NEW LIGHT CHANGES IN WATCHTOWER DOCTRINE
A concerned Father challenges his son about his decision to leave the Watchtower. The son responds by questioning the organization’s “new light from Jehovah” defense for doctrinal changes and flip-flops.
FATHER: Johnny, don’t turn your back on Jehovah. I raised you in the Truth. How can you turn your back on us and on Jehovah by leaving His organization?
SON: Dad, I love Jehovah! That’s why I’m leaving the Watchtower organization; because it isn’t His. It’s just a group of men claiming to represent God.
FATHER: I happen to know that it is God’s organization, son. I proved it to myself when I left the Catholic Church before you were born. The Truth is so precious to me, Johnny. Please don’t turn your back on us and Jehovah by leaving His organization!
SON: But, Dad, didn’t you tell me Grandpa said the same thing to you when you left the Church – that you were ‘leaving God’?
FATHER: Yes, Son, but this is different. You know apostate Christendom doesn’t have the Truth! Aren’t the churches worse than some of the faults you see in our brothers? Why don’t you just have patience with the organization? If something is wrong, Jehovah will send “new light” to clear it up in His timing. Our responsibility is to patiently remain loyal to his “channel” of communication. 1
SON: Dad, you say to have patience with the organization, but the organization doesn’t have patience. If ninety percent of Russell’s teachings were wrong and much of what the Jehovah’s Witnesses now call “the Truth” has changed in the last fifty years, how can we point our finger at Christendom when we didn’t have the truth all those years either?
FATHER: I wouldn’t say we didn’t have the truth, son. It’s just that the truth needed refining. We should be grateful that the Society is humble enough to admit its mistakes and receive “new light” from Jehovah. This is proof that Jehovah is leading us. 2.
SON: But Dad, do you remember the Watchtower article on the Society’s “Progressive Understanding of ‘the Superior Authorities’ ” in Romans 13:1? In that article, the Society explained how back in 1886, Charles Russell “correctly identified ‘the higher powers,’ or ‘the superior authorities,’ mentioned by the apostle Paul, as human governmental authorities.” 3. Then in 1929, the Society received “new light” and changed their interpretation of this passage to teach that “the higher powers must be Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.” And then again in 1961, the Society’s “new light” caused them to change back to the original view that Jehovah’s Witnesses believed before 1929 and which they currently teach—“that the term ‘superior authorities’ referred, not to the Supreme Authority, Jehovah, and to his Son, Jesus, but to human governmental authorities.” 4. How can “truth” change back and forth like this? When they go back to the original view and call it “new light,” how can this be evidence that Jehovah is leading them? Rather than being “new light,” dad, this sounds to me like the “light” is flicking on and off.
FATHER: Son, do you remember the Watchtower article on how “new light” is like a ship “tacking into the wind”? In this article, the Society states: “At times explanations given by Jehovah’s visible organization have shown adjustments, seemingly to previous points of view. But this has not actually been the case.” 5. The Society went on to explain that just like a ship swerves right and left as it is progressing toward its destination in spite of contrary winds, the “new light” they receive is like “tacking into the wind” of spiritual truth. So you see, Son, these changes are evidence that Jehovah is leading us.
SON: Dad, when a ship is tacking into the wind, does it ever turn one hundred eighty degrees and go in the total opposite direction?
FATHER: Well, no, Son, but the Society has never changed their view so much that they taught the opposite of their original position, have they?
SON: Yes, they have, Dad. Did you ever notice the change between the Society’s 1982 and 1989 editions of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth? On page 179 of the 1982 edition, they state: “By saying this, Jesus showed that at least some of the unrighteous people of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah will be present on earth during Judgment Day. Although they had been very immoral, we can expect that some of them will be resurrected.” So in the 1982 edition, the Society is saying that the Sodomites would be resurrected, but now we turn to the same page in the 1989 edition and it reads: “Will such terribly wicked persons be resurrected during Judgment Day? The Scriptures indicate that apparently they will not.…Yes, for their excessive immorality the people of Sodom and of the surrounding cities suffered a destruction from which they will apparently never be resurrected.” So, Dad, which is it? Will the Sodomites be resurrected or will they not? You call this “tacking in to the wind”?
FATHER: OK, Son; so they did teach the total opposite of their original position, but couldn’t this be “new light”?
SON: Well, maybe we could call this “new light” if they weren’t returning to their old light taught way back in 1952. In the Watchtower article of June 1, 1952, page 338, the Society stated that the Sodomites fate was sealed and that there would be no “future judgment” in which they would be resurrected. So, can you see, Dad, how the Society is actually putting forth old light and calling it “new light” to excuse their doctrinal flip-flops?
FATHER: I – I don’t know, Son. . . All I know is that Jehovah has always used an organization to lead his people. Just look at the Israelites. Jehovah God appointed Moses and the priests of Aaron to lead His people and when that organization became corrupt at the time of Christ, He organized a governing body of anointed Christians to take its place. You see, Jehovah always takes care of His loyal people, even if an organization becomes corrupt.
FATHER: Yes, Son?
SON: If the disciples had been loyal to Jehovah’s organization of their day, would they have followed Jesus?
Friends, loyalty to a counterfeit is disloyalty to Jehovah God. Just as the disciples of Jesus’ day had to make a decision between following an organization or following the One who is “the Truth” — Jesus Himself —so today the “Truth” is not found in a religious organization, but in the One who said: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” 6.
Throughout history, God’s prophets have found themselves outcasts, reproved and disfellowshipped by governmental and priestly organizations. The prophet Jeremiah was accused of disloyalty when He urged His fellow brothers to leave the “organization” of his day and told them that “everyone remaining in Jerusalem would die…but anyone surrendering to the Babylonians would live.” 7. Those loyal to the organization viewed Jeremiah as an apostate rebel and turned a deaf ear to his advice. Rather than join with the Babylonians as God commanded, they felt safer staying within Jerusalem, the headquarters of Jehovah’s organization. But the prophet Jeremiah warned them: “Do not put trust in lying phrases, ‘Jehovah’s Temple…they are.’ ” 8.
The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s words proved that there are times when men must chose between loyalty to an organization and loyalty to God Himself. So, while Jehovah has always had faithful individuals on earth, the organizations claiming to represent Him have often failed to live up to their names. In fact, such self-serving power structures have often become the persecutors of individuals faithful to God. An organization did not die to pay your sin debt, nor will an organization intercede before Jehovah God on your behalf. Where you spend eternity depends on your relationship with a person — Jesus Himself—not an organization. You can indeed serve Jehovah without the Watchtower. 9.
1. See The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p. 590
2. See The Watchtower, March 15, 2000, pp. 12, 14
3. The Watchtower, May 1, 1996, p. 13
4. The Watchtower, May 1, 1996, p. 14
5. The Watchtower, December 1, 1981, p. 27
6. John 14:6, New American Standard Bible
7. Jeremiah 38:2, The Living Bible
8. Jeremiah 7:4, Byington Bible
9. Closing comments for this dialogue were taken from the Comments from the Friends article entitled “Don’t Leave Jehovah…”, Comments from the Friends, January-March 1998, vol XVII. No. 1, pp. 2-4 (Comments from the Friends, PO Box 819, Assonet, MA 02702 – www.cftf.com)