Three weeks ahead of its expected release date in mid-April, a scanned copy of the July 15 2013 “Study Edition” of the Watchtower was leaked to the office of JWsurvey by a conscientious active Witness within the organization. I have spent the last two days analyzing its contents.
The magazine in question details the “new light” unveiled at the October 5th 2012 Annual Meeting, at which it was announced that the Governing Body is now considered the “faithful and discreet slave” – the spiritual overlords of the nearly 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
By the time the magazine is finally released, ordinary Witnesses will have waited six months since the Annual Meeting for a written explanation of the new understanding. However, such ones will be disappointed to discover that this key Watchtower (which Bethelites have been instructed by their superiors to study in detail) offers more questions than answers. As many expected, the magazine writers give explanations for key doctrinal understandings that are unsupported and speculative at best.
Here follows a brief overview of the four main study articles…
- Tell Us, When Will These Things Be? (September 2-8) – This article first whets the appetite of the reader by discussing bible prophecy related to the “Great Tribulation,” which will commence with an attack on religion by the “disgusting thing” (the United Nations) and climax with Armageddon. The article then provides a re-cap of the understanding, held since 1995, that the separation of the sheep and the goats will happen during the Great Tribulation. The writers expand on this to provide “new light” on Christ’s “arrival” as bridegroom. Whereas this was once thought to have occurred in 1918, the arrival of Christ as “master” or “bridegroom” is now scheduled to happen at some point during the Great Tribulation.
- Look! I Am With You All the Days (September 9-15) – Christ’s parable of the “wheat and the weeds” is applied directly to the long period between 33 CE and Armageddon. The separating work is said to have commenced in 1914, when Christ undertook a period of “inspection and cleansing” of the organization that lasted until 1919, when the Bible Students were approved as being “true Christian wheat.”
- Feeding Many Through the Hands of a Few (September 16-22) – Christ’s miracle of the loaves and fishes is held aloft as a foregleam of his intentions to appoint only a small group of men over the spiritual feeding work. The article discusses the “apostles and older men” as being forerunners to the Governing Body arrangement. Russell and his associates (pre-1914) are precluded from representing the appointed channel through which Christ would feed his sheep.
- “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?” (September 23-29) – The article begins by sweeping aside the previous understanding that the faithful slave was appointed in 33 CE, and goes on to explain how the words of the “prophecy” began to be fulfilled only after 1914. The faithful slave is identified specifically as being “a small group of anointed brothers” currently comprising the Governing Body as a “composite slave.” The article concludes by boldly insisting that Christ WILL appoint the Governing Body, along with other anointed Christians, “over all his belongings” when he comes in judgment during the Great Tribulation.
The “disgusting” United Nations – a former partner
The UN has come under fire from Watchtower publications repeatedly over the decades, but rarely has the denunciation been so forthright as in this latest magazine. On page 4 in the first study article, Witnesses are reminded that the United Nations, which is declared to be the modern-day “disgusting thing,” WILL attack Christendom and the rest of “false religion” to signal the outbreak of the Great Tribulation.
Witnesses will be familiar with Watchtower labelling the UN as the “disgusting thing” of Matthew 24:15, but rarely has the assertion been made with such forthrightness that the UN (and not merely its “members”) will be solely responsible for an attack on all religion. Over the last few decades, Watchtower publications have described the UN’s involvement as executioner of false religion in a variety of ways, some more obscure than others…
Question: Who will destroy Babylon The Great?
- 1975 – “the United Nations” (w75 5/1 pp. 274-275 par. 11)
- 1976 – “beastlike radical powers from within the United Nations” (gh chap. 16 p. 147 par. 12)
- 1977 – “The members of the U.N. and other nations not members of it…” (go chap. 11 p. 177 par. 7)
- 1980 – “the political backers of the United Nations” (w80 7/1 p. 17 par. 23)
- 1982 – “The ‘ten horns’ of the United Nations ‘beast'” (w82 5/1 p. 18 par. 9)
- 1985 – “political elements, represented in the United Nations” (g85 4/8 p. 13)
- 1985 – “antireligious elements within the United Nations” (w85 6/15 p. 18 par. 19)
- 1987 – “The ten horns [governmental powers within the United Nations organization] that you saw, and the wild beast [United Nations]…” (w87 11/1 p. 28)
- 1988 – “the nations will use the scarlet-colored wild beast, the United Nations…” (re chap. 35 p. 258 par. 21)
- 1989 – “the political powers associated with the United Nations” (w89 5/15 p. 6)
- 1993 – “political elements, including the United Nations” (g93 1/8 p. 12)
- 1994 – “militarized members of the United Nations” (w94 3/1 p. 20 par. 11)
- 1994 – “members of the United Nations” (w94 11/1 p. 17 par. 5)
- 1997 – “the United Nations… will have a principal role” (w97 9/15 p. 19 par. 14)
- 2005 – “militarized powers within the United Nations” (w05 9/15 p. 19 par. 13)
- 2013 – “the United Nations” (w13 7/15 p.4 par. 6)
And so the declaration last heard with such conviction in the 70s and 80s is now voiced again in 2013 – namely that the United Nations organization directly (and not necessarily its “members”) WILL attack and destroy false religion.
This should raise eyebrows among personnel within the UN, whose own Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the “freedom of religion” – a fact noted by the Society in past publications. (g86 10/22 p. 31)
It will also be a source of unending bewilderment to those within the Ex-JW community that Watchtower continues to slam the UN as being a “disgusting thing” despite having enjoyed a formal relationship with it as an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) between 1992 and 2001. Watchtower only ended its illicit association when it received unwanted exposure from the UK’s Guardian newspaper. (For more information, click here.)
This latest brief foray into attacking the United Nations in the first few pages of the July magazine sets the stage for what is to follow, as the reader is dragged deeper into the murky madness of the doctrinal maze that Watchtower has created, along with its heavily revised organizational history.
An overview of the changes
Before I begin my rundown of the “new light” regarding the faithful slave, I feel it’s important to avoid potential confusion by clarifying elements of the verse in Matthew 24:45-47 and summarizing what the Society claims to be its fulfilment. Here is what the scripture in question says in the New World Translation:
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to YOU, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”
As you can see, the above verse effectively has two elements to it. First, Christ appoints his faithful slave to watch over his “domestics.” Then, only later, does Christ “arrive” and appoint the slave over all his “belongings.” Clearly, both of these things cannot happen at the same time. One part of the verse is described in the present tense, and the other in the future tense. Therefore, a period of time is implied between these two events. The question, at least as far as Watchtower is concerned, is “when was this time period?”
In an effort to make all of this as simple as possible, I have produced the following table. It shows the new understanding of the “faithful slave” teaching side-by-side with the old one. Feel free to refer to it when reading this article if things get a little too complicated to take in.
Please bear in mind that if you are expecting explanations in this article that do not appear, this is not my fault. Any such frustration should be directed at the Watchtower writers, who have ignored a number of key questions arising from this “new light.” I will do my best to highlight all pertinent parts of the Watchtower that I feel are of interest using selected quotes. However, for reasons of copyright and personal trust, I cannot and will not reproduce the entire article. Readers are reminded that the full article will be available online in PDF format on (or around) April 15th. (Update: the article is now available for download on this link.)
Christ’s “arrival” in 1918 scrapped
It has long been proclaimed by the Society that the references to Christ’s “arriving” as “master” and “bridegroom” in Matthew 24 and 25 occurred in 1918 when he came to inspect his faithful and discreet slave. It was said that the following year, 1919, Christ completed his inspection and decided to appoint the early Bible Students as his faithful slave over all of this belongings.
Under this new understanding, however, 1914 is now earmarked as being the year that Christ began to inspect and cleanse the organization – with this “inspection period” ending in 1919 when Christ supposedly approved the directors of the Watch Tower Society as his faithful slave by appointing them over his domestics.
1918 has therefore fallen by the wayside and lost any real significance – at least as far as the “end time” prophecies in Matthew are concerned. This is made clear on pages 7 and 8 of the new magazine, where we are informed that all eight references to Christ’s “coming” or “arrival” between Matthew 24:29 and the end of chapter 25 refer to the “future time of judgment during the great tribulation.”
An eventful “inspection and cleansing” period
In the minds of many, one of the most intriguing aspects of this new understanding is the fact that Charles Taze Russell, once considered part of the Slave Class, has been effectively written out of having any real biblical significance in Witness history. This is confirmed on page 19, where it says:
“Were the Bible Students in the years that lead up to 1914 the appointed channel through which Christ would feed his sheep? No. They were still in the growing season, and the arrangement for a channel to provide spiritual food was taking shape. The time had not yet come for the weedlike imitation Christians to be separated from the true Christian wheat.” (w13 7/15 p.19)
Christ’s parable of the wheat and weeds (Matt 13:24-30, 37-43) forms the basis of the second study article, entitled “Look! I Am With You All the Days,” and is referenced throughout the magazine, as above. The scripture and its “fulfilment” is explained by means of an illustrative timeline that stretches from pages 10 to 11. Key elements of the timeline are as follows:
- 33CE – Sowing begins
- Sower: Jesus
- Fine seed is sown: Anointing with holy spirit
- The field: The world of mankind
- Enemy: The devil
- Men were sleeping: death of the apostles
- Wheat: Anointed Christians
- Weeds: Imitation Christians
- 1914 – Harvest begins
- Slaves/reapers: Angels
- Weedlike Christians are separated from the anointed “sons of the kingdom”
- 1919 – Gathering into the storehouse, Anointed Christians are gathered into the restored congregation
- Shining brightly: Shortly before Armageddon, the remaining faithful anointed ones are gathered to the heavens
- Armageddon: At Armageddon, the weeds are pitched into the fire
It seems the Society is using the wheat and the weeds parable in this magazine as a useful replacement to fill the vacuum left by the previous understanding of the faithful slave “prophecy.” The illustration has been drafted in to build a makeshift scriptural bridge between the organization’s history and the outset of the Christian congregation in 33CE.
Another scripture that is referenced is Malachi 3:1-4, already associated in the minds of Witnesses as discussing Christ’s visit to his “spiritual temple” at the end of the First World War. The second study article adjusts this understanding by explaining that Christ visited the organization (invisibly, of course) in 1914 after the weeds (imitation Christians) had been allowed to grow for centuries among the wheat (anointed Christians). So, what position, if any, did Russell occupy when Christ visited in 1914?
“During the decades leading up to 1914, C. T. Russell and his close associates did a work like that of John the Baptizer. That vital work involved restoring Bible truths. The Bible Students taught the true meaning of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, exposed the hellfire lie, and proclaimed the coming end of the Gentile Times.” (w13 7/15 p.11)
Thus, Russell is awarded the peculiar role of “John the Baptizer” in Watchtower’s new convoluted melodrama – forging the path ahead of Christ’s inspection of the organization in 1914. However, Russell and his early organization is stripped of having any meaningful role in God’s purpose. One is left wondering, if Russell’s death in 1916 happened during the “cleansing” period, does this mean that his demise was all part of God’s plan?! Regardless, only after the 1914-1919 “inspection and cleansing period” was the organization recognized as God’s organized channel, as explained on page 19…
“From 1914 to the early part of 1919, Jesus accompanied his Father to the spiritual temple to do a much-needed inspection and cleansing work. (Mal. 3:1-4) Then, starting in 1919, it was time to begin gathering the wheat. Was it finally the time for Christ to appoint one organized channel to dispense spiritual food? Yes, indeed!” (w13 7/15 p.19)
The tumultuous period in the organization’s history between 1914 and 1919 thus becomes the focus of doctrine perhaps more than ever before. There is no longer a “seamless” transition from the time of the apostles through to today. Prior to 1914, there was NO “organized channel” on the Earth. By 1919, one had been suddenly and miraculously formed – by none other than Christ himself.
A Questionable Character
There is just one small problem with hanging so much doctrinally on this murky period in Watchtower’s history. The more we delve into historical documents, the more we realise that Watchtower cannot be proud of its activities during that time – not to mention the literature that was produced. To compensate for this, the Society must reach for its eraser and smudge out some of the less savoury details of its past. This it does with reckless abandon on page 12…
“In late 1914, some Bible Students were disheartened because they had not gone to heaven. During 1915 and 1916, opposition from outside the organization slowed down the preaching work. Worse, after Russell’s death in October 1916, opposition arose from inside the organization. Four of the seven directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society rebelled against the decision to have Brother Rutherford take the lead. They tried to cause division among the brothers, but in August 1917, they left bethel – a cleansing indeed! Also, some Bible Students gave in to fear of man. Still, as a whole they willingly responded to Jesus’ cleansing work and made the needed changes. Hence, Jesus judged them to be true Christian wheat, but he rejected all imitation Christians, including all those found within the churches of Christendom. (Mal. 3:5; 2 Tim. 2:19)” (w13 7/15 p.12 par.8)
To those who are even remotely familiar with organizational events between 1914 and 1919, the above depiction of the Society’s exploits during that period is flattering at best and heavily revisionist at worst. For example, there is more to the story of the “four directors” than is told above. Note the following words from page 9 of the booklet “Light After Darkness” published by opponents of Brother Rutherford in September 1917…
As you can see, simply saying that the four directors left bethel does not tell the full story of what happened. The directors were threatened with forcible ejection by Rutherford, and finally left after it was negotiated for them to receive $300 dollars each rather than be turned out onto the street without a dime to their name. What crime had led to four directors of the Watch Tower Society being treated in this way? They had dared to object to Rutherford effectively tearing up C.T. Russell’s will, which stipulated that power should be shared evenly between Watchtower’s board of directors.
In a spectacular grab for power following Russell’s death in late 1916, Rutherford used his legal knowledge to enact bylaws in early 1917 that would give him total control over the Society, and render the role of Society director all but meaningless. This was what the “four directors” spoke out against, and they were effectively evicted from their home, Brooklyn Bethel, for their troubles. You can read more about what really happened during those dark days in the above-quoted booklet “Light After Darkness,” which is available in PDF form by clicking here.
Rud Persson is a Swedish Watchtower historian who has copiously analyzed all available documents from this very episode in the organization’s history, and is compiling a book to summarize his research. I approached him by email with the above paragraph from this new Watchtower, and he made this comment…
“It is certainly true that four Directors opposed ‘the decision to have Brother Rutherford take the lead.’ They should do that, for it meant a complete departure from the way Russell, the then recognized ‘faithful and wise servant’, had arranged for matters after his death. It is not true that they ‘tried to cause division among the brothers’. That was not their purpose which was to rectify what was wrong. If spreading information was necessary to do this, then of course they felt that wisdom from above is first of all clean, thereafter peaceful. It was Rutherford with the aid of his yes-men who went public first, publicly blackening the four Directors and then Paul S.L. Johnson. It is true that the four directors left Bethel in August 1917, on August 8 to be specific, but that was not the end of the story.” – Rud Persson
I for one cannot wait for Rud’s book to come out, because I am sure it will shed much light on these events, and further undermine Watchtower’s astonishingly misplaced trust and confidence in the character of “Judge” Rutherford, not to mention this highly questionable and well-documented period in the organization’s early history.
As previously mentioned on this website, during his presidency Rutherford distinguished himself as a bully and a tyrant. He allowed an atmosphere of alcoholism to permeate Bethel, and used abusive and demeaning language to intimidate and belittle any who fell short of his standards. He also lived in luxury at a time of national austerity, while many of his co-workers at Bethel lived in squalid conditions.
All of this was documented during the Olin Moyle libel lawsuit in the early 1940s, which Rutherford lost. A copy of Moyle’s resignation letter which sparked the lawsuit is available to read on this link. It gives an astonishing glimpse into what life was like in Bethel under Rutherford’s presidency, and casts serious doubt over whether Christ could really have supported such a man as custodian over his organization.
It may be that you, the reader, are so determined to think of Rutherford as a good man that you will not accept information unless it is within the Society’s own literature – even if it is documented information from a lawsuit. If that is the case, I would urge you to read my article on racism in Watchtower literature during both Russell and Rutherford’s presidency. Some of the bigoted statements made by Rutherford and his writers in the Society’s own publications defy belief, and should leave you beyond any doubt of Rutherford’s questionable character.
Despite all this, the Watch Tower Society of the 21st Century insists on ascribing Rutherford with a prominent role in the fulfilment of bible prophecy – one of the very first members of the faithful and discreet slave! Even so, it is perhaps noteworthy that Rutherford’s name is only mentioned once in all of the four study articles – and that is in the quote reproduced above. I feel this may be telling. Watchtower wants you, the reader, to focus on the date, 1919, rather than the bigoted bully behind it.
A tenuous link
Witnesses will be familiar with the Governing Body‘s constant attempts to draw parallels between themselves and Christ’s First Century apostles. The third study article, “Feeding Many Through the Hands of a Few” represents yet another example of this.
The opening paragraphs remind the reader of Christ’s miracle where he fed the five thousand using just a few loaves and fishes, with his disciples distributing the miraculously produced food. (Matt 14:14-21) The writer then expands on this by explaining that spiritual feeding was of more importance to Christ than providing physical food, and it was for this reason that Christ chose his apostles.
We are then reminded in paragraph 9 of an incident in the book of Acts where a physical food shortage arose among the early Christians. The apostles sprung into action to appoint responsible brothers to ensure that food was being distributed evenly. So far the reader is thinking “Yes, but these were Christ’s apostles. There is no mention in Acts of a Governing Body.” But it doesn’t take long (paragraph 10, in fact) for the writer to make the connection…
“By 49 CE, the surviving apostles had been joined by certain other qualified elders. (Read Acts 15:1,2.) ‘The apostles and older men in Jerusalem’ served as a governing body. As the Head of the congregation, Christ used this small group of qualified men to settle doctrinal issues and to oversee and direct the preaching and teaching of the Kingdom good news.-Acts 15:6-29; 21:17-19; Col. 1:18.” (w13 7/15 p.17)
The above statement makes an unfounded assumption. It implies that, once the circumcision issue arose, the apostles were permanently “joined” by the “older men” in the making of any and all subsequent decisions related to the early congregation. There is absolutely no evidence of this. In the entire Bible, the phrase “apostles and older men” appears only six times – and all six times are in chapters 15 and 16 of Acts. It therefore seems that the involvement of the “older men” in this matter was a one-off “ad hoc” event that was borne from necessity and the uniqueness of the situation. To suggest that the apostles were unable to reach decisions without the older men from that point onwards is making an assertion that simply isn’t contained in the scriptures.
The next paragraph goes on to imply that, from this point onwards, the Apostle Paul was tasked with carrying out the orders of this newly formed “governing body.” It cites Acts 16:4,5 where Paul is described as delivering “for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem.”
Only when the reader looks up the scripture and notes its proximity to the circumcision issue in the previous chapter does he realise that, rather than being a permanent arrangement, Paul was merely passing on the instructions related to this particular matter. But the way the Society quotes the scriptures suggests to the reader that this was an ongoing permanent “arrangement,” and that Paul was subservient to the “apostles and older men” from then on – which, again, is asserting something that is simply not supported by scripture. Paragraph 11 then draws the reader to the following conclusion…
“Notice that those congregations prospered as a result of their loyal cooperation with the governing body in Jerusalem. Is that not proof of Jehovah’s blessing on the arrangement by means of which his Son fed the congregations? Let us remember that spiritual prosperity is possible only with Jehovah’s rich blessing.-Prov. 10:22; 1 Cro. 3:6,7.” (w13 7/15 p.18 par.11)
And so, like an accomplished magician, the writer succeeds in duping the reader into drawing two false assumptions: (1) that there was a first century governing body, which there wasn’t (and bible writers were perfectly capable of coming up with their own term in Greek to describe such an arrangement if it existed without the Watchtower adding to the scriptures), and (2) that it was a permanent ongoing arrangement rather than a one-off way of dealing with a particular problem that arose, namely circumcision.
The next paragraph is one of the most intriguing in the magazine, but it serves a very deliberate purpose. It states…
“Thus far we have seen that Jesus followed a pattern when feeding his followers: He fed many through the hands of a few. The channel he used for spiritual feeding was clearly recognizable. After all, the apostles – the original members of the governing body – could provide visible proof of heavenly backing. ‘Through the hands of the apostles many signs and portents continued to occur among the people,’ states Acts 5:12. Hence, there was no reason for those who became Christian to wonder, ‘Who really are the ones through whom Christ is feeding his sheep?’ But by the end of the first century, the situation changed.” (w13 7/15 p.18 par.12)
The paragraphs that follow go on to describe Christianity’s slide into apostasy following the death of the apostles, but rather than allowing ourselves to be swept along by the rhetoric, the true purpose of the above paragraph must be fully recognized. The Society is now trying to make the point, which it repeats more clearly on page 21, that the faithful slave scripture COULD NOT have applied to the apostles because their authority was unmistakable due to their “signs and portents.”
Simply put, the Society now argues that, because Matthew 24:45 is written in the form of a question (i.e. “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave…?”), Jesus could not have been referring to his apostles. They say that, because it was so obvious that the apostles were in charge, such a question would be irrelevant. However, as I will argue later in this article, this reasoning is so flawed it is almost laughable.
In reality, all the Society achieves with the above paragraph is to inadvertently remind thinking Witnesses that the Governing Body really has no “visible proof” of their appointment by Christ. Sure, they have an organization that is expanding at an underwhelming annual growth rate of 1.9% (as of 2012), but it is also an organization that imposes the torturous shunning of family members and is increasingly making itself the subject of legal pressure on account of its damaging child abuse policies. The idea that the individual Governing Body members are somehow invisibly hand-picked by Christ is therefore unthinkable – so unthinkable that even the Society evades articulating this idea in print. So where does the Governing Body get its mandate from?
I wish I could answer that question by quoting a series of paragraphs in this magazine through which the Society coherently justifies the Governing Body’s new Pope-like status. Sadly, however, there is no such material to draw from. Nowhere in these study articles is it described how Governing Body members are selected, or how it can be proven that Christ has any role in this process whatsoever. Rather, the mandate for the Governing Body to rule unquestioned over nearly 8 million people apparently hinges on three scriptures:
- Christ’s miracle of the loaves and the fishes in Matthew 14
- Two chapters in Acts, namely chapters 15 and 16 (a historical narrative about the handling of the circumcision issue by the “apostles and older men”)
- The verses in Matthew 24 about the faithful slave – which many argue were intended purely as a parable.
Having established such a shaky foundation for justifying the present Governing Body arrangement in the first three articles, the fourth and final article is left to drive home the message that the Governing Body is to be loyally obeyed without question, because its future approval by Christ is already set in stone. This is underlined by the final words of the second paragraph, which states:
“It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel.” – Matthew 4:4; John 17:3.
I looked up both scriptures. As you would expect, neither was remotely connected with the faithful and discreet slave.
Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?
It doesn’t take long for the final article to answer the above question, which forms its title. A box is provided at the top of page 22 that spells out the answer succinctly, as follows:
“‘The faithful and discreet slave': A small group of brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body.” (w13 7/15 p.22 box)
This answer is elaborated on in the text beneath, in paragraph 10…
“Who then is the faithful and discreet slave? In keeping with Jesus’ pattern of feeding many through the hands of a few, that slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave have served together at headquarters. In recent decades, that slave has been closely associated with the Governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note, however, that the word “slave” in Jesus’ illustration is singular, indicating that this is a composite slave. The decisions of the Governing Body are thus made collectively.” (w13 7/15 p.22, par.10)
Having unequivocally assumed such a lofty title, the Governing Body members probably felt that they needed to make some token show of humility. It was noted during the Annual Meeting that, in his talk, David Splane went to great lengths to “sell” the new teaching to the audience by pushing the new understanding of the domestics – now considered to be both anointed christians, and those of the great crowd.
“And brothers, we LOVE this teaching.” Splane enthused, adding, “We LOVE this idea, because it really truly does dignify the members of the Great Crowd.” Many of us who watched those words being spoken on the slick JW.org promotional video have been left unconvinced. It seems obvious that the “faithful slave” has far more to “love” about this new teaching than the domestics do.
The issue of the domestics is given similar prominence in a section entitled “Who are the domestics?” on pages 22 and 23. A picture is shown at the top of page 23 in which Gerrit Lösch and his wife are seated at a congregation meeting. Gerrit glances inquisitively as a young child answers into the outstretched microphone. The message is unmistakeable. “We are normal, everyday brothers – just like anyone else!” Not everyone will be buying it.
A selection that has already been made
A key reason why the previous teaching regarding the faithful and discreet slave almost served its purpose (to some extent) was that it referred to events in the murky past that nobody could remember, and made assertions that few could authoritatively argue with unless they were prepared to do some research. For example, the Society argued that Jesus selected a Slave in 1919 that had already existed for centuries, and appointed it over all his “belongings.” Therefore, no matter what flaws the organization may now have, the argument could be made that the Slave Class had ALREADY received final approval from Christ – so any perceived flaws were irrelevant.
But now, the teaching is that Christ has YET to finally approve the Governing Body in its role as the composite slave. With this in mind, you would expect the Governing Body members to exercise a bit of humility, and not try to second guess the decision that Christ is due to make in the future during the Great Tribulation when he finally arrives to inspect his slave class. Instead, the Governing Body boldly makes Christ’s decision for him in advance. Note what is said on page 25…
“In view of the foregoing, what can we conclude? When Jesus comes for judgment during the great tribulation, he will find that the faithful slave has been loyally dispensing timely spiritual food to the domestics. Jesus will then delight in making the second appointment – over all his belongings.” (w13 7/15 p.25 par.18, bold mine)
I was amazed at the arrogance when reading the above words. One would think that, if they have any true Christ-like humility about them, the Governing Body would say words to the effect of “we will do our best to provide spiritual food, and if Christ is pleased with our efforts when he comes, he promises to appoint us over all his belongings.” Instead, as mentioned, the decision has evidently already been made by the Governing Body on Christ’s behalf that he WILL choose them when he comes.
The scriptures themselves indicate that the appointment over the belongings is not to be considered a foregone conclusion. One is reminded of the very next words in Matthew 24:48-51 (New World Translation)…
“But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his part with the hypocrites. There is where [his] weeping and the gnashing of [his] teeth will be.”
Ironically, the Society addresses this scripture by means of a box on page 24, on the page just before it makes the bold assertion that it WILL be selected. The box begins by discussing the “evil slave” and makes the following statement…
“Was Jesus foretelling that there would be an evil slave class in the last days? No. Granted, some individuals have manifested a spirit similar to that of the evil slave described by Jesus. We would call them apostates, whether they were of the anointed or of the “great crowd.” (Rev. 7:9) But such ones do not make up an evil slave class. Jesus did not say that he would appoint an evil slave. His words here are actually a warning directed to the faithful and discreet slave.” (w13 7/15 p.24 box)
And so a warning directed at the faithful and discreet slave is cunningly turned into an opportunity to lampoon apostates for “beating their fellow slaves.” Even though the box acknowledges that apostates are not the evil slave, it still leaps on the opportunity to misrepresent and stigmatize those who are guilty of nothing more than disagreeing with the teachings and practices of the Governing Body.
Meanwhile, the Governing Body neatly sidesteps Christ’s warning about the “evil slave.” An unnamed “scholar” makes a brief cameo, and is quoted as saying: “for all practical purposes [the evil slave warning] is a hypothetical condition.” (bold and brackets mine) The writer thus dismisses the entire portion of scripture, declaring further on in the box that the Governing Body “has continued to keep on the watch and to provide nourishing spiritual food.” This part of the discussion is summed up as follows…
“The anointed brothers who together serve as the faithful slave recognize that they are accountable to the Master for the way they care for his domestics. The hearfelt desire of these anointed brothers is to fulfill their responsibility loyally so that they might hear a ‘well done’ from the Master when he finally arrives.” (w13 7/15 p.24 box)
Whatever the Governing Body may profess their “heartfelt desire” to be, they cannot escape the fact that their actions and decisions have caused misery and heartache to countless thousands through their cruel insistence on unscriptural policies such as the shunning of family members.
Jesus said that his followers would be identified by the love they have among themselves (John 13:35), and yet the breaking up of families purely because somebody decides to leave his or her former religion is anything but loving. Those labelled “apostates” and slandered with hate speech merely for daring to disagree with the Governing Body have every reason to think of these men as an “evil slave,” whether such ones still consider themselves Christians or not. It is therefore difficult to fathom how the Governing Body can boldly consider Christ’s approval of their methods to be a foregone conclusion. (Matt. 7:21-23)
More questions than answers
In total there are 23 pages in the four study articles combined. And yet, for all the sleek illustrations, carefully worded paragraphs and prophetic timelines, the magazine leaves key questions regarding the organization’s new doctrines unanswered. Here are just a few…
- What scripture supports the fact that the “inspection and cleansing work” would take Christ four and a half years (from late 1914 to early 1919)?” (p.11) – Repeatedly the magazine insists that the four and a half years between late 1914 and early 1919 was a period of “inspection and cleansing” by Christ. However, nowhere is any scripture provided to explain why Christ would need this specific length of time to achieve this purpose. Rather, it seems that events in the organization’s history have been taken as the “evidence” – and the scriptures just have to fit around them.
What were the circumstances under which the early Bible Students “gave in to the fear of man?” (p.12) – This statement is found on page 12, but not elaborated on. If you have the time, I would encourage you to do research on this if you haven’t already done so. In a previous article, I explored the events surrounding the publication of the Finished Mystery, and how the Bible Students were ordered by the authorities to tear out pages 247 to 253 of the book – pages that were fiercly political and critical of America’s war effort. This compromise was deemed an “organizational sin.” However, the more you research the ludicrous statements contained in the Finished Mystery, the more you reach the conclusion that Christ would actually have praised the Bible Students for ripping out its pages rather than chastising them for it.
- If Russell and his associates were not part of God’s channel (or even the “slave class”) then why did Christ choose only to inspect them in 1914 and not any other Christian denominations? (p.19) – To put this question another way – why would Christ “inspect” one Christian denomination rather than several, or even all of them? If there was nothing special about Russell or his associates, then why did Christ effectively set up camp at Watchtower HQ for four and a half years and “inspect” them over this period? “Cleansing” is one thing, but “inspection” is something altogether different. Inspection is something you do BEFORE you are satisfied of the nature of something. Would it not have made more sense to “inspect” multiple denominations first, choose one of them, and then “cleanse” it accordingly?
If all of the original 1919 members of the slave chosen by Christ are now dead, how can it be said that subsequent members of the slave were chosen? – As mentioned in a previous article, a key problem with the “new light” is the question of succession. Previously, the Governing Body claimed that they were merely the representatives of a cloud-like mass of “anointed” ones that has always existed since the time of the apostles. Now, however, they have effectively evaporated this “cloud” and insisted that their appointment came directly from Christ in 1919. But all of the 1919 board of directors are now dead and buried, so how can it be assumed that their position as “faithful slave” was passed on to their successors? The Society has roundly condemned the catholic principle of apostolic succession in their literature – including the Reasoning Book. It is one thing to suggest that Christ came and selected Rutherford and his associates in 1919 (despite the connotations of this, once you look at Rutherford’s character and what they were printing at the time). It is another thing entirely to assume that this status of “the faithful and discreet slave” was somehow passed like a baton to successive generations down through the decades since 1919 based purely on the necessity caused by people dying. No explanation is given as to how this was achieved, other than the suggestion that it “just did” – which is essentially Watchtower’s version of apostolic succession. With this new teaching, Watchtower has become more like the catholic church than it would care to admit.
- Why can it be said with certainty that Christ’s original apostles were not at least part of the faithful and discreet slave? (p.21) – This question is posed on page 21 of the magazine, but nowhere is it satisfactorily answered. The only explanation offered is that the “faithful and discreet slave” statement by Jesus was posed in the form of a question, and therefore it couldn’t possibly have applied to the apostles since there was no doubt at all that these ones had Christ’s authority. However, the asking of a question does not necessarily imply doubt. For example, what about “rhetorical questions” where the answer is known before the question is asked? And if it was such a foregone conclusion that the apostles would live up to Christ’s expectations, then why did Jesus go to such lengths to tell Peter to “feed my little sheep” after his resurrection? (John 21:15-19) The article insists that there was “hardly a reason to ask such a question” regarding the apostles, yet recognizing the authority of the apostles as the “faithful slave” was as much a choice for early Christians as it is for Witnesses regarding the Governing Body today. This is highlighted by the fact that some early Christians deviated from the apostles’ leadership. (2 Tim 2:16-18) The Society’s reasoning is thus SO flawed that the question is effectively left unanswered.
Just what is so special about headquarters? (p.22) – According to the new explanation of the faithful slave, it seems that a key identifying feature of a composite slave member is not WHO he is, or even whether he has a heavenly hope or not. What apparently matters is WHERE he happens to work. Nowhere in Christ’s discussion of the slave does it hint that “location, location, location” would be at all important in identifying who the faithful slave is, so how can the organization be so dogmatic in insisting that “headquarters” in New York carries such relevance in making this biblical determination?
- How can the Governing Body justify insisting that they WILL be appointed by Christ over “all of this belongings” in advance of this event? (p.25) – As discussed above, many sincere Witnesses will be left scratching their heads at the brazenness of the Governing Body in insisting they WILL be appointed by Christ over his belongings before he has even come in judgment. The decision has been effectively snatched out of Christ’s hands, and made for him.
An organization as porous as its teachings
By now you have probably reached the conclusion that most of what is discussed in the four articles of this new magazine either makes no sense at all, or was already covered at the Annual Meeting nearly six months ago – an event at which some 15,000 privileged Witnesses were treated to a glimpse of the “new light” before millions of their brothers around the world.
As discussed in a previous article, it took more than a month following the Annual Meeting for news of the “new light” to be finally confirmed on the Society’s official web pages, and nearly two months for this information to be made available in languages other than English. Finally, six months after the information was divulged from a New Jersey platform, the worldwide brotherhood are finally getting to hear about this doctrine in print – a doctrine that carries profound implications regarding the authority of the Governing Body.
No longer are the Governing Body self-appointed representatives of a some obscure cloud of anointed Witnesses that has always existed in some form stretching back to the time of the apostles. They are now self-appointed representatives, not of heaven-bound Christians, but of Christ himself. They answer to no one, not even Christ whom they represent! After all, they have made his decision to appoint them over “all his belongings” for him in advance. Any meaningful evidence to support their claims is deemed irrelevant.
True, it may be that even before this announcement a good number of Witnesses considered the Governing Body to be the faithful and discreet slave, but this would only realistically have been for one (or both) of two reasons: (1) ignorance on the part of individuals regarding Watchtower doctrine, or (2) confusion as a result of the way in which the Governing Body increasingly presented themselves over many years as being synonymous with the Slave Class. The fact that the rhetoric coming down from the Society led many to predict the announcement in advance does not lessen the fact that the new teaching carries profound implications. It consolidates the authority of the Governing Body, and effectively elevates them to Pope-like status.
With all this considered, perhaps we learn more from the fact that this magazine has been leaked weeks ahead of its release than from anything contained in its pages. The Watch Tower Society now seems unable to hold water both in terms of its doctrines and in keeping information confidential, as more and more information is leaked by conscientious individuals within the growing ranks of thinking Witnesses.
It is exhilarating to think that so many within the organization are waking from their indoctrination and finding the courage to take risks by getting information like this article into the hands of those who will make use of it. I only hope that this pattern continues, so that more and more true light can shine down on this quirky organization with its dubious history, shady practices and tangled teachings.
A four-page PDF of unknown authorship showing “adjustments in understanding” is available on this link.