[From ws 8/18 p. 3 – October 1 – October 7]
“When anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts, it is foolish and humiliating.”—Proverbs 8:13
The article opens with a completely truthful introduction. It says “As true Christians, we need to develop the ability to evaluate information and reach accurate conclusions. (Proverbs 3:21-23; Proverbs 8:4, 5)”. This is highly important and commendable to do so.
Indeed, we need to have the attitude of a group of early Christians mentioned in Acts 17:10-11.
- They were from Beroea, and they were “carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.”
- Yes, they checked their facts, to see if the good news that Paul was preaching about the Messiah, Jesus Christ was true or not.
- They also did it with great eagerness, not grudgingly.
In any discussion of the theme “Do you have the Facts?” surely this scripture in Acts is the one that comes to mind as an admirable quality to copy. Yet, strangely, this scripture is not mentioned at all in the whole of the Watchtower study article. Why not? Is the organization uncomfortable with the use of the name “Beroean”?
The paragraph continues:
“If we do not cultivate this ability, we will be far more vulnerable to the efforts of Satan and his world to distort our thinking. (Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:8)”.
This is definitely true. As the cited scripture in Colossians 2:8 states:
“Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.”.
“Philosophy and empty deception”, “tradition of men”, “elementary things”! Now if we were engaging in such things, we would be wise to condemn them so that people might think we are not doing the very thing that we are criticizing. It’s an old tactic. How do you protect yourself from ’empty deceptions’, ‘human philosophy and interpretations’, and ‘elementary reasonings’? Simple, you do like the Beroeans and examine all things using the Scriptures. If someone says a crooked line is straight, you can prove it is bent if you have a ruler. The ruler is God’s Word.
As the WT article itself says, “If we do not cultivate this ability [to evaluate information and reach accurate conclusions], we will be far more vulnerable to the efforts of Satan and his world to distort our thinking.”
“Of course, only if we have the facts can we reach right conclusions. As Proverbs 18:13 says, “when anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts, it is foolish and humiliating.”
When Witnesses first come to a web site like this one, they are often shocked and angered by the allegations being made. But in line with what the Watchtower study article is saying, you must not speak or even judge until you have all the facts. Get the facts so that you never look foolish nor feel humiliated by putting your trust in every word of men.
Do not believe “Every Word” (Par.3-8)
Paragraph 3 draws our attention to this important point:
”Since the deliberate spreading of wrong information and the distorting of facts are common, we have good reason to be cautious and to evaluate carefully what we hear. What Bible principle can help us? Proverbs 14:15 says: “The naive person believes every word, but the shrewd one ponders each step.”
Are the publications from the Governing Body exempt from that counsel? After all, they claim they speak for God as his earthly channel of communication. What did the above quotation from the WT article say? “Since the deliberate spreading of wrong information and the distorting of facts are common, we have good reason to be cautious and to evaluate carefully what we hear.”
According to The Watchtower itself, we should not trust anyone or anything without evaluating their claims carefully. The Bible warns us in Proverbs 14:15 “The naïve person believes every word, but the shrewd one ponders each step.”
So let us ponder over this step:
- Did the Apostle Paul get upset when the Beroeans didn’t immediately accept his teaching as true?
- Did the Apostle Paul threaten to disfellowship the Beroean Christians for questioning his teaching?
- Did the Apostle Paul encourage them to not to research the veracity of his teachings in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament)?
- Did the Apostle Paul call them apostates for questioning what he taught them?
We know that he commended them, saying they were more noble-minded for doing so.
Another thought to ponder, to which regular readers undoubtedly already know the answer is: For example, if you ask the elders in your congregation to explain the current teaching on the generation of Matthew 24:34:
- Will you be commended and applauded for shrewdly pondering your steps and having a Beroean-like attitude?
- Will you be told to do your own research outside of the publications of the Organization?
- Will you be accused of doubting the Governing Body?
- Will you be accused of listening to apostates?
- Will you be invited into the backroom of the Kingdom hall for a “chat”?
If any reader is in doubt that the answer would definitely not be the first option, then feel free to try it. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you! Whatever the response, feel free to let us know your experience. However, in the extremely unlikely event you get response (1) we definitely would really love to hear from you.
Paragraph 4 highlights that “To make good decisions, we need solid facts. Therefore, we need to be highly selective and to choose carefully what information we will read. (Read Philippians 4:8-9)”. Let us read Philippians 4:8-9. It says “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, …. Continue considering these things.” This scripture is often used to support the thought that we shouldn’t read anything that might be negative, only upbuilding things. But, how can we know if something is true or not unless we check its claims and facts, whether it is positive or negative? If we are highly selective before we even read something, how can we check or have any idea if it is true or not? Notice the second item in the scripture, “whatever things are of serious concern”. Should not the veracity of our beliefs and the results of the Organization’s policies (as it claims to be God-directed) be of serious concern to us? The claims the Apostle Paul made were of serious concern to the Beroean Christians.
“We should not waste our time viewing questionable Internet news sites or reading unsubstantiated reports circulated via e-mail.” (Par.4) This suggestion is wise advice as there is plenty of fake news on the internet. Additonally many news articles show a distinct lack of references and research and facts. However, not all news articles are false, and badly researched. Also who decides if an Internet news site is questionable? Surely we have to make that decision personally, otherwise the claim that it only has fake news might be fake news in itself!
“It is especially important to avoid websites promoted by apostates. Their whole purpose is to tear down God’s people and to distort the truth. Poor quality information will lead to poor decisions.”(Par.4)
Apostates, Apostasy and Shunning – The facts.
What is an apostate? Merriam-Webster.com dictionary defines apostasy as “an act of refusing to continue to follow, obey or recognize a religious faith”. But, how does the Bible define it? The word ‘apostasy’ only appears twice in the whole of the Christian Greek Scriptures, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and Acts 21:21 (in the NWT Reference Edition) and the word ‘apostate’ does not appear at all in the Christian Greek scriptures (in the NWT Reference Edition). The word ‘apostasy’ is ‘apostasia’ in Greek and means “to stand away from (a previous standing)”. It is strange that the Organization treats those that leave it with such hate. Yet the Christian Greek Scriptures are basically silent on ‘apostates’ and ‘apostasy’. If it was such a serious sin that merited special treatment, we would surely expect God’s inspired word to contain clear directions on handling such matters.
2 John 1:7-11
When we look at the context of 2 John 1:7-11 which is often used in this context, we see the following points:
- Verse 7 mentions deceivers (amongst the Christians) who were not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.
- Verse 9 talks about those that push ahead and do not remain in the teaching of the Christ. In the first century the Apostles brought the teaching of Christ. Today it is not possible to know 100% of the teaching of Christ as existed in the first century. There will therefore be things on which more than one opinion exists. Having one view or another on these things does not make one someone who has apostatized from Christ.
- Verse 10 discusses the situation where one of these Christians comes to another Christian and does not bring these indisputable teachings of Christ. These would be the ones that we would not extend hospitality to.
- Verse 11 continues by instructing that we would not wish a blessing on their work (by greeting them), otherwise this would be seen as giving support and being a sharer in their wrong course.
None of these points give any support to a shunning policy of those who have left off associating with their fellow Christians because of doubts, or perhaps being stumbled, or having lost faith, or have come to a different conclusion on a scriptural point which is not 100% clear.
1 John 2:18-19
1 John 2:18-19 is another important scripture which discusses another event relevant to our discussion. What are the facts?
This passage of scripture was discussing that some Christians had become antichrists.
- Verse 19 records that “They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us.”
- Yet the Apostle John gave no instructions that the congregation receive an announcement that these ones had disassociated themselves by their actions.
- He also gave no instructions that these ones should therefore should be treated as disfellowshipped ones and shunned. In fact he gave no instructions at all on how to treat them.
So who is running ahead of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles?
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 discusses another situation often used to support actions towards those who leave or are pushed out of the organization. It says the following: “9 In my letter I wrote YOU to quit mixing in company with fornicators, 10 not [meaning] entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, YOU would actually have to get out of the world. 11 But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. 12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do YOU not judge those inside, 13 while God judges those outside? “Remove the wicked [man] from among yourselves.””
Again what do the facts of the scriptures teach us?
- Verse 9-11 shows that true Christians were not to seek the company of a person called a brother who carried on such actions as fornication, greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkardness or extortion, not eating with someone. Offering someone a snack or a meal was showing hospitality and accepting them as fellow Christians, giving them support in their endeavours. Likewise accepting a meal was accepting hospitality, something to be done with fellow brothers.
- Verse 12 makes it clear that it was only aimed at those still claiming to be brothers and clearly acting against God’s righteous principles and laws. It was reach was not to be extended to those who left fellowship with the early Christians. Why? Because as verse 13 states “God judges those outside”, those not the Christian congregation.
- Verse 13 confirms this with the statement “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves”.
In none of these verses is there any indication that all speech and communication was to be cut. Furthermore, it is reasonable and logical to conclude that this was only to be applied to those claiming to be Christians but not living the clean, upright lifestyle required of such ones. It was not applied to those in the world or who left the Christian congregation. God would judge these ones. The Christian congregation was not mandated or requested to take any such action of judging them and applying discipline of any kind to them.
1 Timothy 5:8
A final scriptural fact on this subject to ponder over. Part of our role within a family is to provide assistance to fellow family members, whether it be financially or emotionally, or morally. In 1 Timothy 5:8 the Apostle Paul wrote on this subject “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” Therefore if a Witness starts to shun a family member or relative, even perhaps asking them to leave the household, would they be acting in harmony with 1 Timothy 5:8? Clearly not. They would be withdrawing financial support, and by not speaking to them, would be withdrawing emotional support, contrary to this loving principle. In doing so they would be becoming worse than someone without faith. They would not be better and more Godly than someone without faith as the claim, rather the exact opposite.
How did Jesus treat ‘Apostates’?
What were the facts about how Jesus treated so-called ‘apostates’? Back in the first century the Samaritans were an apostate form of Judaism. The Insight book p847-848 says the following ““Samaritan” referred to one who belonged to the religious sect that flourished in the vicinity of ancient Shechem and Samaria and who held to certain tenets distinctly different from Judaism.—John 4:9.” 2 Kings 17:33 says of the Samaritans: “It was of Jehovah that they became fearers, but it was of their own gods that they proved to be worshippers, according to the religion of the nations from among whom they [the Assyrians] had led them into exile.”
In Jesus day “The Samaritans were still worshiping on Mount Gerizim (John 4:20-23), and the Jews had little respect for them. (John 8:48) This existing scornful attitude permitted Jesus to make a strong point in his illustration of the neighborly Samaritan.—Luke 10:29-37.” (Insight book p847-848)
Notice that Jesus not only had a long conversation with an apostate Samaritan woman at a well (John 4:7-26), but used an apostate Samaritan to make the point in his illustration of neighbourliness. It cannot be said he rejected all contact with the apostate Samaritans, shunning them and not speaking about them. As Christ’s followers surely we should be following his example.
Who are the real apostates?
Finally picking up on the claim that apostate sites “whole purpose is to tear down God’s people and to distort the truth”. Of course that may be true of some, but in general the ones I have seen are trying to alert Witnesses to unscriptural teachings. Here at Beroean Pickets we don’t consider ourselves an apostate site, although the Organization most probably classifies us as one.
Speaking for ourselves, our whole purpose is not to tear down God-fearing Christians, but rather to highlight how the truth of God’s word has been distorted by the Organization. Rather, it is the Organization which has apostatized from God’s word by adding its own Pharisaical traditions. It also is not speaking the truth at all times and not making sure of its facts before printing them. This is what the facts of the scriptures and the brief discussion above about apostates and apostasy from the scriptures has shown.
A few provisions to help us get the Facts (box)
Between paragraph 4 and 5 is a box entitled “A few provisions to help us get the Facts”
How useful are these provisions? For instance one feature is “Breaking News” which provides “quick, brief updates to Jehovah’s people on major events happening worldwide.”
If this is so, why was there no mention of the Australian Royal High Commission on Child Abuse? After all the Australian Branch committee were giving evidence for a few days, and Geoffrey Jackson, member of the Governing Body gave testimony for a day. Surely that would have been of great interest to the brothers and sisters to see how much better the Organization was at handling such matters than other religions and organizations such as the Catholic Church? Or is the truth of the matter that this was highly embarrassing? Or does the Organization only release news that is in their favour or could bring them sympathy from any readers? If so, then it is as biased as a newspaper or TV news channel in a totalitarian state. So what facts do these provisions provide? It seems only a few selected positive items, and in any healthy diet we need a balanced diet, not just nice sweet tasting items.
Paragraph 6 states “Therefore, Jesus warned that opposers would “lyingly say every sort of wicked thing” against us. (Matthew 5:11) If we take that warning seriously, we will not be shocked when we hear outrageous statements about Jehovah’s people.” There are three problems with this statement.
- It presupposes that Jehovah’s Witnesses are indeed Jehovah’s people.
- It presupposes that the outrageous statements are false and a lie.
- Outrageous statements can be true and accurate just as much as they can be a lie. We cannot just dismiss outrageous statements because they sound outrageous. We have to check the facts of the statements.
- Was the Australian Royal High Commission on Child Abuse an opposer? The commission examined many organizations and religions and the enquiry lasted over 3 years. In this light, only 8 days examining Jehovah’s Witnesses doesn’t add up as the work of an opposer. An opposer would make them either the sole focus or primary focus. This was not the case.
In paragraph 8 they slip in “Refuse to circulate negative or unsubstantiated reports. Do not be naïve or gullible. Be sure you have the facts.” Why refuse to circulate a negative report? A true negative report can act as a warning to others. We would also want to be realistic, otherwise we could be like someone courting with a view to marriage who puts on ‘rose coloured’ glasses and refuses to see anything negative until too late. We certainly would not want to be in that position, nor cause others to be in that position. Especially this is the case where a negative report which was true, could have assisted them to be aware of a danger or problem.
After these opening paragraphs attempting to get all Witnesses to avoid reading anything negative or mentioned by so-called apostates, the WT article then changes tack to discuss “incomplete information.”
Incomplete Information (Par.9-13)
Paragraph 9 states “Reports that contain half-truths or incomplete information are another challenge to reaching accurate conclusions. A story that is only 10 percent true is 100 percent misleading. How can we avoid being misled by deceptive stories that may contain some elements of truth?—Ephesians 4:14”
Paragraphs 10 and 11 deal with two Biblical examples where a lack of facts nearly led to civil war among the Israelites and injustice to an innocent man.
Paragraph 12 asks “What, though, if you are a victim of a slanderous accusation?” What indeed?
What if you, like ourselves, love God and Christ, but have begun to realise or are realising that many teachings of the Organization do not agree with the scriptures? Do you appreciate being called an apostate (a slanderous accusation), especially as you still love God and Christ? Do you appreciate being called “mentally diseased”?[i] (Another slanderous accusation). It seems it is okay for the Organization to slander others, but not to have the truth told about its own wrong ways mentioned, let alone slandered by being spread. Shame on them. “How did Jesus deal with false informations? He did not spend all his time and energy defending himself. Instead he encouraged people to look at the facts – what he did and what he taught.”(Par.12) There is a saying “the truth will owt [come out]” similar to Jesus words in Matthew 10:26 where he says “for there is nothing covered over that will not become uncovered, and secret that will not become known.”
How do you see Yourself? (Par.14-18)
Paragraph 14-15 then contradict all the encouragement given to check the facts, by saying “What if we have been serving Jehovah faithfully for decades? We may have developed fine thinking ability and discernment. We may be highly respected for our sound judgment. Nonetheless, can this also be a snare?” Paragraph 15 continues “Yes, leaning too heavily on our own understanding can become a snare. Our emotions and personal ideas could begin to govern our thinking. We may begin to feel that we can look at a situation and understand it even though we do not have all the facts. How dangerous! The Bible clearly warns us not to lean on our own understanding.—Proverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 28:26.” So the sub message is, if after checking the facts the result is still some negative view of the organization, then don’t trust yourself, trust the Organization! Yes, the scriptures warn us not to lean on our own understanding, but conveniently left out is the warning that Psalm 146:3 gives that of “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.”
The Israelites of Jeremiah’s time were warned about the claims of prophets whom Jehovah had not sent, “Do not put your trust in fallacious words, saying ‘The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah they are!’” Is it better for us to put our trust in our understanding of God’s will and truth, or in the claims of others, abdicating our freedom to other imperfect men who are in exactly the same position as us? Romans 14:11-12 reminds us “So, then, each of us will render an account for himself to God.” If we make a genuine mistake personally in our understanding of what God wants, surely he will be merciful. However how could he be merciful if we have contracted out our understanding to a third party? Even man’s inferior justice does not allow us to excuse our actions because of following what others tell us to do without question? [ii] So how will God allow us to excuse our actions in this way? He created us so that we all have our own consciences and he rightly expects us to use them wisely.
Bible Principles will Safeguard Us (Par.19-20)
Paragraph 19 makes 3 good points all accurately based on scriptures.
- “We must know and apply Bible principles. One such principle is that it is foolish and humiliating to reply to a matter before hearing the facts. (Proverbs 18:13)”
- “Another Bible principle reminds us not to accept every word without question. (Proverbs 14:15)”
- “And finally, no matter how much experience we have in Christian living, we must be careful not to lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5-6)”
To this we would add a vital fourth point.
Jesus warned us “If anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Christ,’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Matthew 24:23-27)
How many religions have said Christ is coming on a certain date, or Christ came invisibly, see there, can you not see him? Jesus warned “do not believe it”. “For false Christs (false anointed ones) and false prophets will arise” saying for example: ‘Jesus is coming in 1874’, ‘he came invisibly in 1874’, ‘he came invisibly in 1914’, ‘Armageddon is coming in 1925’, ‘Armageddon will come in 1975’, ‘Armageddon will come within a lifetime from 1914’, and so forth.
We will leave the final word with Psalm 146:3 “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.” Yes, do check the facts and take note of what those facts suggest you should do.
[i] “Well, apostates are mentally diseased, and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings. w11 7/15 pp15-19”
[ii] For example the Nuremburg trials of Nazi War crimes, and other similar trials since.