Friday, July 8, 2011

The Watchtower and Scripture Part 1

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)

Paul here tells Timothy that the sacred writings, the Scriptures, are able to make one wise for salvation. They are sufficient. Scripture contains all of the information that we need to know in order to be saved.

Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7) has a good summary on teaching of the Perspicuity/Clarity of Scriptures. "All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Ps. 119:105, 130)."

Notice how the Roman Catholic Church denies this claim....

"It is the teaching of the Church that the Old Testament Scriptures were transferred to her ownership by Christ himself in view of her position as the new 'Israel of God' and the heir of the Old Testment promises; and that the New Testament Scriptures being written within the Church by some of its members for the benefit of all (or more precisely, within the society of Catholic Church by Catholics and for Catholics), are likewise her exclusive property, of which she is the absolute Owner, Guardian, Trustee and Interpreter."
(A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 pg 8 with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII)

"...no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold," (Trent, Session 4, "Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books")

The problem that the Catholic Church has with the idea of the Sufficiency of Scripture, (that scripture contains all that is sufficient for salvation), is that they say this position is irrational because all of us have to interpret the scriptures and the Christians have no official interpreter to interpret them right, and so we Christians end up in disagreements over many things. Rome claims to not have this problem because God knowing that the Bible is a hard book to understand, has given in his goodness the gift of the Church and Spirit guiding the church to a correct interpretation of Scripture.

Notice who else holds this exact same view....

"We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the "faithful and discreet slave" organization," (Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1981, p. 19).

"Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible," (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587).

"He does not impart his holy spirit and understanding and appreciation of his Word apart from his visible organization. (Watchtower, July 1, 1965, pg. 391)

"Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book," (Watchtower, July 1, 1973, p. 402).

"We should eat and digest and assimilate what is set before us, without shying away from parts of the food because it may not suit the fancy of our mental taste...We should meekly go along with the Lord's theocratic organization and wait for further clarification, rather than balk at the first mention of a thought unpalatable to us and proceed to quibble and mouth our criticisms and opinions as though they were worth more than the slave's provision of spiritual food. Theocratic ones will appreciate the Lord's visible organization and not be so foolish as to put against Jehovah's channel their own human reasoning and sentiment and personal feelings," (Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1952, p. 79-80).

"From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah's people those, who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude...They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such 'Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching 100 years ago..." (Watchtower, Aug. 15, 1981).

"All who want to understand the Bible should appreciate that the "greatly diversified wisdom of God" can become known only through Jehovah's channel of communication, the faithful and discreet slave," (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1994, p. 8).

From the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, on page 12, paragraph 3, the Watchtower comments: "But if you were given a legal document outlining what you had to do in order to receive a valuable inheritance, would you not take the time to study it carefully? If you find certain parts of the document hard to understand, likely you would get the help of someone experienced in such
matters."

The Watchtower teaches that the Bible can only be understood with God's Organization in mind, and that the Governing Body are the only ones who may properly interpret Scripture.

However, the Scriptures themselves are sufficient and clear. We do not need a Governing Body or any man-made organization (like the Watchtower) to understand Scripture. "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalms 19:7)

When people misunderstand Scripture, it's their own fault.

Theologian Wayne Grudem, comments, "Jesus’ responses always assume that the blame for misunderstanding any teaching of Scripture is not to be placed on the Scriptures themselves, but on those who misunderstand or fail to accept what is written. Again and again he answers questions with statements like these: “Have you not read what David did . . . ? Or have you not read in the Law . . . ?” (Matt 12:3, 5). “Have you not read . . . ?” (Matt 19:4). “Have you never read in the scriptures . . . ?” (Matt 21:42). “Have you not read what was said to you by God . . . ?” (Matt 22:31). “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’” (Matt 9:13). “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:10). “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt 22:29). On the road to Emmaus, he rebuked two disciples: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). The blame for failing to understand is always on the reader, never on the Scriptures themselves."

Martin Luther, in the Bondage of the Will, commented similarly, placing the blame on the individual for not correctly understanding the Scriptures. He says, "But, if many things still remain abstruse to many, this does not arise from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from [our] own blindness or want [i.e. lack] of understanding, who do not go the way to see the all-perfect clearness of the truth... Let, therefore, wretched men cease to impute, with blasphemous perverseness, the darkness and obscurity of their own heart to the all-clear scriptures of God... If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one iota in the Scriptures, but he that hath the Spirit of God... If you speak of the external clearness, nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world."

And again, Grudem summarizes my main point nicely.

"But neither the teachings of Jesus nor the NT epistles give any hint that believing readers need an authoritative interpreter of Scripture such as the Bishop of Rome (or Governing Body). Not even in the first century did the apostles suggest that ordinary believers needed an authoritative interpreter in order to understand Scripture rightly. The Scripture remains clear enough that it is able to be understood, now as in all previous ages, by ordinary believers who will take the needed time and effort, employ ordinary means, and rely on the Holy Spirit’s help."

2 comments:

b said...

What is a "faithful and discreet slave"?

Matthew said...

It is a term grabed from a parable of Jesus in Matthew 24:45.

The Watchtower Society essentially teaches that their Leadership and Governing Body is this ""faithful and discreet slave", and thus, they have authority as God's only channel and mouthpiece.