[A Review of the December 15, 2014 Watchtower article on page 27]
“We received…the spirit that is from God, so that we might know
the things that have been kindly given us by God.”—1 Cor. 2:12
This article is a follow-up of sorts to last week’s Watchtower study. It is a call to the young ones “who have been raised by Christian parents” to value what they “have received in the form of a spiritual inheritance.” After saying this, paragraph 2 refers to Matthew 5:3 which reads:
“Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Mt 5:3)
It is clear from the article itself that the inheritance being spoken of is “our rich spiritual heritage”; i.e., all the doctrines comprising the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (w13 2/15 p.8) A casual reader would then naturally conclude that the single scriptural reference of Matthew 5:3 somehow supports this idea. But we are not casual readers. We like to read the context, and in doing so, we find that verse 3 is one of a series of verses referred to as the “beatitudes” or “happinesses”. In this part of the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is telling his listeners that if they exhibit this list of qualities, they will be considered God’s sons, and as sons will inherit that which the Father wills for them: The Kingdom of the Heavens.
This is not what the article is publicizing. If I may presume to address the young ones myself, part of “our rich spiritual heritage” is the belief that the window of opportunity to become one of God’s sons and “inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world” was shut in the mid-1930s. (Mt 25:34 NWT) True, it was re-opened a crack in 2007, but the extreme negative peer pressure any young baptized JW Christian would experience should he or she exhibit the courage to partake of the emblems at the memorial of Christ’s death all but ensures that the old injunction will remain in force. (w07 5/1 p. 30)
The article’s point that Satan’s world has nothing of value to offer is valid. Serving God in spirit and truth is the only thing of real and lasting value, and young ones—indeed, all of us—should strive for that. The article’s conclusion is that to achieve this one must remain in the Organization, or as Jehovah’s Witnesses put it, “in the truth”. This conclusion will prove correct if its premise is valid. Let us examine the premise in more detail before jumping to the conclusion.
Paragraph 12 gives us the premise:
“It was from your parents that “you learned” about the true God and how to please him. Your parents may well have started teaching you from your infancy. This certainly has done much to make you “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and to help you to be “completely equipped” for God’s service. A key question now is, Will you show appreciation for what you have received? That may call on you to do some self-examination. Consider such questions as: ‘How do I feel about being part of the long line of faithful witnesses? How do I feel about being among the relatively few on earth today who are known by God? Do I appreciate what a unique and grand privilege it is to know the truth?’”
Young Mormons would also attest to being “raised by Christian parents”. Why wouldn’t the foregoing line of reasoning work for them? Based on the article’s premise, non-JWs are disqualified because they are not “faithful witnesses” of Jehovah. They are not “known by God”. They do not “know the truth”.
For the sake of argument, let us accept this line of reasoning. The validity of the article’s premise is that only Jehovah’s Witnesses have the truth, and thus only Jehovah’s Witnesses are known by God. A Mormon, as an example, may also keep himself free from the debauchery of the world, but to no avail. His belief in false doctrines negates any good accrued to him from his Christian lifestyle.
I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. As a young adult, I came to appreciate my ‘rich spiritual heritage’ and my entire life course has been affected by the belief that what my parents taught me was the truth. I valued being “in the truth” and when asked would gladly tell others I had been “raised in the truth”. This usage of the phrase “in the truth” as a synonym for our religion is unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses in my experience. When asked, a Catholic will say he was raised a Catholic; a Baptist, Mormon, Adventist—you name it—will respond similarly. None of these will say “I was raised in the truth” to denote their religious belief. It is not hubris on the part of many JWs to respond this way. It certainly wasn’t in my case. Rather it was an admission of faith. I truly believed we were the one religion on earth that understood and taught all the really important issues of the Bible. The only ones doing Jehovah’s will. The only ones preaching the good news. Sure we were wrong about some prophetic interpretations involving dates, but that was just human error—the result of too much exuberance. It was the core issues like God’s sovereignty; the teaching that we were living in the last days; that Armageddon was just around the corner; that Christ had been ruling since 1914; that were the bedrock of my faith.
I recall that often when standing in a crowded place, like a busy shopping mall, I’d look at the scurrying masses with a kind of morbid fascination. I would muse sadly on the thought that everyone I was seeing would be gone in just a few short years. When the article says, “Only about 1 in every 1,000 people alive today has an accurate knowledge of the truth”, what it is really saying is that soon those 999 people will be dead, but you, young one, will survive—if, of course, you stay in the Organization. Heady stuff for a young man to contemplate.
Again, all this makes sense if the article’s premise is valid; if we have the truth. But if we do not, if we have false doctrines intertwined with the truth like every other Christian religion, then the premise is sand and everything we’ve built on it will not withstand the storm on its way. (Mt 7:26, 27)
Other Christian denominations do good and charitable works. They preach the good news. (Few preach from door to door, but that is hardly the only way Jesus allowed for the making of disciples. — Mt 28:19, 20) They praise God and Jesus. Most still teach chastity, love and tolerance. Yet, we dismiss them all as false and deserving of destruction because of their bad works, foremost of which is the teaching of such false doctrines as the Trinity, Hellfire, and the immortality of the human soul.
Well, while the paint is still on the brush, let’s give ourselves a swipe to see if it sticks.
In my own case, I believed I was in the truth with absolute certainty because I had received this inheritance—this learning—from the two people I trusted most in the world never to hurt me nor deceive me. That they themselves might have been deceived never entered my mind. At least, not until a few years ago when the Governing Body introduced its latest reworking of “this generation”. The article introducing this radical re-interpretation provided no scriptural proof whatsoever for what was obviously a desperate attempt to rekindle the fires of urgency that the previous interpretations had lit under the 20th Century rank and file.
For the first time in my life I suspected that the Governing Body was capable of more than simply making a mistake or committing an error in judgment. It appeared to me that this was evidence of intentionally fabricating a doctrine for their own purposes. I did not at that point question their motivation. I could see who they might feel motivated with the best of intentions to make stuff up, but good motivation is no excuse for a wrongful action as Uzzah learned. (2Sa 6:6, 7)
This was a very rude awakening for me. I started to realize that I had been accepting as truth what the magazines were teaching without making a careful and questioning study. Thus began a steady and progressive re-examination of everything I had been taught. I resolved not to believe any teaching if it couldn’t be clearly proven using the Bible. I was no longer willing to give the Governing Body the benefit of the doubt. I viewed the re-interpretation of Mt 24:34 as a blatant deceit. Trust is built up over an extended period of time, but it only takes a single betrayal to bring it all crashing down. The betrayer must then apologize before any basis for rebuilding trust can be established. Even after such an apology, it will be a long road before trust can be fully restored, if ever.
Yet when I wrote in, I got no apology. Instead, I encountered self-justification, then intimidation and repression.
At this point, I realized everything was on the table. With the help of Apollos I began to examine our doctrine of 1914. I found I couldn’t prove it from Scripture. I looked at the teaching of the other sheep. Again, I couldn’t prove it from Scripture. The dominoes began to fall more quickly then: Our judicial system, apostasy, the role of Jesus Christ, the Governing Body as the Faithful Slave, our no-blood policy…each one crumbled as I found no basis in Scripture.
I do not ask you to believe me. That would be following in the footsteps of the Governing Body which now demands our utter compliance. No, I will not do that. Rather, I urge you—if you have not already done so—to engage in an investigation of your own. Use the Bible. It is the only book you need. I can put it no better than Paul who said, “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.” And John who added, “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired statement, but test the inspired statements to see whether they originate with God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1Th 5:21; 1Jo 4:1 NWT)
I love my parents. (I speak of them in the present tense because though asleep, they live in God’s memory.) I look forward to the day when they will awaken and, Jehovah willing, I will be there to greet them. I am convinced that given the same information I now have, they will respond as I have, because the love I have for truth was instilled in me by both of them. That is the spiritual heritage I treasure the most. Additionally, the foundation of Bible knowledge I got from them—and yes, from the publications of the WTB&TS—has made it possible for me to re-examine the teachings of men. I feel like the early Jewish disciples must have felt when Jesus first opened up the Scriptures to them. They too had a spiritual heritage in the Jewish system of things and there was much good in it, despite the corrupting influence of the Jewish leaders with their many amendments to Scripture intended to enslave men under their leadership. Jesus came and set those disciples free. And now he has opened my eyes and set me free. All praise goes to him and our loving Father who sent him so that all might learn the truth of God.