The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses:
A Guide Dog for a Blind Person
The Governing Body of the Watchtower Society has a similar function for the Christian congregation as a guide dog for a blind person. The sight-impaired person is unable to know the right direction to take or what obstacles might lie in their path. A guide dog is selected among many other animals for their reliability, temperament and alert diligence to the needs of its master. The service the animal provides is indispensable and a bond of affection develops unlike any other. At least, in theory.
After all, the guide dog is not the master and the service provided does not originate within the mind of the animal. Ultimately the test of service is not the love of the dog, its willing eagerness to please or its loyalty and friendship. The actual guidance is key. The guidance of such a serving animal must meet immediate needs at the proper time and present no distress, false information or wrong turns. This sort of behavior would immediately alert the owner that something was indeed wrong and the animal (no matter how agreeable otherwise) would need to be replaced.
So too, what would alert the Christian congregation that the guidance they are provided by the Governing Body was not meeting their needs, taking them in wrong directions or creating unnecessary distress?
Is there any way of knowing for certain?
A sight-impaired owner of a guide dog could not allow affection, loyalty or wishful-thinking to interfere with the decision to face the problem squarely: am I being placed in jeopardy by the error of my guide?
Performance alone would identify the problems involved and the solution to be addressed.
Error cannot be tolerated when life and limb are at stake. Guidance is as guidance does.
Conversely, failure to face a problem is a failure of will to address reality. A choice between what we wish and what really is takes courage and integrity.
Stepping outside our analogy for a moment, let us consider the function of a guide of any sort.
A guide acts as an agent. The bottom line assumption is that a guide knows something we do not know and can be effective at using that special knowledge on our behalf.
An insurance agent represents the insurance industry just as a car salesman represents a car dealership.
Both offer to "guide" a prospective buyer through the process of getting from point A to point B to our satisfaction. Our goal is to have our needs met. But, what is the agent's goal? When are they honest and diligent and effective? When are they feckless, insidious and untrustworthy?
We all know the answer to that question. If our mutual needs are met on an open playing field with all that can be known provided for decision, then and only then, are we properly guided. Otherwise, we are led astray, bamboozled and often imperiled by hidden agendas.
Observe the following conversation with a prospective buyer of a guide dog and a salesman advertised as the Sole Provider of Excellent Guide Dogs.
The sales agent offers the following points for you to consider:
1.There is a really reliable guide dog that will fill your needs.
2. We have been entrusted with the duty of providing really reliable guide dogs for people when they need them. You need one.
3.This particular guide dog could possibly be a reliable one. How fitting it would be if this particular guide dog was reliable and filled your immediate needs.
4.This is no time to be indifferent or complacent! Our most reliable research marks this particular guide dog as the very one promised to meet your needs.
5. Time is short, time is running out---act now! You can expect the immediate future to be filled with the thrilling prospect of owning a reliable guide dog! Without one you could die!!
Yes, this has a familiar ring to it.
We can substitute a particular year of Bible Chronology in place of the guide dog and the analogy will be apparent.
The history of the "guidance" of the Governing Body is most obvious in the realm of Bible Chronology.
The focus of the ministry, the message itself in the preaching and printing work of Jehovah's Witnesses has been directed on the sole basis of the concrete belief in the accuracy of certain dates.
The dates are the foundation of all the doctrines and all the door to door efforts of the rank and file believer in the Watchtower New World Society.
The orthodoxy stands or falls on this foundation. Whatever else may be true or not--if the foundation is faulty the structure must topple.
It is the difference between a bowl of beautiful waxed fruit and an actual one. One is worthless as food although it exactly resembles it and the other is healthy and nutritious.
Up to this point what you have read has not stated one way or the other whether the guidance of the Governing Body is good and proper or wrong-headed and wayward. To determine this what do we need? We need a means of determining the veracity of the guidance and the manner in which it has been offered. Fortunately, there is a history of performance that can be examined.
Here is a quiz. Answer each question to the best of your ability.
1.When God has sent a prophet to speak in His name, what is the standard of result that must be met?
2. If a prophecy fails; what does it indicate about the prophet?
3. How many chances should we give a prophet who foretells an event which does not occur?
Just as we might love our guide dog and feel the closest possible affection for him; if he leads us astray and takes us off in the wrong direction, whatever else we might feel; we must admit he is not performing the very task and function he embodies: guidance. So too with our religious leaders.
When Charles Taze Russell wrote Studies in the Scriptures and authorized the door to door work that would distribute that work, the message contained therein was guidance; it was intended as such.
Russell would be the agent or go-between with inside information offering to lead (as our guide dog in the above analogy) others to the actual true message hidden in the Holy Scriptures.
That message revolved around an understanding of the nature of Christ's return and the nature of his Kingdom. A methodology was offered as guidance to understanding those points of knowledge.
The source of Russell's inside information is most telling.
One was a system of Bible Chronology presented as "God's dates; not ours".
The other was a system of determining prophetic events in history by measurements made in the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Together, this methodology was the foundation of Russell's guidance.
Here are two questions worth asking about Charles Taze Russell's guidance.
1.Did Pastor Russell's dates contain factual information provided by God that matched reality?
2. Did God use the Great Pyramid and an elaborate chronological system to convey to Russell the date of his son's return in 1884 and the Battle of Armageddon in 1914?
3. Was Russell correct or incorrect? Does this reflect on him or on his sources?
4. To the extent Russell's elaborate methodologies were false; were they honest mistakes? Does it matter?
5.If Russell's description of what would happen and what the meaning of events would be proved to be wrong and he was speaking on behalf of God; why would he be rewarded with further responsibility?
An examination of the original writings, magazines, books, etc. of Pastor Russell reveal constant revisions of words and phrases the go from "certainty" to backpeddling. Yet, the unmistakable tone of those writings is absolute confidence that it is from God and not from men. Why the revisions?
Here we meet for the first time and confront an uncomfortable fact. There was an intractable willingness to use the majesty of God as revealer of Truth in the service of an agenda. That agenda was apparently (in retrospect) the obsessive focus on setting dates and justifying them as revelations.
The Great Disappointment which struck devout believers in the rhetoric of Adventist preachers with all their charts and arithmetic was a stunning setback for true believers. It had looked too good not to be true. It had to be true! Yet, it wasn't.
A humble person; an honest-hearted person confronted with the failure of facts to conform with certainty of belief is to back down and admit failure. "I was dead wrong and I'm sorry. It looked good to me; but, I was wrong." That sort of admission did not take place!
At this point a character flaw was revealed. The Greeks had a word for it: hubris. What does it mean?
" Arrogant, excessive self-pride or self-confidence"
Yes, Russell had too much self-confidence that he was correct to ever back down. Instead he sought an alternative means of supporting the apparent "no-show" of Jesus in his return as predicted. The result was found in the word "parousia". With that Greek word and its secondary meaning Russell and others developed the astonishing non-testable assertion that Jesus was now reigning--but--he was invisible!
A modern parallel is worth considering. President George W. Bush took his country to war on the basis of inside information that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The threat was so imminent and real there was no other course of action possible. At least that was his guidance. Once the invasion was completed there was nothing found. Would the President humbly admit his inside information was wrong? Or, would he proudly assert that his motives were pure and other good had been accomplished? History tells the tale. Good motives with wrong information leads to failure and a test of humility.
Imagine being Pastor Russell. You've sunk your entire fortune on an enthusiasm for a bill of goods you have been sold by some persuasive people with charts and graphs and fancy arithmetic that find all sorts of parallels and "proofs". You spend your money collecting these fanciful "proofs" and edit them together into a patchwork quilt of beautifully written speeches persuading the world at large that something special is about to happen to change the course of human history. Russell was on the cusp of history. So he believed. And worse--hundreds of others believed because of Russell's sincerity and powers of persuasion. Would you give up the adoration? Would you call your investment a dead loss and pack up and go back to the clothing business? Or, would you find a way to prove you were right even though you appeared to be the laughing stock? It is only human to defend yourself and your pride.
It is very important to consider the question of agency in all this. Pastor Russell, his writings, his methodology all flowed from people's respect for Holy Scripture and their need and fervent desire for GUIDANCE. Just as Russell himself was convinced; so too was he able to convince. But, the message and the foundation of that conviction was not borne out by reality. How do we know that?
The proof is in the changes. There is a popular saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". The constant changes in Watchtower doctrine needed fix after fix after fix. This was characterized as a light growing brighter and brighter. But, is that the case?
Imagine Moses having to go back to Pharaoh and tell him, "I know I said ten plagues, but, what I really meant was five". Imagine Noah having to tell his contemporaries, "I know I said it was going to rain and it is--but, not when I said it would happen......soon...but, not when I said." How would that have gone over?
The descriptions of what 1914 meant or would mean was changed over and over. At first it was the Battle of Armageddon. When it proved otherwise it was changed. Proof is hard to ignore. The fact of the matter is that World War I broke out and that is all that happened. Read any and all of the Watchtower publications and you'll not see anything other than false predictions of the final war of God Almighty. This event was pushed ever forward. Wording in previous magazines and books was changed to cover the errors. Chronology was the basis of all these mistakes and revisions.
The worst thing that ever happened to the Pastor Charles Taze Russell and his convinced hangers on was the event of World War I. Something had happened. Something had finally happened! Something big had actually happened. But, it was definitely not what had been foretold. Notice: it is only WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS that tests the truth of a prophecy. Look at how a prophecy works.
1.The prophet tells what will happen in advance and what the consequences will be.
2. The event happens just as predicted. Or it fails. Conclusion: True prophet vs False Prophet.
Nowhere in scripture will you find a variation in that unfolding. Even the change of heart Nineveh experienced after Job's preaching cannot parallel what Russell was offering the world at large.
Russell was preaching a message of destruction which did not reveal Armageddon. Armageddon was not postponed because the world listened to Russell and changed its collective behavior. Armageddon did not happen. Armageddon was what Russell's writings foretold. It is a matter of written record.
1914 brought one of many large wars in history and nothing more. Yet, it unhinged seekers of prophetic dates and convinced them they had the power to foretell events by Divine and mysterious means.
Mysticism has three elements.
1.An agent or guide mysteriously "chosen" to impart secret information
2. Willing and eager listeners ready to hear and believe
3.An unexplained process whereby the guide receives the information as the sole channel.
An example of such is a seance. Another example is the "infallibility" of the Pope in matters of Faith and Morals. Still another example is the Greek Oracle of Delphi. History is filled with charlatans who are well meaning "authorities" speaking on behalf of the supernatural. There has never been a shortage of mouthpieces of divine warnings or eager listeners willing to listen and act accordingly.
For Russell and his International Bible Students the events of WWI were too stimulating a coincidence to ignore At least something visible happened in 1914 unlike 1884. Further, Adventists had staked out that date. Differentiating themselves from the crackpots was a vital necessity. Eventually, many years later, the 1884 arrival date of Jesus was simply moved forward. Why?
Let it not escape our notice that the arithmetic involved in pinpointing 1884 and all the certainty, the persuasive arguments, the invoking of God's Holy word were simply abandoned. Just like that!
The arguments were jerry-rigged into supporting 1914 instead. The date of 606 B.C. had been used as a starting point. But, an embarrassing fact was pointed out to the Watchtower chroniclers. There was no year zero. No problem. The starting date conveniently became 607 B.C. Simple as that. The fact no scholar in the world agrees with that date does not faze the current Governing Body.
Take an hour out of your day and search all the reference books to verify this. There is simply and honestly no support from anywhere that 607 B.C. is a valid historical starting point. But, that date is the lynch pin and it must be maintained with an iron grip or else the structure of Watchtower "truth" ends.
Following the death of Pastor Russell and the takeover of the legal framework of ownership of the Watchtower Society, Judge Rutherford was faced with a problem.
Most of the enthusiasm of the rank and file Bible Student adherent of Russell's views were loyal to the excitement of the imminent chronology and to the personality of Charles Taze Russell.
Rutherford became the new "guide" replacing Russell by propping him up for a limited period of time.
The FINISHED MYSTERY was published under Russell's name with 97 pages added resulting in legal turmoil. The "meaning" of prophetic dates were all confirmed and the future war of Armageddon was just as close to completion. Changes would occur; must occur as events proved those dates wrong.
When those extra 97 pages led to arrest and trial and imprisonment, Rutherford seized the opportunity to turn it to advantage. The events of 1918 became the fulfillment of Bible Prophecy. The legal dispute was a signal. It demonstrated Jehovah was cleansing His temple class and putting His Holy Spirit on their work.
What "guidance" followed?
More predictions would fail. 1925 did not bring the resurrection of the "Ancient Worthies". Once again Armageddon was elusive. It was both carrot and stick for date chasers world wide. It was annoying and frustrating to everybody involved. The embarrassment was turned into a badge of honor by all involved in a kind of modern miracle of reinterpretation. It became a means of proving faith and loyalty no matter how much reproach accrued to God or Jesus or the validity of the Holy Bible.
One is reminded of a gambler losing hand after hand in Las Vegas whose losses keep mounting, but, who will not simply get up from the table and accept the result. The excitement, the giddy addiction to brinksmanship causes the loser to redouble the bets again and again and again. Only in the case of Watchtower "guidance" the losses were with other people's money. It was the honest obedience in hours, lifestyle, preaching, personal sacrifice and life or death loss that fueled the amazing stubbornness.
Watchtower policy became a kind of new law around the necks of the rank and file. The GOVERNING BODY added absolute obedience to their dictates to the burden of acceptable faithfulness.
1. The issue of "neutrality" resulted in imprisonment for draft age young men who were not allowed to perform community service in hospitals in lieu of military duty.
2. Blood transfusions became a matter of life and death.
3. A "thumb in the eye" door to door message provoked anger and resentment from other religious groups because of the vitriol of Jehovah's Witness' sermonizing.
4. A woman threatened with death by a would-be rapist had to "prove her faith" by screaming lest they be executed by God himself for fornication!
5. Private sexual preferences between married persons was forbidden.
6. Bestiality and child molesting were pronounced "no grounds for divorce"!
7. Every manner of personal expression not guided by Watchtower policy was declared a thought-crime and punishable by disfellowshipping.
Let us keep this in mind: Witnesses were admonished to produce statistical results as proof of their spiritual health and faithfulness. The results of all this activity resulted in a fortune in cash. With the cash a great acquisition of buildings, stocks, investment portfolios accrued to the Society. Armageddon was going to happen any day and yet a fortune was being invested in the "...dying, wicked old Satanic system of things." In New York the Watchtower Society is in the top 10 of financial empires.
What exactly was the "food at the proper time" being flooded into world by all the preaching activity?
What does an examination of the "spirit-guided" and "angel directed" publications reveal?
They contain crackpot notions and fanatical weirdness mixed with stultifying fulminations. Read those books if you will; read those magazines. See for yourself the message that set Jehovah's Witnesses apart from all other religious groups.
1. Germs don't cause disease.
2. Aluminum cookware will poison you.
3. Prohibition laws against alcohol are the Devil's work
4. Olive oil will cure appendicitis
5. The prophecies of the Bible were written to point to Rutherford himself and his corporation buddies as the fulfillment of end time predictions!
6. Black people can pray and change their color to white!
7. The Great Pyramid was built under God's direction.
8. The Great Pyramid was built by Satan.
9. The Book of Ruth is not prophetical.
10. The Book of Ruth is prophetical.
11. The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah: a.Will b.Won't c.Will d. Won't be resurrected
12. Reading the bible is not as good as reading Watchtower explanations of the bible.
13. The strong desire to worship God is due to the shape of the brain!
14. The shape of a man's head determines his thinking ability.
15. The Holy Spirit was taken away in 1918
16. The Holy Spirit was given in 1918
17. Vaccination never prevented any disease and never will
18. There is no such thing as rabies
And so on.
What kind of guide is this? What sort of agency does this reveal?
When "fact" after "fact" proved to be wrong what did the Watchtower say?
"Some times the Lord has let His people look for the right thing as the wrong time, and more frequently they have looked for the wrong thing at the right time." and "...it will be the other fellow that will have to do the explaining, and not we."
Governing Body leadership after Judge Rutherford was actually more of the same.
The foundation of 1914 and Millions Now Living Will Never Die kept the adrenaline pumping. The thrust of the urgency was like having an "almost" sneeze ever ready to happen. Yet, history shows, no matter how much the volume was pumped up on Armageddon it did not happen.
Jesus had returned invisibly? His gathering work was being done by Jehovah's Witnesses? Millions alive in 1914 would still be alive when Armageddon came? Only Watchtower writers were the mouthpiece of God and were the sole channel of truth?
What does history reveal? What do facts demonstrate? Remember: If it ain't broke; don't fix it.
Many fixes followed. Doctrinal changes were a regularity. They were necessary. Why? Letters from the readers of the Watchtower forced changes. Outside criticism was the ONLY moderating force acting upon the hubris of convinced minds. Constant corrections poured in to the Brooklyn headquarters. Errors of argument were always a dash of cold water in the face. Indefensible positions became untenable.
Who were the Superior Authorities? Russell said it was the secular governments placed in their positions by God himself. Rutherford and Knorr said it was not. Then, it was yet again. Yes. No. Yes.
Guidance by Holy Spirit?
Then, Freddy Franz became a loose canon. He was an old fire horse when it came to bible chronology.
He dusted off an old Watchtower argument about the end of six thousand years of human existence on earth. Russell had (under Holy Spirit) revealed that 1872 was that end date. Freddy Franz used the eraser on his pencil. He started his chronology all over again and came up with 1975. This, of course, meant that Russell was 102 years wrong.
The end result of this "guidance" was a repeat of what Russell and Rutherford had wrought on the naive and eager rank and file brothers and sisters around the world. They were conditioned to trust. Who were they taught to trust? The Governing Body. What were the faithful trusting followers supposed to do?
1. Forget higher education.
2. Take part time jobs and preach from door to door.
3. Get ready for Armageddon
4. Put off plans to marry or have children and don't worry about planning financially for the future.
Remember, Russell had provided this "guidance" before.
Rutherford had provided this same "guidance". The arguments were the same. The dates and reasons and "facts" were changed to make the argument appear accurate.
Credit for this preaching message was given to God himself and the angels and the Holy Spirit.
But, they were WRONG! Who paid the price? WHO PAID THE PRICE?
Question: If you are called JEHOVAH'S Witnesses and you predict something enthusiastically that doesn't happen; who gets the blame and who looks foolish? Hint: Whose Witnesses?
The Great Disappointment in 1844 and 1914 and 1918 and 1925 and 1975 were "god's dates; not ours".
When the whole world sees you make a fool of yourself do you have any recourse but to admit you made a mistake? None at all. And yet, the Watchtower exonerated themselves by telling everybody they were not false prophets. Why? In their daffy explanation: "False Prophets do not admit making mistakes".
What other choice did they have? The whole planet saw absolutely nothing happen in 1975!
Can we answer our question about the guide dog now? What sort of guide leads you in the wrong direction? What sort of agent makes an appointment and doesn't show up? What do we say of people who tell us, convince us, demonstrate to us and exhort us to believe something without any substance to it? Do we say they were over eager and motivated by our best interests? Do we trust them again?
The worst comes next. The new Great Disappointment motivated many to re-examine the veracity of the dates used to support the feckless Chronology of Freddy Franz and the Watchtower Society.
Unaccustomed to internal criticism, hubris set in again and a wave of Inquisition began. Events spiraled out of control. A shakeup in the internal structure of the Brooklyn corporation ensued. Changes came fast and furious. The congregations felt the brunt soon enough. A crackdown was inevitable. The message became an ultimatum.
1. Don't pay attention to that man behind the curtain.
2. Believe everything we tell you or you'll be executed by God
3. Criticism means Satan has you under his control
4. Inform on your family and your brothers and sisters; report dissatisfaction.
5. Conform or hit the road!
Instead of Freedom flowing from this "truth" a claustrophobic strait-jacket was tightening. A brother could not even grow a well-trimmed beard without condemnation!
But, wait! One event loomed on the horizon that could rescue the Bible Chronology of the Watchtower foundational doctrine! For decades they had preached, written, taught, argued and extolled the evidence that the "generation" which saw the events of 1914 would not die until Armageddon arrived! This was TRUTH and it was revealed by Holy Spirit. This would exonerate the Governing Body and prove once and for all that they were not blind guides; but, faithful and discreet slaves giving the body of Christian congregations the necessary food at the proper time.
Question: What was the result?
If it ain't broke; don't fix it.
Well, it was broken all right. It was dead wrong. Time ran out. The collective noses of all those Witnesses throughout the decades who faithfully mouthed the words of their guides, the Governing Body, were rubbed in yet another change. New light! Thousands of words of argument went down the drain. Hundreds of paragraphs in countless books and magazines preached from door to door were now deemed old light. What is old light? False information that has to be changed.
And the beat goes on..........
History shows what the nature of the guidance is offered by the writers of Watchtower articles and other publications.
1. It says it is based entirely on the Holy Scriptures.
2. It is enthusiastically promoted as unveiling a truth previously hidden and revealed only through the Watchtower Society.
3. It is always controversial and promotes vigorous activity by the rank and file
4. It is presented as absolutely verifiable by "facts".
5. It changes and is then explained an entirely different way and called New Light.
6. The change is to be taken without complaint. The New Light then becomes the new agenda.
In view of all the above we need to ask ourselves a question.
What sort of faithful slave has the Governing Body proven itself to be? Has it given freedom or has it been binding the other slaves with rules, regulations, observances, disciplines and penalties and warnings?
The TRUTH shall set you free. Free from what? What would this freedom resemble?
A blind man with a worthy and faithful guide dog would have freedom of movement that would give meaning and purpose to life otherwise impossible. But, an undisciplined and ill-trained guide dog would make his master afraid to move for fear of consequences dire and uncertain.
Examine the history of the Watchtower guidance.
What has been the result? Are they reliable agents of a God who cannot possibly lie?
I think the facts should speak for themselves. Any group or person who is afraid to listen to honest criticism without an iron fist of reprisal and a ready explanation is not honest and sincere.
If there is another explanation for all the above I am open to hearing it. After all, if we are not willing to be wrong we cannot know if we are right. Dialogue sets matters straight. Honest and open dialogue is what the Watchtower society needs. Why do they avoid it? The answer seems obvious.