NEW LIGHT
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Jehovah's Witness teachings tend to be progressive because they receive updates in doctrine from the Watchtower Society from time to time. These updates have been viewed as “new light,” or “adjustments,” and the membership is told that they should accept these adjustments and view them as evidence of increasing spiritual light (The Watchtower, December 15, 2008, p.10 para.14).

The Watchtower Society's admonition of adjusting to the increasing spiritual light is based on two passages in the Bible; the first one being at Proverbs 4:18, which states that the path of righteousness is like the ever-increasing light at dawn that brightens until it becomes full daylight. The second passage is at Mark 8:22-26, which describes an event in which Jesus Christ gradually restored the sight of a blind man. Essentially, it is the Watchtower Society's teaching that God reveals His Divine truths gradually, similar to the brightening light of dawn (The Watchtower, February 15, 2008, p.29).

Many agree that God does reveal His truth to those who seek it (Luke 11:9-10), and that upon individual circumstance this could take some time for some people. However, it is important to remember that Jesus Christ warned his disciples to beware of false teachers (Matthew 7:21- 23, 24:11). Therefore, it is very important for one to determine whether the Watchtower Society's “new light” is healthy “light” or unhealthy “light”. Remember, not all light is the same. For example: Sunlight has been proven to give you vitamin D, a nutrient necessary for optimum bone health, heart health, and immunity function. In contrast, fluorescent light poses a toxic risk because fluorescent light bulbs contain poisonous mercury, which can contaminate areas where a bulb is broken. Just as it is important to know the difference between healthy sunlight and potentially toxic light, it is equally important to know if Jehovah's Witnesses have healthy Son-Light or potentially toxic light. The only way to know is to put it to the test. In fact, the Jehovah's Witnesses openly encourage people to examine any teachings they receive (The Watchtower, May 1 2009, p.4, para.3). Therefore, let's carefully examine the Jehovah's Witness teaching regarding “new light”

THE EXAMINATION

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jehovah is a God of truth (Psalms 31:5) and cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18); He cannot deceive, and people can have absolute faith in everything spoken from God (The Watchtower, May 1 2009, p.18, fifth paragraph). And, as we've seen earlier in this article, the membership is taught that the Watchtower Society is the only channel that Jehovah uses to communicate with mankind. As a result, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that everything published through the Watchtower Society is true, accurate, and reliable. This means that “new light” is viewed as trustworthy and will become more clear over time as their imperfect knowledge of God's purposes became more clear. Jehovah's Witnesses are advised to accept, and live by, the changes in doctrine that are handed down to them from “the faithful and discreet slave.” If a member is having a tough time understanding or accepting the “new light,” he or she is advised to "wait on Jehovah" to clarify matters (The Watchtower, August 15 2008, p.6 para.15). Members are taught that they should have the utmost confidence in the Scriptural insight and information that comes from the faithful and discreet slave (The Watchtower, February 15, 2009 p.25 para.4).

Now, If Jehovah God and/or His Son, Jesus, are the ones providing the information for the Watchtower Society, then the information will be reliable. This is clear through Biblical precedent: In spite of Jehovah's communication with imperfect believers in Bible times, He ensured that the information He gave was clear form the very start even though the people may not have understood the details. For example:

NOAH: Noah knew that Jehovah's instructions were for him to build the ark and board the animals because a deluge brought on by heavy rain was coming (Genesis 6:13-19). The Watchtower Society implies that it never rained before this because the Earth was watered by heavy dew as according to Genesis 2:5-6 making it possible that Noah wasn't familiar with rain (Insight On the Scriptures, 1988, Vol.2 p.728-729 heading “Rain”). Although he may have not have understood the concept of rain, he didn't waver in his understanding when it came to the original basic information regarding construction of the ark and boarding the animals, regardless of his ignorance of the details. However, once the rain came and Noah gained a clearer understanding of the remaining information, did the original information change? No, of course not – it remained the same with Noah's increased knowledge.

ABRAHAM: Next we have the example of Abraham and his wife Sarah. Sarah was old and barren, and it was physically impossible for her to bear children. In spite of this, Jehovah promised Abraham that he'd become a great nation through Sarah. Abraham and his wife kept faith in this promise even though they didn't understand the details (Genesis 15:4,18). Later, when Sarah miraculously became pregnant, the couple gained a clearer understanding of the details and understood the situation better. Did this clearer understanding change the original information? No, of course not, the information remained the same.

PHILIP: Later, in the Greek Scriptures (the New Testament) we have the example of Philip: Jehovah's Angel informed Philip that he should travel to Gaza without giving details regarding the reason. In spite of the lack of details, he didn't waver in his understanding of this information and did as he was told (Acts 8:26-39). Once Philip understood the details, did the information change? No, once again it remained the same.

In all three of these cases the believers clearly knew the information they had been given in spite of their lack of understanding the details, there were no mistakes that needed correction. Likewise, then, if Jehovah's Witness doctrine is truly from God then it should follow this same pattern: The basic information will be fully understood at the start, and then the details are revealed later without changing the original information. Judge for yourself whether the Watchtower Society's teachings follow this precedent:

Is the medical use of blood fractions Scriptural?
(Blood fractions include: Clotting factors, albumin, hemoglobin, etc., but not intact, whole blood cells)

NO – Awake! Sept. 8, 1956 Awake, p. 20
YES-- The Watchtower Sept. 15, 1958, p. 575
NO – The Watchtower Sept. 15, 1961, p.558 para.16
YES--The Watchtower, June 15, 2004, p.23 para.16

Will the people who were killed by God in Sodom and Gomorrah be resurrected in the “New System”?

NO – The Watchtower, June 1 (1988) page 31
YES – Insight on the Scriptures (1988) Volume 2 p.985
YES and NO ? – The 1982 edition of You Can Live Forever on a Paradise Earth" (1982) p. 178 para. 8-9 states "YES," but in the 1989 edition of the same book, the answer was changed to a definite NO on the same page.

Is a woman guilty of fornication if she doesn't resist a rapist, even under the threat of a knife or gun?

YES – The Watchtower, June 1 (1968) pp.347
NO – Awake! July 8 (1980) p. 12
YES– Awake! February 22 (1984) p. 26
NO – Awake! March 8 (1993) pp. 5
YES – The Watchtower, December (1998) p. 25 footnote
NO -- The Watchtower, February 1 (2003) p. 31

Many Jehovah's Witnesses whose eyes become open to this wavering doctrine become confused because they don't understand how this could happen if the Watchtower Society is Jehovah's channel of communication. Instead of following the Scriptural precedent of having the details gradually revealed from basic, original, information, they see the basic, original information itself waver back and forth, making it impossible to get coherent details. "No" becomes "Yes," just to revert back to "No" again later. This causes members to question the claim of being God's chosen channel of communication. As a result, the Watchtower Society provided an explanation in an attempt to explain the doctrinal ping-ponging:

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 towards the destination in spite of contrary winds” (The Watchtower, December 1, 1981 p. 27, para. 2).

Many find it interesting how they likened their back-and-forth changes in doctrinal information to nautical tacking as a way of explaining that they don't revert to previous points of view. The weakness with this parallel is that the act of tacking always takes the boat forward and away from its original starting point. In contrast, the previously mentioned doctrinal changes moved neither forward nor away – they continually returned to the original starting points, the “previous points of view”, in spite of the Watchtower Society's denials of such a thing.

And, interestingly enough, a few years later this teaching about zig-zag “tacking” got its own new light, essentially changing the instruction on this as well (underline ours):

Seeing the strenuous efforts needed to succeed in the race for life, Paul went on to say: “Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air.” Hence, to run “not uncertainly” means that to every observer it should be very evident where the runner is heading. The Anchor Bible renders it “not on a zigzag course.”If you saw a set of footprints that meanders up and down the beach, circles around now and then, and even goes backwards at times, you would hardly think the person was running at all, let alone that he had any idea where he was heading. But if you saw a set of footprints that form a long, straight line, each footprint ahead of the previous one and all evenly spaced, you would conclude that the footprints belong to the one who knows exactly where he is going (The Watchtower, August 1 1992, p.17 para.16).

It's hard to ignore such a turn around in teaching. So naturally, this spawns the question: Did the Watchtower Society begin to start walking its information in a straight line, or not? Judge for yourself:

Blood Transfusions:

1. A blood transfusion is viewed as an organ donation; a tissue transplant. (How Can Blood Save Your Life?, 1990, p.8 )
2. And, organ donations are acceptable, according to individual conscience. (The Watchtower March 15,1980, p.31)
3. And, although whole-blood transfusions are forbidden.... (How Can Blood Save Your Life?, 1990, p.27)
4. ...they do not forbid the transfusion of the individual fractions which make up the whole parts. (The Watchtower, June 15, 2004, pp.29-30)
5. The use of “fractions” is allowed because these parts naturally pass from mother to child within the womb (The Watchtower, June 1, 1990, p. 31)
6. Interestingly, though, they continue to forbid the transfusion of immune-boosting whole white blood cells, even though these also naturally pass from mother to baby, via breast milk. (The Watchtower, June 15, 1999, p.20 para.6)

Many members are confused by this particular teaching, sparking many questions in their minds: If blood transfusions are viewed as organ transplants, and organ transplants are okay, then why are blood transfusions forbidden? If blood fractions are allowable on the basis of maternal sharing, then why aren't the immune-boosting whole white blood cells also allowable on the basis of maternal sharing? And why can all of the blood fractions be allowed separately, while at the same time disallowing whole transfusions – this is akin to forbidding a person to eat a salad but letting him eat all of the salad's components separately!

Is this the only teaching that is so confusing? Again, read the following and judge for yourself:

Christmas and Easter:

1. The Watchtower Society teaches Jehovah's Witnesses to refrain from celebrating Christmas or Easter because of the attached traditions which originated from ancient pagan religions. (The Watchtower, November 15, 2004 ,p.22 para.11)
2. However, they are not taught to refrain from using piñatas as a party game, even though they, too, originated with ancient pagan religious traditions. (Awake! September 22, 2003, pp.22-24)
3. The Watchtower Society also teaches that if an activity originated from pagan religious traditions is no longer associated with those false religions, then the original meaning is obsolete, and therefore the tradition is no longer viewed as a prohibited activity (The Watchtower, September 1 1992 p.30, first paragraph).
4. AND...customs originated from ancient pagan religions that no longer have pagan religious relevance – and do not violate Bible principles -- can be accepted by individual conscience. (Awake! July 8, 2004, p.30)
5. And yet, in spite of the pagan origins becoming obsolete, Jehovah's Witnesses still cannot participate in the Christmas or Easter celebrations.

Huh?

Where is one to draw the line? In point #4 listed above, the actual Watchtower Society quote carefully words its requirements to include the avoidance of violating Bible principles. It states:

Question From Reader: “I read with interest the article “The Piñata—An Ancient Tradition.” (September 22, 2003) It left me with some questions. The ties to false religion are well-documented. But the article seemed to take the position that as long as it doesn’t bother someone’s conscience, it is OK. What about birthdays and holidays such as Christmas?”

Answer From Awake! Magazine: Christians refrain from any celebrations or customs that continue to involve false religious beliefs or activities that violate Bible principles. For example, the Bible definitely puts birthday celebrations in a bad light. (Genesis 40:20; Matthew 14:6-10) However, if it is very obvious that a custom has no current false religious significance and involves no violation of Bible principles, each Christian must make a personal decision as to whether he will follow such a custom.

Fair enough, but who decides what continues to involve false religious beliefs or activities that violate Bible principles?

For example, the Watchtower Society does not expressly forbid the use of piñatas, which is mentioned in the article given in point #2 listed above. Now, if you were able to get a hold of this article to read, you would see that it states:

...the Chinese may have been the first to use something like a piñata...The decorative paper that covered the figures was burned and the ashes gathered and kept for good luck during the coming year...the native people of Mexico already had a similar tradition... The Aztecs celebrated the birthday of Huitzilopochtli, their god of the sun and war, by placing a clay pot on a pole in his temple at the end of the year...It was then broken with a stick, and the treasures that spilled out became an offering to the god’s image... As part of their strategy to evangelize the Indians, the Spanish missionaries ingeniously made use of the piñata to symbolize, among other things, the Christian’s struggle to conquer the Devil and sin...Striking the piñata while blindfolded represented blind faith and willpower overcoming temptation or evil. The treats inside the piñata were the reward....for many people in Mexico, the piñata has lost its religious significance and is considered by most to be just harmless fun... A main concern is, not what the practice meant hundreds of years ago, but how it is viewed today in your area. Understandably, opinions may vary from one place to another. Hence, it is wise to avoid turning such matters into big issues.

So basically, piñatas were originally associated with honouring false gods, but were re-packaged as a means to convert the [Mexican] Indians to Christianity. Nowadays, the piñata has lost all religious significance and is viewed as simply a party game. And apparently this is okay with the Watchtower Society because they don't forbid the use of piñatas as a party game; it is what they would call “a conscience matter” (a matter in which each individual makes up his or her mind on the issue).

Oh, but wait a minute....isn't this exactly what happened concerning the Christmas tree – a pagan worship item which was re-packaged by Christian evangelists; an item which the Watchtower Society strongly prohibits due to its roots with false pagan gods?! (The Watchtower, Dec. 15, 2007, p.9; Jehovah's Witnesses and Education, 2002, p.16; Reasoning From the Scriptures, 1989, pp. 178-179). A Jehovah's Witness may argue that the Christmas tree continues to have religious significance since Christmas is regarded as a religious holiday, but the fact is, even atheists and agnostics and non-Christians celebrate Christmas, showing that Christmas and Christmas trees have lost their religious significance (Awake! November 22, 1993, p.10). In fact, the Watchtower Society itself has published the statement that “according to a recent poll taken in the United States, only 33 percent of those polled felt that the birth of Christ is the most important aspect of Christmas” (The Watchtower, December 15, 1998, p.3). They have even pointed out that Christmas is a huge deal in Japan – a country whose population is only 1% Christian (The Watchtower, December 15, 1986, p.4). Clearly, Christmas and Christmas trees can be viewed as having no religious significance in such areas. If, as the Watchtower Society says, A main concern is, not what the practice meant hundreds of years ago, but how it is viewed today in your area., and a custom has no current false religious significance and involves no violation of Bible principles”, and is therefore up to individuals to decide, why are these items an exception? What Bible principles are they violating if they no longer have any false religious significance?

As you can clearly see, confusion arises because the rules are inconsistent. On the one hand they are saying the obsolete ancient pagan religious traditions are to be shunned, while at the same time they are saying that it's not wrong to use obsolete ancient pagan religious traditions.

In fairness, though, the Watchtower Society's “new light” isn't always as confusing as the above examples. Most often it can simply be a switch from one point of view to another without circling back on itself. This has happened on many occasions – especially when it comes to interpretation of Scripture, interpretation of prophecy, and cultural / legal understanding of matters. Case in point:

Years ago the Watchtower Society taught that Christ's words this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occuras stated at Matthew 24:34 meant that The End of this wicked world would come before the generation of people alive in 1914 died out (The Watchtower, May 1 1985, p.4). This information was to be regarded as accurate knowledge and timely truth from Jehovah, as usual. HOWEVER... in 1995 the Watchtower Society published a changed meaning ofthis generationwith “new light,” stating thatthis generation” apparently referred to the people living on the Earth who see the signs of Christ's presence but neglect to change their ways; they also stated that this was a more precise viewpoint” than the previous teaching (The Watchtower, November 1 1995, pp.19-20, para.12, 15).

Although the Watchtower Society claimed to have a more precise viewpoint” on this information, this really isn't a matter of being more precise because precision would mean focusing closer to the original viewpoint; instead, this newer teaching was a matter of veering off to a completely different viewpoint. But this wasn't the end of the matter; in the April 15, 2010 issue of the Watchtower magazine, the Watchtower Society published yet another new meaning of this generation," declaring that it actually refers to an overlap of generations; those who were anointed and on hand when Christ's sign became evident in 1914 overlapping with the lives of other anointed ones who would live to see the beginning of the great tribulation (The Watchtower, April 15 2010, article "Holy Spirit's Role in the Outworking of Jehovah's Purpose," para.13-14).

So here we have the changes in a nutshell:

1985 Version: “This Generation” refers to all the people in the world who were alive or born during 1914.
1995 Version: “This Generation” refers to the world wide population who see the signs of Christ's presence but do nothing to mend their ways.
2010 Version: “This Generation” refers to the anointed ones of Jehovah who were on hand when the sign of Christ's presence began in 1914, overlapping with the lives of later anointed ones who would see the beginning of the Great Tribulation.

And the really interesting thing is that the first meaning was to be viewed as accurate truth when it came out, then the second meaning was to be viewed as accurate truth when it came out, and then this newly updated meaning is to be viewed as completely accurate truth now. Since none of the updates follow the thought-line of its previous teaching, it cannot be said that the updates are a “brighter” or “more precise” understanding; in reality these are all different viewpoints on the same Scripture, not a progression of details borne from an original understanding.

These inconsistencies cause many thinking Jehovah's Witnesses to have a crisis of faith. Although they are taught to completely trust the Watchtower Society's teaching (The Watchtower, February 15 2009, p.27 para 11), it's difficult for many of them them to trust a leadership which has a record of ever-changing doctrine. They especially find it difficult to swallow the Watchtower Society's official explanations of these changes:

"Knowledge of many spiritual matters will become complete only as God's purposes are worked out in completion...The "Slave" is not divinely inspired but continues to search the Scriptures...at times there may be an incomplete or incorrect understanding of some matter that may require correction later, but this doesn't mean the "slave" should avoid publishing a possible explanation until the final, complete understanding is available..." (The Watchtower, March 1 1981 p.29).

And, in an effort to support this explanation, the Watchtower Society “reminds” the members that such erroneous understandings have served as a test of loyalty for those associated with the "faithful and discreet slave” (The Watchtower, December 1 1981, p.31 para.19).

Since when does the God of truth (Psalms 31:5) test people's loyalty with erroneous information? In Scripture, a person's faith was never proven through obedience to inaccurate teachings; instead a person's faith was always proven through one's actions. Cases in point:

The Samaritan Woman proved her faith by bringing the town to see Christ (John 4:1-29)
The Bleeding Woman proved her faith by touching Christ's robe (Matthew 9:20-22)
The Paralytic's friends proved their faith by tearing a hole in a roof to access Jesus (Mark 2:1-12)
Abraham proved his faith by acting upon God's request for sacrifice (Genesis 22),
The Israelites proved their faith by smearing blood on their doorposts (Exodus chapter 12)
Rahab proved her faith by hiding the Israelite spies (Joshua chapter 2)
David proved his faith by going against a mighty warrior with a mere slingshot (1 Samuel 17)
Noah proved his faith by building the ark amid criticism (Genesis Chapter 6)
Ruth proved her faith by abandoning her people for God's instead (Ruth Chapter 1)

In contrast, anytime God's people followed false or inaccurate teachings, they were considered to be unfaithful against God. Cases in point:

Paul chastised certain congregations for tolerating inaccurate teachings:

The Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
The Galatians (Galatians 1:6-9)

Paul also warned the congregations to avoid inaccurate deceptions, lest the wrath of God come upon them

The Ephesians (Ephesians 5:6-11)
The Colossians (Colossians 2:8, 16-23)
To Timothy (1 Timothy 4:16, 2 Timothy 2:16-17, 2 Timothy 4:3-5)

Paul also admonished Christians to mature in Christ and leave inaccurate, false teachings behind

The Ephesians (Ephesians 4:14)

Nowhere in Scripture is obedience to false / inaccurate teachings a mark of Christian loyalty. We are reminded of the Scripture at 2 Timothy 6:20-21, which says:

O Timothy, guard what is laid up in trust with you, turning away from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called “knowledge” For making a show of such knowledge some have deviated from the faith.

It is also notable that, according to Scriptural precedent, when the members followed the "Organization" in the ancient times, they were led into apostasy; the kings were leading as head of the organization, and the people followed their leader as instructed.