Directed by Holy Spirit
Watchtower claims direction by God's holy spirit in formulating doctrine, appointing brothers, and disfellowshipping people. This is proven false by incorrect doctrine, and brothers appointed whilst engaged in gross sin.
An earthly organization that audaciously claims a monopoly over salvation must provide justification of a direct link with God. The Watchtower Society does this by claiming guidance by Holy Spirit.
"Under the guidance of his holy spirit and on the basis of his Word of truth, Jehovah provides what is needed so that all of God's people may be "fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought" and remain "stabilized in the faith." (1 Cor. 1:10; Col. 2:6, 7) Surely we are grateful for Jehovah's spiritual provisions in these last days. Thus, "the faithful and discreet slave" does not endorse any literature, meetings, or Web sites that are not produced or organized under its oversight." Kingdom Ministry Sep 2007 US Edition
"They do not claim that this slave class is infallible, but they do view it as the one channel that the Lord is using during the last days of this system of things." Proclaimers p.626
In what way does Jehovah's Holy Spirit direct the Watchtower Society? What influence does it have on doctrine, and in what manner is it involved in the appointment of brothers to positions of authority? These are important questions to answer before discussion of whether Watchtower doctrine is correct. If proven that God actively directs the Governing Body, then they should be followed, but if they are simply well meaning Bible students, then each word should not be taken as gospel.
The official teaching is that Jehovah's holy spirit actively directs the modern day Governing Body in Scriptural interpretation and appointing brothers to positions of overseer.
"We will also increase our joy if we prayerfully and diligently study God's spirit - inspired Word and Christian publications prepared under the spirit's guidance." Watchtower 1992 Mar 15 pp.21-22
"When the time comes to clarify a spiritual matter in our day, holy spirit helps responsible representatives of the faithful and discreet slave at world headquarters to discern deep truths that were not previously understood. (Matt. 24:45; 1 Cor. 2:13) The Governing Body as a whole considers adjusted explanations. (Acts 15:6) What they learn, they publish for the benefit of all." Watchtower 2010 Jul 15 pp.22-23
The Watchtower specifically states that holy spirit directs it to interpret teachings and make decisions.
"Third, holy spirit is at work in bringing Bible truths to light." Watchtower 2010 Apr 15 p.10 Holy Spirits Role in the Outworking of Jehovahs Purpose
"Consider, too, the fact that Jehovah's organization alone, in all the earth, is directed by God's holy spirit or active force. (Zech. 4:6) Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book. Many persons of the world are very intelligent, capable of understanding complex matters. They can read the Holy Scriptures, but they cannot understand their deep meaning. Yet God's people can comprehend such spiritual things. Why? Not because of special intelligence on their part, but as the apostle Paul declared: "For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God."" Watchtower 1973 Jul 1 p.402
"In 1942 the "faithful and discreet slave" guided by Jehovah's unerring spirit made known that the democracies would win World War II and that there would be a United Nations organization set up." Watchtower 1960 Jul 15 p. 444
The Watchtower claims to contain God's opinions, not those of men.
"The Watchtower is not the instrument of any man or set of men, nor is it published according to the whims of men. No man's opinion is expressed in The Watchtower. God feeds his own people, and surely God uses those who love and serve him according to his own will. Those who oppose The Watchtower are not capable of discerning the truth that God is giving to the children of his organization, and this is the very strongest proof that such opposers are not of God's organization." Watchtower 1931 Nov 1 p.327
"It is vital that we appreciate this fact and respond to the directions of the "slave" as we would to the voice of God, because it is His provision." Watchtower 1957 Jun 15 p.370
Following Watchtower direction is akin to following Jehovah himself, and a requirement for salvation.
"Faithful servants of Jehovah have always been eager to submit to theocratic direction. (Read Hebrews 13:7, 17.) We may initially lack full understanding of the reasons for carrying out our assigned work in a particular way. Nevertheless, we are fully aware of the benefits of cooperating with Jehovah in any adjustments that he sees fit to make." Watchtower 2014 Oct 15 pp.24-25
"Today, Jehovah guides his people by means of the Bible, his holy spirit, and the congregation. (Acts 9:31; 15:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) The guidance that we receive from him is so clear that it is as if ‘our own ears hear a word behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.”’ (Isa. 30:21) In effect, Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) We need to take this guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience." Watchtower 2014 Aug 15 p.21
Watchtower publications are said to contain truth form the Sovereign Lord.
""The Sovereign Lord giveth the word." ... The expression "the word", therefore, includes every revelation of truth down to and including the book Vindication and whatsoever shall be revealed and published, by the Lord's grace, as long as the remnant is on earth." Watchtower 1932 Apr 1 p.101
The "servant" is not to tell his own message. Jehovah has made his "faithful servant" the "watchman", and only as the Lord God directs the "servant" to speak he does speak, having always a "Thus saith the Lord" for every part of the message that is delivered. The work of the "servant" is not to make converts to get them to join an organization, but to give a witness to the truth." Vindication Book One (1931) pp.45-46
However, this site lists numerous doctrinal changes promoted as truth that later were admitted as wrong. Many cannot be dismissed as "brighter light" as they were significant doctrines that were wrong and completely replaced. Though Jehovah's Witnesses dismiss this, doctrinal changes do matter if a religion claims direction by Jehovah. They do matter when a religion demands unquestioning obedience. We shall see that they do particularly matter when related to life threatening medical decisions.
To be directed by holy spirit is to be inspired
The Organization operates under the confusing concept of 'Provisional Infallibility'. On the one hand, information contained in Watchtower is from God and accepted without question; on the other hand, the Watchtower admittedly contains significant mistakes.
The Organization uses the irrational concept that Holy Spirit directs them but they are not inspired. This is illogical - inspired means to be directed by Holy Spirit. The concepts of infallibility and inspiration are simple, yet discussing them in line with Watchtower teachings becomes complicated because by definition it is impossible to have direction of Holy Spirit but not be inspired. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:
- Infallible; "Incapable of erring" (therefore to be infallible means to be perfect)
- Inspire; "to affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence" (or in other words inspired means to be directed by Holy Spirit)
Therefore, if the Organization claims the direction of Holy Spirit it is by definition claiming to be inspired. In this case, it cannot make mistakes, by definition, it should be infallible in the same way the Bible is infallible.
Directed by Holy Spirit = Inspired
Directed by Holy Spirit = Inspired
Infallible (no errors)
Directed by Holy Spirit =/ Inspired
Fallible (contains errors)
Presented as formula highlights the flaw in the Watchtower reasoning, the Watchtower contradicts itself when saying that God's Holy Spirit directed its doctrines, yet they are not necessarily correct.
An example of this is in the 1988 Revelation book. The second chapter makes the claim that the explanation of Revelation in the book is directed by God's spirit. In the third chapter the 'Slave' even likens itself to the apostle John, claiming to be the equivalent channel on earth today, used by Jehovah in the same manner the apostle John was and directed by God's spirit. Then the inserted proviso appears that the writings are not infallible as were John's.
"The mysteries locked up in the book of Revelation have for long baffled sincere students of the Bible. In God's due time, those secrets had to be unlocked, but how, when, and to whom? Only God's spirit could make known the meaning as the appointed time drew near. (Revelation 1:3) Those sacred secrets would be revealed to God's zealous slaves on earth so that they would be strengthened to make known his judgments. (Compare Matthew 13:10, 11.) It is not claimed that the explanations in this publication are infallible. Like Joseph of old, we say: "Do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8) God had a channel for communicating Revelation in John's day, and John was the earthly part of that channel. Likewise, God has a channel for giving spiritual nourishment to his 'slaves' today. In his great prophecy concerning the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus identified the earthly part of this channel as "the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time." (Matthew 24:3, 45-47) He uses this John class in unlocking the meaning of the prophecy....Those of the John class, some of whom have shared for upwards of 70 years in the fulfillment of these visions, are happy that God's spirit has unlocked the meaning so that they can explain it to others." Revelation, Its Grand Climax At Hand! p.9, 15
The assertion is that Holy Spirit directs the modern day Governing Body in the same way that it directed Jehovah's Organization in the past.
"The holy spirit is the active force of the living God, which he sends out through his Son, Christ Jesus, and which operates toward Jehovah's people, enlightening and directing his theocratic organization on the earth today as it did in the days of the apostles." Watchtower 1959 Apr 1 p.219
"The men of that governing body, like the apostles and older men in Jerusalem, have many years of experience in God's service. But they do not rely on human wisdom in making decisions. No, being governed theocratically, they follow the example of the early governing body in Jerusalem, whose decisions were based on God's Word ." You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth p.195
However, the Society claims not to be inspired or infallible.
"The Governing Body is neither inspired nor infallible. Therefore, it can err in doctrinal matters or in organizational direction. In fact, the Watch Tower Publications Index includes the heading “Beliefs Clarified,” which lists adjustments in our Scriptural understanding since 1870. Of course, Jesus did not tell us that his faithful slave would produce perfect spiritual food." Watchtower 2017 Feb p.26
"The Governing Body consists of a group of anointed Christian men. ... These preside over the worldwide activities of Jehovah's Witnesses. They are not inspired by God and hence are not infallible, but they rely on God's infallible Word as the highest authority on earth." Jehovah's Witnesses - Unitedly Doing God's Will Worldwide p.26
"The brothers preparing these publications are not infallible. Their writings are not inspired as are those of Paul and the other Bible writers." Awake! 1993 Mar 22 p.4
It is a contradiction for the Governing Body to say that they are not inspired in one article but that Holy Spirit directs them in another. Read together the following two statements are discernibly contradictory.
"Jehovah God has made known to his anointed ones in advance what these scriptures mean." Watchtower 1931 Jun 1 p.160
"Jehovah's people confess no powers of inspiration today" Watchtower 1952 Apr 15 p.253
I make no implication that individual members of Jehovah's Organization need to be infallible. As all humans are imperfect, God has always used imperfect humans, such as Moses, David and Paul. However, if God's Holy Spirit in the past inspired imperfect people to pen his perfect words infallibly in the Bible, and if his Holy Spirit is said to be directing Jehovah's people through the Watchtower in the same manner today, these directions are inspired and so must be infallible. If God's words are no longer infallible, then his current earthly channel is not being directed by Holy Spirit, as Jehovah's channel always has been. They should not demand unquestioning loyalty and do not have God's authority to strictly enforce obedience to Watchtower specific doctrinal interpretation.
Notice that though the older men of Jerusalem were fallible, their writings were inspired.
"It was referred to the apostles and older men at Jerusalem, who served as a central governing body. Those older men were not infallible; they were not persons who never made a mistake. (Compare Galatians 2:11-14.) But God used them. They considered what the inspired Scriptures said on the subject at hand as well as the evidence of the operation of God's spirit in opening up the Gentile field, and then they rendered a decision. God blessed that arrangement." United in Worship p.120
Though the Bible writers were not infallible they were inspired, so everything they wrote in the Bible was infallible. The members of the Apostolic Governing Body were fallible, but as a body, they were inspired, so as a body their decisions, interpretations and writings were infallible. This is a significant difference. In fact, this is the crux of the matter and pivotal to understanding the truth to the premise behind the Watchtower Society. For the Governing Body to say that the Holy Spirit similarly guides their interpretations and appointments and yet they make mistakes must border on blasphemy. When the Holy Spirit directs a person, they do not get it wrong; otherwise, what was the point of the Holy Spirit's direction?
The Watchtower has no choice but to say that the Holy Spirit directs the Organization because this is a Biblical prophecy, and the way Jehovah's people were always directed:
"We are living also in the time of final fulfilment of the prophecy to which the apostle Peter referred on the day of Pentecost, namely: "It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit." (Joel 2:28, 29)" Watchtower 1958 Jan 15 p.45
The Bible states in very clear terms that the Holy Spirit directed the early Christians so Jehovah's Witnesses have to say that Holy Spirit likewise directs the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society in our day.
"Thus all the thrust or drive of God's holy spirit pointed in one direction, and hence, in recognition of this, when writing the letter conveying their decision, this body or council said: "For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things."-Ac 15:1-29." Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2 p.1023 Spirit
If the Governing Body is to claim to be like the early Christian's, then as a body, they must be guided by Holy Spirit and infallible. To say otherwise is to contradict the Bible.
"Fulfilling Jesus' promise recorded at John 16:13, "the spirit of the truth" was to guide the Christian congregation progressively into all the truth. (John 16:13) 13 However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide YOU into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to YOU the things coming." Watchtower 1990 Mar 15 p.11
Note that John 16 makes no room for guidance into untruth. Things may not always be clear at once. They may be progressive, but it would always be truthfully. It would also happen before the event ('the things coming'), not only after the event.
The contradictory Watchtower stance that the Governing Body is directed in the same manner as the early Christians, but that the early Christian decisions are infallible but theirs are not, is necessitated by their ongoing errors and changes.
In retrospect, Watchtower mistakes are justified in the most pleasant way.
"The increasing light on God's Word as well as the facts of history have repeatedly required that adjustments of one kind or another be made down to the very present time. But let us never forget that the motives of this "slave" were always pure, unselfish; at all times it has been well-meaning. For those who truly love God's law there is no stumbling block." Watchtower 1979 Mar. 1 pp. 23-24
When not justifying errors, the message is quite different. To disagree with these admittedly "fallible" teachings is to be disloyal to Jehovah himself, leading to destruction.
"One observer noted that these men "were critical of the articles in The Watchtower, not wanting to accept it as . . . God's channel of truth, always trying to influence others in their way of thinking." However, loyal elders never try to influence others to reject any of the spiritual food provided by God through the faithful slave. As Jehovah's dedicated Witnesses, all of us must be loyal to him and to his organization. We should never even contemplate turning aside from God's wonderful light, pursuing an apostate course that can lead to spiritual death now and eventual destruction." Watchtower 1992 Nov 15 pp. 19-20 Serve Jehovah Loyally
It is not wrong for the Governing Body to admit to not being inspired and having made errors - it is wrong to make such admission and then enforce strict adherence to their own direction by claiming they alone speak for Jehovah.
Ingenuity of Shifting Infallibility
Watchtower presents its doctrine as infallible because it is based on the Bible, until it proves to be wrong. Then it excuses its errors, saying it never claimed to be infallible. This is ingenious, as followers completely believe what they are told is infallible because it is from the Bible, missing that what they are told is nothing more than a fallible interpretation.
In 1922, Watchtower released an article titled "Divinely-Given Chronological Parallelisms." Is the reader to believe the interpretation in the Watchtower was divinely-given, or just the Bible verses it was based on? Watchtower can say they never claimed their interpretation was divinely-given, yet that is very much the conclusion a reader would likely draw, after reading the article.
"It has been shown in a preceding article that the parallel dates of present-truth chronology are proof of divine foreknowledge, and that they demonstrate that the system is of divine origin. ... So present-truth chronology is not an invention, but a discovery." Watch Tower 1922 Nov 15 p.355
The article presented its chronology as present-truth and divine, all whilst discussing prophetic interpretation long since discarded as wrong. Whilst the reader at that time was led to believe the interpretation was divinely inspired, and proven truth, Watchtower now says it didn't claim its interpretation was infallible, just the Bible-based source material.
Russell claimed to be God's mouthpiece, guided by the Lord.
"No, the truths I present, as God's mouthpiece, were not revealed in visions or dreams, nor by God's audible voice, nor all at once, but gradually, especially since 1870, and particularly since 1880. Neither is this clear unfolding of truth due to any human ingenuity or acuteness of perception, but to the simple fact that God's due time has come; and if I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out. The following history is given not merely because I have been urged to give a review of God's leadings in the path of light, but specially because I believe it to be needful that the truth be modestly told, that misapprehensions and prejudicial misstatements may be disarmed, and that our readers may see how hitherto the Lord has helped and guided. Then I knew why the Lord had led me to it so slowly and cautiously. I needed a special preparation of heart for the full appreciation of all it contained, and I was all the more assured that it was not of my own wisdom; for if of my own why would it not have come at once?" Zion's Watch Tower 1906 Jul 15 pp.230, 234
The Watchtower claims that Russell should not take credit for his works, because they were under the guidance of God's spirit.
"Jehovah's witnesses admire the qualities he possessed as a man, but were we to give the honor and credit to Pastor Russell, we would be saying that the works and success were his; but Jehovah's witnesses believe it is God's spirit that guides and directs his people." Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose (1959) p.63
The current structure and doctrine of the Watchtower Society is so different from Russell's time it must make one wonder about such guidance.
Rutherford similarly claimed his books were revelations from the Lord.
"In recent months the Lord has revealed to his people a clearer understanding of the Devil's organization, and of his purpose to wreck that wicked system that the people may have complete deliverance. This message he has been pleased to permit to appear in a book entitled DELIVERANCE. Has not God provided this instrument in the hands of the anointed class? Let those who so believe carefully study the message therein and be prepared to use it" Watchtower 1926 August 15 p.248
Over time, Rutherford came to the conclusion that once Jesus was enthroned, holy spirit ceased guiding the Slave and Jesus used angels to direct him and the remnant. This was on the basis that the holy spirit was provided as a helper in Jesus absence, and hence no longer needed after Jesus' return in 1914
"While Jesus was absent from them, and while he is engaged in ‘preparing the way before the Lord’ and before he comes to his temple, the holy spirit operates as an advocate, helper and comforter of and for all that have responded to the call for the kingdom. But when the Lord comes to his temple and gathers his approved ones into the temple, is there any further need for the office of the holy spirit as a helper or advocate? If not, then the advocacy of the holy spirit would there cease. Jesus, being in the temple and with his chosen ones, would act for them directly.
... now the Lord Jesus himself has returned, is in his temple, and, acting by and through his holy angels, puts it into the mind and heart of the remnant class to take positive action and to do a certain work;" Watchtower 1930 Sep 1 pp;262-263
"With the coming of the Lord to his temple and the gathering together unto himself of the chosen ones the holy spirit would there cease to function as a paraclete or advocate for the church. ... After the holy spirit as an advocate or paraclete ceased to function in behalf of the consecrated, then the angels are employed in behalf of those who are being made ready for the kingdom." Watchtower 1930 Jun 1 pp.166,167
"God uses angels to teach His people now on earth." The Golden Age 1933 Nov 8 p.69
"Certain duties and kingdom interests have been committed by the Lord to his angels, which include the transmission of information to God's anointed people on the earth for their aid and comfort. Even though we cannot understand how the angels transmit this information, we know that they do it." Preparation (1933) pp.36,37
"Enlightenment proceeds from Jehovah... and is given to the faithful anointed.... the remnant are instructed by the angels of the Lord. The remnant do not hear audible sounds, because such is not necessary. Jehovah has provided his own good way to convey thoughts to the minds of his anointed ones." Preparation (1933) p.64
"Judge Rutherford couldn't write these things unless he were used of God". Golden Age 1935 Oct 23 p.50
"No man can properly interpret prophecy, and the Lord sends his angels to transmit correct information to his people." Watchtower 1936 Feb 15 p.52
This unusual sounding claim is not without precedence, as God spoke to his servants through angels in the past. Yet the question cannot escape, if angels gave teachings to Rutherford, why were so many wrong? A more appropriate description of Rutherford's inspiration appears in the works of psychologist William James.1
"Even more perhaps than other kinds of genius, religious leaders have been subject to abnormal psychical visitations. Invariably they have been creatures of exalted emotional sensitivity liable to obsessions and fixed ideas; and frequently they have fallen into trances, heard voices, seen visions, and presented all sorts of peculiarities which are ordinarily classed as pathological."
After Knorr replaced Rutherford, Watchtower ceased saying it was directed by angels. Guidance was attributed simply to the Lord in 1943.
These directions CAME TO US FROM THE LORD through his established agency directing what is required of us and for those who really love the lord and are guided by his counsel, that is a reasonable service requirement. 7/1/1943 page 205
Rutherford's claim that the modern day organization is directed by angelic revelation is now contradicted by the Organization.
"Those who make up the one true Christian organization today do not have angelic revelations or divine inspiration. But they do have the inspired Holy Scriptures, which contain revelations of God's thinking and will." Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (1993) p.708
Watchtower guidance is still to be trusted though, as it is provided by God, or Jesus, or the holy spirt, through the faithful slave.
A Governing Body member scrutinizes each Watchtower to ensure it represents truth.
"To this day the Governing Body follows similar guidelines. Each article in both The Watchtower and Awake! and every page, including the artwork, is scrutinized by selected members of the Governing Body before it is printed. Therefore, you can read The Watchtower and Awake! with confidence." Watchtower 1987 Mar 1 p.15
In many articles, there is no room for any doubt that the Watchtower must be upheld as from Jehovah. It has even stated that we can have more confidence than Noah had, who personally spoke with God. The following quotes make the reader feel the Watchtower contains infallible opinion of God. How then can it be fallible?
"Holy spirit, working through God's organization, will also help us to gain a wonderfully clear understanding of what Jehovah has in store for those who love him. After explaining that prominent people of this system of things cannot understand God's purposes, Paul wrote: "It is to us God has revealed them through his spirit."" Watchtower 1993 Aug 15 p.11
"… spiritual food provided by God through the faithful slave." Watchtower 1992 Nov 15 p.20
"Christ used his authority by actively leading his congregation on earth. He did this by means of the holy spirit, the angels, and the governing body made up of the 12 apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation. Jesus stated that he would be with his disciples right up to the conclusion of the system of things, where we now are. In the following article, we will see how he is still the active Head of the Christian congregation and how he is leading his "sheep" today." Watchtower 1987 Aug 1 p.15
"Today, Jehovah provides instruction by means of "the faithful steward." (Luke 12:42)" Pay Attention to Yourself and to All The Flock p.13
"MARKING A CENTURY OF DIVINE DIRECTION - By the year 1970 a century had passed since Charles Taze Russell and a few associates began meeting for earnest, prayerful study of the Scriptures. Through all those decades, Jehovah's servants had enjoyed spiritual enlightenment and divine direction." Yearbook 1975 p.245
"The point is that Christians have implicit trust in their heavenly Father; they do not question what he tells them through his written Word and organization. Things work out well for those who in this trusting way go along with God's way of doing things. For example, Jehovah through his organization has for years warned his people of the harmful effects of using tobacco, and those who heeded this advice were benefited both physically and spiritually." Watchtower 1974 Jul 15 p.441
"Those who believe that God uses The Watchtower as a means of communicating to his people, or of calling attention to his prophecies, should study The Watchtower with thankfulness of heart and give Jehovah God and Christ Jesus all the honor and credit and give neither honor nor credit to any man." Watchtower 1942 Jan 1 p.5
"As to Noah, the Christian now has much more upon which to base his faith than Noah had (so far as the Scriptures reveal) upon which to base his faith in a coming deluge." Watchtower 1923 Apr 1 p.106
Appointments to Positions of Authority
Holy Spirit is said to be directly involved in appointments.
"Elders, for instance, are appointed by holy spirit. (Acts 20:28) But not all spirit-anointed ones serve as overseers in the congregation. What are we to conclude from this? Simply that God’s spirit operates in different ways on members of the congregation." Watchtower 2011 Dec 15 p.25
"First, holy spirit moved the Bible writers to record the qualifications for elders and ministerial servants. ... Second, those recommending and making such appointments specifically pray for Jehovah's spirit to direct them as they review whether a brother meets the Scriptural requirements to a reasonable degree. Third, the individual being recommended needs to display the fruitage of God's holy spirit in his own life. (Gal. 5:22, 23) So God's spirit is involved in all aspects of the appointment process." Watchtower 2014 Nov 15 p.28
Holy Spirit receives the credit for appointing people to "privileges" within the congregation. For instance, the appointment of an elder is at the recommendation of the body of elders and put before the Circuit Overseer who "prayerfully considers the recommendations" (Watchtower 2014 Nov 15 p.29).
"Our Leader uses this Governing Body to appoint qualified men - whether spirit-anointed or not - as elders in the local congregations. In this regard, the holy spirit, which Jehovah has given Jesus authority to employ, plays a pivotal role. (Acts 2:32, 33) First of all, these overseers must meet the requirements set out in God's Word, which was inspired by holy spirit. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 2 Peter 1:20, 21) The recommendations and appointments are made after prayer and under the guidance of the holy spirit. Additionally, the individuals appointed give evidence of producing the fruitage of that spirit. How reassuring to know that Jesus Christ provides leadership to his disciples today through the Governing Body, the holy spirit, and the angels!" Watchtower 2002 Mar 15 p.14
"There is another factor that indicates how the holy spirit operates in the recommendation and appointment of overseers. Jesus said that ‘the Father in heaven gives holy spirit to those asking him.’ (Luke 11:13) So when the elders in the local congregation meet to recommend men for congregational responsibility, they pray for God’s spirit to guide them. They base their recommendations on what is stated in God’s inspired Word, and holy spirit enables them to discern whether an individual being considered for appointment meets the Scriptural requirements." Watchtower 2001 Jan 15 p.14
"Under the direction of the holy spirit, Branch Committees recommend mature, spiritual men to serve as circuit and district overseers. After being appointed directly by the Governing Body, they serve as traveling overseers. Traveling overseers submit reports to the branch office. With the help of the holy spirit and the inspired Scriptures." Watchtower 1990 Mar 15 p.20
"We are living also in the time of final fulfillment of the prophecy to which the apostle Peter referred on the day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28, 29, AS; Acts 2:16-18) We should therefore expect the spirit's activity to include appointing overseers. In consideration of the spirit's fruitage produced by the candidate and in harmony with the written requirements set out in the Holy Scriptures written by men under the operation of the holy spirit, the governing body acts, being itself moved by the holy spirit for which it prays to God that it may guide the governing body. So today as well as in Paul's day it may be said that the holy spirit appoints overseers over the flock of God that he purchased "with the blood of his own Son."" Watchtower 1958 Jan 15 p.45
If Holy Spirit is involved, then any elder who is sinning will be revealed and not appointed. Yet, part of the process prior to announcing the appointment of a brother is to ask him:
"Is there anything from your past, even before baptism, or in your personal or family life that disqualifies you or that would prevent you from accepting this appointment? Is there any reason why your appointment should not be announced to the congregation?" Shepherd the Flock of God p.35
This question nullifies the claim of supernatural guidance. Despite asking for God's holy spirit to assist with the recommendation, the elders need to ask the person in order to find out of any wrongdoing that disqualifies them.
When I was 19, my father who was the Presiding Overseer, said I was going to be announced as a Ministerial Servant at the meeting that night. He asked if there was any reason for which I would not qualify as a Servant. I had no idea that they had been considering me. I was in shock, as there were things I was doing that meant I should not take the position, but I was too embarrassed to tell my father I did not qualify. It took away from the joy of the appointment as I felt incredibly guilt when I was announced.
Real life examples bring the theory of spirit directed appointments face-to-face with reality. I personally know numerous examples of brothers appointed as elders and ministerial servants whilst breaking committing fornication, adultery and homosexuality, some for in excess of 20 years, proof the Holy Spirit is not involved in appointments, disfellowshipping and reinstatement.
Some high profile cases have been amongst the Governing Body themselves, brothers said to be chosen by Jehovah.
"This appeared in the issues of June 1 and 15 and proved conclusively that Jehovah's organization must henceforth be guided and directed by Jehovah's spirit through the visible governing body made up of those servants whom Jehovah himself would appoint." Watchtower 1965 Jun 1 p.352
During the 1980's three members of the Governing Body stepped down. Raymond Franz resigned in 1980, concluding that the Watchtower did not represent true Christianity. Ewart C. Chitty resigned in 1980. The Yearbook 1980 p.258 simply stated, "In the past year Ewart C. Chitty resigned, so that at present there are 17 members of this body." This was not due to apostasy, but for homosexual conduct prior to his appointment to the Governing Body.
In 1984, Leo Greenlees resigned. Though there was no written statement, the following breakfast announcement occurred at Brooklyn Bethel.
"This is to inform the bethel family that Leo Greenless is no longer a member of the bethel family and the matter is closed."3
This too was for homosexual conduct prior to his appointment, and a result of accusations against Greenlees from Mark Palo. A vague indication of what this was for appeared in the Watchtower.
"Shocking as it is, even some who have been prominent in Jehovah's organization have succumbed to immoral practices, including homosexuality, wife swapping, and child molesting." Watchtower 1986 Jan 1 p.13
It would seem unlikely that "Jehovah himself" appointed people to the most important position in his earthly organization when they had engaged in such wrongdoing prior to their appointment.
Wrongdoers are said to be disfellowshipped under the guidance of holy spirit. A judicial committee of generally 3 elders will determine the matter after a prayer for the guidance of God's spirit.
"The judicial hearing should be opened with prayer with the accused present. The judicial committee should fee free to seek Jehovah's wisdom through prayer at any time during their private deliberations." Shepherd the Flock of God p.89
Disfellowshipping is claimed to include the direction of angels.
"In addition, Jehovah's angels can maneuver matters so that any who cause others to stumble are removed from among Jehovah's people." Watchtower 2007 Mar 1 p.24
If Holy Spirit is involved, people will always be disfellowshipped justly. There will be a revealing of sinners, just as Joshua discovered Achan's theft at the direction of Jehovah.
Despite claims of guidance, the Elder's Book provides a procedure for when the elders are in disagreement over a persons guilt, with a majority decision being upheld.
"Generally, those serving on a judicial committee should endeavour to be unanimous in their decisions. Any difference of opinion can usually be resolved by discussing matters thoroughly as a judicial committee, researching the Scriptures and Chrisitian publications, praying for wisdom and direction, and even consulting with an experienced elder outside the congregation. However, if the committee is unable to reach a unanimous conclusion, the minority should give support to the decision reached by the majority. " Shepherd the Flock of God p.95
This is an admission that elders are not guided after all, but simply presenting their personal opinions.
The procedure to disfellowship a person also includes an appeal process. This two is an indication that Watchtower knows the decisions are not directed, nor can be trusted. If it was, then the decision of the first group of elders would always be correct.
The converse example is the reinstatement of wrongdoers persisting in their sins. Disfellowshipped people who view the Watchtower Society as a cult have formulated their return via internet chat rooms and been reinstated, solely so they can continue to associate freely with family members, or as an attempt to help them leave the Watchtower Society.2
Decisions in the first century are said to have been unanimous.
"At a meeting that was convened, some apparently argued in favor of circumcision, while others presented the opposing view. ... After hearing all the pertinent testimony, the governing body unanimously agreed that there was no need for Gentile Christians to get circumcised and come under the Mosaic Law." Watchtower 2003 Mar 15 p. 22
The Governing Body today only needs a 2/3 majority to establish a new doctrine.
"At a session three weeks later, April 30 , President Knorr surprised us by making a motion that henceforth all matters be decided by a two-thirds vote of the active membership." Crisis of Conscience (Commentary Press Fourth Edition 2004) Ray Franz p.85
"A major factor in Governing Body decisions was the two-thirds majority rule. This produced some strange effects at times. The rule was that a two-thirds majority (of the total active membership) was needed to carry a motion. I personally appreciated the opportunity this allowed for a member to vote differently from the majority or simply to abstain without feeling that he was, in effect, exercising "veto power." On minor matters, even when not in complete agreement, I generally voted with the majority. But when issues came up that genuinely affected my conscience I frequently found myself in the minority - seldom alone, but often with only one, two or three other members expressing conscientious objections by not voting for the motion." Ibid p.115
"Consider what might happen because of the two-thirds majority rule: If out of fourteen members present, nine favoured removing the disfellowshipping offense "label" and only five favoured retaining it, the majority was not sufficient to change the disfellowshipping label. Though a clear majority, the nine were not a two-thirds majority. (Even if there were ten of them favouring change this was still not enough, for though they would be two-thirds majority of the fourteen present, the rule was two-thirds majority of the total active membership, which during much of the time was seventeen.) " Ibid p.116
See also In Search of Christian Freedom (Commentary Press Fourth Edition 2002) Ray Franz pp.268-269 - Click here for scan
If some members of the Body vote for a change, and some against, which are the ones not being directed by God? This helps explain why doctrine can change over time, as the composition of the Governing Body changes. Doctrinal changes are not Jehovah's new light, but rather the result of new Governing Body members having different opinions to those that they replaced.
Watchtower states that only Jehovah's Witnesses receive holy spirit.
The Governing Body makes strong claims that holy spirit guides it to interpret the Bible correctly and to appoint men.
"[A mature Christian] has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and "the faithful and discreet slave." Watchtower 2001 Aug 1 p.14
Claiming Jehovah reveals truth through the Slave is a direct proclamation of inspiration.
In total contradiction, the Governing Body says Holy Spirit does not direct the Organization to have infallible interpretation of Scripture. Accuracy is no longer necessary for God, even though it was in Bible times. If Truth can morph in an ongoing manner, why the importance of following these leaders and not the leaders of another similarly unguided Organization? It is illogical to demand total obedience, claim its guidelines are to be followed as "the voice of God", yet admit mistakes.
Watchtower publications clearly state that Jehovah directed:
- Imperfect people to infallibly write the Bible
- The first century Apostles to make infallible guidelines when directing the early Christian congregations
- The Governing Body to provide the Watchtower in our day - but this time God's Organization is being guided with the inclusion of mistakes
Jehovah has always been able to provide infallible information, even though the humans used were fallible. When Holy Spirit directed Jehovah's followers, the recorded statements have always been accurate. There is no room for erroneous teachings if an Organization makes the claim Jehovah directs it and is God's only true path to truth and salvation. Holy Spirit does not direct an Organization that claims to be fallible.
Errors make it apparent Holy Spirit does not guide Watchtower doctrine any more so than it has in any other religion. Neither has Holy Spirit guided appointments. Keep this in mind when delving into the reality of Watchtower truth.
1 The Varieties of Religious Experience: A study in Human Nature (New York: Modern Library; reprint edition, 1994) first published in 1902
2 For example, Going Undercover to Rescue My Daughter (J Sage Nancy, 2006)
3 See Apocalypse delayed: the story of Jehovah's Witnesses (University of Toronto Press. Second Edition Reprinted 1999) M James Penton p.393
Written 2005, latest update Jan 2017
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2018