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Is The Watchtower Society Too Controlling of Jehovah's Witnesses?

How the Governing Body and Elders Maintain Control over Jehovah's Witnesses


Most Jehovah's Witnesses will object when someone accuses the Watchtower Society of being too controlling. They say that members are free to leave whenever they like and that no one is forcing them to do anything. So how could any reasonable person accuse the Society of being too controlling unless the accuser is bitter about some past slight, envious of it's dedication to God, or simply misinformed?

In the world today, many are "headstrong, puffed up with pride," and some Christians have been influenced by that way of thinking. Some have even become opposers of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:4; Philippians 3:18) When it comes to pure worship, it is vital that we look to Jehovah for direction and cooperate with "the faithful and discreet slave" and the congregation elders. That is a way to seek righteousness, and it protects us from developing an independent spirit. (Matthew 24:45-47; Psalm 25:9, 10; Isaiah 30:21) The congregation of the anointed is "a pillar and support of the truth." Jehovah has provided it to protect and guide us. (1 Timothy 3:15) Recognizing its vital role will help us to 'do nothing out of egotism' as we humbly submit to Jehovah’s righteous will. — Philippians 2:2-4; Proverbs 3:4-6. - Watchtower 1/1/06, pp. 28-29, "Seeking Righteousness Will Protect Us", bold added

The Society teaches Jehovah's Witnesses that the anointed (or "the faithful and discreet slave") and their congregation Elders have been provided by God "to protect and guide" them. Witnesses should therefore "humbly submit to Jehovah's righteous will" by recognizing the "vital role" that God has personally selected them to play in this arrangement.

In other words, average Jehovah's Witnesses should look to the anointed class and their local Elders as children might be expected to look to their parents. Note that since the Governing Body represents the collective authority of the anointed, they might as well have said: "cooperate with the Governing Body and the congregation elders" instead.

Ultimately, this means that God himself has delegated authority to the Governing Body, so a failure to "cooperate" with them or their Elders is essentially rebellion against God's plan. Only someone who is "headstrong" and "puffed up with pride" would oppose God's decision.

But The Governing Body's Authority Comes From A Divine Source!

Since they believe that the Body's authority comes from God, few Witnesses could ever see it as overstepping its authority. They are even told that the Watchtower Society is a "spirit directed" organization and that the Governing Body is influenced by Jesus's spirit when making its decisions. Yet the nature of his influence is never made clear by the Body. We are told that Jesus doesn't enter their dreams and doesn't appear to them or speak to them. So how does Jesus direct his earthly organization? Nobody seems to know.

The Society's literature teaches that Jesus and God are separate beings. Jesus is God's son, and his power is second only to God's. They even believe that it was Jesus — not God — who created the universe. If their beliefs are true, then why has Jesus reduced himself to a shadow that must direct his organization through means so subtle that even the Governing Body can't explain it? Again, no one seems to know.

There isn't a religion in the world that couldn't make the same claim. Does the Society have evidence to support it? I've already addressed the biblical basis for the Society's belief that it is the True Religion. The organization's successes have been hailed in its literature as another sign of Jesus's approval, but this evidence isn't very compelling.

First, it comes from the Governing Body itself. The Society can hardly be seen as an objective witness to its own success.

Second, many other religions have been far more successful than the Watchtower Society by every measure. It isn't the fastest growing religion out there, it doesn't have the highest membership in the world, and it doesn't have the most influence. Many Witnesses might point out that their religion exists in the most countries, but even if this is true, there are only a handful of missionaries in many of these nations. Some only have one or two. Does any of this really prove that God favors them?

Third, all religions see every success as a sign of their god's approval. In fact, many Christians in the United States choose to interpret the power of that nation as proof of God's favor. Yet Jehovah's Witnesses ignore this evidence and denounce all nations as being under Satanic control. If success is a sign of divine favor in their case, but not proof enough in the case of the United States, isn't this a double standard?

So what reason do we have to believe that the Governing Body or its organization are divinely favored or directed by Jesus? It would seem there isn't any. Witnesses should simply believe their assertion and obey them.

But Witnesses Who Don't Believe In The Governing Body Can Still Leave!

It's true that Witnesses can simply stop going to meetings and quit participating in the ministry. But only if they're willing to suffer the consequences. I have already written about how Witnesses shun those who speak out against the Society. Even Witnesses who "fade" away quietly to avoid being shunned are kept at a distance by their families and friends. When these former believers do talk to their relatives, they are often pressured unfairly to return to the Watchtower Society. This effectively distances ex-Witnesses from everyone they were ever close to. Many atheists with fundamentalists relatives know what this can feel like.

Do critics who accuse the Society of being too controlling really have a case? I'll let the reader to judge for themselves.

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