Why I Will Leave
Part 1: Reasoning on the "Generation" Change
Posted by Seeker on June 11, 1997 at 08:26:24
If you are curious to know where all my doubts began, it started when the Society made the change in our understanding of "generation" in the November 1, 1995 Watchtower. I remember reading that article, sitting on my couch, and thinking that this changes everything. They took away the one thing that lent any sort of time element to the time of the end. The implication of that was the end could literally be any time in the future. After all, if the "generation" referred to was the generation of people who see the sign of the end, then the end could be tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade, or hundreds of years in the future. There was no way to tell from the point of view of time. It would all depend on how long is "the time of the end". From a human point of view, it could be very long indeed, barring any time element to say otherwise.
But aren't there other time elements? True, there were other signs that seem to indicate a time element, but none of them held up to scrutiny.
1. The anointed are dying off, therefore the end can't be too far off.
True, most of the anointed are old and it would seem that this is a limiting factor. But have you noticed how the number of partakers is increasing in recent years? How is that possible? Clearly some are partaking that didn't used to partake, but who? Certainly not new ones, as attendants at the Memorial are trained not to count such ones that are obviously not anointed. So it must be others who have been around the organization for a while and who the attendants must consider potentially worthy enough to be counted.
With that happening, theoretically the number of anointed ones might never die off, as long as more and more persons began to partake. After all, we now have members of the Governing Body who weren't even in the organization in 1935, so clearly one can be younger than other anointed ones and still be considered true anointed ones too. That opens the door to a steady stream of anointed ones and the end of the time element for this factor.
Still, that seems far-fetched. Yet there is another reason for thinking that the time element is not a factor here. In recent years there have been several articles talking about "given ones" to assist the Governing Body. In the May 15, 1997 issue it clearly implies that all of the anointed will be taken to heaven before Armageddon is over, so they can be a part of the marriage of the Lamb. In those same articles the idea of the "given ones" is reiterated and enlarged upon. They are now implying that these ones could do just about everything in the future. They don't say they could be part of the Governing Body and the Faithful and Discreet Slave, but that seems inevitable as the anointed ones die off. If I'm right, within a matter of years we will see a change to the teaching that only anointed ones can be part of the Governing Body. When that happens, the time element disappears for this factor.
2. Conditions on earth are getting so bad the end must be close.
If you think about it, you'll see that's not quite true. In fact, for every bit of pollution or war that gets worse, there seems to be another bit that improves. In my lifetime, I have seen the air quality in New York City improve dramatically, not get worse. Water pollution is much less today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Some diseases are worse, some are better, but overall life expectancy grows longer, not shorter.
For example, the Society is always pointing out how severe the problem of famine is during our day, but is this really so? Note this quote on the subject of famine:
"Between 1961 and 1994, it says, "per capita food supply in developing countries increased by 32 percent and mass famines on the scale seen in the 19th and mid-20th century have not recurred." The ranks of the hungry and undernourished have also fallen over the same period, from 35 percent to 21 percent." [UN Commission on Sustainable Development January 1997]
So, is there famine in the world? Yes, of course there is. But is it steadily getting worse? No, in fact it is considerably better than it was a hundred years ago. Just because a few cases have been widely publicized, it doesn't mean that overall conditions are getting worse. In fact, the percentage of hungry and undernourished is much smaller than it used to be.
I'm not saying there aren't serious problems, as we all know there are. What I am saying is that none of the problems prevent this system from continuing for another 10, or 20, or 50, or 100 years. What realistic condition can you think of that would prevent mankind from surviving for another 50 years?
The next time someone suggests that the earth can't last another 10 or 15 year, remember this quote:
"I know enough of what is going on to assure you that, in fifteen years from today, this world is going to be too dangerous to live in." [Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, p. 9, 1968 edition, quoting Secretary of State Dean Acheson in 1960. Note that the 1981 edition deleted "in fifteen years from today" i.e. in 1975]
Oops, didn't happen. We are now thirty-seven years from that date and in many ways the world is in better shape than it was then. Certainly pollution has been cut back considerably, war is minimal compared to what the sixties saw, civic unrest is nothing compared to that decade, etc. For all the problems that remain, the earth has been designed to bounce back remarkably well, no matter what the problem.
3. All of the signs of the end have been fulfilled, so the end must be close.
That is true, the signs have been fulfilled. The problem is you could say the same thing 50 years ago and the end is still not here. Oh sure, the preaching work is more advanced than it was in 1947, but couldn't it advance far more if, say, China completely opened up? Just think of the growth if Gilead graduates could reach another billion-and-a-half persons! Might we not look back 50 years from now and say, my how the preaching work has advanced since 1997! Thus the time element disappears from the equation.
So what's the point of this section? Just that all of this went through my mind as I read the change in "generation." So what's the problem? The problem is the Society continues to stress that we are urgently close to the end, yet they give no credible reasons for thinking that. Their arguments now center on points 2 and 3 above, but only in the most general terms. 'The end must be close because the signs of the end are all fulfilled.' 'The end must be close because things are too bad on the earth to continue.', etc. No in-depth discussion of these points, just a sentence thrown out there and we are expected to accept it.
The recent Question From Readers (w97 5/1) on this topic made things even worse. Illustrating the use of "generation" as being like saying "the soldiers of Napoleon's generation", they just made a bad situation worse. Consider the meaning of their illustration: Would you say that encompasses a period of, say, 100 years? Of course not, for that would stretch things into the 20th century. How about fifty years? Perhaps, but that would take things long past Napoleon's lifetime and would seem to negate the meaning of "the soldiers of Napoleon's generation." Twenty or thirty years? Yes, that is the meaning you would get if you asked 1,000 people what they thought of by the phrase "the soldiers of Napoleon's generation."
So now we see the problem. They used an illustration that is even more restrictive in time than the old use of the word "generation". They used to say anyone alive in 1914 counted. Now they use an illustration that carries, at most, 30 years of time, which is absurd! I know the point they were trying to make is that there is no time element, but the illustration they used absolutely does introduce a distinct, and short, time element.
So with all this in mind, I began to wonder why they were stressing the end being so close when there was no compelling evidence for thinking it has to be right around the corner. That's what got me to begin researching, to see why the Society would say such things. What I found made the most sense of all: The Society has always said the end is imminent! They were just as convinced a hundred years ago that the end was just a year or two away as they are today. Consider the following quotes and see if it doesn't sound like what the Society says today. Then ask yourself if the quotes were accurate for their time-period:
The very first issue of Zion's Watchtower, July 1879, stated on page 1 that the object of its publication was to present, not theories, but facts:
"That we are living "in the last days" -- "the days of the Lord" -- "the end" of the Gospel age, and consequently, in the dawn of the "new" age, are facts not only discernible by the close student of the Word, led by the spirit, but the outward signs recognizable by the world bear the same testimony."
Of course, they were not living in the last days in 1879, as we now know, yet Russell wrote that both the outward signs "recognizable by the world", as well as studying the Bible and being led by God's spirit indicated they were in the last days. He discerned it, but he was wrong. He obviously misinterpreted the outward signs he saw. He called them facts, but it was not true at that time. Naturally, if you had said he was wrong at the time, you would have been looked at as one who lacked faith.
This is a common theme, by the way. Looking at current conditions and saying 'We must be at the end because of how bad things are' is a statement that was being said over 100 years ago (actually, people have said that for the last two thousand years). Today we look back 100 years and describe that time-period as being so much better than today. We use this in service to show people how things have deteriorated since then, yet here we have Brother Russell saying things were so bad then that it must the end of the system!
Let's consider some more quotations and see if that theme, that the end must be absolutely imminent, doesn't show up throughout the history of the Society. I know there are a lot of quotes, but take the time to ask yourself how you would have reacted, at that time, to reading each quote. Then ask yourself if the quote turned out to be right or wrong:
"God's Kingdom, the Kingdom of Jehovah's Anointed... will be established gradually, during a great time of trouble with which the Gospel age will close, and in the midst of which present dominions shall be utterly consumed, passing away amid great confusion.
"In this chapter we present the Bible evidence proving that the full end of the times of the Gentiles, i.e., the full end of their lease of dominion, will be reached in A.D. 1914; and that that date will be the farthest limit of the rule of imperfect men. And be it observed, that if this is shown to be a fact firmly established by the Scriptures, it will prove:
"-- Firstly, That at that date the Kingdom of God, for which our Lord taught us to pray, saying, "Thy Kingdom come," will have obtained full, universal control, and that it will then be "set up," or firmly established, in the earth, on the ruins of present institutions." [The Time Is At Hand, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. II, pp. 76-77]
"Be not surprised, then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is pointed out in prophecy as due to begin the exercise of power in A.D. 1878, and that the "battle of the great day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is already commenced. The gathering of the armies is plainly visible from the standpoint of God's Word." [The Time Is At Hand, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. II, p. 101]
"Seventeen years ago people said, concerning the time features presented in MILLENIAL DAWN, They seem reasonable in many respects, but surely no such radical changes could occur between now and the close of 1914: if you had proved that they would come about in a century or two, it would seem much more probable.... Now, in view of recent labor troubles and threatened anarchy, our readers are writing to know if there may not be a mistake in the 1914 date. They say that they do not see how present conditions can hold out so long under the strain.
"We see no reason for changing the figures -- nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. We see no reason for changing from our opinion expressed in the view presented in the WATCHTOWER of January 15, '92. We advise that it be read again." [w1894, 7/15, p. 226]
"The Scriptures give unmistakable testimony to those who have full faith in its records, that there is a great time of trouble ahead of the present comparative calm in the world -- a trouble which will embroil all nations, overthrow all existing institutions, civil, social and religious, bring about a universal reign of anarchy and terror, and prostrate humanity in the very dust of despair, thus to make them ready to appreciate the power that will bring order out of that confusion and institute the new rule of righteousness. All this, the Scriptures show us, is to come to pass before the year 1914 (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II, Chapter IV)" [w1892, 1/15, p. 19]
"As we have heretofore stated, the great jubilee cycle is due to begin in 1925. At that time the earthly phase of the kingdom shall be recognized.... Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews chapter eleven, to the condition of human perfection." [Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920 Edition, pp. 89-90]
"Based upon the argument heretofore set forth, then, that the old order of things, the old world, is ending and is therefore passing away, and that the new order is coming in, and that 1925 shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old and the beginning of reconstruction, it is reasonable to conclude that millions of people now on the earth will be still on the earth in 1925. Then, based upon the promises set forth in the divine Word, we must reach the positive and indisputable conclusion that millions now living will never die." [Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920 Edition, p. 97]
"This is without question a fulfillment of the prophecy testifying to the "time of the end." These physical facts can not be disputed and are sufficient to convince any reasonable mind that we have been in the "time of the end" since 1799." [The Harp of God, p. 239]
"The indisputable facts, therefore, show that the "time of the end" began in 1799; that the Lord's second presence began in 1874." [The Watch Tower, March 1, 1922]
"Twelve hundred and sixty years from 539 A.D. brings us to 1799, which is another proof that 1799 definitely marks the beginning of "the time of the end."" [Creation (1927), pp. 294, 295, 298]
".... the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 A.D. This proof is specifically set out in the booklet entitled Our Lord's Return." [Prophecy (1929), pp. 65, 66]
"We have no doubt whatever in regard to the chronology relating to the dates of 1874, 1914, 1918, and 1925. It was on this line of reckoning that the dates 1874, 1914, and 1918 were located; and the Lord has placed the stamp of his seal upon 1914 and 1918 beyond any possibility of erasure. What further evidence do we need?.... There can be no more question about 1925 than there was about 1914. The fact that all the things that some looked for in 1914 did not materialize does not alter the chronology one whit. Noting the date marked so prominently, it is very easy for the finite mind to conclude that all the work to be done must center about it, and thus many are inclined to anticipate more than has been really foretold. Thus it was in 1844, in 1874, in 1878 as well as in 1914 and 1918. Looking back we can now easily see that those dates were clearly indicated in Scripture and doubtless intended by the Lord to encourage his people, as they did, as well as to be a means of testing and sifting when all that some expected did not come to pass. That all that some expect to see in 1925 may not transpire that year will not alter the date one whit more than in the other cases." [The Watch Tower, May 15, 1922]
"The chronology of present truth might be a mere happening if it were not for the repetitions in the two great cycles of 1845 and 2520 years, which take it out of the realm of chance and into that of certainty.... where the agreements of dates and events come by the dozens, they cannot possibly be by chance, but must be by the design or plan of the only personal Being capable of such a plan -- Jehovah himself; and the chronology itself must be right.
"In the passages of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh the agreement of one or two measurements with the present-truth chronology might be accidental, but the correspondency of dozens of measurements proves that the same God designed both pyramid and plan -- and at the same time proves the correctness of the chronology.... It is on the basis of such and so many correspondencies -- in accordance with the soundest laws known to science -- that we affirm that, Scripturally, scientifically, and historically, present-truth chronology is correct beyond a doubt. Its reliability has been abundantly confirmed by the dates and events of 1874, 1914, and 1918. Present-truth chronology is a secure basis on which the consecrated child of God may endeavor to search out things to come." [w22, 6/15]
".... all Europe is like a boiling pot, with the intensity of the heat ever increasing. If any one who has studied the Bible can travel through Europe and not be convinced that the world has ended, that the day of God's vengeance is here, that the Messianic kingdom is at the door, then he has read the Bible in vain. The physical facts show beyond question of a doubt that 1914 ended the Gentile times; and as the Lord foretold, the old order is being destroyed by war, famine, pestilence, and revolution.
"The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the Scriptures because it is fixed by the law God gave to Israel. Viewing the present situation in Europe, one wonders how it will be possible to hold back the explosion much longer; and that even before 1925 the great crisis will be reached and probably passed." [w22, 9/1, p. 262]
"Question: Did the order go forth eight months ago to the Pilgrims to cease talking about 1925? Have we more reason, or as much, to believe the kingdom will be established in 1925 than Noah had to believe that there would be a flood?
"Answer:.... There was never at any time any intimation to the Pilgrim brethren that they should cease talking about 1925.... Our thought is, that 1925 is definitely settled by the Scriptures, marking the end of the typical jubilees. Just exactly what will happen at that time no one can tell to a certainty; but we expect such a climax in the affairs of the world that the people will begin to realize the presence of the Lord and his kingdom power. He is already present, as we know, and has taken unto himself his power and begun his reign. He has come to his temple. He is dashing to pieces the nations. Every Christian ought to be content, then, to do with his might what his hands find to do, without stopping to quibble about what is going to happen on a certain date." [w23, 4/1, p. 106]
"Let no one now be deceived by calculations as to just when the Lord will cease his work with the Church on earth. The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914; but it would be presumptuous on the part of any faithful follower of the Lord to assume just what the Lord is going to do during that year." [w24, 7/15]
"...the scriptural evidence and the physical facts strongly indicate that such witness work is now almost done; and when it is done the universal war will begin. Universal war is absolutely certain to come and that soon, and no power can stop it... during the few remaining months until the breaking of that universal cataclysm the powers that rule the nations of the earth will continue to make treaties and tell the people that by such means they will keep that world peace and bring about prosperity." [Universal War Near (1935), p. 3, 26, 27]
"...mark the words of Jesus, which definitely seem to discourage the bearing of children immediately before or during Armageddon.... It would therefore appear that there is no reasonable or scriptural injunction to bring children into the world immediately before Armageddon, where we now are." [w38, 11/1, p. 324]
"Would it be scripturally proper for them to marry and begin to rear children? No, is the answer, which is supported by the scriptures.... It will be far better to be unhampered and without burdens, that they may do the Lords will now, as the Lord commands, and also be without hindrance during Armageddon.... Those... who now contemplate marriage, it would seem, would do better if they wait a few years, until the fiery storm of Armageddon is gone." [Face the Facts (1938), pp. 26, 47, 50]
"The abundance of Scriptural evidence, together with the physical facts that have come to pass showing the fulfillment of prophecy, conclusively proves that the time for the battle of the great day of God Almighty is very near and that in that battle all of God's enemies shall be destroyed and the earth cleared of wickedness." ... "Likewise today, all the nations and peoples of earth are face to face with the greatest emergency. They are being warned as God commands, that the disaster of Armageddon is just ahead." [Salvation (1939), pp. 310, 361]
"The year 1940 is certain to be the most important year yet because Armageddon is very near. It behooves all who love righteousness to put forth every effort to advertise The Theocracy while the privileges are still open." [Informant, April 1940, p. 1]
"The Kingdom is here, the King is enthroned. Armageddon is just ahead. The glorious reign of Christ that shall bring blessings to the world will immediately follow. Therefore the great climax has been reached. Tribulation has fallen upon those who stand by the Lord." [The Messenger, Sept. 1940, p. 6]
"The prophecies of Almighty God, the fulfillment of which now clearly appears from the physical facts, show that the end of religion has come and with its end the complete downfall of Satan's entire organization." [Religion (1940), p. 336]
"Armageddon is surely near, and during that time the Lord will clean off the earth everything that offends and is disagreeable.... From now on we shall have our heart devotion fixed on The Theocracy, knowing that soon we shall journey forever together in the earth. Our hope is that within a few years our marriage may be consummated and, by the Lord's grace, we shall have sweet children that will be an honor to the Lord. We can well defer our marriage until lasting peace comes to the earth." [Children (1941), p. 366]
"Receiving the gift, [the book Children] the marching children clasped it to them, not a toy or plaything for idle pleasure, but the Lord's provided instrument for most effective work in the remaining months before Armageddon." [w41, 9/15, p. 288]
"The New World Is At The Doors... The time is short. Those who do not inform themselves and who do not now choose the new world which Higher Powers shall establish will never live to enter into blessings and glories." [The New World (1942), p. 10]
"the disaster of Armageddon, greater than that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah, is at the door." [Let God Be True (1946), p. 194]
"After almost six thousand years of human sorrow, suffering and death, at last permanent relief is near at hand and will be realized within this generation." [New Heavens and a New Earth (1953), p. 7]
"in the light of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy it is becoming clear that the war of Armageddon is nearing its breaking-out point." [You May Survive Armageddon Into God's New World (1955), p. 331]
"The apostle Paul was spearheading the Christian missionary activity. He was also laying a foundation for a work that would be completed in our 20th century." [w89, 1/1, p. 12 -- Note that the bound volume changed "20th century" to "day"]
Why do I include these quotes? It is not to get into the old 1975, or 1925 issue (in fact, you'll notice I skipped from 1955 to 1989 above precisely to avoid the old 1975 issue). But it is to show that the Society has always been dogmatic about the end being absolutely imminent. They were just as certain in the 1920s as they are today, even though 70 years have passed. Their argument in defense of this is that they are just eager and so they sometimes make mistakes. Fine, but then why should we expect that the end is imminent in our day and not another 70 years hence? If you ask a Witness today if the end could be 70 years away, they wouldn't even consider such a thought. But then, neither would a Bible Student have considered such to be possible back in the 1920s! Yet it happened. Eagerness does not always translate into accuracy, as the past has shown. They were wrong before so why can't they be wrong again? In fact, looking at the above quotes, they were wrong a lot of times! How can we know that they are not wrong in our time? At every other point in the Society's history they have been "overly eager" about when the end would come. Time and again they said things that they were convinced of, but turned out to be wrong. Regardless of motive, the facts are clear. So why not consider that they might be wrong again by saying the end is here?
In summary, what reason can you give for saying the end must be imminent? Not just a feeling or a belief, but "reasoning from the Scriptures" to show the end has to be very, very soon? If you can't come up with a compelling reason, why does the Society continue to insist on it? Just to keep us from slowing down and losing out in the future? If that's the case, why don't they tell us they are just trying to keep us in line? Why insist the end is immediately in the future as they have been for over one hundred years? And if they believe the end is so close, why don't they give compelling reasons for saying that, instead of dogmatically repeating what they have repeated for over a hundred years?