Our meeting started with a BANG and was full throttle for an hour and a half. Before I get into that, I want to explain how I arranged for us to be speaking about this topic today. If you read lasts week’s post, you saw how I took advantage of the opportunity to get into the study edition of the July 15, 2013 edition of the Watchtower magazine. Yesterday I read through the articles that pertained to the doctrinal change I have known about for months. After I read them all, I sent a text message to my elder friend. Here is our text conversation.
KW: Didn’t you once tell me that the faithful slave was 144,000 people?
KW: I thought so, but now I am confused. That July edition we looked at last week says something else.
JW: I know. That’s new info. Haven’t read it yet. It’s gonna be discussed sometime soon
KW: New info? How does that happen and how often?
JW: Proverbs 4:18. Studying God’s Word is an ongoning process. If new knowledge becomes evident, it is published. The Slave is supposed to provide food at the proper time. And that’s what he does.
KW: From what I read, the slave isn’t chosen until the tribulation Has that happened yet?
JW: I haven’t read the articles yet. They are the study material for our meeting end of September.
Fast forward to our meeting. When I walked into the restaurant, my Witness friend was in the Men’s room and his son was sitting at a table. I sat down at the table and talked with his son until my friend came out of the Men’s room. When he came to the table, he slid a desert over and gave it to me. He jokingly pronounced, “This is from the faithful and discreet slave. It is the proper food for the right time.” We both laughed.
KW: You know, I read that whole article and I’ve got some questions.
JW: Well, that’s a good one to read.
KW: I looked for the slave in this book (referring to the “teach” book) and it isn’t even mentioned in here.
JW: That’s for beginners.
He then explained that out of all groups which claim to be Christian, no one else knows about the faithful and discreet slave. He was sure that we’ve read the parable, but we do not recognize the significance of it like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do.
He then addressed my text when I asked how often this sort of thing happens. He explained that since no one knows everything, there need to be adjustments made from time to time.
KW: So they were wrong.
JW: Uh, yeah. Slightly off, yes.
My friend began to tell me about how in the past, there have been expectations about the end of the world. He mentioned 1975 and even 1914. Of course these expectations were blamed on the people who believed them and not on who told them to believe these things. I asked a few clarifying questions to get him to tell me more. He spoke about how no one knows the day or hour, and that the Watchtower (slave) has “suggested” dates in the past, but it was never taught as fact. According to my friend, some Witnesses placed too much emphasis on the dates. He was very purposeful about telling me that no other groups even recognize the slave.
I repeated some things he said to make sure I understood his view and then redirected the conversation back to the faithful and discreet slave. He interrupted and asked me about my view of the slave. I told him that I thought Matthew 24:45-47 was a parable that applied to all Christians. Jesus was just telling His disciples that they need to be faithful with whatever He have given them to do. I referenced Romans chapter 12 and 1st Corinthians 12 where it speaks of spiritual gifts. Those who have the gift of teaching need to teach. Those who have the gift of mercy need to show mercy, etc. The gifts are for the building up of the Church. He understood my view.
Once we got into the magazine, my Witness friend helped clarify some things for me. I read page eight which states, “Finally, we examined why Jesus’ arrival to appoint the faithful slave over all his belongings did not occur in 1919 but will take place during the great tribulation.” He kept referring to the Slave and I kept telling him that there wasn’t one yet because we had not yet entered into the tribulation. We looked at page 22 which looked like a contradiction to me because it states, “Who, then, is the faithful and discreet slave? In keeping with Jesus’ pattern of feeding many through the hands of a few, that slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave have served together at headquarters. In recent decades, that slave has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
My question was, how can we talk about the faithful and discreet slave as an existing entity today if it will not even be appointed until the tribulation? According to my elder friend, the answer is found on page 24 which makes a distinction between when Jesus comes in 1914 and when He will arrive in judgment. During the tribulation the Slave will then make a second appointment and put the Slave in charge of His belongings. The whole thing is very confusing and it was a distinction I noticed when I read it for myself, but still have a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around the details. I will have to read the articles again to get a better understanding of exactly what the Watchtower is teaching a truth now.
However, it is not the doctrinal change per se that bothers me. It is the idea that the Watchtower can change “truth” in God’s name and not be held accountable for it. I asked, “If the Slave has to keep changing what they believe, how is that being faithful? If they had to make an adjustment, it just means they were wrong in the first place.”
My friend once again made reference to Proverbs 4:18 which they take to mean that they will correct their understanding once more knowledge becomes available. He then stated, “Better an adjustment at some point, than no adjustment at all.”
KW: But why would there need to be an adjustment in the first place? It seems like you are saying, “Hey, we got it right this time!” But I am looking at why it was wrong to begin with?
JW: Even in Bible times there were adjustments. The disciples thought that Jesus was going to restore the Kingdom right after the resurrection. Back in the 70’s Witnesses were allowed to smoke, but then the Watchtower said we weren’t supposed to defile your flesh. Everyone was given six months to quit smoking.
KW: Or what?
JW: Or they would be disfellowshipped.
KW: So if they don’t stop smoking in six months they are going to be kicked out?
KW: Why does this Slave think they have the authority to do that?
JW: It is part of their responsibility.
KW: To tell people they can’t be a part of the community if they don’t stop smoking in six months? That seems a little drastic.
JW: It may seem so, but it is not a healthy habit that should have been allowed I the first place.
KW: Here is the bottom line for me. This Slave. It is unique to your group, yet you are convinced that you need this Slave. Why do I need somebody else to tell me what God wants me to know when I have His Word?
The response he gave was something very similar to how Mormons answer this question. He was basically saying that the Bible was not enough because there are so many people who read it, but come to different conclusions and don’t live by it. We need someone to guide us so we can be unified in belief. Of course everything points back to the Watchtower.
The whole idea reminds me of circular reasoning. I told my Witness friend the story about the first time I ever encountered circular reasoning. I was in a middle school science class and we were being taught about the fossil record. The teacher explained that certain fossils were X amount of years old because of the layers of stratus that they were found in. I asked how we knew how old the stratus was and he said it was because the fossils found in that layer were X amount of years old. I remember the whole class recognizing the problem and rejecting his answer. I am sure my science teacher appreciated my question.
I used this example to show my Witness friend how the Watchtower uses the same form of reasoning. I asked for him to help me understand how the Slave can make the claims that it makes without using circular reasoning.
KW: The Slave says, “We are in authority over you,” but when I question that, the Slave answers, “Because the literature we produce tells you that we are in authority over you.”
JW: Hmm… Uh, no.
KW: Think about this for a second. This whole idea is unique to your group. Nobody else believes it. I’m asking you to look at this from my perspective, from an outsider’s perspective. The reason why no one else believes it is because your literature points to the Bible and says, “We are the faithful and discreet slave.” When we ask, “How do we know that?” They answer, “Because the Bible says that.” In actuality, only the literature says that, but everyone else who reads the Bible does not come to that same conclusion. How do we know that their conclusion is correct? They answer, “Because we are the faithful and discreet slave.”
JW: Ok. We believe it by faith.
KW: So we just have to believe it? What makes that different than any other religion out there who just believes what they are taught without question?
JW: Because their action prove them wrong.
KW: So your actions prove you are right?
KW: But all your actions are defined by the Slave. It is a self fulfilling idea. Again, look at the from an outsiders perspective. We are studying this book (I pointed to the “Teach” book), “What does the Bible Really teach” instead of looking at (I pointed to the Bible), what the Bible really teaches.
JW: What do you mean?
KW: There is a book in-between us and the Bible and it is almost acting as a mediator.
KW: Can I come to the same conclusion about what the Bible actually says without Watchtower literature? Can I believe what you believe without reading Watchtower literature?
Before I get to my friend’s answer, I want to explain why I said some of the things I said. It is extremely important that you get the person you are talking to, to look at things from a different perspective. This puts the two of you on the same side of the problem instead of coming across as an adversary. If you question things alone, it will be very easy for the Witness (or Mormon for that matter) to stop talking to you because you are seen as someone who is asking dangerous questions. But if you can get the person you are witnessing to, to look at things from an outsider’s perspective, your perspective, now you can attempt to solve the problem together instead of being viewed as attacking their religion. I kept repeating that phrase. “Try to look at this from an outsider’s perspective.”
The reason I asked the question if I could believe the same things he believes without his literature is because I want him to see that the Bible isn’t the problem. It is the additional literature that creates the problems. All cults in some way reduce the importance of the Bible. With the Witnesses, the Bible is subject to Watchtower literature. With Mormonism, the Bible is considered improperly translated so there is need for “modern revelation.” Either way, the Bible is not considered sufficient. Because my Witness friend is subject to this kind of thinking, he answered my question, “No.”
KW: Which means that I need the Watchtower literature.
JW: That is the purpose of the faithful and discreet slave.
KW: Again, it is their claim that I need the Slave and how do I believe it? Because the literature they produce says so.
My Witness friend pointed out that we as Christians also have religious leaders who teach and are in authority over us. He wanted to know how that was different. I told him that was a fair question and pointed out that when our leaders teach and speak, we do not have to automatically believe them upon threat of being kicked out.
The Slave is different as in the case with the people who had six months to stop smoking. Christians preachers do not claim authority over us in the same way that the Watchtower does over Jehovah’s Witnesses. I also questioned why this Slave thinks they have authority. I wanted to know the answer from a different source other than their own claims. I want to see it in scripture because it is circular reasoning otherwise.
I then directed the conversation to the quote in the July edition of the Watchtower that bothers me the most. I prefaced the quote by saying that from an outsider’s perspective, the Slave places itself upon a pedestal and I need to strictly obey them or I’m done. I told him that this quote really bothers me and I am not sure if I should have said that or not because my Witness friend interrupted and started throwing up unrelated topics (smoking, blood transfusions, new light, etc.). I had to work hard to get him to look at the quote. Part of that is allowing him to say things that he knows I disagree with. If I follow his “rabbit trails,” we will never discuss the thing that bothers me. I finally got him to look at page 20 of the July 15, 2013 Watchtower. I read;
KW: That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel.—Matt. 4:4; John 17:3. So my relationship with God depends upon whether or not I agree that this Slave is in authority over me. The only reason I have to believe they are in authority over me is because they say they are. Here is the issue that really bothers me. See that reference to Matthew 4:4? Do you know what that verse says?
JW: What does it say?
KW: Let’s look at it. (I read out of the New American Translation) “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Why did they put that reference there? What are they trying to communicate to me?
JW: It comes from God.
KW: So what the Slave gives me is coming from God?
KW: So that is why they kick me out if I don’t believe it.
KW: Because they believe what they are giving to me comes from God.
KW: Did they believe what they previously taught was also from God?
KW: But it wasn’t or they never would have had to change it.
JW: Look, the Pope says…
KW: (interrupting) I’m not Catholic. I don’t care what the Pope says.
JW: They are imperfect humans, it’s true.
KW: Let’s go back to the 70’s. If I am a smoker and you tell me I have six months to quit, would it be wrong of me to conclude that God wants me to quit smoking in six months?
JW: You would be correct.
I told him that this was a huge claim and that if someone is going to make that kind of claim, they need to be open to criticism and open to proving that claim. I explained that I still look at things with a critical eye, even the things I believe. I made reference to some of the verses we talked about the previous week. I want to be like the Bereans from Acts 17:11 and if the Slave is not open to me doing that, then they are not like Paul who commended people for searching the Scriptures and checking out what he said. I continued;
KW: What really bothers me is that if the Slave is saying that I need them to have a relationship with God and that I can’t understand the Bible without them, then they are saying that the Bible is not enough.
JW: Even in the first century, the early Christians had the apostles. What would keep and outsider then from asking the same questions you are asking now?
KW: The apostles would point to scripture, they wouldn’t point to other literature. They also had the proof of miracles. The apostles were still performing miracles so people had something tangible to see. From my perspective, it seems like the Slave thinks their literature is equivalent to the scripture.
KW: But I have to believe it or I get kicked out. So is the literature equivalent to the Scripture?
JW: No, no.
KW: Then why do I need it to explain the Bible? It comes across like this. “We’re God’s spokesman, you have to believe us, if you don’t, you’ll get kicked out, but we might be wrong.”
JW: (Laughing) No, not quite like that.
KW: That is how it comes across to me.
JW: Those people are imperfect too.
KW: I know because they keep having to change their beliefs!
My Elder friend kept trying to prove that this doctrinal change is not that big of a deal. I pointed out that if it isn’t a big deal, then he shouldn’t get kicked out for not believing it. He said that if you have doubts, you can always pray about it. (Boy, does that sound familiar.) He said he has no doubts that what is taught in the magazine currently is the truth.
KW: So what you believed last week was not the truth.
KW: And that doesn’t bother you?
KW: It would me because I would want to know what would be true next week.
My friend likened trusting the Watchtower to trusting a doctor who is there to care for your health. I showed him the difference because doctors do not give prescriptions in God’s name and then change their minds if there are ill side effects to the medication. He agreed that using doctors was a bad analogy. I told him that if someone were to tell me that God told them to tell me something and it was wrong, then they obviously were not God’s spokesman because the information they had was wrong.
We concluded by my friend talking about the governing body and how they do what they do on very little remuneration and they aren’t in it for the money. He was trying to impress me with the organization and the supposed pure motives of the people who work there. I kindly listened knowing that he felt like he had to save face and salvage this wreck of a conversation. I told him that I would read through the articles again keeping in mind the things he explained and that I would appreciate it if he would read through them keeping in mind the questions I had.
The meeting wasn’t any longer than most of our previous meetings, but it was probably our best conversation to date. I realize this is a longer post than normal, but I wanted to capture as much of the gist of the conversation as possible. Since there is so much here, obviously some of the things discussed may not be in the correct order or spoken in the exact way I have written it here, but I have tried to faithfully convey the conversation we had. This is heavy stuff for my Witness friend to digest. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.