[From ws8/16 p. 8 for September 26-October 2]
In preparing this week’s Watchtower review, by the time I got to the fifth paragraph, I began to think I’d downloaded the wrong magazine. I went back to the web site to see if perhaps I’d downloaded the Simplified Edition, because the grammar and level of writing seemed like something out of a grade school primer. I don’t mean to sound pejorative, but that was my sincere impression.
Once I realized that I was dealing with the actual study edition, I thought I might have an easy go of it this week. After all, the topic is marriage. How far off the Scriptural rails were they likely to go? No need to get heavily into doctrine one would think. Alas, that is not the case. Arriving at paragraph six we find the organization interpreting the woman of Genesis 3:15 to refer to Jehovah’s “wifelike organization”. (What Genesis 3:15 has to do with the subject of marriage is a whole other question.)
The paragraph tells us that there is a “special relationship that exists between [Jehovah] and the vast throngs of righteous spirit creatures serving them in heaven”. Since those spirit creatures are called God’s sons, one would assume the special relationship would be that of a father to his children. (Ge 6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) However, this Scriptural relationship does not suit the agenda of those looking for a justification for a worldwide Organization ruled by a Governing Body. So the heavenly sons of God are transformed into the heavenly wife of God. One would presume that the alleged “earthly part of that heavenly organization” is also his wife, which then gives justification for referring to the organization as our mother.
Unfortunately, many of my JW brethren will simply believe this teaching because it is found in The Watchtower, which currently has a status among the rank and file on par with that of God’s word, the Bible.
While we cannot say with absolute certainty who the woman of Genesis 3:15 is, we can at least let the weight of scriptural evidence lead us to a conclusion which is not entirely based on wild speculation. (For an alternative understanding, see Salvation, Part 3: The Seed)
Next we are given support for the idea that the JW preaching campaign is a life-saving mission. (What this has to do with marriage will become apparent shortly.)
“Jehovah brought about the Flood of Noah’s day in order to destroy the wicked. At that time, people were so occupied with the daily affairs of life, including marriage, that they did not take seriously what “Noah, a preacher of righteousness,” said about the impending destruction. (2 Pet. 2:5) Jesus compared conditions then with what we would see in our day. (Read Matthew 24:37-39.) Today, most people refuse to listen to the good news of God’s Kingdom that is being preached throughout the earth for a witness to all the nations before this wicked system is brought to its end.” – par. 9
Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken the phrase, “Noah, a preacher of righteousness,” as proof that Noah preached to the ancient world prior to the flood. Given that after 1600 years of procreation, the ancient world likely supported a population numbering in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, such a preaching campaign would have been impossible. However, it is important for the Organization that witnesses not think critically about that incongruity so that they can take advantage of their biased translation of Matthew 24:39. There it says that the people in Noah’s day “took no note”. “‘Took no note’ of what?” you might ask. Why, of Noah’s preaching, of course! However, a comparison of other Bible translations will reveal that this is not a proper rendering of the original wording.
Paragraph 9 then concludes with this thought:
“Let us take to heart the lesson that even family-matters, such as marriage and the raising of children, should not be allowed to crowd out our sense of urgency as to Jehovah’s day.” – par. 9
Now we see why the situation in Noah’s day is introduced into a study article about marriage. Only a Jehovah’s Witness will understand the coded message in this phrase. “Sense of urgency” is synonymous with “attention to the preaching work”. We demonstrate our sense of urgency as Witnesses by getting out in the door-to-door and cart witnessing work on a regular basis. So the message is, ‘don’t let the preaching work take a back seat to your marriage and your children.’
So here we are at the halfway point of a study on the origin and purpose of marriage and what have we learned about the origin and purpose of marriage?
We’ve learned that Jehovah is married to the angels and that the woman of Genesis 3:15 refers to God’s wife. Apparently, this is the true origin of marriage. We’ve learned Noah preached to an ancient world, but no one listened because they were too busy getting married. We’ve also learned that we should not let our marriage and our family obligations get in the way of preaching ‘the good news according to Jehovah’s Witnesses.’
To this point, it would appear the article’s real purpose is to promote the urgency of the preaching work and support for the “earthly part of Jehovah’s wife-like organization.”
Does the article now get down to practical matters that might help married Christians be successful in their marriage? Actually, it skips over such things and deals with divorce. Is the purpose of marriage to divorce? True, many marriages do end in divorce. So does the Governing Body want to help Christians navigate the minefield of a marital breakup? Not so much.
While acknowledging the Bible basis for divorce which is adultery, the Organization introduces its own set of laws.
“Though no set time must pass before that person’s reinstatement, such treachery, which seldom occurs among those associated with God’s people, cannot be ignored. It might take quite some time—a year or more—for the sinner to give proof of true repentance. Even if the person is reinstated, he or she must still render an account “before the judgment seat of God.”” – par. 13
We are reassured that adultery “seldom occurs among those associated with God’s people”. The use of “God’s people” here refers to Jehovah’s Witnesses who consider themselves God’s only people on earth today. I can assure you from personal experience serving as an elder for 40 years that adultery is lamentably common among Jehovah’s Witnesses, as it is among other Christian denominations. However, that’s not the real problem here. The real problem is the deviation from the scriptural norm as regards forgiveness of the sinner.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the son was a drunkard, a wastrel, and a fornicator. Yet upon seeing his repentance, the father forgave him at a distance. Had the father been a member of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he would have had to wait on others to issue a decree of collective forgiveness. This would likely have taken a year or more for the elders in the local congregation to decide upon. These would have been guided by the counsel to “remember that such treachery is not to be ignored.”
Punishment, not forgiveness, is the operative word in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Why is this the case given the Bible’s direction to be ready to forgive? (Luke 17:3-4; 2Co 2:6-8) The reason for this harsh attitude is that those who direct the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not understand the love of God. If they did, they would not try to use fear of punishment as a control mechanism to make JWs toe the line. It is an ineffectual means of control in any case, but it is all they have. Love of God and of fellow man is a far more effective motivation to avoid sin. It works even when there is no one watching. Unfortunately, the Governing Body has adopted the world’s method of “you do the crime, you do the time” as a means to deter Witnesses from sinning. With this mindset in place, a sinner will often find that desisting from sin and expressing repentance isn’t enough to satisfy an elder body bent on setting an example. At that point, true repentance can only be expressed by going through a year or more of painful humiliation while one endures being shunned by family and friends. The real reason for this process is the establishment of the authority of the organization over the life of the individual.
If you doubt that the purpose of this organizational judicial procedure is to instill fear as a motivating force to ensure obedient compliance with GB directives, then how else would you explain the final sentence of this paragraph?
“Even if the person is reinstated, he or she must still render an account “before the judgment seat of God.” – par. 13
It would seem that the organization believes that when one sins, a blotch remains on the record until Judgment Day. Therefore, according to JW doctrine, even if you repent before God and men of your sin, you still have to account for it once again before God on Judgment Day. This application is arrived at by a misapplication of Romans 14:10-12. Elsewhere in Romans, specifically in chapter 6, Paul speaks about dying with regard to sin and being made alive in the spirit. Such death acquits one of all sin.
To show how silly and unscriptural the organization’s point of view is, consider this: if you sin today, and then repent, does your heavenly Father forgive you or not? If he forgives you, then you are forgiven. Period. Full stop. Jehovah does not practice double jeopardy. He does not require us to be judged twice for the same crime.
The Pharisaic penchant for making qualifying rules governing every aspect of the law is evident also in the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For instance, in paragraph 15 we have the following directive:
“It might be added that if a person knows that his or her mate committed adultery and chooses to resume sexual relations with the guilty mate, such an action constitutes forgiveness and removes a Scriptural basis for divorce.” – par. 15
While this may seem logical to some, there is nothing in the Bible to give credence to such a hard and fast rule. All Jesus tells us is that adultery breaks the marriage bond and gives grounds for divorce. Anything beyond this is left up to the conscience of the individual. For instance, a wife might be left reeling emotionally at hearing the confession of an adulterous husband. She would not be thinking straight, and he might use her confused and conflicted state of mind to seduce her into an act of sexual intercourse. The next morning, she might well awaken with a clear head and the absolute realization that she no longer can bear to be with this man. According to Watchtower doctrine, it’s “too bad, so sad”, you had your chance sister and you blew it. You’re stuck with the blighter.
There is nothing in the Bible to support this view. Having had lawful sex with her husband following his confession does not nullify his sin. Nor does it, in and of itself, grant forgiveness. Jehovah reads hearts, and knows what is right and wrong in these situations. It is not for a body of elders to judge such matters nor to lay down the law.
Paragraph 18 repeats the counsel from 1 Corinthians 7:39 where Paul tells the Christian to marry only in the Lord. To a Jehovah’s Witness, that means marrying only another Jehovah’s Witness. However, this is not what Paul wrote. Marrying only in the Lord means marrying only a true Christian; someone who truly believes in Jesus Christ as the Lord, and who is obedient to all of Jesus’ instruction. So rather than selecting a mate based on religious affiliation or membership, a wise disciple of Christ looks for another whose qualities are those which reflect true Christianity.
As you can see from this review, this week’s study isn’t really about providing marital guidance from the Scriptures to Christian husbands and wives. Instead, it’s another bait-and-switch article intended to get Witnesses to line up obediently behind organizational directives.
If you are with a congregation member next week and they chance to comment—as they often do—something like, “Wasn’t that a wonderful study we just had on marriage?”, you might try asking them for a particular point that stood out in their mind. Not to be cruel, but to make a point, it would be interesting to see if they can come up with even one.
@ Collete This is what the Shepherd book says: If it comes to light or an appointed brother confesses that he has committed a disfellowshipping oﬀense years in the past: The body of elders may determine he can continue to serve if the following is true: The immorality or other serious wrongdoing occurred more than a few years ago, and he is genuinely repentant, recognizing that he should have come forward immediately when he sinned. (Perhaps he has even confessed to his sin, seeking help with his guilty conscience.) He has been serving faithfully for many years, has evidence of… Read more »
Collette. Appreciate your concern. I think it is an unusual scenario, as I never ran into such conduct by an elder while on the BOE for many years. On the only occasions of misconduct that I recall, they were current, not in the distant past.
Collette, What can I say ? But it is always difficult when problems that are old come up, Unfortunately getting the full facts is very hard, sometimes.
maybe that is why no one did anything. At least the truth came out eventually. It is even harder when the truth just doesn’t seem to come out.
Anyway, I hope the information was of some help.
The unfortunate part is when we have to make excuses for the actions of men supposedly appointed by Holy Spirit to look after God’s sheep, yet there is no excuse or mercy shown when one of the sheep errs. Certainly these appointed men should be held up to a higher standard of conduct seeing they are supposedly more spiritual than the sheep and are supposed to be taking the lead. In this particular case I mentioned, we were told by the guilty elder that at the time of his crime, he had spoken to the body of elders and they… Read more »
Collette. The Book is quite clear. If the wrongdoing occurred within the past few years while he was serving, he is disqualified and the matter may need to be handled judicially. The example you cite seems to refer to something that happened a considerable time (More than a few years) ago. He also has to be genuinely repentant and has been serving faithfully for many years ago. I do not think that there is a cover up, although it could have been put more clearly. Hope this helps.
I believe it was four or more years prior. I came across proof that an elder committed business fraud several times, selling items over the internet, taking the money and even processing a manual credit card transaction, so it wasn’t as if the money came into his bank account by accident, and then not supplying the goods. He did this several times and one customer even opened up a criminal case against him. The amounts of money involved were very substantial. Anyway, I came across this information by accident within a year of these criminal acts and reported it to… Read more »
Colette, The example you cite is not something permitted by the elder handbook. This is an example of the disconnect between guidelines and practice that comes from the secrecy with which these matters are “handled”, and the resultant lack of accountability. That having been said, the elder handbook is downright strange on this topic. (It is dealt with at 3:19-21 and 5:43-45; chapter:paragraph.) It states that if the sin was committed before appointment, ‘the elders should take into account’ that he should have said something when they interviewed him before his appointment (when they asked if there was any reason… Read more »
Except that apart from being handled by the circuit overseer, the matter was overseen by a brother on the SA branch committee, with whom we personally had dealings with after the event. The cong in question is very close to Bethel.
To me it is but evidence of the rotten fruit on the tree.
“Punishment, not forgiveness, is the operative word in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Indeed it is Meleti. And why? Once again, as you’ve noted in recent posts, it goes back to “it’s all about control.” What is the result? Einstein put it very well: “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed..” And what does the Bible say? “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.” – Lamentations 3:22. Indeed, the phrase “His Mercy Endures Forever” occurs 41 times in the Old Testament.… Read more »
Interesting point you made how the GB focuses on punishment whereas the consequences of our actions is what God wants to save us from – the problems created in the family from infidelity can be immense – King David is a good example – Jehovah for gave him for his actions with Bathsheba but he had to face turmoil in his family for the rest of his life – God is telling how to live which will prevent a stressful life for ourselves and those around us I have struggled with why God Allowed the Isrealite Kings to have so… Read more »
billy, you stated “I have struggled with why God Allowed the Isrealite Kings to have so many wives” One thing has become clear to me since I left the org. I could not of said this when I was in, but God is truly a father. Like a father, his children nagg him so much he just gets tired of it and says, “Fine! You want that, then you can have it! But don’t start crying when it does not work out!” Examples: Israel wanting a king, quail in the wilderness, Lot not wanting to go to the mountainous region,… Read more »
My father hated whining!
He used to say, “quit whining or I’ll give you something to whine about!”
I took him up on that, …once!
Thanks Meleti, your right, the writing committee could of written about Marriage and its origin, but they have serious issues in the org, and the Title conceals the real issues. But It does start to unravel as you read the article. One of the issues is if your married and do the wrong thing, you will be heavily punished, if your an Elder, we(GB)give you permission to throw the JW book at him or her. These issues show their man made legal laws, and what the Org stand is on this Subject! It shows exactly how a judicial committee will… Read more »
What shook me was when my husband downloaded the elder’s book, only to find that an elder can commit gross wrongdoing and hide it. As long as a few years have passed since the offence when he gets caught out or confesses, and there are signs that jehovah is blessing him, and the other elders agree, NO action needs to be taken at all. He can keep his elder privileges.
Double standards, hypocrisy and Pharisaical rules indeed.
Surely you must be joking here, …you are joking aren’t you?
No, I’m afraid I’m not joking at all. We used to notice how a brother would be all friendly and zealous, get appointed as an elder and then change completely within 6 months. Now I suspect it is because they have managed to go through the elder’s book in that time and have found out what is really going on. There are ex elders on this forum. Perhaps they can verify my comment above? Anyway, it is no wonder that the org is so totally secretive about the elder’s book. Sadly it has about 10 pages (If I remember correctly)… Read more »
If you send your email address to Meleti I will forward the book to you. We should still have a copy. Although be warned, you will never want to go back to the KH.
Thanks for the quick reply Colette.
I’ve been hesitating to read “the book” for fear my eyes would be plucked from their sockets.
It’s online as you probably well know.
Since you’ve verified my question, I think I’ll find a way to bring the subject up during the next opportunity.
Everyword Colette is saying is true. I served as an elder for nearly fifteen years. Yepp. That statement is there.?
Sooooo, …if I work hard, …really, really hard, reach out, become appointed as an elder, do good for a undetermined length of time, been given prominent privileges while receiving wave after wave of sincere accolades, I can then confess to having a long time past, but brief, torrid affair with the coordinating elders wife […] and still be allowed to conduct this weeks watchtower lesson about marriage?
Sign me up!
[Comment edited out of severe prudishness – AS]
Apologies to the room, this was in bad taste. I tried to edit it off the page but there must be some sort of time limit for editing.
I could have made the same point using a number of more appropriate illustrations.
Don’t lose any sleep over it. As an example of the extremes to which the logic might be taken, it worked quite well, but it did kind of red-line our taste-ometer.
Kind words Andere!
I’ll do better here in the future but my mind does rev to the extreme.
Since the 2013 doctrinal changes I have been examining every word, sentence, and paragraph within each “lesson” then countering with many abstract / extreme “what if’s”
It’s been my experience that the non-answers to those “what if’s” have been the most enlightening.
Now, …if you ( or anyone else) giggled at my crass illustration, …you lose a point! 🙂
Again, thanks for the kind slap on the back of my neck!
Aha. Sense of humour in the comments. Excellent. Actually very observant, Meliti. Had not noticed Matthew 24:39 before – and the Kingdom Interlinear clearly says they know not (or nothing until….)
Paragraph 13 was really something. Contrive and run off with another’s mate, organising a speedy divorce and it might take a year (or more) before you are reinstated. Do something far far less serious, and get disfellowshipped,,, and they still expect you to wait a year or more.. What’s the phrase “hung for a …..” ?
Let us not be so hard on the writing committee, they are in a desperate scramble to put out timely weekly information designed to address the surmounting ills of the worldwide congregation. Just because the article attempts to cover what, three or four different subjects under a seemingly simple heading should not come as much of a surprise to those of us who have been keeping pace with the constant claptrap that has been ringing in our ears for some time now. Heck, it is not uncommon to see two or more separate issues contained within the same paragraph. And… Read more »
Don’t feel bad Meleti. I had exactly the same experience with a WT too. They have become so overly simplified that the org may as well save money and produce only the simplified version. The bethel here in SA switched to the simplified a while ago and all the English congs soon followed suit. Whatever happened to our theocratic education and the higher standard God’s people were to have as far as their language was concerned? As for double standards: so if the innocent marriage mate sleeps with the adulterous mate just once after the fornication has come to light,… Read more »
Not only that, but God help the poor innocent mate if he or she got bad advice from the elders. That’s the situation a sister told me (her own story) when I got back from vacation one time (I was still an elder at the time). Her husband had been unfaithful and the elders had strongly advised her to forgive, but they hadn’t clearly explained the ‘act of forgiveness’ clause. When I talked to her she had already ‘demonstrated forgiveness’, so to speak, without having made a decision. She ultimately decided to forgive her husband, which was good, because in… Read more »