[From ws12/16 p. 9 January 2-8]
The three “theme questions” for this study are:
- What convinces you that Jehovah is the incomparable Organizer?
- Why is it reasonable to conclude that Jehovah’s worshippers would be organized?
- How does the counsel in God’s Word help us to maintain cleanness, peace, and unity?
Admittedly, if Jehovah wants to organize something, being God Almighty and all, he will do so in an incomparable manner. Does that make him “the incomparable Organizer”? Is that a title he wants us to apply to Him? To what end?
Capitalizing “Organizer” makes it into a proper noun. Surely if Jehovah wanted to be known for his organizational prowess, he would have spoken of it in the Bible. He describes himself in many ways in the Holy Scriptures, but never once does he call himself the Organizer. Imagine if the first of the Ten Commandments were worded this way:
“I am Jehovah your Organizer, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must not have any other organizers besides me.” (Ex 20:2, 3)
As revealed by these three questions, the purpose of this article is to get us to accept that everything Jehovah does requires an incomparable degree of organization. With that idea in place, the publishers will lead us to conclude that only an organization can worship Jehovah the way he wants. Organization then becomes the identifying mark of true Christians; or to paraphrase John 13:35: ‘By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you are organized among yourselves.’
The Bible doesn’t use the word “organization” nor does it speak of the need to be organized to gain God’s favor, so the writer has a significant task before him. How to prove the importance of organization? To do so, he turns, in paragraphs 3 thru 5 to astronomy. Does the universe reveal a clockwork-like organization? We see evidence of colliding galaxies and stars so massive they collapse upon themselves and then explode, leaving a spinning black hole in their place from which nothing can escape. Our own solar system is thought to have formed by random collisions of stellar debris. Some of this debris still exists in the asteroid belt and at the fringes of the Solar System in what is called the Oort cloud. There is a danger of comets from the cloud and asteroids from the belt impacting on Earth. Scientists believe that one such collision ended the reign of the dinosaurs. This hardly speaks of meticulous organization. Could it be that Jehovah likes to start things going and then see how they turn out? Or is there wisdom beyond our understanding behind it all?[i]
The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses would have us believe that Jehovah is the great Clockmaker; that everything he does reflects meticulous organization and that there is no randomness in the universe. Such a view is not consistent with the evidence of scientific observation, nor is it supported in Holy Scripture. Life is far more interesting than JW.org would have us believe.
However, the publishers are depending on our blind acceptance of this first premise so that they can lead us to the ultimate conclusion that we need to be organized to get the job done. This is not to suggest that being organized is a bad thing necessarily, but then the question arises, who is actually doing the organizing?
Organized by God?
We do not want to bury the lead, so let us state what any regular Watchtower reader already knows. When the publications, videos, and broadcasts of JW.org speak of God’s Organization, they mean the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, to the critical mind, it is unfair to call them God’s Organization until that has been proven to be the case. Therefore, to avoid skewing anyone’s perception, from here on in we will substitute any reference made in the article to God’s Organization with the short form, JW.org.
Surely, then, we should expect that Jehovah wants his worshippers to be well-organized. In fact, to that end God has provided the Bible for our guidance. Living without the help of [JW.org] and his standards would result in unhappiness and misery. – par. 6
We are certainly getting our exercise jumping to conclusions here. First, we assume that Jehovah wants us to be well-organized. Next, we are told that the reason God gave us the Bible is to guide us to be better organized. (Are we to assume that if we follow the precepts of the Bible regarding morality, love, faith and hope, but are not well-organized, Jehovah will be displeased?) Finally, we are to assume that the Bible is not enough. If we live without the help of JW.org, we’ll be miserable and unhappy.
The help they are speaking of includes their interpretation of the Bible. For instance:
The Bible is no mere collection of unrelated Jewish and Christian literature. Rather, it is a well-organized book—a divinely inspired masterpiece. The individual books of the Bible are interconnected. Interwoven from Genesis to Revelation is the Bible’s central theme—the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty and the fulfillment of his purpose for the earth by means of his Kingdom under Christ, the promised “offspring.”—Read Genesis 3:15; Matthew 6:10; Revelation 11:15. – par. 7
JW.org is telling us that the Bible’s central theme is the “vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty”. Do a word search in the WT Library program using “vindication” and “sovereignty”.[ii] You may be surprised to learn that the Bible never uses the terms as the Watchtower states.[iii] If the theme of the Bible is not what JW.org states, then what is the Bible’s theme? If we are being guided away from the real purpose of the Bible, are we not more likely to end up ‘unhappy and miserable’.
JW.org—a Judeo-Christian Organization
To support the contention that we need JW.org to organize us, Israel is again put forward as the model for the modern Christian congregation.
The people of ancient Israel were a model of organization. Under the Mosaic Law, for example, there were “women who were organized to serve at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” (Ex. 38:8) The moving of the Israelite camp and the tabernacle took place in an orderly way. Later, King David organized the Levites and the priests into effective divisions. (1 Chron. 23:1-6; 24:1-3) And when they obeyed Jehovah, the Israelites were blessed with order, peace, and unity.—Deut. 11:26, 27; 28:1-14. – par. 8
Sure they were organized when God was marching millions across a hostile desert wasteland and into Canaan. Jehovah is quite capable of organizing things when there is a purpose to be accomplished that requires organization. However, once they settled in the Promised Land, that level of organization vanished. In fact, it was the reintroduction of organization under a central human authority that ruined everything.
“In those days, there was no king in Israel. Each one was doing what was right in his own eyes.” (Jg 17:6)
This hardly speaks of organization under a central authority. Why not use this model for the modern Christian congregation instead of the failed model that resulted from the Israelites’ misguided desire to have a human king rule over them?
Was There a First Century Governing Body?
Paragraphs 9 and 10 try to lay the groundwork for the modern-day Governing Body by claiming that a first century counterpart existed. This is not true. Yes, on one occasion, the apostles and older men in Jerusalem issued direction to all the congregations of the day, but that was only because they (men from their midst) were the cause of the problem in the first place. So it fell to them to fix it. However, there is no evidence that they directed all the congregations all the time throughout the ancient world. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. For instance, who came up with the name “Christian”? It originated with a non-Jewish congregation in Antioch. (Acts 11:26) Nor did they dispatch Paul and his companions on the three missionary journeys chronicled in the Book of Acts. Those journeys were commissioned and funded by the Antioch congregation.[iv]
Do You Follow Direction?
“Following direction” seems so innocuous. In fact, it is a euphemism within the community of JW.org for “obey unconditionally”. What is expected is quick and unquestioning obedience to the dictates of the men at the head of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What should members of Branch Committees or Country Committees, circuit overseers, and congregation elders do when they receive direction from [JW.org] today? Jehovah’s own Book directs all of us to be obedient and submissive. (Deut. 30:16; Heb. 13:7, 17) A critical or rebellious spirit has no place in [JW.org], for such an attitude could disrupt our loving, peaceful, and united congregations. Of course, no loyal Christian would want to display a disrespectful and disloyal spirit like that of Diotrephes. (Read 3 John 9, 10.) We might well ask ourselves: ‘Do I contribute to the spirituality of those around me? Am I quick to accept and support the direction given by the brothers taking the lead?’ – par. 11
Based on the first two sentences of paragraph 11, we are to conclude that the Bible directs branch committees, circuit overseers, and local elders to be obedient and submissive to the Governing Body of JW.org. Two scriptures are cited as proof.
Deuteronomy 30:16 speaks of the commandments of Jehovah, not “commands of men” or “direction” from JW.org. As for Hebrews 13:17, it does not require unconditional obedience to the dictates of men. The Greek word, peithó, used there actually means “to persuade, to have confidence”, not “to obey”. When the Bible speaks of obeying God like it does at Acts 5:29, it uses a different Greek word.[v] What is the basis for being persuaded to follow the direction of the elders, circuit overseer, or Governing Body? Is it not God’s inspired Word? And if their direction goes contrary to that inspired Word, then whom shall we obey?
As for comparing anyone who doesn’t readily accept the direction of the Governing Body with Diotrephes, we must remember that it was the Apostle John whom this fellow was resisting. It seems we are comparing an Apostle directly appointed by our Lord with the self-appointed men of the Governing Body.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have long resisted and criticized the Pope and other Church leaders. Yet they would not consider their own position as equivalent to that of Diotrephes. So what is the criteria for claiming someone is a modern-day Diotrephes? When is it okay to disobey a church authority? And can that same criteria be applied to any direction being handed down from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Who Appointed Timothy?
To illustrate the need for unconditional support in compliance with the instructions from the Governing Body, the following example is given:
Consider a recent decision made by the Governing Body. “Questions From Readers” in The Watchtower of November 15, 2014, outlined an adjustment in how elders and ministerial servants are appointed. The article noted that the first-century governing body authorized traveling overseers to make such appointments. In line with that pattern, since September 1, 2014, circuit overseers have been appointing elders and ministerial servants. – par. 12
The authority for this change is taken ostensibly from the pattern set in the first century. Of course, as is increasingly the case, no scriptural references are given to support this statement. Did the older men and apostles in Jerusalem – what the current Governing Body claims was the first century governing body – actually authorize traveling overseers to make such appointments? Timothy is used as such an example based on the Scriptures cited in this paragraph. Who authorized Timothy to appoint elders in the congregations he visited?
“This instruction I entrust to you, my child Timothy, in harmony with the prophecies that were made about you, that by these you may go on waging the fine warfare,” (1Ti 1:18)
“Do not neglect the gift in you that was given you through a prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1Ti 4:14)
“For this reason I remind you to stir up like a fire the gift of God that is in you through the laying of my hands on you.” (2Ti 1:6)
Timothy was from Lystra, not Jerusalem. From the foregoing, it is evident that the apostle Paul and the local elders saw the gifts of the Spirit operating in Timothy. That, combined with the predictions made about him through the Spirit, prompted them to lay their hands on him to authorize him for the work ahead. We might argue that since Paul was there, the so-called governing body of Jerusalem was involved, but the Scriptures show us otherwise.
“Now in Antioch there were prophets and teachers in the local congregation: Barʹna·bas, Symʹe·on who was called Niʹger, Lucius of Cy·reʹne, Manʹa·en who was educated with Herod the district ruler, and Saul. 2 As they were ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: “Set aside for me Barʹna·bas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Ac 13:1-3)
The appointment and authorization Saul (Paul) had to go on his missionary trips came not from Jerusalem, but from Antioch. Are we now to assume that the congregation in Antioch was the first century governing body? Hardly. The Scriptures plainly show that all such appointments were made by holy spirit and not by some centralized committee, nor by representatives sent out by said committee.
Being Persuaded by Those Taking the Lead (He 13:17)
Now here’s some advice from The Watchtower that we really should follow.
We need to follow the Bible-based direction we receive from the elders. These loyal shepherds within [JW.org] are guided by “wholesome,” or “healthful; beneficial,” instruction found in God’s own Book. (1 Tim. 6:3; ftn.) – par. 13
If the instruction is Bible-based, then by all means we should follow it, no matter what the source. (Mt 23:2, 3) However, based on 1 Timothy 6:3, we are not to obey when the counsel is not Bible-based, not wholesome, healthful, nor beneficial.
“If any man teaches another doctrine and does not agree with the wholesome instruction, which is from our Lord Jesus Christ, nor with the teaching that is in harmony with godly devotion, he is puffed up with pride and does not understand anything. He is obsessed with arguments and debates about words. These things give rise to envy, strife, slander, wicked suspicions, constant disputes about minor matters by men who are corrupted in mind and deprived of the truth, thinking that godly devotion is a means of gain.” (1Ti 6:3-5)
So in such cases, we are most emphatically not to obey them. A practical example of this is to be found in the very next paragraph.
Paul directed the elders to hand the immoral man over to Satan—in other words, to disfellowship him. To preserve the congregation’s purity, the elders needed to clear out the “leaven.” (1 Cor. 5:1, 5-7, 12) When we support the elders’ decision to disfellowship an unrepentant wrongdoer, we help to maintain the cleanness of the congregation and perhaps move the person to repent and seek Jehovah’s forgiveness. – par. 14
Paul wrote his letters to the congregations, not just privately to the elders. (Col 4:16) His words were directed to all the brothers and sisters of the Corinthian congregation. If we read both the exhortation to “remove the wicked man from among yourselves” and the subsequent appeal to the majority to forgive, we see clearly that he is addressing the congregation, not just the elders. (1Co 5:13; 2Co 2:6, 7) Today, the elders disfellowship in secrecy and no one is to know what the sin was nor why the individual was disfellowshipped. This goes contrary to the clear instruction of Jesus at Matthew 18:15-17.[vi] So following the counsel of 1 Timothy 6:3-5, we should not obey the direction given in paragraph 14.
Missing the Mark
Paragraph 15 makes an appeal for unity when contentious legal matters arise by citing 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. This is good advice, but it loses much of its strength due to the misguided JW.org teaching of the Other Sheep. Why is this so? Because the Other Sheep—according to JW.org—will not “judge angels”, which belief undermines Paul’s reasoning at 1 Corinthians 6:3.[vii]
Unity vs. Love
Paragraph 16 makes an appeal for unity. Love creates unity as a natural by-product, but unity can exist without love. The devil and his demons are united. (Mt 12:26) Unity without love has no value for Christians. What JW.org means when it speaks of unity is really conformity. Conforming to the dictates of the Governing Body, local Branch office, circuit overseers, and local elders does provide a form of unity, but is it the type that Jehovah God blesses?
Judicial Matters Mishandled
Paragraph 17 seems to be giving us sound, Bible-based advice.
If unity and cleanness are to be maintained in a congregation, the elders must care for judicial matters promptly and in a loving way. – par. 17
Anyone scanning the internet looking for topics and news items related to Jehovah’s Witnesses is sure to find that the way we handle judicial matters does not promote unity nor cleanness. In fact, it has become one of the most contentious and damaging policies the Organization is facing at the present time. It is important to keep the congregation clean, but if we deviate from the procedures and practices laid down by our Lord Jesus, we are sure to get into trouble and bring reproach on his name and that of our heavenly Father. One of the most notorious and damning features of our judicial system is the practice of disfellowshipping those who leave of their own accord. (A process we euphemistically call “disassociation”.) At times, this has caused us to shun the little ones, such as victims of child abuse who have left because of disillusionment at the mishandling of their cases. (Mt 18:6)
As paragraph 17 shows, we know what the Bible directs us to do, but we do not do it.
Second Corinthians, written some months later, shows that progress was made because the elders had applied the apostle’s direction. – par. 17
“Some months later”, Paul told them to restore the man to the congregation. While admitting that the only Bible example of “reinstatement” occurred just “some months” after the “disfellowshipping”, there is no counsel for elders to follow this example. The de facto standard is a minimum sentence of one year. I have seen elders questioned by the Service Desk and the Circuit Overseer when they failed to follow this “oral law” by reinstating someone in under 12 months. This unwritten rule is reinforced in various ways. For instance, at this year’s regional convention, we were treated to a video of a sister who was disfellowshipped for fornication. After 15 years, while no longer committing a disfellowshipping offence, she applied to return to the congregation. Was the reinstated right away? No! He had to wait a full year to get back in.
‘We honor God with our words, but our hearts are far removed from Him.’ (Mark 7:6)
What Is Really Important
In a congregation headed by Jesus Christ, what is really important is love. (John 13:34, 35; 1Co 13:1-8) However, in an organization run by men, what is really important is obedience, compliance, and conformity. What matters is getting the job done. (Mt 23:15)
[i] To illustrate that laws and organization are not synonymous terms, consider Conway’s Game of Life. (You can play it here.) This computer game from the days of large mainframes is based on only four simple rules. Yet those rules can produce endless results depending on the starting elements of the game. Patterns emerge—some highly structured, others wildly chaotic—all based on the same four rules. This is what we observe in the physical universe. Highly structured physical laws producing a seemingly endless variety of results.
[ii] Typing (sans quotes) “vindicat*” and “sovereign*” will bring up a broader list.
[iii] For more on this topic, see the articles Vindicating Jehovah’s Sovereignty and Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Preach the Vindication of Jehovah’s Sovereignty?
[iv] For a discussion on whether or not there was a governing body over the first century Christian congregation, see A First Century Governing Body – Examining the Scriptural Basis
[vi] For a detailed analysis showing how the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses misapplies the Scriptures in handling judicial matters, see the article, Matthew 18 Revisited, or read the whole series starting at Exercising Justice.