“Jehovah has always had an organization, so we have to remain in it, and wait on Jehovah to fix anything that needs to be changed.”
Many of us have encountered some variation on this line of reasoning. It comes when the friends or family members we are speaking to find they are unable to defend the doctrines and/or conduct[i] of the Organization. Feeling that they must remain loyal to men through thick and thin, they fall back on this common defense. The simple truth is that Witnesses are very comfortable with their world view. They are comfortable with the thought that they are better than everyone else, because they alone will survive Armageddon to live in Paradise. They are eager for the end to come, believing it will solve all their problems. To think that any aspect of this belief might be in jeopardy, that perhaps they’ve made the wrong choice, that maybe they’ve devoted their lives to a forlorn hope, is more than they can bear. When I told one ex-missionary friend, a particularly gung ho Witness, about the UN membership, his immediate reply was: “I don’t care what they did yesterday. It’s today that concerns me.”
His attitude is by no means rare. We have to acknowledge that in most cases, it really doesn’t matter what we say, because the love of truth in the heart of our friend or family member is simply not powerful enough to overcome the fear of losing out on what they’ve desired all their lives. Nevertheless, that should not stop us from trying. Love motivates us to always seek the best for such ones. (2 Pe 3:5; Ga 6:10) Given that, we will want to use the best method for opening up the heart. It is easier to convince someone of truth if they can get there on their own. In other words, better to lead than to drive.
So when someone defends the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses using the reasoning that “Jehovah has always had an organization”, one way we can lead them to truth is to start by agreeing with them. Don’t argue the point that the word “organization” doesn’t appear in the Bible. That will just sidetrack the discussion. Instead, accept the premise which they already have in mind that organization = nation = people. So after agreeing with them, you could ask, “What was Jehovah’s first earthly organization?”
They are sure to answer: “Israel”. Now reason: “If a faithful Israelite wanted to worship Jehovah during one of the many times when the priests were promoting idolatry and Baal worship, he couldn’t go outside Jehovah’s organization, could he? He couldn’t go to Egypt or Syria or Babylon, and worship God as they did. He had to stay within God’s organizational arrangement, worshiping in the way outlined by Moses in the law. Don’t you agree?”
Again, how can they disagree? You are making their point, it would seem.
Now bring up the time of Elijah. When he thought he was alone, Jehovah told him that there were 7,000 men who had remained faithful, having not “bent the knee to Baal”. Seven thousand men—they only counted men in those days—likely meant an equal or greater number of women, not to count children. So possibly as many as 15 to 20 thousand remained faithful. (Ro 11:4) Now ask your friend or family member if Israel stopped being Jehovah’s organization at that point? Did these few thousands of faithful ones become his new organization?
Where are we going with this? Well, the key word in their argument is “always”. From its foundation under Moses until the Greater Moses appeared in the first century, Israel was “always” Jehovah’s organization. (Remember, we are agreeing with them, and not disputing that “organization” is not a synonym for “people”.)
So now you ask your friend or family member, ‘What was Jehovah’s organization in the first century?’ The obvious answer is: The Christian Congregation. Again, we are agreeing with the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Now ask, ‘What was Jehovah’s organization in the fourth century when Emperor Constantine ruled the Roman Empire?’ Again, there is no option other than the Christian congregation. That a Witness would consider it apostate by that point doesn’t change the fact. Just like Israel was apostate for much of its history, yet remained Jehovah’s Organization, so Christendom continued to be Jehovah’s organization down through the middle ages. And just as a tiny group of faithful ones in Elijah’s day didn’t cause Jehovah to make them into His organization, likewise the fact that there were a few faithful Christians throughout history doesn’t mean they became his organization.
Faithful Christians in the fourth century couldn’t go outside the organization, to Hinduism, or Roman Paganism, for example. They had to stay inside Jehovah’s organization, inside Christianity. Your friend or family member will still have to agree with this. There is simply no alternative.
The logic holds when we move to the 17th century, the 18th century, and the 19th century? Russel for example didn’t explore Islam, or follow the teachings of Buda. He stayed inside Jehovah’s organization, inside Christianity.
Now in 1914, there were fewer Bible students associated with Russell than there were faithful ones in the time of Elijah. So why do we claim that everything changed then; that Jehovah rejected his organization of the past two millennia in favor of a new group?
The question is: If he’s always had an organization, and that organization has been Christendom for the past 2,000 years, does it matter which denomination we adhere to, as long as it’s organized?
If they say that it does matter, then we ask them why? What’s the basis for differentiating one over another? They’re all organized, aren’t they? They all preach, though in different ways. They all show love as evidenced by the charitable work they do. What about false teachings? What about righteous conduct? Is that the criteria? Well, the whole reason that our friends or family members brought up the argument that “Jehovah has always had an organization” is because they couldn’t establish the righteousness of the organization based on its teachings and conduct. They can’t go back now and do that. That would be circular reasoning.
The fact is, we haven’t left Jehovah’s organization, or nation, or people, because since the first century, Christendom has been his “organization” (based on the definition of Jehovah’s Witnesses). That definition holds and as long as we remain Christians, even if we withdraw from the “Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses” we haven’t left His Organization: Christianity.
Whether this reasoning reaches them or not depends on their heart condition. It has been said that ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. Likewise, you can lead a man to the waters of truth, but you can’t make him think. Still, we have to try.
[i] The growing scandal of the Organization’s policies which have proven harmful to victims of child sexual abuse as well as its inexplicable compromise of neutrality effected by joining the United Nations as an NGO are two instances of this.