In the February, 2017 article entitled “Who is Leading God’s People Today?” the Watchtower states, “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.”
It goes on to claim the guidance of the Holy Spirit, angels, and God’s Word.
Ask the Witnesses, “Why wouldn’t the Holy Spirit lead them to get it right the first time so they didn’t have to make changes in doctrine at all?”
Let’s look at just a few of these “clarifications” and “adjustments” to see if God is really guiding the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We won’t look at minor matters but rather at life and death issues. Many Witnesses have no knowledge of these changes.
In 1931, the Watchtower stated categorically, “Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood” (Source: The Golden Age, 2/4/31, p. 293).”
This means that faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses could not receive vaccinations or allow their children to be vaccinated for any reason. In addition to the serious medical consequences of obeying this directive, Jehovah’s Witnesses faced serious legal problems due to compulsory vaccination laws.
Remember that the refusal to be vaccinated wasn’t a choice Witnesses made for medical reasons. It was required because the Watchtower told them God had so decreed. It is one thing to hear that the Watchtower used to teach this. It is far more powerful to see it in print.
In 1952 the Watchtower completely reversed itself, saying, “Each individual has to take the consequences for whatever position and action he takes toward a case of compulsory vaccination, doing so according to his own conscience and his appreciation of what is for good health and the interests of advancing God’s work. And our Society cannot afford to be drawn into the affair legally or take the responsibility for the way the case turns out. After consideration of the matter, it does not appear to us to be in violation of the everlasting covenant made with Noah, as set down in Genesis 9:4, nor contrary to God’s related commandment at Leviticus 17:10-14… Hence all objection to vaccination on Scriptural ground appears to be lacking” (Source: The Watchtower, “Questions from Readers”, 12/15/52, p. 764).
Have Witnesses look up these quotations and explain them to you. Specifically, you can ask:
- At the time the Watchtower writers published the doctrine that vaccinations were forbidden by the Scriptures, do you think they honestly believed that this teaching came from Jehovah? (Of course, they have to say yes.)
- Looking back on it now, would you say that that doctrine really came from Jehovah? (If they say yes, then ask, “Then why did the Watchtower abandon it?” If they say the organization got new light, ask, “Are you saying that it was Jehovah who changed his mind on a life and death matter like this?”)
- In their role as Jehovah’s channel of communication, how do the Watchtower writers know that such a teaching truly comes from Jehovah and isn’t just their fallible human understanding? (This is a question most Witnesses have never considered.)
- Do you see why I’m concerned about making a commitment that would require me to make life and death decisions regarding myself and my family based on Watchtower teachings that might be discarded later?
If the Witnesses complain that you are dredging up doctrines the Watchtower no longer teaches, you can say, “That’s just the point! I realize this happened many years ago. But it had a major impact on Jehovah’s Witnesses’ lives. I think, ‘How would I have felt if I were a Jehovah’s Witness parent and my child died during those 21 years because I refused to allow them to be vaccinated, and then the Watchtower later acknowledged that this tragedy was not really required by Jehovah after all?’ I personally think I would be burdened with guilt and filled with anger. How would you feel if that happened to you?”
In 1967, the Watchtower condemned organ transplants. It said, “Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others” (Source: The Watchtower, “Questions from Readers”, 11/15/67, p. 702).
In 1968, it repeated this doctrine: “Not to be overlooked are the religious, the Scriptural issues involved. There are those, such as the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, who consider all transplants between humans to be cannibalism; and is not the utilizing of the flesh of another human for one’s own life cannibalistic?” (Source: Awake! 6/6/68, p. 21, emphasis original).
Then in 1980, the Watchtower reversed itself completely! “While the Bible specifically forbids consuming blood, there is no biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking of other human tissue… It is a matter for personal decision. (Gal. 6:5) The congregation judicial committee would not take disciplinary action if someone accepted an organ transplant” (Source: The Watchtower, “Questions from Readers”, 3/15/80, p. 31).
Have Witnesses verify these statements in Watchtower literature and follow up by asking questions such as these:
- “I think of Jehovah’s Witnesses who out of obedience allowed parents or spouses or children to die rather than have an organ transplant. When the Watchtower changed its teaching and it became evident that they died for a mistake, what did the Watchtower leaders do to take responsibility for the consequences of that erroneous teaching?”
- “Do you see why this troubles me so much? I think of Jehovah’s Witnesses during from 1967 to 1980 who might have gone blind because they faithfully refused a cornea transplant or who might even have allowed a child to die by refusing a life-saving kidney transplant. Given these major shifts in what the Watchtower has taught that God’s law requires, help me understand why you feel you would have to let a loved one die in reliance on what they say God requires regarding various medical procedures. Aren’t they just fallible men?”
Have you ever presented Jehovah’s Witnesses with evidence of such critical doctrinal changes by the Watchtower? How did they respond?
Share your thoughts in the comments.