing Body? If not, then how is this even a close parallel?
But they would be dead wrong. Why? Take note of these verses which show who is in the midst of the congregations directing them:
Revelation 1:12 “And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me, and, having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands someone like a son of man, …20 As for the sacred secret of the seven stars that you saw upon my right hand, and [of] the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars mean [the] angels of the seven congregations, and the seven lampstands mean seven congregations.”
And take note that to each congregation it is said: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”
Obviously the seven congregations which were composed of God’s people, yes, His organization, were directed by Jesus and God’s holy spirit and yet they had many problems. How can this be? Jesus and the holy spirit can’t make mistakes.
Again, there is a big difference here. As far as any kind of parallel goes, this is a far cry from these congregation leaders coming together and saying what the Governing Body says of themselves. If these congregations were publishing works that were directed by Jehovah and must be absolutely believed, then there may be a point.
Just because a person or a group of persons are directed by God’s spirit does not mean that they will always follow the leadings of God’s spirit. Moses didn’t. David didn’t. The Israelites didn’t. The apostles didn’t. At times they failed to follow the guidance of God’s spirit which led to incorrect thinking or actions. And so there is a difference in being spirit directed and spirit inspired. Persons who were inspired by holy spirit to write the Bible did not make mistakes in those writings. However, these same persons, who were spirit directed, did not always follow exactly the leadings of God’s spirit and so they did make mistakes.
Again, we have to make a distinction. Moses never claimed that X was spirit led and then later realized that X was false. No one is denying that simply because they are “spirit led” in very specific ways (i.e. inspiration to write the Scriptures) that they cannot make mistakes in other ways (i.e. committing adultery). If Rotherham is going to find a parallel, it really needs to be on the same grounds. However, he’s not going to find a biblical parallel because the Bible does not offer support for the Governing Body’s claims for themselves: uninspired, error-prone men, who demand absolute obedience to everything they put in print.
The Watchtower publications have not been written under inspiration of the holy spirit and so at times the things written may have to be corrected.
I find this claim to be quite interesting. Do JW’s really read the Watchtower thinking to themselves, “Well, I know this isn’t inspired and may very well have some mistakes that need to be corrected.” I don’t think so. Even if the Watchtower published something completely foolish and silly (which they have a number of times), it is expected that the JW believe it and not think to themselves, “this may have to be corrected.” If a JW thinks this, he is wrong because the Governing Body knows better than them. This is the case even when the JW is right.
“By no means does this prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not spirit directed. The very fact that they have made the changes and corrected wrong teachings or ideas is proof that they are directed by holy spirit. Other religions simply have not followed this example. They continue to teach the same old Babylonish falsehoods and follow the same old pagan practices. Not so Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just look at the changes JWs have made! We can only conclude then that out of all the religious organizations on earth today, it is only Jehovah’s Witnesses who are truly directed by Jehovah’s holy spirit.”
This is a very weak argument and is actually self-defeating. What if a JW made this claim in 1920 after reading the “Finished Mystery”? Would it stand? Surely not, because the Watchtower was then teaching a great deal of complete falsehoods that had not yet been corrected. How do JW’s today know that they’ve abandoned all falsehoods? They don’t. So it looks like Rotherham is giving the Watchtower a free pass for their history of false teachings. Remember: just because you’ve changed a belief doesn’t mean that change is in the right direction. Many times, the Watchtower has changed beliefs that went in the wrong direction. So why wouldn’t this be an argument against the Watchtower?
Even putting this aside, it’s really just a poor argument. Just because a religious group changed their beliefs does not prove they are directed by Jehovah. If anything, it might prove that they are extremely fallible, error-prone, not reliable, and therefore not trustworthy. Given their track record, I would say this is the case.
Here’s my alternative and positive commendation: study the Scriptures for yourselves and “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) This includes everyone from JW apologists like Rotherham to his leaders to even your own pastor. If anyone teaches what is contrary to the Scriptures, do not believe them. This includes everything from essential doctrines to peripheral ones. Don’t simply assume that they know better than you, because they may not. This is why even the apostle Paul had to declare, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8)