QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
06/28/13 Visitor asks if we are going to write a letter to the Governing Body denouncing the name calling at the 2013 District Convention.
06/21/13a Elder who elected to step down from his position of oversight.
06/21/13 Visitor is concerned that we might be watering down the truth to appeal to other religions.
06/14/13 What is the agenda of demons and how do we handle demonic encounters?
06/05/13 Regarding the article The Governing Body Myth, a visitor asks why we characterize the letter from the Jerusalem congregation as an apology rather than as a directive.
On June 28, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“I recently read that at 2013 district convention they are calling anyone who leaves the organization Mentally Diseased. Are you going to address that in upcoming letters? I've been reading your letters to the Watchtower and also responses from elders, circuit overseers, etc. The governing body must be trying to find out who these men are. They'd be mentally diseased according to their views.”
To the author, thank you for your email. We, too, have seen and heard the comments at the 2013 District Convention that you are referring to. Currently, we have no plans to address it. Who is surprised at their actions? Each and every one of Jehovah’s Witnesses knows before getting baptized and subjecting themselves to the Society’s rules and regulations that if they should turn away, they will be subjects of such negative talk. We venture to say that many who are now complaining about this matter have themselves, at least at one time in their Witness career, done the same thing. Thus, there is good reason for us to not be so thin-skinned.
Really, this type of speech is ‘par for the course.’ We were forewarned:
“Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.”
– Matthew 5:11-12
Those who feel the comments were wrongly directed at them should use this as an opportunity for courage – not crying as victims, but standing tall as victors:
“You heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ However, I say to you: Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him. And if a person wants to go to court with you and get possession of your inner garment, let your outer garment also go to him; and if someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles.”
– Matthew 5:38-41
All followers of Christ should be careful not to let our sensitivity to the errors of others cause us to become guilty of the same error. Jesus said:
“However, I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; but whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.” – Matthew 5:22
Those spewing venom against their brothers will be held accountable. How much better for those loving the Christ to ‘keep our eyes fixed on the things above’ (Colossians 3:2) and ‘let the dead bury the dead.’ (Luke 9:60)
On June 21, 2013, we received the following comment:
“I conducted my last [Watchtower] study this past Sunday and I feel 20 years young already. I told the brothers and our [Circuit Overseer] that as much as I love the friends and all the participation on programs and the like, I love my heavenly Father that much more. There are so many things I disagree with that I choose at this time not to go into and that was it. For me I think I'd rather have the friends come to me and ask individually why I stepped down. That way I can consider each according to my understanding of them. I hope all come to realize the living hope. Thank you friends for all the encouraging articles.”
To the author, thank you for your email. Lately we have been hearing from several Elders and Circuit Overseers who have decided to step down from their positions of oversight in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses due to the errors in the teachings of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Governing Body’s refusal to self-correct. We understand why they are making those decisions and we applaud their courage. We elected to publish your email here because we believe your comments will be a special source of encouragement to other Elders and Traveling Overseers who want to step down, but are concerned that they may be viewed as apostates.
When an Elder or other Servant steps down, they are often asked to explain their reasons. And when they give specific and detailed answers which highlight the errors of the Governing Body, the remaining Elders and Servants might view these answers as a sign of disassociation and/or apostasy. However, the author of this email chose not to give a detailed answer. He summarily said that there were many things he disagrees with and chose not to go into detail. We suspect he could just as well have said his reasons were personal in nature, and leave it at that.
The point is, as spiritually free men, they can decide how much or how little information they will give. This is one way of heeding Jesus’ admonition:
“Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves; therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.”
– Matthew 10:16
There is great wisdom in this course. As many can attest to, coming to an accurate knowledge of the living hope can be overwhelming. In a person’s exuberance, they can come across fanatical, and depending on the reasons that moved them to make the decision, they can appear bitter and overly critical. These are the reasons some have been disciplined or labeled as apostates – not the decision to step down or leave, but the way and the spirit in which it is done.
For this reason, we commend this brother who chose to rest in the ‘excelling peace’ of the living hope (Philippians 4:7) for a time before he provides his detailed reasons, if he ever chooses to do so. He is properly putting the emphasis on moving forward instead of lingering in discussions about a dead hope and a stubborn leadership.
We are further encouraged that this brother, and those like him, are stepping down with joy, eager to have a fuller share in the true ministry of the good news of the kingdom. In the past, many brothers who chose to step down and those who chose to leave the organization entirely left downtrodden. They viewed themselves as victims who had been grossly misled. But those who gain the living hope are empowered. They are victors, not victim. And again, we applaud their courage and we thank them for sharing their decisions with us as these emails serve to bolster the courage of others who are considering making this move for the sake of the kingdom.
This is a lesson we all can heed whether or not we serve in positions of oversight. The lesson is to make peace with ourselves as to the living hope. Rejoice in it in our inner room and in the secret person of the heart. Look at our brothers and sisters who have not yet awaken to the living hope not as delusional, but as ‘sheep without a shepherd.’ (Matthew 9:36) And resolve to join in the harvesting work. There is a great field under cultivation, so let each of us pick a spot! (Matthew 9:37-38)
May the Father bless each and every one of us.
On June 21, 2013, we received the following comment:
“Dear brothers, in your article entitled "What is truth?", you said: "Christianity does not have the copyright on Jesus! Many religions have ideas that are based on the ideal of Jesus. And the extent to which a religion teaches these ideas is the extent to which that religion has truth". I think you may need to rephrase this paragraph so as to not give the impression that ideals or ideas of Jesus is equivalent to the recorded teachings or expressed words of the Christ we find in scripture. Certainly you are right that Christians do not have a copyright on Jesus, if what you mean is that simply claiming to be a follower of Christ is not the same as demonstrating loyal adherence to the spirit of his teachings. For this reason Christians are also admonished to "keep testing whether they are I the faith". The truth of the Christ is not partial, although understanding of it may come gradually to an individual or group. The goal is for all to come to Jesus and to acquire accurate knowledge of him and by extension his Father. So I think your characterization of truth as being found wherever the ideals or ideas of Jesus is taught actually contradict the point you're actually trying to make. We need to be careful that in trying to reach out to people of all religions we don't water down the tonic of truth we're trying to administer. May the Blessings of God and Jesus be with you.”
To the author, thank you for your email. Please know that we would never want to water down the truth. At the same time, we do not want to minimize the value in other religions who promote the same ideas that Jesus introduced.
For example: Are they doing to others what they want men to do to them? Do they teach that we should not judge others? Do they love God as they understand Him with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength? Do they love their neighbors as they love themselves? Are they good Samaritans? Do they treat their children and spouses well? If so, they are promoting the ideas of the ‘ideal of Jesus,’ and that has value in the eyes of God. And to the extent that they promote these ideas, to that extent they have found truth.
Of course, we want all men to find the authentic Jesus and openly acknowledge and follow him. But we must understand that death may overtake one before they have the opportunity to hear the message in a way they can understand and accept. Under those circumstances, we believe their good works in striving for the Jesus ideas or the Jesus ideal, whether knowingly or unknowingly, will not be forgotten by the Father.
On June 14, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Demons are one of the [Governing Body’s] reality/speciality, [including] apostates. But if one would encounter such a real demon incident, what is your advice in such a demonstration? I have friends that have had serious encounters over the years. What are their (demon’s) agenda in your opinion?”
To the author, thank you for your email. Frankly, we do not know what is in the mind of demons, though we are certain their agenda is not to our advantage. We do not give them time or attention. It seems that only those who are fixated on demons and wicked spirits find themselves with this problem. In fact, the attention given to demons is really man being enticed by his own animalistic desires.
It distresses us that so many people concern themselves with demonic forces rather than the sovereignty, power and authority of Christ Jesus and his mighty angelic forces. Many are quick to label any spiritual activity as demonic, but they lack faith in the overwhelming angelic activity. But even if one believes that a third of the entire angelic host rebelled, that leaves a whopping two-thirds of faithful angels! Hence, our universe is overwhelmingly friendly and positive and looking out for man’s advantage:
“Now we know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose.”
– Romans 8:28
Brother, do you not realize that the demons are basically impotent since the resurrection of Christ Jesus? Can you not see that the only power they could wield over man is illusory? All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. (Matthew 28:18) That includes authority over demons. We need only oppose the devil and he will flee from us. (James 4:7) Those unfortunate enough to have encounters with demons might want to examine their faith. The faith in one’s sonship with God conquers the world, including demons.
“[E]verything that has been born from God conquers the world. And this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.”
– 1 John 5:4
Instead of concerning yourself with the agenda of demons, focus on the agenda of the Father and His Christ. As Paul wrote:
“If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.”
– Colossians 3:1-2
Know that the Father’s universe is on our side! His sons cannot be captured or enslaved by demons:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
– 2 Corinthians 3:17 (RSV)
The ‘angels of the congregations’ are with us, seeking an opportunity to assist us in our journey. (Revelation 1:20-3:22) The Spirit of the Father dwells within us. (1 Corinthians 3:16) The Spirit of Truth of the son has been poured out on all flesh. (Acts 2:1-4) Holy Spirit pervades our universe. (Genesis 1:2) Hence, Satan and his demons do not have a chance with those who have a living faith.
And as mankind opens up to the Father’s vast spiritual influences without fear, more and more of us will experience these positive and uplifting encounters. The entire spiritual organization of the Father is waiting to serve mankind. Give an angel a job!
On June 5, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“After reading your article "The Governing Body Myth" (October 18, 2012), in my spirit there was something that you may have went oversight. You claim that the reason why Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem [was] to resolve the circumcision dispute, not because the body of Christians there had the final word on the matter, but because the men that started that dispute were members of the congregation of Jerusalem. While I think that's a valid argument, you then claim that the letter issued by the "apostles and older men" of Jerusalem "was a letter of apology for interfering in the affairs of the Gentile congregation". Where do you read that?? Like you say in your article, it was a decision made on a doctrinal matter. A decision. Who makes decisions are decision-makers. Although Paul certainly had strong opinions about the subject, he didn't put it upon himself to make the doctrinal decision. He left it in the hands of the "apostles and older men in Jerusalem". The letter, far from being an apology, is a doctrinal document to be obeyed not only by the congregation in Antioch but also all other congregations. Acts 16:4: "As they traveled [Paul and Barnabas] from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey." I think this is pretty unequivocal.
“Besides, you don't make mention of Acts 21:17-26. Again in Jerusalem, Paul (most likely against his own inclination) is told by James and the "older men" of the congregation in Jerusalem to be ceremonially cleansed according to the Jewish ritual in the temple, in order to appease the local Jewish community. And Paul - who so vehemently wrote against the need to still observe the Old Covenant Law - obeyed. Was this not a sign of submission towards the spiritual leadership exerted by that group of men in Jerusalem?
“Mind you, you don't have to convince me that the current Governing Body arrangement is faulty; but in its formulation it's not entirely anti-biblical either.”
To the author, thank you for your email and we are glad that you had the opportunity to read the article, The Governing Body Myth. We understand that your questions are theological since, as you indicate, they have no practical relevance to your opinion about the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a rule, we do not engage in purely theological discussions that have no practical relevance, but since your questions concern an article we posted, we will respond to your inquiries.
You asked where we read that the letter from the Jerusalem congregation was a letter of apology rather than a directive. We reach that conclusion based on the context – Acts 15:1-35. Rather than quote the entire chapter, we will paraphrase and highlight certain points. Please feel free to read the full account for yourself.
The account says that “certain men from Judea” went to a predominately gentile congregation and commanded that they must get circumcised. Paul, who was instrumental in establishing that congregation, tried to correct these men, but apparently they would not yield. Therefore, Paul and his companion, who evidently better understood the teachings of Jesus as it relates to the Law Covenant, went to the congregation from where these “certain men” hailed to have the older men in that congregation correct their own. Likely these “certain men” were among the believing Pharisees.
After much discussion, the apostles and older in Jerusalem agreed with Paul and did what was necessary to correct the problem caused by members of their own congregation. The letter they wrote admitted that men from their own congregation had tried to ‘subvert the souls’ of the gentile brothers. The letter acknowledged that those men had no right to do what they did and were not acting at the direction of the Jerusalem congregation. The letter concluded with an express statement of the position the Jerusalem congregation takes on the matter, and it was carried by men from Jerusalem to give the letter force. To us, that is an apology for an error, and an express and forceful correction of the teachings from “certain men from Judea.”
We recall that most of the 11 apostles served in the Jerusalem congregation; whereas Paul was primarily an apostle to the gentiles. This letter that was issued from the Jerusalem congregation served as a notice to all concerned that the apostles and Jewish Christians did not require the gentiles to conform to the Jewish customs. It served to clarify matters, not direct matters. This clarification was necessary as shown by the sheer number of Paul’s letters that repeatedly taught that conforming to the Jewish religion was no longer necessary.
As for the account in Acts 21:17-26, we wrote about this in the article Beware of Apostates! Again, the brothers in Jerusalem were trying to keep to the customs under the Law, or at the very least, appeasing those who did keep the Law. The Jerusalem brothers were not giving Paul a directive, rather they were offering a way of appeasing the discontented Jews. And you will note that their suggestion did not work. Their counsel resulted in Paul barely escaping a stoning, and being imprisoned for about four years. If the Jerusalem brothers were acting as a governing body for the Christian congregation as a whole, they were giving poor advice and advice in contradistinction to what Jesus taught. And let’s not forget the times Paul himself had to counsel the apostles. (Galatians 2:11-14)
No, the Jerusalem brothers did not serve as a governing body, though they were comprised of most of the faithful 11 Jewish apostles and some believing Pharisees. After the stoning of Stephen, the Jerusalem congregation was abandoned as the believing Christians were scattered abroad. From that time on, we notice that Paul was the true driving force for the development of the Christian congregation, not the apostles and older men, who were no longer grouped together in Jerusalem. The Bible record reveals that practically all of the counsel on congregation arrangements was given in the letters penned by Paul or in the account of the activities of Paul. Of the 21 letters of the Christian Scriptures, 14 were penned, not by the Jerusalem apostles, but by Paul. Peter wrote 2, James wrote 1, John wrote 3, and Jude wrote 1.
Finally, we note that there is nothing in the Bible indicating any apostolic succession. Jesus is the head of the congregation and he has no successor. (Hebrews 7:23-25) He sent the Spirit of Truth to guide each individual Christian while he returned to heaven. (John 14:15-17; John 16:12-15) Thus, any body of men claiming to be a channel of Jesus are mistaken. That is our view.
We respond to your inquiries not to prove anything, but merely to clarify the article. This matter has little, if any, salvation value and therefore should not serve to divide us. You are free to agree or disagree. But we hope you continue to visit us.