Monday, June 16, 2014

Do Jehovah's Witnesses Claim To Be Inspired?

Some critics of Jehovah's Witnesses claim that our organization thinks of itself as "inspired by God." However, the truth is that while we consider ourselves to be guided, led or directed by the holy spirit--no claim to inspiration has been made. In fact, the very opposite is true. We know that the Bible provides no warrant for calling spirit-anointed Christians QEOPNEUSTOS.

I am not denying that God has appointed men to take the lead in the Christian congregation or that Jehovah ministers in different ways via His spirit. But such operations of the spirit are not examples of inspiration (in the biblical sense of that word).

Charles Ryrie talks about the doctrine of illumination in his work on theology. He observes:

"The illumination theory of inspiration regards inspiration as an intensifying and elevating of the perceptions of the biblical writers. But generally the concept of illumination relates to the ministry of the Holy Spirit helping the believer to understand the truth of the Bible" (Ryrie, Basic Theology, 116).

Ryrie, therefore, makes a distinction between illumination of the believer and inspiration of the Bible writers. We're making a similar distinction when WT literature says that the "faithful and discreet slave" is guided by God's spirit--illuminated if you will--but that class is not and does not claim to be QEOPNEUSTOS (1 Cor 2:9-10).

22 comments:

The Apologetic Front said...

Hi Edgar-

If a man or group of men claim to be "illuminated" by the spirit, does this provide grounds for an obligation on the part of every Christian to believe everything they put in print?

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Mike,

Illumination (as that term is used by Ryrie) applies to more than just 12-13 men on earth. Other believers also understand the Bible through God's organization and spirit. But we believe that the spirit's operation is different for the Governing Body and other anointed elders: a different operation but the same holy spirit (as the inspired Apostle Paul teaches).

As for the second part of your question, in my mind, things are more nuanced than that. We do believe what the "slave" puts in print; however, what does Proverbs 14:15 and 1 Thessalonians say that circumspect worshipers of God should do? We also cannot forget that "we obey God as Ruler" as opposed to obeying man. Hence, if a genuine conflict arises between the dictates of men and the precepts of God--we obey God (Acts 5:29).

Furthermore, if we need to ask the slave for clarification on a point or find out more about the reasoning behind a teaching, we can do that too.



Edgar Foster said...

Should be 1 Thess 5:21

Edgar Foster said...

A brief added thought here, Mike. Please see the Awake (2/8/1996, page 6) article which discusses Proverbs 14:15 and 1 Thess 5:21. We could add 1 Jn 4:1 to the mix also. But that article points out that while we needd to avoid "destructive cynicism," still

"The Bible encourages us to test out what people say rather than just blindly accept everything we hear. 'The ear itself makes a test of words, just as the palate tastes when eating,' it says. (Job 34:3) Isn't that true? Don't we usually taste food before we swallow it? We should also make a test of people's words and actions before we swallow them. No one who is genuine will take offense if we check his credentials."

The Apologetic Front said...

Hi Edgar-

Thanks for responding. I should have waited to post my question AFTER vacation, hence the reason for my delay.

I pretty much agree with what you said in principle. And I do agree that things are more nuanced. However, in practice i'm not sure how exactly this works for a JW.

It boils down to this: are JW's to believe everything the Watchtower teaches or aren't they? I grant that things can be questioned and reasoned out. But at the end of the day, JW's are to believe every word. True, you are to "test the spirits" and "check the Scriptures." But ultimately, doesn't the Society win out each and every time for the faithful JW?

Moreover, the GB is claiming something beyond what the average JW can say with regards to the spirit, as you pointed out. For example:

"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.—Heb. 5:9." -WT, Aug. 15, 2014 p. 21

Therefore, if the Watchtower publications are acting as "Jehovah's voice," doesn't it stand to reason that we should always believe everything they put in print? (Especially if our salvation depends on it?)

Hopefully, this provides some clarification on what I was originally asking.

Philip Fletcher said...

No not in every instance, concerning the Governing body, but mostly what they point out is been so thoroughly researched, there is no reason to concern ourselves, that it might not be correct, If it is wrong they will tell us a corrected view point. But the basic bible teachings will never be changed or be wrong. They are right,because they come from the bible.

Mike Felker said...

Philip-

I'm not so sure I understand your argument. The Watchtower has admittedly been wrong on a number of things. Yet, that which they were wrong on was thoroughly researched. Therefore, how can you base the correctness of something on the basis of the amount of research? The Catholic church also researches things heavily, but we'd both agree they are dead wrong on quite a bit.

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Mike,

No worries about the delay. My schedule is crazy right now; so I have limited time for inet activities.

You know there's a difference between looking at something from the outside and actually experiencing something as part of the in-group. For example, to an atheist, theism (in any guise) might seem irrational, oppressive, and life-denying (to use an expression of Nietzsche). But I'm sure we'd both say that such a view of theism is not totally correct.

For Witnesses of Jehovah, it's not about the "Society" winning versus us losing. I've never thought of the organization as winning because I submitted to something in our journals of other publications. I believe that the brothers have our best interests at heart.

Please allow me to pose a question. How much of the counsel emanating from the 12 apostles or from the Apostle Paul did loyal Christians living in the first century believe? Were they able to pick and choose which counsel they would accept or which teachings they would reject? For remember that not all apostolic teaching was inspired. So what should a devout follower of Jesus living in the first century have done?

As for the quote you posted, I don't understand it to be saying that the organization is acting as "Jehovah's voice." It states that Jesus conveys Jehovah's voice to us by directing the FDS. The quote does not assert that the FDS itself acts as God's voice.

Edgar Foster said...

A brief note about Philip's comment. I agree with his statement concerning the Governing Body. Per impossibile, if the organization asked me to get ready for the end by drinking a cup of poison, then I would not heed their counsel. Or if they began to teach that hell is really hot after all, I likely would not agree. I believe it's dangerous to desert our powers of reason for any human.

On the other hand, these men are my brothers. They are not perfect, but I don't walk around thinking of what might happen in the future, that would lead me to say, "You've gone too far. I won't countenance that!."

Mike Felker said...

Hi Edgar-

Thanks for your thoughts. To answer your question directly, there would be a sense of "picking and choosing" insofar as following the example of the bereans in Acts 17:11. This is why Paul admonished the Galatians to reject his message if a "different gospel" were to be preached.

But either way, I don't think a parallel can be created here with the GB because nothing they say or publish is inspired. So everything they say can be equally tested against the Scriptures and rejected if it is incorrect.

As far as Jehovah's voice, I think "Jesus conveys Jehovah's voice to us by directing the FDS" is basically saying the same thing. Otherwise, what would the difference really be? If Jesus really is conveying Jehovah's voice through the FDS, then I would believe everything the FDS says.

Thanks for addressing my comments to Philip. I wouldn't put things exactly as you did, except refusing a life saving blood transfusion might not be too far off from drinking poison.

Perhaps we have a differing view of leadership. I could think of a very possible scenario where the actions of my elders could lead me to leave my place of fellowship in heart beat. I'm not saying JW's need to consider this at every waking moment, but if it happened in the early church, why couldn't it happen now?

Philip Fletcher said...

What exactly have they been wrong on?

Edgar Foster said...

Mike,

Thanks for the respectful dialogue.

1) I don't see the Boereans as picking and choosing. Granted, they carefully examined what Paul and Barnabas were teaching to discern its truth-value. But after this examination, they became followers of Christ. The Bible makes it clear that one cannot accept parts of apostolic doctrine: it must all be accepted without reservation.

2) The Governing Body does not claim to be inspired as I stated earlier. But not everything the apostles said was inspired either. However, when a directive was handed down by one of the Twelve or Paul, first century Christians were bound to follow apostolic doctrine.

Yes, Paul told the Galatians that he should be accursed if he taught another Christ. But the fact is that he didn't; hence, they were bound to accept his teaching and so are Christians today.

3) To say that Jesus conveys Jehovah's voice by directing the FDS clearly differs from saying that the slave class constitute or function as God's voice. To illustrate, consider the revelation given to John. Jehovah gave the revelation to Christ, who sent an angel to convey the disclosure to John; he then conveyed the revelation to the 7 congregations in his time. Would you say that John was Jehovah's voice? Did he act as God's voice to those early Christians as Jesus directed him by means of God's spirit and via the angel?

4) Lastly, refusing a blood transfusion and drinking poison because some authority figure tells you to do it are two different things. For one thing, Christians don't (or should not) use every possible means to spare their present life. And a blood transfusion could do more harm than good.

Philip Fletcher said...

Since my sister-in-law went thru the blood transfusion issue in the 70's. with a hemoglobin count dropping below 2, and several other witnesses, suffering thru nearly the same amount. We can see it really takes a lot of faith to abide by the issue of blood, we now know today how dangerous blood transfusions can be. The witnesses have always been ahead of the curb on the subject. But it truly requires strong faith when it comes to this serious subject. Those having doubts, need more faith.

Mike Felker said...

Hi Edgar-

Just to clarify a few things in relation to your points:

1. I agree. It's "picking and choosing" only in the sense of disagreeing if it didn't check out with the Scriptures.

2. I agree. The difference is, Christians today aren't bound to any group of men as the first century Christians were.

3. I agree with the illustration, but with a distinction. With your illustration, at the end of the day, the message was required to be believed since God was the ultimate source. If you are paralleling your illustration then to the FDS, then the message would be required to be believed.

But the latter is the very thing i'm questioning. If I misunderstood your illustration or point here, please let me know.

4. Well, it's always more than simply "authority X told me so." But ultimately, that authority still holds the keys to life and death in some sense. As the WT blood policy has evolved over the years, JW's were harmed or died by following the old statutes that have now been revised. So looking in from the outside, it's hard for me to see a real difference.

Yes, a blood transfusion certainly could do more harm than good...as well as refusing a blood transfusion in some cases. I agree that not all life saving measures are moral. But I still don't see a huge difference regarding what I described in the previous paragraph.

I don't want to get into a blood debate or anything, but my primary point in all this relates to the Watchtower's declarations that everything published must be believed because "Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.”

Thanks again for the dialogue. I don't want to overstep my bounds here, so you're welcome to have the last word.

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Mike,

If you feel there's anything you need to add after my comments, then by all means, post your remarks.

1) So are you now saying that the Bereans (Beroeans) did not pick and choose which apostolic doctrines they were going to accept or reject? If so, we're on the same page now.

2) How do we know that Christians are not bound to any group of men today? Did not Jesus foretell that he would always be represented on earth by his faithful people, which would include men in positions of ecclesial authority? See Matthew 13:24-43; 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 13:17.

3. My illustration involving God, Jesus, the angel and John was meant to disprove the idea that the slave is or functions as "Jehovah's voice" just because Jesus conveys God's voice to us by means of the Christian congregation. How could the organization be Jehovah's voice if the magazines describe it as "Jehovah's channel of communication"? I've never witnessed the Governing Body making utterances akin to "Thus says Jehovah." That would be a different ballgame altogether.

3b. To address your overall claim that Witnesses must believe everything found in the WT literature, I'll just reiterate that we should be obedient to those who govern us as Hebrews states. I see nothing unbiblical about that concept. But the organization has also told us that we must avoid being gullible. We have examples in scripture of men who even questioned Jehovah while still maintaining their faith in him. Are we to believe that Jehovah's representatives can never be questioned, but that we must follow men no matter what they say? That suggestion blatantly conflicts with what I've been taught as a Witness for more than 30 years.

4. There is an objective and huge difference between what happened at Jonestown and what *might* happen to a Witness who refuses blood. The primary reason that we reject blood transfusions is not because a group of men forbid the procedure; no, we refrain from blood transfusions because of what God's word teaches us regarding blood (Leviticus 17:10-14). Why should we believe that Jehovah's direction on what should happen to blood once it leaves the body has been revoked? Why would God forbid the eating or drinking of blood, but allow men to transfuse it? In scripture, there was only one acceptable use for blood: to offer in sacrifice to God. The Israelites could not even drink/eat blood to save their own lives. Was God's law on blood harmful for them?

Philip Fletcher said...

So the problem, Mike, really isn't what is said by the FDS on a certain subject, but you don't want to be told how to live your life by anyone else, and you want to pick and choose the parts of the bible to accept for yourself and reject other parts I.E. Matt. 24:45-47? Correct?

Philip Fletcher said...

So let me get this straight, there isn't really and issue about blood, but rather you don't want to be told what to do? You want to accept or reject certain scriptures like Matt. 24:45-47. Is that what this is all about? Let me tell you if J.W. hadn't brought out the facts about that scripture, you and all of Christendom wouldn't have even known it was there. Do you know why, because Christendom closed the bible a long time ago. So they could control the masses with fear.
Jehovah's Witnesses teach love, you don't want to accept that because you want to do your own thing, then thats your free will.

Mike Felker said...

Philip-

That's not even remotely close to what i'm saying.

Edgar Foster said...

Here's a brief quote from Insight (2:1161). This information does not say that God's organization is "Jehovah's voice":

To ‘hear the voice of God’ does not necessarily mean the hearing of a literal, audible voice. It more often means recognizing and hearing with obedience what God has caused to be written in his Word and transmitted through his earthly servants who represent him. (1Jo 2:3, 4) Thus, "voice" is used as applying to "every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth," his commands whether presented to the individual verbally by God himself or by angels or men, or in inspired writing.

[So Jehovah's voice may be channeled through angels, men or inspired writings--but neither one of those sources constitute that voice itself. E.F.]

Mike Felker said...

Edgar-

I recognize the distinction you are making and I am happy to correct and revise my above statement:

"Therefore, if the Watchtower publications are acting as "Jehovah's voice," doesn't it stand to reason that we should always believe everything they put in print? (Especially if our salvation depends on it?)"

I apologize if I misrepresented your view. Here is how I'd rephrase it with a more careful distinction:

"Since 'Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave,' doesn't it stand to reason that we should always believe everything they put in print? (Especially if our salvation depends on it?)"

As to your other points, I might be repeating myself in responding to them, so for the sake of avoiding redundancy, i'll let them sit and consider them for future interactions. But if there's something you would really like me to respond to directly that you feel was left unaddressed, let me know and i'll gladly respond.

Thanks again for the interaction.

Philip Fletcher said...

Really, even the governing body has said, they have been mistaken at times, so no they are not perfect, and they have corrected their point of view, not a few times, nevertheless, I have had nothing but blessings for more than 40 years of listening carefully and observing what they have said. The basic bible teaching have not changed thru all the years. But I agree with Edgar they do not speak the voice of God. But the word of God is the bible. It is always correct.

Duncan said...

"But the word of God is the bible. It is always correct." This is the crux of the issue. Is it through the filter of translation into Greek or English or in the original tongue?

Being someone who is educated in ancient hebrew grammer I can see many OT verses where the "traditional" translation has been applied to a verse in all English bibles including the NWT - but in many cases the grammar makes this interpretation impossible ie. Genesis 3:16 (compare LXX), Isaiah 9:6 (compare DSS Isaiah).