Tested and Found Wanting!

Every industry has a quality control section. There, the shelf-life, microbial load, purity and safety levels of the product are assessed. There is usually a standard chart against which the product’s qualities are compared. If there is a breach in this process, it poses a great danger to the consumers and the integrity of the organization will plummet.

In the field of religion, the testing of truth claims is essential. The more gnomic the claims religious leaders make, the more they should be held up to scrutiny. The Watchtower Society is one organization headed by a Governing Body with such exclusive claims:

“[W]hen the Master arrived, he found his faithful slave conscientiously feeding the domestics as well as preaching the good news. Greater responsibility now awaited that slave. Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:4) Jesus did this in 1919, after the slave had passed through a period of testing” (The Watchtower, March 1, 2004, 12).

“While all anointed Christians collectively form God’s household, there is abundant evidence that Christ chose a small number of men out of the slave class to serve as a visible governing body. The early history of the congregation shows that the 12 apostles, including Matthias, were the foundation of the first-century governing body” (The Watchtower, March 15, 1990, 11).

“Naturally, all elders must submit to Christ’s right hand of control, guidance, and direction, which he exercises by means of the spirit and the spirit-begotten members of the Governing Body” (The Watchtower August 1, 1987, 19).

It’s on the bases of their claims as God “faithful and discreet slave,” “Christ’s right hand of control” and “spirit begotten” successors of the 12 apostles that the Watchtower leadership demands blind loyalty and absolute obedience from millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. JWs are forbidden to pit their reasoning, opinions, personal feelings or harbour private understanding of the Bible against this Society.

They are not allowed to test this authoritarian leadership; they have no quality standard to asses whether they are being led by true or false leaders but are made to believe that everyone outside “Jehovah’s organization” is a false teacher:

No matter what false teachers may say, we must not follow them! Why go to such dried up wells, only to be deceived and disappointed? Instead, let us be determined to remain loyal to Jehovah and to the organization…” (The Watchtower, July 2011, 17).

By using pronouns “we” and “us” the Watchtower subtly conditions JWs into a groupthink. Since the Witness has already taken the epistemological leap of embracing the Society as Jehovah’s organization, he/she is precluded from asking the real questions: What really makes our leaders true teachers and the outsiders false? Where are the “abundant evidence” underpinning the Watchtower leadership’s special claims?

In a study edition of The Watchtower, they are told:

How can we protect ourselves against false teachers? The Bible’s counsel regarding how to deal with them is clear. (Read Romans 16:17; 2 John 9-11) “Avoid them,” says God’s Word. Other translations render the phrase “turn away from them,” “keep away from them,” and “stay away from them.” There is nothing ambiguous about that inspired counsel” (July 15, 2011, 16).

Notice that the real question has been moved back one step: how to detect false teachers. If we are directly warned to avoid them, then there must be ways to identify them before we turn away from them. The Watchtower magazine was curiously silent about this crucial aspect. That’s not a coincidence; it’s a tactic of institutional self-preservation.

It further says: “When we learn that Jehovah disapproves of something that we enjoy, for example, our initial reaction might be to rebel. That indicates that we need to make progress in the realm of being “ready to obey.” (James 3:17) In this article, we will review a few areas in which our willingness to fit in with God’s purpose to be obedient from the heart – would be put to test” (p. 28).

Nothing is still said about how false teachers can be discerned, instead, the moral responsibility of being “put to the test” is shifted back on the individual JW to “keep pace with Jehovah’s organization” (p. 29). The words “put to test” comes from Revelation 2:2 which says:

“I know your deeds and your labor and endurance and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles; but they are not and you found them liars” (NWT).

This verse unequivocally stresses the necessity of Christians to test those who claim to be apostles, yet the magazine doesn’t quote it. The term apostle means “a sent one” and it’s technically identical to the claims made by Watchtower leaders – of being Jehovah’s mouthpiece and “the faithful slave” sent by Christ to feed the people. If they were truly appointed by Christ since 1919 then they must be tested just as the early Christians tested those claiming to be apostles. And if found to be liars, they should be rejected.

Until a Jehovah’s Witness does this, he/she has no yardstick of determining whether he has been feeding on pure lies or a mixture of truth and lies. But Watchtower leaders don’t want to tested and found wanting, so they de-emphasize Revelation 2:2 in their materials such that JWs will seldom encounter it let alone apply it – unless they directly read the Bible. The Watchtower 2006 library CD shows that Revelation 2:2 has been quoted a total of only six times in Watchtower literature from 1950-2006.

In almost every instance, the text is so remotely interpreted that its real meaning is somewhat muddled. Below are 3 examples of their explanations after quoting the verse:

(I) “We can see that the apostles, during the ‘last hour’ of apostolic care on earth, stood in the way, preventing the organizing of the ‘mystery of this lawlessness’ into a corporate body, the ‘man of lawlessness’ (The Watchtower April 15, 1957, 253).

In the verse Jesus was commending the Ephesian believers for testing those claiming to be false apostles. But The Watchtower avoids talking about this but applies it to a singular figure: “the man of lawlessness.”

(II) “Faithful ones soon find that the speech and conduct of these deceivers do not ring true. Like the Ephesians, Christians today “cannot bear bad men” so they disfellowship them from their congregations” (Revelation – Its Grand Climax at Hand! 1988, 34).

They deflected the verse to apply to individuals who didn’t claim to be Christ’s right hand of control or Spirit anointed leaders instead of the Governing Body of the Society.

(III) “Today, congregations of Jesus’ true followers have a similar record of good deeds, hard work and endurance. They do not put up with false brothers who want to be viewed as apostles. (2 Corinthians 11:13, 26) Like the Ephesians, loyal Christians today “cannot bear bad men.” To maintain the purity of Jehovah’s worship and to protect the congregation, therefore, they do not extend the hand of fellowship to unrepentant apostates” – Galatians 2:4, 5; 2 John 8-11 (The Watchtower May 15, 2003, 12)

Again, the text is flipped around and placed on ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses (“apostates”). But these individuals have not claimed to be apostles or their successors. For some people to have claimed to be apostles in the 1st century implied they were in leadership positions so what we see here is a classic shell game to hide the truth.

People who make special claims must be tested and critically assessed before being accepted as true teachers/leaders. The Bible is clear on this testing:

a) Deut. 18:22 says “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken.” Leaders who truly speaking for God give accurate prophecies, but the Watchtower leadership have given many false prophecies.

b) Gal. 1:8 says “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” The Gospel revolves around the death and resurrection of Christ but Watchtower leadership preaches a false gospel and a false Christ.

c) Isa. 8:20 says “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” True teachers teach in harmony with the Bible, whereas Watchtower leadership teach doctrines that conflict with plain Bible teachings.

d) Matt. 7:15-16 say “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them….” True teachers bear godly fruit but Watchtower leadership has historically and presently borne the fruitage of falsehood, hypocrisy, cruelty, sexual depravity and hate.

e) 1 Pet. 5:3 says to church leaders: “not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” Godly leaders lead by example, personal growth and gentleness, but the Watchtower leadership lords it over JWs, binding heavy burdens on them, forbidding them from independent thinking and holding their leaders accountable.

An outgrowth of all man-centred, authoritarian leaderships is exemplified by the Society’s desperate efforts at mentally and spiritually subjugating JWs, demanding they have “complete confidence” in whatever the organization reveals. This is like consuming food and drinks that haven’t passed through quality control on the leverage of blind faith and sentiment. The spiritual consequences of such stupor is perilous.

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Switching Baca into Mecca

In a desperate attempt to biblically legitimise their pilgrimage to Mecca, some Muslim apologists quote Psalm 84:5-6

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”

In Sura 3:96, the Quran uses the name “Bekka” (or Bakka) for Mecca: “The first House established for the people was that at Bekka, a place holy, and a guidance to all beings.” For this reason, Muslims argue that Psalm 84 is talking about pilgrimage to Mecca, consequently identifying Yahweh with the Allah of Islam. I have encountered this argument a number of times from Muslims, but it’s absolutely false on several levels.

First of all, the Hebrew word in vs. 5 is mesillot and it means “ways” or “highway” not pilgrimage. The Hebrew word “mesillot” has no linguistic link whatsoever with the Arabic word “hajj.” Furthermore vs. 7 says “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God IN ZION.” This simply means that the destination of the people mentioned in vs. 5 – if we take it literally – is Zion which is Jerusalem, not Mecca or Arabia.

According to Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the valley of Baca mentioned in the verse is “a valley in Canaan, thought by some scholars to be the same place as the Valley of Rephaim (2 Sam. 5:22-24; Ps. 84:6)” (ed. Ronald Youngblood, Thomas Nelson, 1995, 153).

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. 1, 402) says of Baca: “Hebrew: baka (Ps. 84:6); NEB ‘thirsty valley.’ A valley so named because it contained trees that exuded resins or gums, perhaps several species of balsam. The valley of Rephaim has been suggested, but the identification is uncertain (cf. S. 5:23f; 1 Ch. 14:14f).”

The Lion Handbook to the Bible (1983, p. 344) says “Baca: possibly an actual valley the pilgrim passes on his way to Jerusalem. But New English Bible ‘the thirsty valley’ gives the sense.” Scholars point out that the Hebrew word ba-kha comes from a root meaning “weep” (cf. Gen. 21:16). It therefore seems to indicate a plant, shrub or tree producing gums or its usage may have been symbolic of the valley of weeping. To suggest that Baca in the Bible means Mecca is not only a phonetic fallacy, but also based on ignorance and mischief.

One Muslim quoted John 4:19-21 as “proof of hajj in the Bible” but reading the proceeding verses blows his theory into shreds:

22 “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

This is the reason Christians don’t face a black stone, temple or a particular direction during prayer. That’s why we don’t need to travel to Jerusalem, Mecca or Rome in order to worship God, because true worship is spiritual and founded on truth. Spiritual worship is not based on a geographical location or rituals. African Muslims have better stones in their countries, cities and towns, but they are still mandated to spend so much money and risk their lives to travel to dance around and kiss a dirty Arabian stone. They are even promised a first class ticket to paradise if they die in Mecca. Such gross deceptions and nationalistic fetish is an exploitation of ignorance.

The Greek word for “worship” in John 4 is “proskunountas” and it means “to do reference to” (Strong #4352). It never means “hajj” or pilgrimage. Even more than a point, the Allah of Islam is not a “Father” much less “Spirit.” It’s blasphemy to address him so in Islam. Therefore, any Muslim trotting out these verses is shooting himself in the leg theologically.

Muslims also quote Micah 4:1-2:
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, ‘Come let us go to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”

This prophecy is also repeated in Isaiah 2:2-4. This is speaking of the earthly millennial rule of Christ from Jerusalem. Nothing here or elsewhere speaks of pilgrimage to Mecca. In fact, this can’t be the same as “the Valley of Baca.”

On one hand, Muslims claim that “the Bible has been corrupted” but when they want to trace the ‘history’ of their religion, they don’t go to the Vedas or Puranas, they go straight to the Bible they claim is “corrupted.” So, with a semantic juggling at one point, a partial quotation at another and brazen interpolations elsewhere, the Muslim is compelled to uphold the myths of the Quran or the entire raft of his religion crumbles!