Appendix 2. Warning and reservations of the Watchtower Society
Warning about changed teachings
The Watchtower Society threatens its publishers that they will have to leave the organization if they do not receive the new teachings introduced by the Society:
Wrong attitudes, beliefs, and practices have gradually been cleared out, and any who have chosen to cling to these have gone with them. (Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom 1993 p. 641).
Interestingly, the organization in the same publication claims that it does not “introduce new doctrines”:
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES have not set out to introduce new doctrines, a new way of worship, a new religion. Instead, their modern-day history reflects conscientious effort to teach what is found in the Bible, the inspired Word of God. (Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom 1993 p. 120).
The Watchtower Society also writes that it ‘corrects’ its teachings in order to conform them to the first-century Christians’ beliefs (!):
Adjustments in viewpoint are never made with a view to becoming more acceptable to the world by adopting its declining moral values. On the contrary, the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses shows that changes are made with a view to adhering even more closely to the Bible, being more like the faithful first-century Christians, and so being more acceptable to God. (Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom 1993 p. 148).
Statements regarding doctrinal changes in the past
C.T. Russell, “present truth” and “new light”
Did they believe that they had all the answers, the full light of truth? To that question Brother Russell pointedly answered: “Certainly not; nor will we have until the ‘perfect day.’” (Prov. 4:18, KJ) Frequently they referred to their Scriptural beliefs as “present truth”—not with any idea that truth itself changes but rather with the thought that their understanding of it was progressive. (Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom 1993 p. 121).
It was known as the “New Light” Church because those who associated there felt that as a result of reading Watch Tower publications, they had new light on the Bible. (Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom 1993 p. 319).
Doctrinal changes in the years 1919-1931
The waters begin to flow through the channel of the “slave” class from their restoration in 1919. (...) So in these latter days of fulfillment a periodic survey of every three years shows a steady increasing in the spiritual depth and clarity of the published waters of truth by the Watch Tower Society. The trickle published in 1919 was “ankle” deep, so to speak, by 1922, then an increased depth of spirituality and vision was had by 1925, followed by the great flood of new light published by 1928, to be capped by 1931 with the overwhelming flow of Biblical enlightenment. All who have been connected with the Watch Tower Society since 1931 can abundantly testify that since then the waters of truth have been published in such quantity and so fast through the Watchtower magazine and other Watch Tower publications that one has to figuratively “swim” to try to keep abreast. (The Watchtower July 15, 1960 p. 441).
“Anxious for new light”
This organization is always probing and studying to find solid foundations in the Scriptures for its beliefs and as the light increases the foundations of our beliefs become stronger and stronger. We have ears to hear a clarified truth, not ears that refuse to hear. We have eyes to see the increased light, not eyes that refuse to see. We are anxious for new light and for new “food at the proper time.” This Jehovah supplies, not through individuals, but through his organization. (Prov. 3:5, 6) (The Watchtower October 15, 1954 p. 639).
What is the truth?
At times there are changes in viewpoint on Biblical subjects discussed in the Watch Tower Society’s publications. We speak of what we believe as “the truth.” But does “truth” change? (...) It is to be expected, then, that at times there may be changes in viewpoint. Our basic belief may be sound Scriptural truth, but there may be some details that we did not fully understand in the past. In time, with the aid of Jehovah’s spirit, we get those matters cleared up. For example, a few years ago we had a fine series of articles in The Watchtower on the “superior authorities.” (...) However, by careful scrutiny of the Scriptures we have come to appreciate that certain Bible texts ought to be applied in a different way. For example, we realized that the “superior authorities” mentioned in Romans 13:1 are, not Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, but the political rulers. That is also true of Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13, 14. Yet the basic truth is unchanged. Our viewpoint toward God and toward the State is the same as before. Similarly with our study of the resurrection. (...) We believed that many more would be resurrected as humans; that some of them would be persons who had faithfully served God in the past, and that others would be those who had lived ‘unrighteously.’ We also believed that a great educational work would take place when they would be raised. Those truths have not changed. But now we see that, according to the Scriptures, more are to return than we expected. So, rather than setting aside the truth of the resurrection, it has been magnified, and our appreciation of Jehovah’s love and mercy in providing for the resurrection has been enhanced. (The Watchtower October 1, 1966 pp. 607-608).
How does Jehovah’s spirit help the “faithful and discreet slave” arrive at the truth of a matter? The Society does not claim infallibility or inspiration. How much is dependent upon the written Word? How can we be sure that this is the organization Jehovah is using when some things are published and later changed? (...) In regard to how the truth is brought forth through Jehovah’s organization, please note that if the Watch Tower Society were infallible there would be no need for future correction of viewpoints held; but because it is not infallible and has never claimed to be, from time to time corrections are necessary. If Jehovah’s spirit operated in the way it did upon Bible writers, inspiring them to write according to Jehovah’s thoughts, then no future corrections in matters would ever be necessary. (...) While the light is still dim the broad outline of an object may be visible but the details of it are not always distinct, and as the light increases these details may be seen with more clarity and a corrected view is obtained. Full dependence is placed upon Jehovah’s Word in the formulation of truth and it is from his Word that proof should be forthcoming. However, with greater clarity and understanding, new truths are discerned and something that previously appeared very logical may require revision. Jehovah did not say that the entire matter would be seen in crystal clarity instantaneously. With these last days in mind, Jesus spoke of the “faithful and discreet slave” that would be appointed to bring forth “food at the proper time.” (Matt. 24:45, NW) This is a progressive process, food being continually provided, and as we advance in the stream of time and observe further fulfillment of prophecy new truths are discerned and brought forth and constitute fresh and nourishing food for our day. Some truths were not essential for us prior to the time of their discernment, otherwise Jehovah would have caused them to become known earlier. Even the erroneous viewpoints held by Jehovah’s witnesses during the first world war served their purpose in contributing to the fulfillment of prophecy, for Jehovah had long ago foretold a condition of spiritual uncleanness upon his people at that particular time and the cleansing work that would be done. Hence such things are to be expected according to prophecy and their occurrence is a confirmation that this is Jehovah’s organization, rather than a cause for raising question concerning Jehovah’s use of the organization. Jehovah uses this organization because it is meek and teachable and is not set and bound in its viewpoints. It is an organization that looks to Jehovah for guidance and direction and watches his maneuvering of matters on the world scene and the outworking of events that fulfill prophecy and it lines up its views in accord with these things. It is willing to change and keep up with the developing conditions, to keep up with the light as the light is revealed brighter and brighter. That is why Jehovah can use this organization, and certainly the facts show that he has been using it and is continuing to use it. He is bringing the increase. He is using this organization to preach the good news of the established Kingdom in all the inhabited earth. Prophecies are being fulfilled upon this group. We are counseled to remain close to the organization, for even if the organization does have views that are later changed, our safety lies in remaining within the organization and changing with it when the light increases and new truths are discerned. No other organization has shown this flexibility to alter its views, to keep up with the changing times, to be alert to the increased light that comes from Jehovah from the temple, for other groups are bound by their centuries-old creeds. Rather than a stumbling stone, the Society’s readiness to alter its views when necessary should be a source of comfort and encouragement, an assurance that there will be continual advancement and increase in learning, an ever-brightening light as we approach closer to the perfect day with its noonday brightness. A false religion may have some truth in it, but it never gets rid of its many falsehoods and the truth it does have continues to be contaminated. With Jehovah’s organization the beliefs can be established from the Bible, and when some erroneous view does creep in it is soon ferreted out and discarded. An analogy might be drawn between the first and the second presence of Christ Jesus. At his first advent certainly the apostles at first thought he would be an entirely earthly King and that the kingdom would be earthly. Only after Pentecost did they learn that it was to be a heavenly kingdom. Prior to that time they could not discern this truth, and they entertained a false idea, as shown by Acts 1:6-8 (NW): “(...)” Likewise it was some time until they saw clearly that they were no longer under the Mosaic law as such, as shown by Acts chapter 15. But that did not mean that they were not Jehovah’s servants and his channel for bringing the truth to the people. So we should not stumble because the same is true today. In fact, this ability to discard the erroneous as the light increases marks the difference between Jehovah’s true worshipers and the false religions of Christendom. When it can be clearly shown from the Bible that an idea once held does not have sufficient Scriptural support and that a different viewpoint has the weight of Bible testimony behind it, then the new viewpoint is adopted and the former understanding is set aside. (The Watchtower October 15, 1954 pp. 638-639).
Authors of the Watchtower Society’s publications were “never inspired, never perfect”
Because of this hope, the “faithful and discreet slave” has alerted all of God’s people to the sign of the times indicating the nearness of God’s Kingdom rule. In this regard, however, it must be observed that this “faithful and discreet slave” was never inspired, never perfect. Those writings by certain members of the “slave” class that came to form the Christian part of God’s Word were inspired and infallible, but that is not true of other writings since. Things published were not perfect in the days of Charles Taze Russell, first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society; nor were they perfect in the days of J. F. Rutherford, the succeeding president. The increasing light on God’s Word as well as the facts of history have repeatedly required that adjustments of one kind or another be made down to the very present time. But let us never forget that the motives of this “slave” were always pure, unselfish; at all times it has been well-meaning. (The Watchtower March 1, 1979 pp. 23-24).
Constant need for further amendments
Let it be noted, too, that when a subject is considered more than once there are often new angles, new points of view, additional insights, more and effective presentations. (The Watchtower November 15, 1981 p. 28).
Such adjustments become necessary from time to time, for Proverbs 4:18 tells us that “the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” Oh, apostate opposers of truth “gnash their teeth” at such progressive revelations, but this does not disturb us. (The Watchtower February 15, 1984 p. 11).
For example, occasionally there are changes in our understanding of certain Bible passages or prophecies. “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established,” says the Bible at Proverbs 4:18. Some, however, are disturbed by these refinements. But the “righteous ones” take the time to meditate and absorb these new Biblical truths, instead of hastily concluding that the ‘faithful slave’ has erred. (The Watchtower February 1, 1984 p. 29).
Of course, such adjustments as to unclean practices have often served as a test of loyalty for God’s people. (...) Year after year Jehovah continues to refine and cleanse his people. Collectively, they have subjected themselves to the refining process as to their organization, activity, doctrine, and moral cleanness. (The Watchtower June 15, 1987 p. 20).
The modern-day organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has remained sensitive to the leadings of God’s holy spirit for well over a century now. As Jehovah’s spirit progressively enlightens their spiritual vision, the Witnesses willingly make the needed adjustments to conform to updated understanding.—Proverbs 4:18. (The Watchtower October 1, 2000 p. 10).
At the same time, we recognize that our knowledge of God’s purpose is not perfect; our understanding has undergone adjustments over the years. Loyal Christians are content to wait on Jehovah for all such refinements. (Proverbs 4:18) Meanwhile, we will not abandon the organization that God is pleased to use, for we see the clear evidence of his blessing upon it. (The Watchtower February 15, 2004 p. 17).
When adjustments are made in explanation of Bible texts or in how things are done, we want to accept them. We are delighted to see evidence that the spiritual light is still increasing. (Prov. 4:18) If we find it hard to understand a change, we ask Jehovah to help us to comprehend the point. Meanwhile, we endure in an obedient course, keeping our integrity. (The Watchtower December 15, 2008 p. 10).
To this day, Jehovah leads his people progressively. (Prov. 4:18) By means of his holy spirit, he is guiding “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) At times, we may receive clarifications in our understanding of God’s Word or changes in certain organizational procedures. We do well to ask ourselves: ‘How do I respond to such refinements? Do I submit to the leadings of God’s spirit in these matters?’ (“Bearing Thorough Witness” About God’s Kingdom 2009 p. 71).
David A. Reed, a former elder in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, very aptly commented the referring by the Watchtower Society to the Book of Proverbs 4:18:
Yes, the “new light” argument is a clever shield the Watchtower Society uses to plead not guilty in one situation after another. It is the equivalent of a child answering back, “What I said before doesn’t count, because I had my fingers crossed.” This religious king’s X loses its power, however, when examined more closely.
The idea is based on an interpretation of Proverbs 4:18 which reads, “But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” ( NWT ) In context this is not a justification for doctrinal changes at all, but rather a contrast with “the path of the wicked.” (verse 14) “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.” (verse 19) The context fails to justify the interpretation JWs place on verse 18.
Essential to the JW theory of “light getting brighter” is the obvious requirement that any light from God must be true, regardless of whether it is old light or new light, since Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Watchtower founder Charles Taze Russell acknowledged this shortly after he left the Adventist group he had been associated with and started his own religious magazine. The Adventists had always been coming up with “new light” to explain prophetic failures and other changes in beliefs. Russell’s new magazine denounced that practice. It said:
If we were following a man undoubtedly it would be different with us; undoubtedly one human idea would contradict another and that which was light one or two or six years ago would be regarded as darkness now; extinguishes older “light,” but adds to it. — Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1881, page 3
We agree with the conclusion presented by David Reed that the Book of Proverbs 4:18 refers to the ethical aspect of believers’ life. It applies to the growth of sanctification of a godly person, which – as we know from the New Testament – will find its final when during the perfect day after the return of Christ, a faithful will enter the eternal glory.
Reservations and announcements regarding doctrinal changes in the future
“Tacking” and returning to the starting point
However, it may have seemed to some as though that path has not always gone straight forward. 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. This might be compared to what is known in navigational circles as “tacking.” By maneuvering the sails the sailors can cause a ship to go from right to left, back and forth, but all the time making progress toward their destination in spite of contrary winds. And that goal in view for Jehovah’s servants is the “new heavens and a new earth” of God’s promise.—2 Pet. 3:13. (The Watchtower December 1, 1981 p. 27).
Announcements of changes
As these men continue to study the Bible and observe the progressive outworking of God’s purposes, the fulfillment of prophecy in world events, and the situation of God’s people in the world, they may at times find it necessary to make enlightened adjustments in the understanding of some teachings. In this way, knowledge of truth becomes ever more abundant. (Jehovah’s Witnesses—Unitedly Doing God’s Will Worldwide 1986 pp. 26-27).
We can see, though, that the passing of time and the increase in spiritual light can broaden and alter our understanding of prophecy or of Bible dramas.—Proverbs 4:18. (The Watchtower August 15, 1990 pp. 30-31).
Why have there been changes over the years in the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses? (...) Increased knowledge often requires adjustments in one’s thinking. Jehovah’s Witnesses are willing humbly to make such adjustments. (Reasoning From the Scriptures 1989 p. 205).
Increasing flow of newer truths
While they will never enter the antitypical Holy, the great crowd of foreigners learn valuable lessons from its furnishings. Just as the lampstand needed a constant supply of oil, so the foreigners need holy spirit to help them grasp progressive truths from God’s Word, channeled through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (The Watchtower July 1, 1996 p. 21).
So when our view of a Bible passage is clarified, let us rejoice in advancing truth! Really, our continuing to be enlightened confirms that we are on the right path. (...) True, at present we see some aspects of God’s purpose “in hazy outline.” But when God’s due time arrives, we will see the truth in all its beauty, provided that our feet have remained firmly planted on “the path.” In the meantime, may we exult in the truths that Jehovah has made plain, awaiting enlightenment on those that are not yet clearly understood. (The Watchtower March 15, 2000 p. 14).
We, then, must avoid the snare of jealously trying to protect our own cherished ideas or ways that are not solidly based on God’s Word. We do well to accept the fresh light shed on the Word of God through the channel that Jehovah is using today. (The Watchtower October 15, 2002 p. 30).
Increasing light from Jehovah continues to illuminate the path of his people. It refines them organizationally, doctrinally, and morally. (The Watchtower February 15, 2006 p. 26).
Some things mentioned in the Bible may not be fully understood now because it is not yet Jehovah’s due time for making them clear. (The Watchtower September 15, 2013 p. 14).
Beware of outdated publications and teachings
Realize, too, that some points in older publications of ours may have been updated, so consider what has most recently been published on the topic. (Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education 2001 p. 38 [the earlier handbook gives other motives for studying the older publications: And have you read the older publications of the Society in your language? To the extent that you can make time to read the material, there is a blessing in store for you. – Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook 1992 p. 21]).
Teachings from the Watchtower Society’s publications come from God, but the message does not come from America?
If one does not believe The Watchtower is used by the Lord to transmit to his people the truth, then that one should not attempt to serve in God’s organization. If he does believe that the Lord uses The Watchtower to dispense his truth to his people, then in order to be faithful he will be diligent in carrying out the instructions of the organization and will give consideration to the subjects that are set forth in The Watchtower. (The Watchtower March 1, 1936 p. 73).
The Governing Body publishes spiritually encouraging literature in many languages. This spiritual food is based on God’s Word. Thus, what is taught is not from men but from Jehovah.—Isa. 54:13. (The Watchtower September 15, 2010 p. 13).
So, today, the message of Jehovah’s witnesses comes, not from America, but from the Most High God, delivered to faithful men by Jehovah God through the operation of his holy spirit. The truth is not an American message, though, as a matter of convenience and practical handling of the activities of the Society, the headquarters is in New York, one of the major shipping and trade centers of the earth today. (The Watchtower September 15, 1959 p. 558).
People cannot understand the true teachings without the assistance of organization, which is more important than the Bible
Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do. (The Watchtower December 1, 1981 p. 27).
Let us face the fact that no matter how much Bible reading we have done, we would never have learned the truth on our own. We would not have discovered the truth regarding Jehovah, his purposes and attributes, the meaning and importance of his name, the Kingdom, Jesus’ ransom, the difference between God’s organization and Satan’s, nor why God has permitted wickedness. (The Watchtower December 1, 1990 p. 19).
It is unlikely that someone who simply reads the Bible without taking advantage of divinely provided aids could discern the light. That is why Jehovah God has provided “the faithful and discreet slave,” foretold at Matthew 24:45-47. Today that “slave” is represented by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (The Watchtower May 1, 1992 p. 31).
They humbly acknowledge that were it not for the faithful and discreet slave, they would know little or nothing of precious Bible truths, such as Jehovah’s sovereignty, the sanctification of his name, the Kingdom, the new heavens and new earth, the soul, the condition of the dead, and the true identity of Jehovah, his Son, and the holy spirit. (The Watchtower April 1, 2007 p. 25).
We cannot hope to acquire a good relationship with Jehovah if we ignore those whom Jesus has appointed to care for his belongings. Without the assistance of “the faithful and discreet slave,” we would neither understand the full import of what we read in God’s Word nor know how to apply it. (Matt. 24:45-47) (The Watchtower September 15, 2010 p. 8).
Is knowledge of Jehovah’s Witnesses greater than that of the Apostles? Are JWs modern Gnostics?
When the Watchtower Society writes about the knowledge of the Gnostics, one has an impression that the organization writes about itself. Please, compare its texts:
The Gnostics (from the Greek word gno’sis, meaning “knowledge”) claimed superior knowledge through secret revelation and boasted that they were the “correctors of the apostles.” (The Watchtower July 15, 1990 p. 21).
Without a question of doubt the apostles understood the fundamental truths, mentioned above as being restored. It is also equally certain that there are many of the prophecies that they could not clearly understand, because it was not God’s due time to reveal them. One of these truths, in particular, was in reference to the Lord’s second coming, one which Jesus stated no man understood. (The Watchtower September 15, 1931 p. 284).
Instead of answering by telling them about every aspect of Kingdom rule, Jesus declared: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” (Acts 1:7) (...) So although limited in accurate knowledge about Kingdom truths, what they did know enabled them, as they waited, to ‘keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.’ (2 Pet. 3:12) Today, our knowledge of God’s Kingdom rule, what it is and what it will accomplish, is far more advanced, but still not entirely complete. (The Watchtower July 1, 1979 p. 27).
The similar statements were made by the organization before the expected year 1975:
One thing is absolutely certain, Bible chronology reinforced with fulfilled Bible prophecy shows that six thousand years of man’s existence will soon be up, yes, within this generation! (Matt. 24:34) This is, therefore, no time to be indifferent and complacent. This is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that “concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt. 24:36) To the contrary, it is a time when one should be keenly aware that the end of this system of things is rapidly coming to its violent end. Make no mistake, it is sufficient that the Father himself knows both the “day and hour”! Even if one cannot see beyond 1975, is this any reason to be less active? The apostles could not see even this far; they knew nothing about 1975. All they could see was a short time ahead in which to finish the work assigned to them. (1 Pet. 4:7) Hence, there was a ring of alarm and a cry of urgency in all their writings. (Acts 20:20; 2 Tim. 4:2) And rightly so. If they had delayed or dillydallied and had been complacent with the idea the end was some thousands of years off they would never have finished running the race set before them. (The Watchtower August 15, 1968 pp. 500-501).
David A. Reed, Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses Subject by Subject, chapter “New Light”, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, E-book edition created 2011, pp. 167-169.