The Watchtower’s own translation of Deuteronomy 18:20-22 reads as follows: “If any prophet presumptuously speaks a word in my name that I did not command him to speak or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. However, you may say in your heart: ‘How will we know that Jehovah has not spoken the word?’ When the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word is not fulfilled or does not come true, then Jehovah did not speak that word. The prophet spoke it presumptuously. You should not fear him.”
In recent weeks, I’ve documented false prophecies the Watchtower has made concerning the years 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1975.
When Christians present this documentation and accuse the Watchtower of being a false prophet, how do Jehovah’s Witnesses respond? The Watchtower has trained them to present several defenses. We will look at two of them today.
Watchtower False Prophecy Defense #1: The Watchtower doesn’t claim to be an inspired or infallible prophet.
If Witnesses make this claim, ask them to provide you with a copy of the April 1, 1972 Watchtower article entitled, “They Shall Know That a Prophet Was Among Them.” Here is what that article states on page 197:
People today… have at hand the Bible, but it is little read or understood. So, does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come? These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet? …This ‘prophet’ was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses… Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a ‘prophet’ of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record. What does it show?
Say to the Witnesses:
- We have just looked at the record. What does it show?
- Has the Watchtower been a reliable prophet of God?
- Please tell me how you view this.
Watchtower False Prophecy Defense #2: Watchtower misunderstandings have been relatively minor in comparison to the truth it has revealed.
The Watchtower says, “Matters on which corrections of viewpoint have been needed have been relatively minor when compared with the vital Bible truths that they have discerned and publicized.” (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, p. 136)
In conjunction with this defense, Witnesses often assert that the Watchtower overseers humbly admit their mistakes.
In response, say something like this:
- I’m concerned about the serious consequences of such predictions being made by people who claim to be God’s channel of communication. If you and I had been Jehovah’s Witnesses when those misunderstandings were published, wouldn’t we have had to accept them without question and publish them door-to-door as truth from Jehovah?
- If I had been a Jehovah’s Witness and really had faith that the Watchtower writers weren’t just speaking their own opinions but were communicating truth from God, then I would have oriented my entire life around their predictions. I wouldn’t have set aside any money for my retirement because I would never be growing old in the present system. I wouldn’t have gone to college because there would be no point preparing for a career that I would never have. I would have oriented my entire life around someone else’s mistake. I think of all the sincere Jehovah’s Witnesses who must have done that. Do you see why this issue troubles me so greatly?
This should resonate with them. They may well be making similar life decisions or know Jehovah’s Witnesses who have done so.
Your goal in these discussions is to lead Jehovah’s Witnesses to see that the Watchtower is trying to minimize its role at the same time that it claims that Witnesses must believe and obey the organization’s leaders without question because they speak for Jehovah and with his authority.
Is Jehovah in charge of what the Watchtower publishes or are its teachings just the opinions of fallible men?
In your discussions with Witnesses, have you contrasted their attempts to minimize their responsibility with their claims to be Jehovah’s only channel of communication? What was their response?
Share your thoughts in the comments.