“. . .And when it became day, the assembly of elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they led him into their San′he·drin hall and said: 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them: “Even if I told you, you would not believe it at all. 68 Moreover, if I questioned you, you would not answer.” (Lu 22:66-68)
Jesus could have questioned his accusers to show them up as unreasonable and unrighteous, but he knew they would not cooperate, for they were not interested in finding the truth.
They would not answer.
Refusal to answer a direct question was but one of the tactics the Pharisees used to attempt to hide their true nature and motivation. Of course, Jesus could read hearts, so they were an open book to his piercing vision. Today, we do not have the benefit of his level of insight. Nevertheless, we can determine motivation over time by reading the signs that are visible to our eyesight. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Mt. 12:24) Conversely, by its refusal to speak in certain circumstances, the mouth also reveals the heart’s abundance.
The Pharisees are long gone, but their breed lives on as Satan’s seed. (John 8:44) We can find them in all the organized religions that call themselves Christian today. But how can we identify them so as not to be taken in, perhaps even becoming unwitting participants in their destructive course.
Let’s start by reviewing the tactics employed by their first century counterparts—tactics that characterize the spirit of the Pharisee. When confronted with questions they could not answer without revealing their own error, bad motives and false teachings, they would resort to:
- Silence: Luke 20:26
- Or an evasive response: Matthew 21:23-27
- Or a false accusation to shift focus away from them: John 8:48
- Or an appeal to authority to intimidate the questioner: John 7:47, 48; Acts 23:4
- Or threats, even outright violence, to silence the questioner: John 9:21-23; Acts 23:2
Throughout my life as a Jehovah’s Witness, I believed we were free from the spiritual malaise of Pharisaism. It has been said that over the shoulder of the Christian lurks the shadow of the Pharisee, but I believed this applied to us only on an individual level, not organizationally. To me, back then, we were led by humble men who willingly acknowledged their imperfections, made no claim to inspiration, and were willing to accept correction. (Perhaps at that time we were.) I had no illusion that they were anything but ordinary men, capable of making silly mistakes at times; like all of us do. When I saw such errors, it helped me to view them as what they really were, and not to be in awe of them.
For example, in Aid to Bible Understanding, under the topic “Miracles”, they explained that miracles do not require Jehovah to break the laws of physics. He may simply be applying laws and conditions we are not yet aware of. I completely agreed. However, the example they used to make this point showed a ludicrous misunderstanding of elementary science—not the first time they’ve goofed when trying to explain scientific principles. They stated that the metal, lead, which is “an excellent insulator” at room temperature becomes a super conductor when cooled to near absolute zero. While the latter is true, the statement that lead is an excellent insulator is demonstrably false as anyone who has ever jump-started a car can attest. At the time of the publication of that tome, car batteries had two thick studs to which the cables were attached. These studs were made of lead. Lead, as everyone knows, is a metal and a characteristic of metals is that they conduct electricity. They are not insulators—good or otherwise.
If they could be so wrong about something so obvious, how much more so when interpreting prophecy? It didn’t bother me, because back in those days we were not required to believe everything printed, or else…. So with the naiveté shared with many of my witness brethren, I believed they would respond well to any correction offered when an error or inconsistency appeared with regard to some published teaching. However, under the Governing Body arrangement, I have learned this is not the case. Over the years, I have written in when some particularly glaring inconsistency has caught my eye. I have consulted with others who have done likewise. What has emerged from this shared experience is a consistent pattern that has much in common with the list of Pharisaical tactics we’ve just considered.
The first response to one’s letter—particularly if one has no history of writing in—is usually kind, but somewhat dismissive and patronizing. The central idea is that while they appreciate one’s sincerity, it is best to leave matters up to those commissioned by God to attend to them and that one should be more concerned about getting out there and preaching. A common element in their correspondence is to not answer the central question.[i] Instead, the Organization’s official position is restated, usually with references to publications dealing with the matter. This is called “Staying on Message”. It is a tactic politicians frequently use when confronted with questions they cannot or dare not answer. They respond to the question, but they do not answer it. Instead, they simply restate whatever message they are trying to convey to the public. (See bullet points 1, 2 and 4)
Things change if one does not leave it at that, but instead writes in again, stating as nicely as possible, that while one appreciates the counsel given, the actual question asked was not answered. The response that will then come back often contains a restatement of the official position followed by several paragraphs implying that one is being presumptuous and that it is best to leave these matters in Jehovah’s hands. (Elements of 1, 2, 3, and 4)
These correspondences are filed and tracked by the Service Desk. If it occurs several times, or if the letter writer is particularly persistent in trying to get an honest and forthright response to his question, the C.O. will be informed and more “loving counsel” will be given. However, the actual question raised in the chain of correspondence will still go unanswered. If the individual in question is a pioneer and/or appointed servant, it is likely that his qualifications will be called into question. If he persists in demanding the scriptural proof for the issue in question, he may very likely be accused of apostasy, and so we can add the fifth pharisaical element to our scenario.
At its worst, this scenario has led to sincere Christians who merely asked too persistently for the scriptural proof of some core JW belief being hauled before a judicial committee. Invariably, the committee members will not address the main issue. They will not answer the question being asked because that would require them to prove the matter scripturally. If that could be done, then they would never have even reached this stage. The committee members—often sincere believers themselves—are in an untenable position. They must support the official position of the Organization without God’s Word backing them up. In these situations, many relay on faith in men, believing that the Governing Body has been appointed by Jehovah and therefore right or wrong, its teachings must be upheld for the good of the whole. Ironically, this is similar to the reasoning of the ancient Pharisees who approved of the murder of Jesus for the sake of the nation—and their positions in it, of course. (The two go hand in hand.) – John 11:48
What is being sought in these instances isn’t to help the individual to an understanding of truth, but rather to get his compliance with the directives of an Organization, whether it be of Jehovah’s Witnesses or of some other Christian denomination. However, if the individual facing the judicial committee tries to get to the heart of the matter by insisting he get an answer to his original question, he will find that the reality of Jesus situation before the Sanhedrin is being repeated. ‘If he questions them, they will not answer.’ – Luke 22:68
Christ never resorted to these tactics, because he had truth on his side. True, at times he would answer a question with a question. However, he never did this to evade the truth, but only to qualify the worthiness of the questioner. He would not throw pearls before swine. Neither should we. (Mt. 7:6) When one has truth on one’s side, there is no need to be evasive, dismissive, or threatening. The truth is all one needs. Only when one is perpetrating a lie must one resort to the tactics employed by the Pharisees.
Some reading this may doubt that such a situation exists in the Organization. They may think I’m exaggerating or that I merely have an axe to grind. Some will be very offended at the mere suggestion that there could be any link between the Pharisees of Jesus’ day and the leadership of our Organization.
In answer to such ones, I first should state that I make no claim to be God’s appointed channel of communication. Therefore, as an aspiring Beroean, I would encourage all who doubt to prove this for themselves. However, be warned! You do this of your own initiative and under your own responsibility. I take no responsibility for the outcome.
To prove this point, you could try writing in to the branch office in your country to ask for scriptural proof that, for example, the “other sheep” of John 10:16 are a class of Christian without a heavenly hope. Or if you prefer, ask for scriptural proof of the current overlapping generation interpretation of Mt. 24:34. Don’t accept interpretation, nor speculation, nor sketchy deductive reasoning, nor evasive answers. Demand actual Bible proof. Keep writing in if they respond without a direct answer. Or, if you are particularly adventurous, ask the C.O. and don’t let him off the hook until he shows you the proof from the Bible, or admits there is no proof and that you just have to accept it because those instructing you are appointed by God.
I want to be clear that I am not encouraging anyone to do this, because I firmly believe based on personal experience and the accounts of others that there could be serious repercussions. If you think I’m being paranoid, run this idea past a few friends and gauge their reaction. Most will advise against it out of fear. That is a common response; one which goes to proving the point. Do you think the apostles ever feared questioning Jesus? They did so often in fact, because they knew “his yoke was kindly and his load was light”. The yoke of the Pharisees on the other hand was anything but. (Mt. 11:30; 23:4)
We cannot read hearts like Jesus did, but we can read actions. If we are searching for the truth and want to determine whether our teachers are helping or hindering us, we simply have to question them and watch to see whether they demonstrate the characteristics of the Pharisee or that of the Christ.
[i] To be clear, we are not discussing questions for which a clear scriptural answer exists such as: Is there an immortal soul? Rather, the questions they do not answer are those that have no scriptural support. For example, “Since the only Scripture used to support our new understanding of overlapping generations is Exodus 1:6 which only speaks of overlapping lifetimes, not overlapping of whole generations, what is the scriptural basis for our new understanding?”
Just a thought about the example of lead. Room temperature lead is by no means an insulator, but it is a poor conductor, having about 10 times as much electrical resistance as copper, silver or gold. But, to imply that “poor conductor” = ” excellent insulator” ? Nonsense. It is just sloppy, amateur research, careless editing, or both. When someone holds themselves up as an authoritative source of information, verification and fact checking is vital. What a shame it wasn’t demonstrated here.
First of all, I love the gravatar. 😉
Second, it’s interesting to share such examples with fellow JWs and watch the reaction. The most common facial expression is one of discomfort. They have put such faith in these men that any apparent chink in the armor rocks their world. (Forgive the mixed metaphor.)
One doesn’t have to go actually that far as to write a letter to the society . Just simply start ask cong members or Jw family “wrong” questions. From my experience this is often treated with hostility and if you are persistent you’ll be meeting elders very soon. This is sadly the “christian ” environment created by the wt where questioning authority and demanding honest Bible based answers is not tolerated. In my opinion the Wt is a parasite feeding on the Christ cong. And yes it is cultish. It is true however that there are many other religious org… Read more »
Maybe I’m too soft and too honest (if there is such a thing), but I can recall sitting in on an appeal committee re-hearing the disfellowshipped “apostate” many years ago. I was of the mindset then that absolute unity was required of all of us and voted to dismiss the appeal in support of the disfellowshipping committee. While I fully understand the validity of appeal, I had greater belief in our final statement: “Being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses means accepting the entire body of our present teachings.” And so that about wraps it up, doesn’t it? I even recall feeling… Read more »
Trynhard, you have been out since the 70’s? And yet, all these years later, HERE you are on this discussion board! So many Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that leaving the organization is tantamount to leaving Jehovah and his only begotten Son, Jesus. Is it your love of God that brought you here, as it did me? I’ve been out for several years now, God never left me, though I did go through some struggles. To come into a real relationship with Jesus after all these years of Him being kept on the sidelines…is a life changing experience. After being on this… Read more »
Thanks countrygirl for your comments i suppose my comment about all other religions was a bit OTT .Your right what you say .I guess i have become apathetic toward organised religion in general because of what i have seen and heard from others .Not all claim to be gods spokesman as you said and i do think their are many genuine people out there.its wrong to judge every religion the same .thanks for your correction . Kev
I can support that removing the WT glass and veil will open the way to Jesus, which is what the Father wants, He draws people to His son. It is a first step, of mant more to take I hear.
Hello there, smolderingwick1, You stated in your post above, ” ” I had greater belief in our final statement: “Being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses means accepting the entire body of our present teachings.” ” ” It is instructive to look at the actual statement from the Questions From Readers. (April 1, 1986) (BTW, I cannot help but wonder who all these anonymous “readers” ever are. Since the WT clearly does not want to be questioned by its membership, I have to assume that the “readers” are members of the GB who have decided it was time for some ‘new light’.… Read more »
We are all out of the cell mentally but still in the prison because of family ,
friends and waiting on Jehovah to open the gates!
Come on folks, you all seem to be intelligent, and as meleti has referred to himself as ” the thinking class”. Can’t you see that this is a man made,mind controlling, cult. May be a hard pill to swallow, but when a doctrine can’t be biblically supported, that’s the Christian definition of a cult. I was raised a JW, and saw it back in the 70’s, and got out when my light got brighter.
I think thats probably right trynhard from what ive seen i cant say much for any other religion either .i think as soon as people start to group together theres always some deperado who has to try to and be top dog . Its in the playground at work in any social structure . It seems to be the carnal nature of humans . Organised religion is the same despite what its members may say .they all seem to have cult marks to some degree some more than others .I think the witnesses are getting worse 2 tim 3v13 kev
Thanks again Meleti. I have tried to write the branch before on a subject. The results have been tough to swallow. I know exactly what you mean regarding the consequences.
I have also seen our brothers, who stuck to a certain Bible teaching, removed as an elder, or another who was DF. To say anything against the GB will be met with quick and severe action. I am really not sure where this is heading other than a complete state of fear.
Thanks for this wonderful article and early comments that hit the nail. I don’t know but I think not only myself but brothers rising in nos. all over the world can very well relate to what’s happening in the organization. I had some deep reflection past few days about the essence of Acts 1:6, 7 in light of my continuing search about 1914 and how the Governing Body has protected the date, gave it a positive spin in the latest Kingdom Ministry for August 2014. Acts 1: 6, 7: “When, now, they had assembled, they went asking him: “Lord, are… Read more »
[…] Rover gave an excellent summary of the changed state of affairs in our Organization in his comment on my most recent post. It got me to thinking about how these changes came about. For instance, his […]
I have such sadness for all of you because I know exactly what you are going through. Matthew 9:36 (ESV “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Be patient with yourselves, it is going to take a lot of time to process all this information. Hebrews 13:5 NIV “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” The going will not be easy, so I… Read more »
Hello imacountrygirl2, Those are lovely, loving and inspiring words. I know that the Bible is abundant in them. However, in times of need, how loving are the words, “Now may the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” And the support from Jehovah, in our own trying times, and in the trying times of others – it is just simply lovely to pass these messages on. I have gone off and started to do my ‘own thing’, giving myself a word to… Read more »
As Meleti indicates, this is not the religion it used to be. 1. The religion I grew up in had the Bible has highest doctrinal authority. Now it’s the Governing Body, for they can declare doctrine without the attempt to prove it. 2. In the religion I grew up in I was allowed to put in question doctrine with the elders without consequences. In recent years, I was temporarily suspended from privileges for asking Elders ONE TIME a private, sincere Bible question during a shepherding call. My question was never answered. My devotion to the organization was questioned instead. I… Read more »
“the FDS “coup d’état”
Hmmm how true. I never thought of it this way until now. Thank you Alex
Hi Hezekiah and to our dear brothers with our continuing search for unadulterated truth. I just could not imagine the FDS originally referring to all anointed Christians at any given time is now just composed of the Governing Body. Assuming the anointed numbers 10K before that July 2013 WT Study article, the number was reduced to 8? 8/10, 000 is .08%. The very small minority trumps the majority and we don’t know even if the majority of the FDS (all anointed ones on earth) have the voice to express their dissension by taking out the rest of them. Did Jehovah… Read more »
I know it’s not much consolation, Alex, but I could have written your reply. I feel the same way. As a young person, I loved going to the meetings and would come home almost glowing, I felt so good.
My parents were only studying at the time and were dragging their feet about becoming Witnesses. I simply could not understand what they were waiting for!
Now, I struggle to go and can’t wait to get out of the KH because I feel no spiritual refreshment whatsoever. To me, they feel more like indoctrination sessions than Bible lessons. Everything feels foreign.
I fell in love with God through the bible teach book for kids and through listening to the audio cassettes with the dramas about Josiah, etc. This has long been my fuel, but at a certain point I noticed the same things, and now every passing week it gets harder and harder to fake things.
One day you wake up and everything is so much different from what you believed for so many years. It’s hard to get along with. Good, when someone doesn’t get atheistic, depressed or suicidal of it.
What more could I say. You are so right, Meleti.
Meleti: I had to go back and look at our gmail exchange a few months back. Unlike you, I didn’t ask a second time in my case. But I sure found their response (or lack of it) maddening. Perhaps some of my response was as a result of a naive idea that they were just fellow Bible students in search of ‘truth.’ Coming face to face with the real ‘corporate’ face of the organization was a wake up call. I wonder if they recognize the effect their responses have on people? Probably part of the problem is that those assigned… Read more »
“(For anyone not familiar, the quote is a reference to a scene from the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”)”
And to think that it only took the dog “Toto” to pull back the curtain to reveal the fraud……well what can I say? Is that how silly this has become? 😉
Hello Meleti and everyone Yet another thought provoking piece. I know I am repeating a subject, but it is still “ongoing” – I guess this is the best way to phrase it. I mentioned a while ago, in another posting, about one of the brothers, I think he is an elder, happening to knock on our door on a Saturday morning. It must be at least 6 weeks ago now. And we got talking about why I had given up attending the meetings. Was there anything he could do to help. You know the score. So, after a couple of… Read more »
Isn’t that a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the organization, BrendaEvans32? If you were just someone in the territory, I’m sure the brother would have been back the next day, or at least the following weekend. Moreover, considering what Jesus said about lost sheep and adding to that the fact that from the Organization’s viewpoint you are a lost sheep, there is even more reason for a prompt response. It would be an act of mercy (and Jesus wants mercy, not sacrifice – Mt 9:13) to snatch you from the fire of doubt. – Jude 22, 23… Read more »
That pretty much says it all Meleti, AMEN
Many of us have had an awakening has been gradual, mixed with fitful sleep and wanting to pick up the dream again.
I fear that many will be woken up violently, spiritually speaking, in the months & years to come.
It’s good to be awake