[Gospel+Way Update] Watchtower Bible and Tract Society - June GW Update | Gospel+Way

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Tue Jun 9 12:39:43 PDT 2009


=========================================================
** David E. Pratte
** 841 Hillandale Dr., Antioch, IL 60002
** On the web: www.gospelway.com or www.biblestudylessons.com
** Email: Submit messages at www.gospelway.com/comments.php
=========================================================

Bible students,

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and Bible Authority
=======================================

How do Jehovah's Witnesses view the literature they distribute for the 
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society? Is it authoritative so that they are 
obligated to accept it without question? Must a Bible student have 
Watchtower publications to understand the Bible? Does their literature 
contain error at times? Is the Bible their highest authority, or must 
they accept Watchtower teaching even if it disagrees with the Bible?

This is the subject of this month's Bible study article. I encourage you 
to study the article carefully, and I hope you find it helpful. The 
study is included below in ASCII or plain text format. Note: The article 
contains numerous quotations that may be hard to read because they are 
not indented properly in ASCII. To see the article properly formatted in 
HTML, please go to our Bible Instruction web site at 
www.gospelway.com/instruct/ (see the section about Religions/Denominations).

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          +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
          The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and Bible Authority
          +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 
Introduction:
 
"Jehovah's Witnesses" are a zealous and dedicated people who go 
door-to-door distributing the books and magazines of the Watchtower 
Bible and Tract Society. Those I have met repeatedly claim that they 
follow the Bible as their highest religious authority and that the 
Watchtower Society is a true and faithful servant that teaches only the 
truth of God's word.
 
Here are some questions for the honest Jehovah's Witness to consider:
*****************************************************
 
* Can the honest person understand the Bible sufficiently to be saved 
without studying the publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society?
 
* Is the Bible the highest authority Jehovah's Witnesses follow or are 
they required to accept the teachings of the Watchtower Society without 
question?
 
* Has the Watchtower Society taught error in the past in its official 
publications?
 
* If the Society did teach error, should Jehovah's Witnesses accept 
those teachings as true, or should they accept what the Bible teaches 
instead?
 
The purpose of this study is to consider some official teachings of the 
Watchtower Society about these matters and compare them to the word of God.
*****************************************************
 
The Watchtower Society openly encourages people to compare their beliefs 
to Scripture:
 
If our worship is to be acceptable to God, it must be firmly rooted in 
God's Word of Truth ... We need to examine, not only what we personally 
believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with 
which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God's 
word, or are they based on the traditions of men? ... [T]he religion 
that is approved by God must agree in all its details with the Bible ... 
To please God, then, one's religion must be in full harmony with the 
Bible... - The Truth the Leads to Eternal Life, pp 13-15 (Watchtower 
publication, 1968)
 
We agree that the Bible teaches all people to test their doctrines by 
Scripture and teach nothing that differs from God's word. (See 2 Timothy 
3:16,17; Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9-11.)
 
It is the intent of this study, not to question the sincerity of 
Jehovah's Witnesses, but to urge them to do as taught above in their 
books and in Bible. If we should examine "what is taught by any 
religious organization with which we may be associated," that would 
include the Watchtower Society. So we urge Jehovah's Witnesses to 
consider some statements by officials of their own organization.
 
Most people - even most Jehovah's Witnesses - are not aware of the facts 
I am about to present, but they are not a matter of dispute. I will 
quote excerpts from testimony given in court under penalty of perjury by 
Watchtower officials in Scotland in 1954 in the case Pursuer's Proof of 
Douglas Walsh vs The Right Honourable James Latham Clyde. (Page numbers 
are cited from the official transcript pages.)
 
Consider the teachings of Watchtower publications and officials as 
compared to the Bible. (These court transcripts are available on the 
Internet. Anyone who wishes to do so, can check them out. See sources at 
the end of this study.)
 
I. Can an Honest Person Understand the Bible without the Watchtower 
Publications?
 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
 
A. Quotations from Public Watchtower Materials
=================================
 
We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what 
is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. 
Are its teachings in full harmony with God's word, or are they based on 
the traditions of men? - The Truth the Leads to Eternal Life, p. 13
 
Such a statement necessarily implies that a person can understand the 
Bible when he studies it. Surely he must not just take the word of his 
religious organization for what the Bible says. How could he know if the 
teachings of the group were right or wrong if he just accepted what the 
group tells him about the Bible?
 
B. The Teaching of Scripture
====================
 
The teachings we just quoted from Watchtower publications are true 
because they agree with the Bible.
 
Isaiah 55:11 - God's word will not return to Him void, but it shall 
accomplish what He pleases and prosper in the thing for which He sent 
it. But He sent it to reveal His will to men (Romans 1:16, etc.). If we 
cannot understand it, then it does not prosper nor did it accomplish 
what He sent it for.
 
Mark 7:14 - Jesus' teachings were intended for the common people 
(multitudes), and He expected and commanded them all to understand His 
teachings.
 
Acts 17:11 - By searching the Scriptures for themselves, the Bereans 
knew whether or not they were taught the truth. People are not expected 
to take other people's word for what the Bible says. Rather, they should 
use the word to check out other teachers. How could the Bible accomplish 
this if people cannot understand it?
 
2 Timothy 3:15-17 - The Scriptures are able to make us wise to 
salvation. They are profitable to teach and instruct us and to provide 
us to all good works. How could they make us wise and profit us in these 
things if we cannot understand them?
 
So the Bible teaches, and some Watchtower publications agree, that the 
average person can understand the Bible for himself and should use the 
Bible to check out whether he is being taught truth. This would also be 
true in checking out whether or not Watchtower publications are teaching 
truth.
 
[Ephesians 3:3-5; 5:17; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Psalm 119:104,105,130; 1 
Timothy 2:4]
 
C. Testimony Of Watchtower Officials in the Scotland trial
========================================
 
But in contrast, consider what the Watchtower officials admit.
 
Testimony of Frederick W. Franz
*******************************
 
Franz was Watchtower Society vice-president in 1954, but later became 
president.
 
Q. Is there any hope of salvation for a man who depends upon his Bible 
alone when he is in a situation in the world where he cannot get the 
tracts and publications of your Incorporation?
A. He is dependent on the Bible.
Q. Will he be able to interpret it truly?
A. No.
(p. 133)
 
Testimony of Grant Suiter, Secretary-Treasurer of the Watchtower Society
*****************************************************
 
Discussing the qualifications of a Company Servant, Suiter testified:
 
Q. Indeed can he in the view of Jehovah's Witnesses have an 
understanding of the Scriptures apart from the publications of Jehovah's 
Witnesses?
A. No.
Q. Only by the publications can he have a right understanding of the 
Scriptures?
A. That is right.
(p. 503)
 
So, public Watchtower literature agrees with the Bible when it instructs 
a person to honestly examine the teachings of any religious group - 
including the Watchtower Society - by comparing them to the Bible. This 
must mean that he is able to understand the Bible when he studies it.
 
But in the trial, Watchtower officials admitted that the Society 
actually denies that anyone can understand the Bible apart from the 
teachings of the Watchtower. So these Watchtower officials contradict 
their own publications. More important, they contradict the Bible.
 
Nevertheless, the Bible assures you that you can and should understand 
and believe the Bible when you study it yourself. It takes effort, but 
you can know by diligent, honest study, whether the Watchtower Society 
or any group is teaching the truth. We urge you to study the Scriptures 
with that intent.
 
II. Should Jehovah's Witnesses Accept the Teaching of Watchtower 
Publications without Question?
 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
 
A. Quotations from Public Watchtower Materials
=================================
 
We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what 
is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. 
Are its teachings in full harmony with God's word, or are they based on 
the traditions of men? - The Truth the Leads to Eternal Life, p. 13.
 
The 1946 Watchtower publication, Let God Be True, adds: "... blind 
adherence to religious traditions and systems leads a person into 
opposition to those who hold God's word as true." p. 16
 
Note that they said "We need to examine ... what is taught by any 
organization with which we may be associated." Since Jehovah's Witnesses 
wrote this, then Jehovah's Witnesses admit that they must not accept the 
teaching of their own Watchtower publications without question. They 
must refuse to blindly adhere to their religious system but must examine 
to determine whether or not Watchtower teachings are in full harmony 
with God's word.
 
B. The Teaching of the Bible
====================
 
The Bible agrees with the above quotations from Watchtower publications.
 
Matthew 7:15-23 - Beware of false prophets who seek to disguise 
themselves. You can know them by their fruits: their teachings must 
agree with the will of the Father.
 
Matthew 15:14 - If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
 
1 John 4:1 - Many false prophets have gone into the world, so we must 
put them to the test whether or not they are from God. Those who are 
false must not be believed. [Cf. v6.]
 
2 John 9-11 - Whoever does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, does not 
have God. We must not receive or support those who bring different 
doctrines.
 
Acts 17:11 - Instead of being blind followers, like the Bereans we must 
compare what is taught to the Scriptures to determine whether or not it 
is true.
 
So no once should blindly accept the teachings of the Watchtower. We 
should compare them to the Scriptures. If they do not agree, we should 
reject them.
 
[2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Timothy 
4:2-4; Titus 1:9-14; Romans 16:17,18; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Peter chap. 2]
 
C. Statements of Watchtower Officials in the Scotland Trial
========================================
 
But in contrast, consider what the Watchtower officials admit.
 
Testimony of Frederick W. Franz:
 
Q. Can you tell me this; are these theological publications and 
semi-monthly periodicals used for discussion or statements of doctrine?
A. Yes.
Q. Are these statements held to be authoritative?
A. Yes.
Q. Is their acceptance a matter of choice, or is it obligatory on all 
those who wish to be and remain members of the Society?
A. It is obligatory.
(p. 4)
 
And furthermore:
 
Q. Is it for that reason that Jehovah's witnesses accept without 
question doctrines and Biblical interpretations as expounded by the 
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society through its Directors?
A. Yes.
Q. In publications both periodical and in book form?
A. Yes.
(p. 25)
 
Also:
 
Q. A witness has no alternative, has he, to accept as authoritative and 
to be obeyed, instructions in the "Watchtower" or the "Informant" or 
"Awake!"?
A. He must accept those.
(p. 123)
 
So, public Watchtower literature agrees with the Bible when it instructs 
all people to question every teaching they hear - including teachings of 
the Watchtower Society - by comparing them to the Bible. But on trial 
the Watchtower officials admitted that actually Jehovah's Witnesses must 
accept the teachings of the Watchtower periodicals and books "without 
question." They have "no alternative" but to accept them. So these 
Watchtower officials contradict their own publications. More important, 
they contradict the Bible.
 
Nevertheless, the Bible urges you to honestly examine the teachings of 
the Watchtower Society or any group to determine whether or not they 
teach according to the word of God. This is our appeal to you as well.
 
III. Have Watchtower Publications Taught Error? If So, Must Jehovah's 
Witnesses Accept Those Errors as Truth?
 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
 
A. Quotations from Public Watchtower Materials
=================================
 
"[T]he religion that is approved by God must agree in all its details 
with the Bible ... To please God, then, one's religion must be in full 
harmony with the Bible..." The Truth the Leads to Eternal Life, pp 14,15.
 
And "God's Son ... [showed] the highest respect for the inspired 
Scriptures. He quoted them as the final authority on matters." So if you 
find that the teachings of the religion with which you have been 
associated do not all line up with the Bible then you face the serious 
"decision either to accept the truthfulness of the Bible or to reject it 
in favor of teachings the Bible does not support." pp 125,126
 
Furthermore, true religion must, in all its teachings, "be in full 
harmony with God's word. Only in this way can such religion truly be 
pleasing to Jehovah God." p. 130
 
If this is not the case, then it is urgent that we "completely separate 
ourselves now from every part of that false religious empire ... We need 
to quit sharing in their activities ... We need to serve notice to them 
that we are withdrawing from their organizations." p. 135
 
Let God Be True, adds:
 
God's written Word is pure without such man-made traditions; and those 
who teach and hold to such traditions ... make liars of themselves ... 
God inspired his prophet Isaiah to speak out in strong words against 
those who claim to be God's people but who practice hypocrisy by 
following the precepts and traditions of men rather than the inspired 
Scriptures. p. 11
 
"Such traditions men have since recorded and published as being equal to 
the inspired Scriptures or even superior to the Scriptures where there 
is a conflict between the two." pp 12,13
 
In no case did he [Jesus] appeal to the rabbinic schools of teaching 
with their traditions and precepts of men. He faithfully referred his 
disciples to God's word ... blind adherence to religious traditions and 
systems leads a person into opposition to those who hold God's word as 
true. pp 15,16
 
So in public literature the Watchtower claims that the Bible is the 
highest authority, and no spiritual authorities that differ from the 
Bible should be accepted. Everything we teach must strictly agree with 
the Bible, and we should leave any group that teaches differently from 
the Bible.
 
B. The Teaching of the Bible
====================
 
Again, the Watchtower statements just quoted agree with the Bible.
 
Matthew 15:9 - Following the doctrines of men makes our worship vain.
 
Galatians 1:8,9 - Those who teach differently from the gospel are 
accursed, and we should not follow them (vv 6,7).
 
1 Timothy 1:3 - We must charge people to teach no other doctrine.
 
2 John 9-11 - Those who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ, but 
teach a different doctrine, must not be received.
 
So the Bible agrees that it is the highest spiritual authority. And 
every group, including the Watchtower Society, must teach according to 
the Bible. If they teach differently from God's word, rather than 
following them, we must oppose their teaching.
 
[Colossians 3:17; Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12; 3:5,6; Revelation 
22:18,19; 2 Timothy 1:13; John 5:43]
 
C. Statements of Watchtower Officials in the Scotland Trial
========================================
 
But despite their public teaching, note what officials admitted in the 
trial.
 
Testimony of Frederick Franz:
****************************
 
Q. Am I right that it was at one time forecast that in 1925 Abraham and 
other prophets would come back to earth?
A. They were expected to come back approximately then,
Q. But they did not come back?
A. No.
Q. It was published, was it not, to the body of Jehovah's witnesses, 
that that was expected in 1925?
A. Yes.
Q. But that was wrong?
A. Yes, and Judge Rutherford admitted it to the Headquarters.
(pp 120-121)
 
And further:
 
A. 1874 used to be understood as the date of Jesus' Second Coming 
spiritually.
Q. Do you say, used to be understood?
A. That is right.
Q. That was issued as a fact which was to be accepted by all who were 
Jehovah's Witnesses?
A. Yes.
Q. That is no longer accepted, is it?
A. No.
...
Q. But it was a calculation which is no longer accepted by the Board of 
Directors of the Society?
A. That is correct.
Q. So that I am correct, I am just anxious to canvass the position, it 
became the bounden duty of the witnesses to accept this miscalculation?
A. Yes.(pp 104,105)
 
And furthermore:
 
Q. So that what is published as the truth today by the Society may have 
to be admitted to be wrong in a few years?
A. We have to wait and see.
Q. And in the meantime, the body of Jehovah's Witnesses have been 
following error?
A. They have been following misconstructions on the Scriptures.
Q. Error?
A. Well, error. (p. 114)
 
Testimony of Hayden C. Covington, head legal counsel for the Watchtower 
Society regarding the prediction that Jesus would return in 1874:
*****************************************************
 
Q. That was the publication of false prophecy?
A. That was the publication of a false prophecy, it was a false 
statement or an erroneous statement in fulfillment of a prophecy that 
was false or erroneous.
Q. And that had to be believed by the whole of Jehovah's Witnesses?
A. Yes, because you must understand, we must have unity, we cannot have 
disunity with a lot of people going every way, an army is supposed to 
march in step.
...
Q. Back to the point now, a false prophecy was promulgated?
A. I agree to that.
Q. It had to be accepted by Jehovah's witnesses?
A. That is correct.
Q. If a member of Jehovah's witnesses took the view himself that that 
prophecy was wrong, and said so, would he be disfellowshipped?
A. Yes, if he said so, and kept on persisting in creating trouble ... 
Our purpose is to have unity.
Q. Unity at all costs?
A. Unity at all costs, because we believe and are sure that Jehovah God 
is using our organisation, the governing body of our organisation, to 
direct it, even though mistakes are made from time to time.
Q. And unity based on an enforced acceptance of false prophecy?
A. That is conceded to be true.
Q. And the person who expresses his view, as you say, that it was wrong, 
and was disfellowshipped, would be in breach of the covenant, if he was 
baptised?
A. That is correct.
Q. And as you said yesterday expressly, would be worthy of death?
A. I think....
Q. Would you say yes or no?
A. I will answer yes, unhesitatingly. (pp 346-348)
 
And also:
 
Q. But then it is the case, is it not, that on occasion you have not 
spoken what is not true?
A. I have agreed to that many times, and I will agree to it many times 
more, that we have made mistakes and have proclaimed error and have had 
to correct ourselves many times ...
Q. Do you know of any religion of the world, as you would put it so 
called, which has as its set up of publishing what is later proved to be 
untrue but requiring of its members that under pain of spiritual death 
they must accept that untruth?
A. I do not know of any other organisation except Jehovah's Witnesses. 
(p. 356)
 
So the public literature of the Society teaches, as does the Bible, that 
no group should ever expect people to follow teachings that differ from 
Scripture, and that we should leave any group that would do such. Yet in 
court the Society leaders admitted, not only that they have taught 
error, but that they insist even yet that their followers should have 
followed them even when they were teaching error! And any member who 
teaches the truth of Scripture and opposes such error, is worthy of 
death! (Doubtless Society leaders would claim they were sincere when 
they taught those errors, but the same is true of leaders of the groups 
the Society teaches people to leave.) Such admissions not only 
contradict the public teaching of the Society, but they shows by the 
Bible that the Watchtower must be a false group.
 
Conclusion
========
 
Most Jehovah's Witnesses would no doubt be shocked to learn of these 
admissions by some of their highest officials. We challenge Jehovah's 
Witnesses to honestly wrestle with this evidence and to accept what this 
means regarding the organization they have affiliated with. The Bible 
and Watchtower publications both teach that people ought to leave any 
organization that views man-made doctrine as authority or that expects 
people to accept their man-made teachings, even when they disagree with 
the Bible. Yet that is exactly what the Watchtower does.
 
We likewise urge all who read this to realize their responsibility to 
study, understand, and follow God's word, regardless of the 
consequences. You can understand for yourself. You should question and 
examine all teachings in light of the Scripture. And you should refuse 
to follow whatever differs from God's word.
 
Be like the noble Bereans in Acts 17:11. Search the Scriptures 
diligently with an honest heart and determine the truth for yourself the 
truth.
 
Note: I have in my possession a copy of the actual transcript quoted 
above. At the time of writing, copies can be obtained online (it is a 
huge file and will download slowly): Go to 
http://www.lulu.com/items/volume_50/762000/762879/1/print/1954-Walsh-Trial.pdf
 
*****************************************************
 
(C) Copyright 5/2009, David E. Pratte
 
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