Discussing The Authority Of The Watchtower With A Jehovah’s Witness Elder, Part 2

You do not HAVE to obey.

(Picking up where we left off yesterday. Read yesterday’s “part one” post for context.)
It got very quiet. The intensity level of our conversation was thicker than it has ever been. My friend took a moment to look at Matthew 4:4 and think about it. He began to pull at his tie and loosen up his collar. He eyes were wide with shock. He again referred back to Apollos and made a distinction between doctrine and opinion in what Priscilla and Aquila were teaching him. I told him the difference was that in that case, Apollos was teaching correct doctrine and was given more information. Yet the July 15, 2013 Watchtower is changing its doctrine completely.

KW: The Watchtower is saying, “We use to believe this way, but now we don’t believe that anymore. Now we believe this and you’ve got to accept it because we are the voice of God. If you don’t believe it, we’re going to kick you out.” That is the way it comes across to me.

JW: Acts 15 is showing that there was a governing body in Jerusalem and they made decisions. That was either accepted by the brothers or not.

KW: I don’t’ see that.

JW: Yes, if you go through the whole chapter of Acts 15, you’ll see that.

KW: You’ve got one instance in Acts 15 that you are using as a basis to interpret the rest of the New Testament.

JW: It is a pattern.

KW: One instance is not a pattern. How is it a pattern if it was only one occasion?

JW: If that is not the case, then everyone will just read the Bible on their own and they will believe whatever they want. There needs to be some guidance.

KW: I agree with that. There needs to be some guidance, but not authoritarianism.

JW: We’re not authoritarian.

KW: “Believe what I say or I’ll kick you out,” is not authoritarian?

JW: Well, the “kicking out” part is Bible based.

KW: Agree with me on everything or I kick you out?

JW: Then what did Paul mean when he said people would be speaking twisted things?

KW: When Paul talks about those things, he is talking about fundamentals of the faith, the things which define Christianity.

JW: Look, where do you draw the line?

KW: You don’t have a choice of where to draw the line.

At this point, my Witness friend began a long story that really didn’t have anything to do with my point. Jehovah’s Witnesses will do this from time to time. Sometimes it needs to be shut down so that you can get back to the topic and other times it is advantageous to politely listen. I felt like I was leaning on him pretty heavily so I decided to back off a bit and listen. One thing he said that I laughed at was that if someone gets kicked out of the Watchtower, they can always rejoin later. He completely missed the point that people are possibly getting kicked out for disagreeing with a doctrine that will probably change in a few years anyway. He mentioned humility and how people need to humbly accept God’s direction.

Before we move on to the next part of our conversation, I want to tell you that this is the most important thing we have ever discussed. You will see from the conversation how the Watchtower has taught Jehovah’s Witnesses to believe two opposite things at the same time. This is a common trait among cults and is called “cognitive dissonance.” It is extremely important that those who hold views such as these need to be faced with the problems of believing contradictory things, but the process can be tricky to navigate.

KW: Yes, I agree. Humble in my submission to Jesus. Not humble in my submission to eight men I have never met. Let me ask this question. Are the words that come out of Jehovah’s mouth inspired?

JW: Uh-huh.

KW: Does God have any non-inspired messages?

JW: Yes.

KW: Yes? God has non-inspired messages? Give me an example of God having a non-inspired message.

JW: (Pointing to the Watchtower magazine on the table) It would be this here.

KW: What?

JW: (Again pointing to the magazine) This here.

KW: The Watchtower is God’s non-inspired message?

JW: It changes in certain understandings.

KW: Maybe we need to define what inspiration is.

JW: It is like a boss giving dictation to a secretary. The letter is written by the boss. It is inspired by the boss.

KW: So how can God have non-inspired messages?

JW: No they are directed by God and the messages have God’s blessings.

KW: A message from God that is not inspired by God.

JW: Well, maybe the term is not right. The only inspired thing we have is the Bible.

KW: I would agree with that, but what does the term “inspired” mean?

JW: I can’t remember the term.

I let him struggle a bit with trying to remember the term, but then finally asked him to look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

KW: I think you are thinking about the term “God-breathed.” If a message comes from God, it has to be true. We are in agreement on that. So if it comes from God, it is inspired because it comes from God, it is God-breathed. So how can God have “non-inspired” messages?

JW: Well, maybe I was mistaken by that statement. But those eight men, whatever they do has God’s blessing the same way the governing body in the first century also had God’s blessing.

KW: Do you see a difference between having God’s blessing and claiming to give God’s words?

JW: Yes, I see a difference.

KW: So what they are claiming in the magazine is not just God’s blessing. It is “God’s words.”

JW: These are not God’s words because they are not inspired.

KW: Then why do they use Matthew 4:4 as a reference?

JW: Look, you can either accept that or reject it. I have accepted it.

KW: I’m trying to understand it. I can’t accept it unless I understand it. I don’t think you would ask me to do that.

My Witness friend began talking about all the other religions and how they are not doing God’s will. He brought up the broad road that leads to destruction versus the narrow gate in Matthew 7:13-14, then went into quite a bit of detail of how corrupt religious and political leaders are in our day. He also spoke about how noncommittal nominal Christians are. I asked;

KW: Can I point out something here? I am a little confused on something here.

JW: Sure.

KW: I am trying to understand this whole relationship between the Watchtower and God’s word and what I hear you saying is how wrong everyone else is.

JW: The Watchtower just provides guidance.

KW: But what kind of guidance?

Only “Present Truth” is true. “Past Truth” is no longer true.

I then got out a pen and sheet of paper because I wanted to draw a picture I had in my mind. I told him I wanted to remember the image so I took a picture of it with my phone after I drew the picture. I explained the picture this way.

KW: The Watchtower gives us a message through the lenses of Matthew 4:4. It is as if it was coming from God. The line on the left is the past view represented by a June Watchtower magazine. The line on the right indicates a new view from the July magazine. It is also taught through the lenses of Matthew 4:4 which is also supposed to be from the mouth of God. Now we scratch the old view out because it was never true. Do you have a problem with this?

JW: No.

KW: I do because if something is inspired meaning that it is God-breathed…

JW: (Interrupting) No, it is not inspired.

KW: But we have Matthew 4:4? This is my whole issue here. It is that the Watchtower is claiming…

JW: (Interrupting again) It is not inspired.

KW: How can you claim that you are speaking for God unless you are inspired?

JW: The truth itself never changes.

KW: (Pointing to the line on the left) This was never true.

JW: The understanding of it changed.

KW: I understand that. So what the Watchtower has done then, is they have said, “Our words come from Jehovah, they are not inspired, but they come from Jehovah. You have to believe it, but it might not be true.”

JW: I keep going back to Apollos. What Aquila and Priscilla told him was not inspired.

KW: We don’t know that. Before we go any further, I want you to understand that I am trying to understand this. If there is an answer to this problem I want to understand it. I am asking you to help me see it from your perspective because I can’t wrap my mind around this.

JW: (Grinning) Ok, there are things you can put on the shelf and say, “I don’t understand it now.”

KW: (Laughing) That is not good enough for me.

My friend brought up the governing body and focused in on the term “governing.” He said;

JW: You don’t seem to want to be governed.

KW: Let me stop you there real quick. If there really is a governing body in New York of eight men that I am supposed to follow and it is true, then me as a sincere seeker of truth, I would want to align myself with those eight guys. I don’t have any problem with that. What I am having a hard time understanding is how they can tell me that they are representing God, yet still be wrong.

My friend brought up the one verse that Jehovah’s Witnesses always use when trying to justify their ever changing doctrines. Proverbs 4:18. He shocked me though and actually read verse 19 with it. I am always the one to bring up that verse, but this was the first time a Witness has ever read both verse to me. In the New Word Translation, it reads, “But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.19The way of the wicked ones is like the gloom; they have not known at what they keep stumbling.” I then wrote down on the sheet of paper Proverbs 4:18 under the new view represented by the line on the right and Proverbs 4:19 on the line that I scratched out.

KW: (I pointed to the piece of paper and asked) Is this what you are telling me?

JW: No. As the light gets brighter and brighter we see more clearly.

KW: But it doesn’t change what you are seeing. Let me ask you this. (Pointing to the sheet) Let’s say it is still June, If I rejected the old view, am I in danger of being kicked out?

JW: I would say no.

KW: So I don’t have to accept this view and I could still be considered a faithful Jehovah’s Witness.

JW: Well, I’ve never heard of anybody reject this view, but this is not the point. We still consider this information coming from the faithful and discreet slave as all coming from the same source.

KW: And it was wrong which means that the source was not from God. You don’t have to correct a view if it is right.

JW: If we find out we are wrong, then of course we have to change our view.

KW: I understand that, but do I need to accept the new view or be kicked out?

JW: No one forces you to accept it.

KW: But would I be licked out of I don’t accept the new view?

JW: If you make it public, yes.

KW: Is there a possibility that there will be a new view next year?

JW: There could be.

KW: Which means that I could be kicked out for a doctrine that is really not true today. Here is my question. Is the Watchtower more interested in my loyalty to truth or my loyalty to them?

My Witness friend never really answered the question. He deflected and claimed that the eight men on the governing body have no more advantages than other Jehovah’s Witnesses. I got him back on topic and asked the question again.

KW: Is the Watchtower more interested in my loyalty to truth or my loyalty to them? Let’s say I want to stick with the old view. If I can get kicked out for this, but there will be yet another view next year, then the Watchtower is judging me based off of my loyalty to them, not my loyalty to what is really true. If the July view is true now, then the June view was never really true. Never.

JW: In the Old testament circumcision was a rule they followed, but in the New Testament it is no longer necessary. So what was true then is no longer true now. If someone started to teach that circumcision was necessary in the New Testament, then they would have been kicked out.

KW: I understand that and it is a good example, but what we are agreeing on is that circumcision was true at one point. It needed to be practiced. Here is the difference. At what time was this June view true?

JW: It was true for the time being.

KW: How can it be true? They have fundamentally changed the identity of the faithful and discreet slave. It has gone from 144,000 people down to eight. People who thought they were part of the slave no longer are. They have been demoted.

JW: What seems like a big deal to you is just an adjustment or us.

KW: It is an adjustment you have to accept or you will be kicked out, even though it might not be true.

JW: Well, the stuff you are saying now is not official. It isn’t binding yet.

KW: Yet.

JW: Yet.

KW: (Laughing) I don’t have to believe it now, but in September when the new doctrine is taught to the congregations, I have to believe it then.

JW: The fact is, you have to be humble enough to accept it.

KW: I don’t think this has anything to do with humility. I am concerned with truth. I am not willing to be forced to believe something that admittedly might be wrong next year. What do you believe today that you might not believe next year?

JW: I don’t know.

KW: That is scary because what that tells me is that your beliefs are based on what the Watchtower says and not what the Bible says.

JW: No, no, no, no. (Pointing to the Watchtower magazine) This tells us how to understand this (pointing to the Bible).

KW: And then it changes it’s mind.

JW: What we believe about the faithful and discreet slave kind of keeps you on your toes.

KW: Oh, yeah. Let me ask you another question. (He began to laugh) If you could only choose one, the Scripture or Watchtower publications, which would you choose?

JW: The scriptures.

KW: Are you sure about that?

JW: Yes, but the Watchtower helps.

At this point, my Jehovah’s Witness elder friend started pulling out numerous Watchtower publications from his book bag. He started proclaiming their virtues and how we can learn basic life skills from the Awake! Magazines. He mentioned how pursuing higher education is often fruitless. One magazine has the testimonial of a former atheist who is now a Jehovah’s Witness.

Our conversation at this point was at two hours long, an hour and a half of it being pretty intense. We decided to wrap it up and I suggested that perhaps we should get back to the “Teach” book. I pushed him harder this meeting than I ever have before and I knew that there could be a real chance of losing him. There were a few times during our conversation where he made comments about us disagreeing and going our separate ways. I was really trying hard to get him to explain to me how the Watchtower can claim to speak for God, yet teach that the message is not inspired. He was very uncomfortable and could have easily decided to stop meeting with me.

I do not recommend that you use a lot of what I said in this meeting in your witness opportunities unless you have taken the time to build a relationship and make sure that both parties are working towards real communication. It is a hard line to follow, but you want to get your Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon friends to question without coming across like you are questioning for the sake of disproving what they believe. You are questioning so that you can understand their view better. At this point in your conversations, don’t worry about proving or disproving certain points. If you question with the intent of understanding, the truth will reveal itself. Evidently, I was successful at communicating this idea in this meeting because my Witness friend admitted;

JW: I try to put myself in your position and I don’t blame you for asking these questions.

This is a wonderful admission. It places my friend in the position where he needs to answer my questions, not only because he feels responsible to answer my questions because he is teaching me, but because he has taken ownership of my questions and now they have become his questions. If he now has questions of his own, I have helped him begin to think and question for himself.

Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friend.

21 Thoughts on “Discussing The Authority Of The Watchtower With A Jehovah’s Witness Elder, Part 2

  1. It sounds like the JW’s were postmodern before postmodernity became popular. They are professing two contradictory things in the same context!
    As to circumcision, it was a requirement for the Nation of Israel under the Mosaic Law, not for Christians who are under Grace. How do JW’s view the relationship between the Church and Israel?

    • They don’t. According to them Israel is no longer in the picture because they rejected Jesus. They don’t even really use the word “church” unless they are talking about apostate Christianity. They are taught that God has always used an organization and the Watchtower is it. Only the 144,000 are considered the bride of Christ. All others are the “other sheep.”

      Got it? Yeah, I know.

  2. Robert W on August 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm said:

    Keith, great stuff – thank you for taking the time to post your dialogue here. I will keep praying for you and your friend.

  3. Wow, that was an amazing conversation — I pray the “lights” will start come on for this individual…God bless you!

  4. It looks to me like you stumped him with the question ‘how can the WT be speaking the words of god yet uninspired?’
    He basically said ‘I don’t know I just believe it’

    This will tick away in his mind, and eventually help towards him questioning things himself :)

  5. Rosie Gardner on August 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm said:

    Hi Keith,Thanks for sharing your conversations with us.I will be praying for your friend and his family.He may well be going through turmoil right now.The fear of losing family and friends is so powerful.It’s why I put my doubts to the back of my mind.JW’s do have doubts but I would often meet angry aggressive Christians who just wanted to score points and I would feel such ones can’t have the truth either so where would I go.I didn’t realise then that I just had to run to Jesus.I remained a jw for 30 years becoming burdened down with the continual demands and stress of my life. I had many good friends and privately we would discuss doubts and worries.When I finally decided to leave because I no longer believed in their authority over me friends urged me to remain and say nothing as we all knew I would be shunned.How I wish I had met someone like you many years ago and perhaps I would have given my family a better life. Please keep up the good work to set these precious people free.many thanks you are doing a good work.

  6. How, I wonder are you so exact in your renderings of these discussions? Are you recording these conversations without the express knowlege and consent of your subject?

    • I see where this is going. Here are my four options and they all end up bad for me.

      Option 1: I am not recording the conversations.

      If this is true, then you can’t possibly remember all of this stuff, therefore you are making it all up to make yourself look good and the Jehovah’s Witness elder to look bad. Shame on you.

      Rebuttal: I am an audio learner, take excellent notes and have a good conversational memory.

      Option 2: I am recording the conversation with the consent of the Jehovah’s Witness.

      This can’t be true because no Jehovah’s Witness would ever allow a conversation to be recorded because it might end up on the internet and make the Jehovah’s Witness look bad. Shame on you for lying.

      Rebuttal: I have recorded conversations conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses with their consent. I needed a source for a paper I was writing and the Jehovah’s Witness I spoke to was all too happy to comply. I have recorded other consensual conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses too. It isn’t unreasonable to want to remember what was said in a conversation. The Jehovah’s Witnesses who allowed the recording agreed.

      Option 3: I am recording the conversation without the consent of the Jehovah’s Witness.

      If you have done this, then you are being deceptive and are breaking the law. You need a person’s consent before you record a conversation. This is illegal and you should be ashamed of yourself.

      Rebuttal: It is not illegal to record conversations. You only need the consent of one participating party and I am that party. I have recorded conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, the numerous times I have attended the memorial. Having a recording is good for making sure your notes are accurate. I recorded a great number of my college classes and never asked permission from the school, teacher or my class mates. This is perfectly legal, moral and acceptable.

      Option 4: I am making this whole thing up and am not even meeting with a Jehovah’s Witness.

      Again, shame on you for lying!

      Rebuttal: While it is quite possible that I am making all of this up, I am certainly not creative enough to come up with the answers my Witness friend has used in our conversations. You would be giving me too much credit in my knowledge of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From the responses I have received from the readers of this series, I guess I am doing an excellent job of faking it.

      You see, gmharris. No matter which answer is true, you, or some other Jehovah’s Witness, will find a way to criticize me for it. I’m not playing your game. Pick an option and believe it. It doesn’t really matter to me which option you choose.

      • Once again Keith you gave very good viable options and responses to this perhaps possible criticism. And your right it is not against the law to record a conversation it is against the law hoever to replay that conversation for the public and btw a written recollection even if it was from a recorded conversation is not the same as perhaps placing an mp3 online of that conversation. Touche Keith! Let’s keep on truckin!

  7. Melissa on August 28, 2013 at 8:56 am said:

    Very good thread. I felt like I was reading a suspenseful book! Looking forward to your next meeting.

  8. Eli Del Valle on August 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm said:

    Very pain staking conversation much like I used to have with my ex wife, I pray all JWs see the errors the WT has taught them.

  9. Keith your patience is great. You know to pull back or you will lose him and that is something few know to do. Everything here is hinged upon the relationship you have built with him and the reason why he continues. Very well Done! If i can give you two texts that may help in this conversation especially their rendering in the NWT and they are Isaiah 5:13, 14 “Therefore my people will have to go into exile for lack of knowledge; and THEIR GLORY WILL BE FAMISHED MEN, and their crowd will be parched with thirst.14Therefore She′ol has made its soul spacious and has opened its mouth wide beyond bounds; and what is splendid in her, also her crowd and her uproar and the exultant one, will certainly go down into it.” Caps for emphasis
    and Isaiah 5:18-20 “Woe to those DRWING ERROR WITH ROPES OF UNTRUTH, and as with wagon cords sin;19those who are saying: “Let his work hasten; do let it come quickly, in order that we may see [it]; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come, that we may know [it]!”

    20Woe to those who are saying that good is bad and bad is good, those who are PUTTING DARKNESS FOR LIGHT AND LIGHT FOR DARKNESS, those who are putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

    21Woe to those wise in their own eyes and DISCREET even in front of their own faces!”

  10. My favorite line: “It was true for the time being.”

    I am having some good discussions with my young children, about the meaning of truth. This is a trigger word for JW’s.

  11. The difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians when it comes to truth is this;
    Christian: Truth is what the Bible says.
    JW: Truth is what the Watchtower says.

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