Struggling with Scripture
(Part 1 of 4)
As angelically beautiful as Michael Joseph Jackson was in doing all he did in behalf people of all races everywhere, he would've been the first tell you he wasn't a messianic figure with special inspiration from God. There are millions of fans, however, who would respectfully disagree with the out-of-this-world Moonwalker. Whatever the case, "God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name." (Hebrews 6:10, New World Translation) But MJ struggled with how the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses sees itself. While it states emphatically that it's neither inspired nor infallible, it does claim to be "spirit-directed."
"God's Spirit-Directed Organization"?: About 22 times since 1980 the Watchtower magazine and other Witness publications have used the expression "spirit-directed organization" with reference to Jehovah's Witnesses. In plain language, this is ultimately understood to mean that seven men making up the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses are directed by God's holy spirit. But, interestingly, some have noted that the term "spirit-directed" has never been clearly defined in Witness literature. Further, one would be hard-pressed to find a Scriptural basis for the term.
Others are troubled, however, that the Governing Body equates "spirit-directed" with inspiration and infallibility.
The Fuss over Afflatus: The basic meaning of afflatus is "divine inspiration." The Governing Body renounces the thought of being 'divinely inspired.' The council describes itself thusly: "The Governing Body consists of a group of anointed Christian men...These preside over the worldwide activities of Jehovah's Witnesses. They are not inspired by God and hence are not infallible." (Jehovah's Witnesses--Unitedly Doing God's Will Worldwide, 1986) So it's plain that it doesn't claim inspiration or infallibility. What about the average Witness?
"In most ways Jehovah's Witnesses are like everyone else. They have normal problems--economic, physical, emotional. They make mistakes at times, for they are not perfect, inspired, or infallible." (Jehovah's Witnesses--Who Are They? What Do They Believe?, 2000) So your typical everyday Witness isn't inspired or infallible either. What about Witness literature? "Jehovah's Witnesses today recognize the Watchtower magazine and kindred publications to be the ones used by the faithful and discreet slave to dispense spiritual food. They do not claim that this slave class is infallible." (Jehovah's Witnesses--Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, 1993) The Governing Body represents a small group of Witnesses slated for heaven who, along with the Body, comprises the composite "faithful and discreet slave" (or "slave class") of one of Jesus' parables. (Matthew 24:45, NWT) So, what's all the fuss?
A Proclamation of Inspiration?: "Out of one corner of their mouth they say they're not inspired; but out of the other they say they are," complains "Rodney." What he's saying is that the Body believes what they write is in reality inspired-it just uses what "Tristan" calls the "unscriptural" term "spirit-directed" instead. Concerned ones who sympathize with Rodney note some rather interesting references in Witness publications.
For example, of the first-century "apostles and older men" (who the Witnesses identify as the "governing body" of that period), the Governing Body speaks of the "spirit-directed decree of the apostles and older men" (Watchtower, March 15, 1986); "spirit-directed body [that] ruled on doctrinal questions in the first century" (Watchtower, September 1, 1986); "spirit-directed decision of the governing body on circumcision." (Watchtower, September 15, 1972) The Body also professes that the "deliberations ["of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem"] were spirit-directed" (Watchtower, May 15, 1986); and that the apostles wrote "a spirit-directed letter" (Watchtower, February 15, 1979). Perhaps most telling to some is the mention of "the spirit-directed words of Jesus Christ" (Watchtower, May 15, 2003).
There is also the "spirit-directed counsel that Paul wrote" (Watchtower, March 1, 1972); and the "spirit-directed counsel" found in the Bible (Watchtower, January 1, 1968). "Carol" asserts: "But what the apostles and older men at Jerusalem wrote was inspired. The message transmitted from Jehovah to Jesus to an angel to John was inspired!"
The Governing Body says that the apostles and "older men were not infallible" (United in Worship of the Only True God, 1983; see also Worship the Only True God (2002), p. 131, par. 9; and The Watchtower, June 15, 2008, p. 21, par. 15). "Don't you see what they're saying?," laments Jerry. "GB members today are infallible too. But what they write--like the apostles and elders--is inspired, as far as they're concerned!" A fair assessment? Stay tuned for Part 2!