There’s a time-honored technique which evildoers use to shift the focus off their own wicked deeds when they come under attack for wrongdoing.
If they are caught lying, they accuse others of being liars. If they are caught stealing, they say, “Not us, but others are robbing you.” If they are abusive, they play the victim and cry out that others are abusing them.
There is a gem of a video on tv.jw.org right now in which a Helper to the Governing Body, Kenneth Flodin, employs this technique. His purpose is to smear the good name of any Christian who might disagree with the scriptural interpretation of the Governing Body. He does this by means of a hop, skip and jump method of Bible reading. Reading from the letter of Jude, he starts in verse 4 saying:
(Ken’s words appear in boldface.)
““Certain men have slipped in” to the congregation, he says they, “ungodly” with “brazen conduct”, 12 and 13, “rocks…below [the] water…waterless clouds…fruitless trees…having died twice…waves…cast[ing] up the foam of shame…stars with no set course”. Look at 16: “These men are murmurers, complainers…following their own desires…make[ing] grandiose boasts while they are flattering others for their own benefit.”
He then concludes by saying: “So he’s really describing the traits of apostates today, isn’t he?”
Kenneth is cherry picking words extracted from eight verses of Jude to smear the reputation of anyone who disagrees with Watchtower doctrine. But is his application of Jude’s message accurate?
Who’s the Apostate?
Before moving on, let’s use the Bible to analyse what he says.
Rather than cherry pick words and phrases, we’ll read the whole of the verses he’s referenced. (To make it easier to follow, I’ll be using superscript letters to provide reference points. Where they appear more than once, they link parallel thoughts.)
“My reason is that certain men have slipped inA among you who were long ago appointed to this judgment by the Scriptures; they are ungodly men who turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for brazen conductB and who prove false to our only owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.”C (Jude 4)
“These are the rocks hiddenA below water at your love feasts while they feast with you, shepherdsD who feed themselves without fear; waterless cloudsE carried here and there by the wind; fruitless trees in late autumn, having died twice and having been uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea that cast up the foam of their own shame; stars with no set course, for which the blackest darknessF stands reserved forever.” (Jude 12-13)
These men are murmurers, complainers about their lot in life, following their own desires, and their mouths make grandiose boastsG, while they are flatteringH others for their own benefit.” (Jude 16)
Most of what Jude describes was also described by Peter. Notice the startling similarity with what Jude says.
“However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These will quietly bring in destructive sects, and they will even disown the owner who bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. 2 Furthermore, many will follow their brazen conductB, and because of them the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. 3 Also, they will greedily exploit you with counterfeit words. But their judgment, decided long ago, is not moving slowly, and their destruction is not sleeping.” (2Pe 2:1-3)
“These are waterlessE springs and mists driven by a violent storm, and the blackest darknessF has been reserved for them. 18 They make high-sounding statements that are empty. By appealing to the desires of the fleshH and with acts of brazen conduct, they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in errorI. 19 While they are promising them freedomH, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for if anyone is overcome by someone, he is his slave. 20 Certainly if after escaping from the defilements of the worldI by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, their final state has become worse for them than the first. 21 It would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it to turn away from the holy commandmentJ they had received. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.”” (2Pe 2:17-22)
Who are the “certain men” who have “slipped inA among” us, who eat with us, but are really “rocks hiddenA below water” at our feastings? The JW meetings are compared to spiritual feasts, so who has slyly slipped in to deceive us, eating alongside us? Certainly not Ken’s apostates. They are all on the outside, cast out for not agreeing with Watchtower doctrine. According to Jude, these ones are “shepherdsD who feed themselves without fear.” What do they have to be afraid of? Their position is secure. Peter calls them “false prophets” D and “false teachers.” D Both Peter and Jude say these ones engage in “brazen conduct.”B
What is “brazen conduct” in the Bible?
The Bible often links brazen conduct with the immorality of a prostitute. (Jer 3:3; Eze 16:30) The Jewish nation was likened to a prostitute for not remaining faithful to her husbandly owner, Jehovah God. (Eze 16:15; Eze 16:25-29) Apostate Christianity is likened to a prostitute for not being loyal to its husband, Jesus Christ, by engaging in illicit intercourse with the kings of the earth, such as the United Nations. (Re 17:1-5) Does any of this fit with the recent conduct of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (See here.)
Brazen conductB is also linked with uncleanness and greediness. (Eph 4:19) Peter speaks of such greediness in conjunction with brazen conduct, adding that they exploit the flock with “counterfeit words”. (2Pe 2:3) These ones are, by Peter’s account, “waterless springs and mists (a cloud on the ground).” E Jude also calls them “waterless clouds.” E A spring that gives no water, a mist that brings no dew, a cloud that drops no rain—the counterfeit words of these false teachers provide no lifesaving waters of truth.
Shepherds feeding with us who are false prophets and false teachers. Does this ring a bell?
There is another aspect to these waterless clouds. E They are carried hither and thither on the winds. Whatever way the wind is blowing, that’s the course they take. As circumstances change they keep changing their counterfeit words. The provide the hope of rain, but the clouds just pass over leaving the land dry. This brings to mind the constant, once-per-decade readjusting of the interpretation of “this generation”, to keep us ever in expectation. (Mt 24:34)
Their brazen conductB also includes making “empty high-sounding statements” G and “grandiose boasts.”G Here are some examples of this:
Confidence in the “Slave”
It is also important to remember where we first learned the truth. (w84 6/1 p. 12)
“The faithful and discreet slave”: A small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body” (w13 7/15 p. 22)
When Jesus comes for judgment during the great tribulation, he will find that the faithful slave has been loyally dispensing timely spiritual food to the domestics. Jesus will then delight in making the second appointment—over all his belongings. Those who make up the faithful slave will get this appointment when they receive their heavenly reward, becoming corulers with Christ. (w13 7/15 p. 25 par. 18)
By word or action, may we never challenge the channel of communication that Jehovah is using today. (w09 11/15 p. 14 par. 5)
Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the “great crowd,” as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil. (w89 9/1 p. 19 par. 7)
These ones have caused people to escape from a “life in error”I and from the “defilements of the world”I only to bring them into greater reproach by causing them to “turn away from the holy commandment”J they have received from Christ. Jesus commanded his followers to partake of the emblems representing his blood and flesh. He also commanded us to teach the same good news that he taught, not another. (Gal 1:6-9) Witnesses have been taught to turn away from these commandments.
“Paul also helps us to understand that those with an earthly hope do not partake of the Memorial emblems.” (w10 3/15 p. 27 par. 16)
Note, however, that the message that Jesus said would be proclaimed in our day goes beyond what his followers preached in the first century. (be p. 279 par. 2 The Message We Must Proclaim)
Does any of this fit the apostates which Kenneth has in mind? Hardly. Does it not fit those whom Kenneth is representing?
These false shepherds flatterH their flock and promise them freedom.H ‘You are special. You are the only true religion. Stick with us and you will be saved. You will grow young, survive Armageddon, and enjoy the spoils of war. A mansion, fine things. You’ll be princes in the earth, and even be able to cavort with lions and tigers.’
In next week’s Watchtower study, we are told:
“Therefore, the environment in which Jehovah is now molding us is viewed as a spiritual paradise that is presently taking shape. We feel safe and secure despite the wicked world around us. Moreover, in this setting, those of us who grew up in loveless, dysfunctional families finally experience real love.” – par. 8
It is flattering for JWs to believe that only they have love, while out in the world there is no safety, no security, no real love, just wickedness. It is flattering to believe that soon they will be free by being the sole survivors of Armageddon. But if Peter and Jude’s words fit, then this will not be the outcome, for these false teachers and false prophets have turned their back on their owner, Jesus Christ. Obviously the ones both Peter and Jude were referring to in the first century gave lip service to Jesus. Otherwise, they could not have remained ‘hidden beneath the water.’ However, they proved false to their Lord and King. They took authority for themselves and did what they could to marginalize the authority of their Lord Jesus. Both Bible writers speak of the same outcome for such ones: “Blackest darkness.”F
“What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.”” (2Pe 2:22)
Don’t take Kenneth Flodin’s word for it, nor mine for that matter. Judge for yourself who best fits the criteria Jude and Peter have laid before us.
We Don’t Do This, They do!
To illustrate the point made at the start of this article, we’ll now examine how Kenneth goes about trying to prove his point:
“Are apostates today as reprehensible as those ones that Jude mentions in his short letter? Are they devious, or maybe they’re sincerely trying to help poor misguided Witnesses? No! They’re devious! Have you ever noticed that apostates generally do not try to reason from the Scriptures? Why not? Because they know we know the Scriptures and we would see through the twisting.”
Kenneth accuses those who disagree with Watchtower doctrine of using lies and half-truths, and of twisting the Scriptures. He asks his Bethel audience if they have “noticed that apostates generally do not try to reason from the Scriptures?” How would they notice this since they are forbidden from listening to anyone who disagrees with WT doctrine?
Kenneth is in a perfect position to make whatever accusations he likes and to disparage anyone seeking to reveal the truth, because his audience is forbidden to check up on anything he says. If they were allowed to do so and stumbled across the Beroean Pickets archive site, for instance, they would encounter Bible reasoning in over 400 articles and more than 13,000 comments. That hardly fits with Kenneth’s accusations.
He then makes a flattering statement to his Bethel audience, stating that apostates are presumably afraid of using the Bible, because Witnesses know their Scriptures and would see right through the twisting. Oh, if only that were true! If only my JW brethren could see through the twisting of Scripture!
To prove that his statement is an outright lie, I propose a test. Let us take what is arguably the most important doctrine taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses, the hope of the Other Sheep class, and discuss it using the Scriptures. If there is a Witness apologist out there who would be willing to take up this challenge, I’ll set up a debating forum, and we can discuss it, but again, only from Scripture. No opinions, nor speculation allowed. Just what the Bible teaches.
I will attempt to prove using the Bible that the hope for all Christians is to serve with Christ in the Kingdom of the Heavens as adopted children of God. The other side will attempt to prove that there is a secondary hope as outlined in JW publications for the other sheep of John 10:16.
To make your task easier and to outline the key points of contention, here are the seven elements of the JW Other Sheep teaching with references from the publications.
- The Other Sheep of John 10:16 are a non-anointed class of Christian, distinct from the little flock of anointed Christians of Luke 12:32 who inherit the kingdom.
See w15 5/15 p. 24: “Undoubtedly, we rejoice that God has promised immortality in heaven to faithful anointed ones and everlasting life on earth to Jesus’ loyal “Other Sheep.”
- The Other Sheep are not in the New Covenant.
See w86 2/15 p. 15 par. 21: “Those of the “other sheep” class are not in the new covenant…”
- The Other Sheep are not spirit anointed.
See w12 4/15 p. 21: “We other sheep are also aware that we will not always have Christ’s anointed brothers among us on earth.”
- The Other Sheep do not have Jesus as their mediator.
See it-2 p. 362 Mediator: “Those for Whom Christ Is Mediator.”
- The Other Sheep are not God’s adopted children.
See w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7: “Jehovah has declared his anointed ones righteous as sons and the other sheep righteous as friends”
- The Other Sheep are not to obey Christ’s command to partake of the emblems.
See w10 3/15 p. 27 par. 16: “Paul also helps us to understand that those with an earthly hope do not partake of the Memorial emblems.”
- The Other Sheep have an earthly hope, of living forever on a paradise earth.
See w15 1/15 p. 17 par. 18: “On the other hand, if you are part of the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” God has given you the earthly hope.”
Please take each of these points and provide the scriptural proof behind them.
Kenneth next tries to prove that “apostates” are deceitful. He cites a single example from his past which is supposed to convince his audience that all those who disagree with Watchtower doctrine (aka apostates) are the same. This would be like me trying to prove that all Jehovah’s Witnesses are child abusers by citing the case of Jonathan Rose.
Kenneth is himself employing a deceitful tactic. Yet it goes deeper. In an attempt to prove how devious his apostates are, he refers to a letter he received years before containing a photocopy of page 148 from the 1910 Watchtower volume and asking the question, “Why did your Mr. Russell say you only have to read his book, Studies in the Scriptures, instead of the Bible?”
Here’s a link to that 1910 Watchtower volume. Download it, open it, and then enter 148 in the “Page:” box. Once there, you will see in the right column the subtitle that Kenneth says was covered up in the photocopy he received. So it would look like trickery was used, but wait a minute—the absence of that subtitle doesn’t explain the writer’s question. What was that question based on, and why did Kenneth ignore answering it?
Here’s the real passage in question starting with the third paragraph in the left column of page 148:
If the six volumes of SCRIPTURE STUDIES are practically the Bible topically arranged, with Bible proof-texts given, we might not improperly name the volumes—the Bible in an arranged form. That is to say, they are not merely comments on the Bible, but they are practically the Bible itself, since there is no desire to build any doctrine or thought on any individual preference or on any individual wisdom, [such as Russell’s famous delving into pyramidology, the ages of man, and numerous failed prophetic dates and fabricated antitypes???] but to present the entire matter on the lines of the Word of God. We therefore think it safe to follow this kind of reading, this kind of instruction, this kind of Bible study.
Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the SCRIPTURE STUDIES aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years—if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the SCRIPTURE STUDIES with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.
Kenneth has not addressed the question the letter writer asked. He has created a strawman argument out of the hidden subtitle. The writer didn’t claim that Russell said his books were a substitute for the Bible. Kenneth is arguing a question that is not on the table. The question was ‘why did Russell claim that this readers only had to read the Scripture Studies?’ That is precisely what Russell states in many words in the highlighted portions above.
Kenneth is trying to confuse the issue. To illustrate: Let’s say your doctor says that for your health you can only consume two ounces of butter a day, or you can have any amount of margarine if you choose to substitute it for butter. Obviously, margarine is not butter, but it can be used as a substitute for butter. Now let’s say you decide to eat a butter croissant every day, because you have learned that it contains two ounces of butter.
Is the croissant a substitute for butter like the margarine? No, it contains butter, but it’s not a butter substitute. Russell isn’t claiming that his books are margarine to the Bible’s butter. He’s saying that you can consume his books to get your butter. You don’t need the butter directly, the croissant (his books) will do even better. It’s a rather arrogant statement to make, but that is what the letter writer was asking about and what Kenneth failed to address. Yet he claims the apostates are the devious ones!
Kenneth’s key point comes midway when he reads Jude 9.
“9 But when Miʹcha·el the archangel had a difference with the Devil and was disputing about Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms, but said: “May Jehovah rebuke you.”” (Jude 9)
Kenneth says that Michael didn’t assume an “authority that did not belong to him.”
He next says:
“So Jude was giving a lesson for those in the congregations that were ‘despising authority, speaking abusively of glorious ones’; it was a lesson for them. Michael set a good example of not overstepping authority. And that becomes an equally good lesson for us today to know the limits of our authority and responsibility. And unlike those rebellious ones in Jude’s day, we don’t want to be rebellious, instead we want to follow the lead of the faithful slave…The slave that Michael—our Lord Christ Jesus—is using today.”[i]
To Kenneth, the “glorious ones” today are the members of the Governing Body, the “faithful slave” in his view. But what credentials do they have to support such a grandiose boast? Would Kenneth accept that the Pope is the faithful slave? Obviously not. If he disagreed with a teaching of the Catholic Church, would he feel he is “despising authority” by speaking out? Not a chance! So what’s the difference?
The difference in his mind and in the mind of all JWs is that those other religions teach falsehoods, so they have lost any claim they may have had to being the faithful slave. Well, if it is sauce for the goose to denounce the false teachings of trumped up “glorious ones” like the clergy of Christendom, then it is sauce for the gander to do the same for the clergy of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have assumed the mantle of their authority in the time honored tradition of all the organized religions claiming Christ as their leader, but disowning him by their conduct and their teaching.
The authority we have to say such a thing does not come from a self-appointed committee of men, but from our Lord Jesus who commissioned all his disciples to preach the good news he taught and to speak truth in spirit. (Mt 28:18-20; John 4:22-24) So we speak with boldness because Jesus authorized us to fear no man, or would the Governing Body have us reject their rendering of this verse:
“So they spent considerable time speaking with boldness by the authority of [the Lord][ii], who bore witness to the word of his undeserved kindness by allowing signs and wonders to be performed through them.” (Acts 14:3)
Jude and Peter were not inspired to write their words with Jehovah’s Witnesses in mind. Their words applied in their day and continued to apply all the way down through the centuries to this very day. Kenneth’s line of reasoning to defend his masters from the attacks of true Christians, who are only trying to help others to understand the truth, are not new. These arguments have been used over and over again by self-appointed religious authorities who have proven false to their only owner, Jesus Christ.C This is the path taken by all of Christendom.
There does seem to be a hint of desperation behind this latest jw.org video. The access the internet provides to anyone anywhere makes it increasingly difficult for “rocks hidden below the water” to remain hidden.
[ii] The NWT improperly substitutes “Jehovah” for kurios, Lord, in this verse.