[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.