In paragraph 13 of today’s Watchtower study, we are told that one of the proofs of the Bible’s inspiration is its unusual candor. (w12 6/15 p. 28) This brings to mind the incident involving the apostle Paul when he publicly rebuked of the apostle Peter. (Gal. 2:11) Not only did he rebuke Peter before all onlookers, but he then detailed the account in a letter that would eventually be passed around to the entire Christian community. There was apparently no concern on his part for how this recounting might impact the brotherhood, being that it involved one of the leading members of the then governing body. The fact that it is included in the divinely inspired Scriptures is more than ample proof that the good derived from such a candid revelation far outweighed any downside that might have existed.
Humans appreciate candor and honesty. We are very willing to forgive those who honestly acknowledge a shortcoming or transgression. Pride and fear are what keep us from being open about her failings.
Recently, a local brother underwent a serious intestinal operation. The operation was a success, but he got three different post-operative infections that almost killed him. Upon investigation the hospital determined that he had been rushed into an operating room that had not been properly scrubbed following an appendectomy. The doctors and hospital administrator came to his bedside and openly explained what had happened and for their failure. I was shocked to hear that they would make such an open admission since it could expose them to a costly lawsuit. The brother explained to me that this has now become hospital policy. They have found that openly acknowledging error results in far fewer lawsuits than the previous policy of covering up and denying all wrongdoing. Being honest and apologetic actually has a financial benefit. It turns out that people are less likely to sue when the doctors freely admit they were wrong.
Since the Bible is praised for its candor, and since even the world openly acknowledges the benefit of candid honesty when mistakes have been made, we cannot but wonder why those taking the lead in Jehovah’s organization fail to set an example in this. We are not talking about individuals. At every level of the organization, there a good and honest and humble men who freely acknowledge when they have made a mistake. It’s safe to say that this quality is an outstanding feature of Jehovah’s people today; one that easily distinguishes us from all other religions. It is true that there are also members of the congregation, often prominent ones, who are not so willing to acknowledge when they have been wrong. Such one’s value the position they hold so highly that they will go to great lengths to cover up or deflect any wrongdoing. That is, of course, to be expected given that the organization is made up of imperfect humans not all of whom will achieve salvation. This is not a matter of opinion, but of prophetic record.
No, what we are referring to is an institutional lack of candor. This has been a characteristic of Jehovah’s people for many decades now. Let us illustrate one particularly egregious example of this.
In the book Reconciliation by J. F. Rutherford published in 1928 the following teaching is advanced on page 14:
“The constellation of the seven stars forming the Pleiades appears to be the crowning center around which the known systems of the planets revolve even as the sun’s planets obey the sun and travel in their respective orbits. It has been suggested, and with much weight, that one of the stars of that group is the dwelling-place of Jehovah and the place of the highest heaven; that it is the place to which the inspired writer referred when he said: “Hear thou from thy dwelling place, even from heaven” (2 Chron. 6:21); and that it is the place to which Job referred when under inspiration he wrote: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?”—Job 38:31”
Besides being patently unscientific, this teaching is unscriptural. It is wild speculation, and obviously the personal opinion of the author. From our modern viewpoint, it is an embarrassment that we ever believed such a thing; but there it is.
This teaching was retracted in 1952.
w53 11/15 p. 703 Questions From Readers
? What is meant by ‘binding the sweet influences of the Pleiades’ or ‘loosing the bands of Orion’ or ‘bringing forth Mazzaroth in his seasons’ or ‘guiding Arcturus with his sons,’ as mentioned at Job 38:31, 32?—W. S., New York.
Some attribute striking qualities to these constellations or star groups and on the basis of such they then offer private interpretations of Job 38:31, 32 that amaze their hearers. Their views are not always sound from the standpoint of astronomy, and when viewed Scripturally they are completely without foundation.
Some attribute…? Private interpretations…?! J. F. Rutherford, president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract society would be the “some”. And if these were his “private interpretations”, why were they released to the public in a book copyrighted, published and distributed by our society.
This, while perhaps our worst example of blame-shifting for an abandoned teaching, is by no means unique. We have a long history of using phrases like, ‘some have thought’, ‘it was believed’, ‘it has been suggested’, when all the time it was we who did the thinking, believing and suggesting. We no longer know who writes a particular article, but we do know that the Governing Body takes responsibility for everything that is published.
We just published a new understanding of the feet of clay and iron of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. This time we didn’t shift blame. This time we made no mention of our previous teachings at all—there have been at least three, with two flip-flops. A newbie reading the article would arrive at the conclusion that we had never understood the meaning of this prophetic element before.
Would a simple, straight-forward acknowledgement really be so damaging to the faith of the rank and file? If so, why are there so many examples of just that in the Scriptures? What is more likely is that hearing a sincere apology for having misled us due to well-meaning, but all-to-human speculation, would go a long way to restoring lost faith in those taking the lead. After all, we’d be following the example of honesty, humility and candor set by faithful servants of old.
Or are we suggesting we have a better way than that laid down in God’s inspired Word?