[From ws 6/18 p. 16 – August 20 – August 26]
“I ponder over your reminders.”—Psalm 119:99.
This week’s study article is about a serious and potentially life-threatening subject. The subject is that of our conscience and how effective it is in detecting right from wrong, because it affects our prospects for everlasting life.
Paragraph 2 states plainly the issue:
“Our conscience can be likened to a moral compass. It is an inner sense of right or wrong that can guide us in the right direction. But in order for our conscience to be an effective guide, it must be properly adjusted, or calibrated.”
So, as we review this study article let us keep in mind the following questions:
- Does our own conscience work properly, being firmly rooted in God’s word?
- What action is required on our part when our conscience troubles us?
- Are we training our own conscience or have we abdicated that training to others, for example an Organization?
- If we have abdicated the training of our conscience to others, is an adjustment called for on on our part?
Paragraph 3 highlights a number of ways problems can arise, so let us examine each in turn.
- “When a person’s conscience is not properly trained, it does not act as a restraint from wrongdoing. (1 Timothy 4:1-2)”.
The cited scripture, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, warns us:
“However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron, forbidding to marry, “ (NWT).
Here we find our first problem. What is the ‘inspired utterance’ and who does it come from? One would assume from the context that it is Jehovah, or Jesus or one of the Apostles, but it is not definitely clear from the reading of the passage without making assumptions. The Greek text has not been translated correctly here by the Organization. Why they have translated this verse this way, who knows, other than perhaps to avoid Trinitarians pointing to this verse as the Holy Spirit being a person. But this would be a poor excuse, because the case for the Holy Spirit not being a person can be made on other grounds. The passage should read “But the [Holy] Spirit expressly speaks [says] that in later times … ”. This is how all 28 translations on Biblehub.com render this verse.
It is worrisome when we find a mistranslation that distorts the accurate meaning of God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 4:2, Revelation 22:19).
- What about misleading inspired utterances?
“So, we let the literature speak for itself. The scholarliness of it, the logical presentation of the Scriptures that it sets forth and its faithful adherence to the Bible are the things that should impress the reader and that should convince him that this is the Bible truth. Worldly scholarship is not the thing to be required.” (w59 10/1 p608).
Yes, we will let the Bible and the Organization’s literature speak for itself. Please check the scholarliness of the literature and its faithful adherence to the Bible.
A true prophet is appointed and inspired by God as only such prophets can always speak truth.
In an article entitled “They Shall Know that a Prophet Was among Them”, The Watchtower stated: “However, Jehovah did not let the people of Christendom, as led by the clergy, go without being warned that the League was a counterfeit substitute for the real kingdom of God. He had a “prophet” to warn them. This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. They are still proclaiming a warning….Thus this group of anointed followers of Jesus Christ, doing a work in Christendom paralleling Ezekiel’s work among the Jews, were manifestly the modern-day Ezekiel, the “prophet” commissioned by Jehovah to declare the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom and to give warning to Christendom”. (w1972 4/1 p. 197,198)
So, what has this “’prophet’ commissioned by Jehovah” warned of? In the prophet’s mouthpiece, The Watchtower of August 15, 1968 p. 494-501 it had this to say about 1975.
“One thing is absolutely certain, Bible chronology reinforced with fulfilled Bible prophecy shows that six thousand years of man’s existence will soon be up, yes, within this generation! (Matt. 24:34) This is, therefore, no time to be indifferent and complacent. This is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that “concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt. 24:36) To the contrary, it is a time when one should be keenly aware that the end of this system of things is rapidly coming to its violent end.”
The date “1975” was mentioned no less than 15 times in this article. Do you see how they belittled and set aside Jesus warning that “concerning that day and hour nobody knows”? They also gave the implication that 1975 would be the end of the system of things.
The booklet, Millions Now Living will never die, published by the Organization in 1920 p. 89 said:
“Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old….to the condition of human perfection,….1914 ended the Gentile Times….The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the Scriptures because it is fixed by the law God gave to Israel.” (Watchtower 1 Sep. 1922 p. 262)
These are just a few samples of such prophecies. There are many others to be found.
How did Jehovah through Moses warn us about false prophets?
“However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. 21 And in case you should say in your heart: “How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?” 22 when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
Need we say more about false prophecies and “inspired utterances” that have issued forth from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Whether or not they were inspired is a matter of conjecture, but we can be sure that they were not inspired by the God of Truth, Jehovah, because his prophecies never fail to come true.
- What about forbidding to marry?
1 Timothy 4:3 warns us that “in later periods of time … some will pay attention to misleading inspired utterances … forbidding to marry”.
This scripture was traditionally applied to the Catholic Church, but they are not the only ones to whom it applies. Now, please compare the scriptural warning with this quote from the Organization’s literature: “Would it be scripturally proper for them to marry and begin to rear children? No, is the answer, which is supported by the scriptures …. It will be far better to be unhampered and without burdens, that they may do the Lord’s will now, as the Lord commands, and also be without hindrance during Armageddon. … Those… who now contemplate marriage, it would seem, would do better if they wait a few years, until the fiery storm of Armageddon is gone.” (Booklet entitled “Face the Facts”, 1938, p. 46, 47, 50)”.
A Damaged Conscience
“Such a conscience might even convince us that “bad is good. (Isaiah 5:20)” (Par.3)
“We found that in deciding the sanctions to impose and/or the precautions to take in relation to a known or suspected perpetrator of child sexual abuse, the Jehovah’s Witness organisation had inadequate regard for the risk that the person might reoffend. Alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse who were removed from their congregations as a result of allegations of child sexual abuse were frequently reinstated. We found no evidence of the Jehovah’s Witness organisation reporting allegations of child sexual abuse to police or other civil authorities.
During our case study we heard from survivors of child sexual abuse that they were not provided with adequate information by the Jehovah’s Witness organisation about the investigation of their allegations, felt unsupported by the elders who handled the allegations, and felt that the investigation process was a test of their credibility rather than that of the alleged perpetrator. We also heard that victims of child sexual abuse were told by congregational elders not to discuss the abuse with others, and that if they tried to leave the organisation, they were ‘shunned’ or ostracised from their religious community.”
“The Jehovah’s Witness organisation addresses child sexual abuse in accordance with scriptural direction, relying on a literal interpretation of the Bible and 1st century principles to set practice, policy and procedure. These include the ‘two-witness’ rule as discussed, as well as the principle of ‘male headship’ (that men hold positions of authority in congregations and headship in the family). Scripturally, only men can make decisions. Other scripture-based policies include the sanctions of reproval (a form of discipline that allows a perpetrator to remain in the congregation), disfellowshipping (exclusion or excommunication as a form of punishment for serious scriptural wrongdoing), and shunning (an instruction to the congregation not to associate with a disfellowshipped person).”
So, the conclusion by the ARC is that:
“As long as the Jehovah’s Witness organisation continues to apply these practices in its response to allegations of child sexual abuse, it will remain an organisation that does not respond adequately to child sexual abuse and that fails to protect children.
- We recommend that the Jehovah’s Witness organisation abandon its application of the two-witness rule in cases involving complaints of child sexual abuse (Recommendation 16.27),
- revise its policies so that women are involved in processes relating to investigating and determining allegations of child sexual abuse (Recommendation 16.28),
- and no longer require its members to shun those who disassociate from the organisation in cases where the reason for disassociation is related to a person being a victim of child sexual abuse (Recommendation 16.29).” (Only bullet points and boldface added)
See also “Child Sexual Abuse Policies of JW.org – 2018” for a scriptural discussion on this topic.
Does not this constitute a case of being convinced “bad is good” by the Organization when in the November 2017 monthly broadcast they state “We will never change our scriptural position on that subject” referring to the requirement for two witnesses. (See article Theocratic Warfare or Just Plain Lying?)
“Jesus warned his followers: “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God.” (John 16:2)”. (Par.3)
“Shunning is what we do”, so said a Circuit Overseer to a body of elders recently.[i]
Is shunning a loving provision of Jehovah or a threat from man-made organizations to make their followers adhere to the party line? Notice what this article states about the effects of shunning: “Targets of shunning can include persons who have been labeled as apostates, whistleblowers, dissidents, strikebreakers, or anyone the group perceives as a threat or source of conflict. Social rejection has been established to cause psychological damage and has been categorized as torture or punishment.”.[ii]
Can disfellowshipping or shunning kill? Certainly, it can kill by leading to murder and suicide. Recently, one very sad example led to 3 murders and a suicide.[iii]
What is the Organization’s policy? For example, see this recent study article “Why disfellowshipping is a Loving Provision”[iv]
Is this not a case of killing whether by being cut off spiritually or by physically killing via culpable responsibility? Yet despite evidence to the contrary, the Organization and many Witnesses still believe they have “offered a sacred service to God” by treating others in such an inhumane way!
“How can we prevent our conscience from becoming ineffective?” (Par.4) “by diligently studying the Bible, meditating on what it says, and applying it in our lives, we can train our conscience to be more sensitive to God’s thinking, and it can thus serve as a reliable guide.” (Par.4)
This is in agreement with the partially quoted scripture 2 Timothy 3:16. We should definitely always look to God’s word instead of that of men. If we let others dictate to our conscience then our conscience could become ineffective.
Let God’s Law Train You (Par 5-9)
“In order to benefit from God’s laws, we need to do more than simply read them or become acquainted with them. We must grow to love and respect them. God’s Word says: “Hate what is bad, and love what is good.” (Amos 5:15)” (Par.5).
One of the best ways to grow to love and respect God’s laws is by practicing them and seeing how they work for our benefit and learning from the examples of those disobeying and how it brings them problems. The article confirms this by saying:
“Think about how we benefit from following the Bible’s laws about lying, scheming, stealing, sexual immorality, violence, and spiritism. (Read Proverbs 6:16-19; Revelation 21:8)” (Par.5)
Sadly that is all it has to say on the matter.
But let us take a brief look at some of these laws.
What about lying?
- What is lying? Google dictionary defines it as ‘not telling the truth’. A good example would be the following: “Some may feel that they can interpret the Bible on their own. However, Jesus has appointed the ‘faithful slave’ to be the only channel for dispensing spiritual food. Since 1919, the gloriﬁed Jesus Christ has been using that slave to help his followers understand God’s own Book and heed its directives. By obeying the instructions found in the Bible, we promote cleanness, peace, and unity in the congregation. Each one of us does well to ask himself, ‘Am I loyal to the channel that Jesus is using today?’“ (ws 11/2016 p16 para 9).
- By contrast what did Governing Body member, Geoffrey Jackson, say in testimony to the Australian Royal Commission on Child Abuse? In reply to the question “And do you see yourselves as Jehovah God’s spokespeople on earth?” the commission transcript[v] and YouTube videos confirm he replied “That I think would seem to be quite presumptuous to say that we are the only spokesperson that God is using. The scriptures clearly show that someone can act in harmony with God’s spirit in giving comfort and help in the congregations”.
What about scheming and stealing?
A quick review of the court cases regarding the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall seizure and sale, links of which are available here will suffice to make the case for scheming and stealing.
A part of a brief summary from JWLeaks where many of the documents are available is: “In 2010 the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York seized control of millions of dollars of prime real estate assets belonging to the Menlo Park Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, California, by forcefully removing the body of elders and dispersing the congregation. Money invested by the congregation was also removed from their bank accounts by Watchtower representatives. Those within the congregation that objected to this were threatened with disfellowshipping. Those congregation members who actually spoke up against the scandal were later disfellowshipped.
Allegations of corruption, collusion, banking fraud, and a “money laundering scheme” have since been leveled against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, their lawyers, and their bankers, JPMorgan Chase Bank.”
Furthermore, the legal tactics used by the Watchtower Society lawyers in the related court cases are not in keeping with the image they project of a Christian organization directed by God. It has to be read to be believed.
Let God’s Principles Guide You (Par 10-13)
“To understand a principle includes understanding the thinking of the Lawgiver and the reasons why he gave certain laws.” (Par.10)
This statement is completely accurate. Yet the Organization clearly does not understand “the thinking of the Lawgiver and the reasons why he gave certain laws.”
A case in point is a subject already highlighted. That of the treatment of victims of child sexual abuse. The ‘scriptural requirement’ for two witnesses was highlighted as one of the reasons why injustice occurs when accusations of abuse are made by children. But is ‘two witnesses’ a requirement in all cases of wrongdoing? A review of Deuteronomy 17:6 which says, “At the mouth of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one dying should be put to death. He will not be put to death at the mouth of one witness.”, clearly shows it was designed to avoid the death penalty being carried out unless there was weighty evidence of the wrongdoing. However, the trial was carried out in public which gave the opportunity for other witnesses to step forward.
In this context Deuteronomy 22:23-27 deserves examination. If an engaged woman was raped in the city and she didn’t scream and hence get witnesses, she was also considered guilty of immortality. However, if it happened in the field where no one could hear and be a witness, she was considered innocent if she had screamed and the man condemned. There clearly could only be one witness, the rape victim herself. (See also Numbers 5:11-31).
The conclusion from examining scriptural principles is that provision was made for cases where there was one witness, or even just suspicion. There could clearly be judgement of guilt or innocence even in these circumstances. Why? Because Jehovah is a God of justice. For Christians, he has established principles over laws, because laws cannot cover every situation, but principles can. The principle was that justice should always be done, for both the accuser and the accused, not weighted in favor of the accused.
Press on to Maturity (Par. 14-17)
“The foremost law for Christians is the law of love. Jesus told his disciples: “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35)” (Par.15).
Indeed the whole of paragraph 15 is about love being shown by God and our demonstration of love for God and his son. Does this indicate a change of emphasis on the part of the Organization? We can live in hope, but sadly it is unlikely. The usual and oft repeated stance is as stated in w09 9/15 pp. 21-25 par.12:
“Foremost among the ‘fine works’ outlined in God’s Word for Christians is the lifesaving work of Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making.” (See also: w92 7/1 p. 29 “Foremost is the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work”).
Paragraph 16 makes a good point that, “As you advance toward Christian maturity, you will find that principles become more important to you. That is because laws may apply to a specific situation, whereas principles are far broader in application.”
What does this say about the Organization which it has generated a plethora of rules to be followed in all sorts of areas, rather than sticking to highlighting principles? In doing so it has taken away the freedom and responsibility of brothers and sisters to think for themselves and train their own conscience. It also raises questions about how mature the Organization is.
A Bible-trained Conscience Brings Blessings (Par 18)
All we have considered above highlights the importance of training our own conscience from God’s word and not delegating its training to anyone else or any organization. True, it takes hard work but in the end it pays off.
Even as Psalm 119:97-100 says “How I do love your law! I ponder over it all day long. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, because it is with me forever. I have more insight than all my teachers, because I ponder over your reminders. I act with more understanding than older men, because I observe your orders.”
Yes, with God’s Holy Spirit and His Word, we indeed can have more insight than the self-elevated teachers of the Organization, and act with more understanding and compassion than older men exactly because we observe God’s orders rather than men’s ideas about what his orders are. Romans 14:12 reminds us “So, then, each of us will render an account for himself to God.” At that time it will be no excuse to say ‘I obeyed the Governing Body’ or ‘I obeyed the Elders’.
Matthew 7:20-23 cautions us:
“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. 22 Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ 23 And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew YOU! Get away from me, YOU workers of lawlessness.”
Let us ensure we are the ones to whom Jesus says “‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:22-23)
[i] See Dubtown – The covert op – secret recording of elders meeting (You Tube video of Lego animation – Kevin McFree). An eye opener! And highly amusing portrayal.
[iv] w15 4/15 p. 30
[v] Page 9\15937 Transcript Day 155.pdf from the ARHCCA website of the case here http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-study/636f01a5-50db-4b59-a35e-a24ae07fb0ad/case-study-29,-july-2015,-sydney.aspx