Analyzing The Watchtower’s View Of Apostasy

Because of my love for Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s), it’s easy for me to maintain a positive tone and show kindness toward them on this blog. Also, I do not promote blogs or websites which slander, show maliciousness, bitterness or have an ax to grind – so to speak – with JW’s or the Watchtower organization. Even so, while keeping things positive and trying to help JW’s, I cannot overlook things which I believe must be addressed, even though it may seem negative to some. I must take an honest and open approach in the articles I write, yet show love and kindness while not watering down or avoiding what may seem to be controversial to a loyal JW. I always prayerfully consider these things before I write on this blog or speak to others about the organization.

I have spent a lot of time praying and thinking about this particular article before posting it on this site. My goal is to be honest yet not gloss over the facts. Please do not mistake my candor as anger or bitterness. I write these things in Christian love.

That being said, I would like to share a few thoughts with you regarding the July 15, 2011 Watchtower study article which begins on page 15. The article is entitled, “Will You Heed Jehovah’s Clear Warnings?” This was the Watchtower study topic for Sunday 9/11/2011 which focused on apostasy and apostates.

Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language defines apostasy as,

“The abandoning of a religious faith.”

The same dictionary defines an apostate as,

“Someone who abandons his religious faith for another.”

Merriam-Webster online gives two definitions of apostasy,

“1 : renunciation of a religious faith. 2 : abandonment of a previous loyalty”

These definitions sound accurate and reasonable to me. After all, this is the definition of the words from what most would consider an authority on the English language.

It seems though, that the Watchtower has a definition of apostasy which applies only to it’s own organization or members. For example, if someone leaves another Christian Church and becomes a JW, from the Watchtower’s point of view this is not considered an apostasy. Why? Because they left a “false religion” and came to the “truth.” Yet, the true definition of the word according to Webster makes this an apostasy because they abandoned one religious faith for another. But as far as the Watchtower is concerned, one can only apostatize from the JW organization because they are the only “true Christians” in the world.

The Watchtower’s book, Reasoning From The Scriptures page 34, defines apostasy this way:

“Apostasy is abandoning or deserting the worship and service of God, actually a rebellion against Jehovah God. Some apostates profess to know and serve God but reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible but reject Jehovah’s organization.” (Emphasis mine)

The Reasoning book later comments on page 35 in bold heading:

 “Not only do they abandon the true faith but they then “beat” their former associates, using public criticism and other methods to hinder their work; the efforts of such apostates are devoted to tearing down, not building up”

According to the Watchtower organization I am considered an apostate. Under normal circumstances if we were considering the actual definition (Webster’s definition) of an apostate this would not offend me at all. However, the Watchtower organization demonizes apostates to the point that the majority of rank and file witnesses are literally afraid of anyone labeled an apostate.

This being the case, out of sheer curiosity I decided to tune in to the local Kingdom Hall meeting during this particular study. Most Kingdom Halls have a provision for those who are ill, infirm or otherwise can’t make it to the meeting, to be able to call in on the phone and listen or even participate.

Since I am well aware of the Watchtower’s view of apostates, it came as no surprise to see this study article describe apostates as it did, using such terms as:

  1. False teachers 
  2. Ravenous wolves
  3. Corruptive
  4. Deceptive
  5. Mentally diseased
  6. Disloyal
  7. Twisted
  8. malicious slanderers
  9. Meddlers

What really grabbed my attention were some of the comments of the friends during this study. As I listened, I began to write down the words being used by the congregation to describe apostates. Some of these words were repeated several times, so I decided to put them on a spreadsheet and let it alphabetize them while removing any duplicated words or phrases. Here is a partial alphabetized list of the words the friends used during the Watchtower study describing apostates.

  1. Bitter
  2. Cunning
  3. Dangerous
  4. Dark
  5. Disgusting
  6. Distorted
  7. Filthy
  8. Godless
  9. Haters of Jehovah
  10. Immoral
  11. Miserable
  12. Nasty
  13. Oppressors
  14. Satanic
  15. Sick
  16. Slanderers
  17. Unkind
  18. Unloving
  19. Venomous
  20. Wolves in Sheep’s clothing

Again, this is only a partial list of the words used by those commenting during the Watchtower study. Is it just me, or is this considered slander toward those of us who have decided to leave the organization due to teachings and policies we believe to be unscriptural?

There have been many articles and comments about apostasy and apostates in the pages of the Watchtower over the years, but take a look at the following paragraph.

The Watchtower 10/1/93 page 19 paragraph 15 says this:

“Apostates are included among those who show their hatred of Jehovah by revolting against him. Apostasy is, in reality, a rebellion against Jehovah. Some apostates profess to know and serve God, but they reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible, but they reject Jehovah’s organization and actively try to hinder its work. When they deliberately choose such badness after knowing what is right, when the bad becomes so ingrained that it is an inseparable part of their makeup, then a Christian must hate (in the Biblical sense of the word) those who have inseparably attached themselves to the badness. True Christians share Jehovah’s feelings toward such apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On the contrary, they “feel a loathing” toward those who have made themselves God’s enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance.”  (Emphasis mine)

Does this quote or the comments above sound like they came from a Christian organization? Is this what Jesus taught? By saying and promoting these things, is the Watchtower following the command Jesus gave to love your enemy? Please notice what our Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48 during His sermon on the mount,

“You heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; 45 that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. 46 For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? 48 You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (New World Translation (NWT) Emphasis mine)

While I may not agree with some of the Watchtower’s theology, I do not persecute my JW brethren, neither do I slander them or consider them my enemy. I love them and I continue to pray for them. This same love for the JW congregation is shared among my “apostate” friends who have other websites which are designed, not to tear down the brothers and sisters, but to help JW’s should they decide to leave the organization. Like me, these particular “apostates” have left not because they are immoral or rebellious, but because they have awakened to the fact that the organization is not “the truth” which they thought at first. We are living up to the light that we have and we DO NOT believe salvation comes through an organization. In John 14:6 Jesus said to Thomas,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NWT Emphasis mine)

Jesus is the truth, not an organization! I believe we should be part of a corporate group of Christian fellowship. (Hebrews 10:24-25) I also believe we should try to find a group or Church that teaches the closest thing to Bible truth we can find. (John 4:23-24) If we are part of an organization or Church which is preaching the Gospel and we find another which preaches the Gospel and in addition, other valuable truths which my organization or Church isn’t teaching, wouldn’t it be wise to go where there is more Bible truth? Would Jehovah and Jesus condemn us for not being part of the Watchtower if we believe in our heart of hearts there is another Church or organization that has more Bible truth than the JW‘s? Are people condemned which are not part of the Watchtower organization?

Please consider this. Right after Jesus and his disciples went into Capernaum, He was counseling them that if anyone welcomes a little child in His (Jesus’) name, they are welcoming Jesus. In turn, by welcoming Jesus, they are welcoming His Father. Immediately following this, notice what happens in Mark 9:38-40:

“John said to him: “Teacher, we saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he was not accompanying us.” 39 But Jesus said: “Do not try to prevent him,  for there is no one that will do a powerful work on the basis of my name that will quickly be able to revile me; 40 for he that is not against us is for us.” (NWT Emphasis mine)

Luke 9:49-50 reports the same account:

“In response John said: “Instructor, we saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he is not following with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him: “Do not YOU men try to prevent [him], for he that is not against YOU is for YOU.” (NWT Emphasis mine)

Stop and think for a moment what is being said here. The disciples actually tried to stop this man who was not part of their “organization” – if you will – from doing a good thing and expelling demons in the name of our Lord Jesus. Did this mean that he did not have the approval of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! We know this because Jesus rebuked His disciples by telling them “Do not try to prevent him.” Then He basically told them that they were on the same team – so to speak – because this man was not against them but for them.

In the same sense, I am not against the JW organization as far as the good they are doing. I have said, and will continue to say, that the organization has a place in ministering to people for the good. JW’s have helped many people to leave the dregs of society and have taught people how to live clean and moral lives by following Biblical principles. This is certainly a good thing! Also as I have written in the header of this blog, JW’s do have some valuable truths, i.e. the dead are conscious of nothing, the earth will be restored to a paradise, hell is not an eternal burning fire.

However, one of several areas where I have a major problem with the Watchtower leadership is how they treat those of us who have decided to leave because we may disagree with some of the doctrines. If it’s made known that someone disagrees with the Watchtower on any point of doctrine, he will be talked to by the Elders. If he tells them he cannot accept what the Watchtower says, he will be disfellowshipped being completely cut off from association with the congregation whether family or friends.

It seems to me that if the organization is going to have their own definition of apostasy, they should establish levels of apostasy. But the Watchtower does not allow for this. One must treat apostates as if they are the filthiest of the filthy by cutting them off completely simply because of being labeled an apostate by the organization. If a JW does not cut off the apostate completely, the JW has the fearful reality that he or she will be labeled an apostate as well. Of course there are those that have left the organization whom the list above may describe in some way. There are also many who are bitter and will say terrible things about the JW’s. But to make a blanket statement that these words describe all apostates without any kind of disclaimer, makes the leadership in the organization  false teachers, corruptive, deceptive, disloyal, malicious slanderers and meddlers to use the Watchtower’s own words as applied to apostates.

Using the descriptive words of the congregation provided in the list above this would make the organization bitter, cunning, distorted, oppressors, slanderers, unkind and unloving.

Might I submit to you that many who have left and will leave the organization angry and bitter may not be that way if the organization would let them leave with their dignity. They likely would not feel this way if they were still able to communicate at least with their immediate family.

There are many like me that have tremendous love for Jehovah God and His Son Jesus, who have come to realize that our relationship with the Father and His Son is personal. Contrary to what the Watchtower teaches, our relationship with Jehovah is not based on our affiliation with the Watchtower organization. It is based solely our personal relationship with Jehovah and Jesus. Salvation does not come with a religious denomination or through an organization as the Watchtower teaches. Salvation comes from believing in the shed blood of Jesus, repenting of our sins and having faith that Jesus is the risen Christ who is now serving in heaven as our High Priest. Having this faith means that we will live up to the light that we have.

As for me and my personal friends that have been labeled apostates by the Watchtower, we continue to serve Jehovah and our Lord Jesus even though we are not part of the Watchtower organization. We truly love the JW brothers and sisters. That’s why we provide websites such as this one. These sites are designed to help JW’s deal with the unjust, unloving way the Watchtower deals with those who must leave due to doctrinal differences. James said,

“Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.” (James 4:17 NWT)

It would have been a sin for us if we would have remained in the organization.

Mark M.

 

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