When criticized for errors it has made or for changing its doctrines, occasionally the Watchtower admits that its writings aren’t infallible or inspired like the Bible.
However, these moments of humility are dwarfed by the sweeping authority over the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses which it claims God has given it. In effect, it places its own writings on a par with or even above the Bible, while denying that it does so.Sire calls this the error of “virtue by association,” which he defines as “either (1) a cult writer associates his or her teaching with those of figures accepted as authoritative by traditional Christians; (2) cult writings are likened to the Bible; or (3) cult literature imitates the form of the Bible.”
I will give you a number of examples of how the Watchtower has done this in order to show that we are not dealing with one or two isolated instances.
Here are some examples of comparisons between its literature and the Bible which it has made throughout its history (emphasis added):
- 1910 “If the six volumes of ‘Scripture Studies’ are practically the Bible topically arranged, with Bible proof-texts given, we might not improperly name the volumes – the Bible in an arranged form. That is to say, they are not merely comments on the Bible, but they are practically the Bible itself since there is no desire to build any doctrine or thought on any individual preference or on any individual wisdom, but to present the entire matter on the lines of the Word of God. We therefore think it safe to follow this kind of reading, this kind of instruction, this kind of Bible study. Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the ‘Scripture Studies’ aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years – if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the ‘Scripture Studies’ with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.” (Zion’s Watch Tower, 9/15/1910, p. 298)
- 1942 “The Watchtower does not consist of men’s opinions.” (Watchtower, 6/1/1942, p. 5)
- 1969 “Jehovah’s organization as directed by his ‘faithful and discreet slave’ class should influence our every decision also. How may we avail ourselves of this good influence? By doing personal research in the Bible publications of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society on whatever subject our decision concerns. This always proves to be a real aid in making clear to us the Bible principles involved and their application to our lives.” (Watchtower, 3/15/1969, p. 172)
- 1983 Fight Against Independent Thinking
As we study the Bible we learn that Jehovah has always guided his servants in an organized way. And just as in the first century there was only one true Christian organization, so today Jehovah is using only one organization. (Ephesians 4:4, 5; Matthew 24:45-47) Yet there are some who point out that the organization has had to make adjustments before, and so they argue: “This shows that we have to make up our own mind on what to believe.” This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous?
Such thinking is an evidence of pride. And the Bible says: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18) If we get to thinking that we know better than the organization, we should ask ourselves: “Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place? Would we know the way of the truth if it had not been for guidance from the organization? Really, can we get along without the direction of God’s organization?” No, we cannot!—Compare Acts 15:2, 28, 29; 16:4, 5.” (Watchtower, 1/15/1983, p. 27)
- 1990 “We have the opportunity to show love for our brothers who take the lead in the congregation or in connection with Jehovah’s visible organization worldwide. This includes being loyal to ‘the faithful and discreet slave.‘ (Matthew 24:45-47) Let us face the fact that no matter how much Bible reading we have done, we would never have learned the truth on our own.” (Watchtower, 12/1/1990, p. 19)
- 1994 “All who want to understand the Bible should appreciate that the ‘greatly diversified wisdom of God’ can become known only through Jehovah’s channel of communication, the faithful and discreet slave.” (Watchtower, 10/1/1994, p. 8)
Combatting This Error
In discussing this subject with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s important to make sure that they see the magnitude of the claims the Watchtower makes for its literature.
Don’t just paraphrase what the Watchtower has said—show them the Watchtower literature yourself.
One effective way to get copies of this literature is to give the Witnesses the citations and ask you to bring you copies so you can all see for yourself what it really says. That way, they will know that what you are examining is authentic.
Here are the main concerns you want to leave with Jehovah’s Witnesses:
- Once you become convinced that you can’t understand the Bible without the Watchtower to explain it to you, then the Watchtower has become a higher authority in your life than the words of the Bible itself.
- Once you become convinced that thinking independently of the Watchtower organization is rebellion against Jehovah, then the Watchtower has become the mediator between you and God.
- Scripture Twisting: 20 Ways the Cults Misread the Bible, James W. Sire (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1980), p. 159