Part 5: The History of the Organization

Posted by Seeker on June 11, 1997 at 08:34:00

"Beware of "organization." It is wholly unnecessary. The Bible rules will be the only rules you will need. Do not seek to bind others' consciences, and do not permit others to bind yours. Believe and obey so far as you can understand God's Word today." [Zion's Watch Tower, September 15, 1895, p. 216]

That was certainly an interesting quote from Brother Russell. It made me wonder what he would think of our modern-day organizational structure. That, in turn, made me think about God's use of earthly organizations in general. The Society maintains that God has always used organization when dealing with humans and I had always accepted that. But with all of the deception I found from the Society, I thought I had better examine what the Bible says on the subject.

Let's go back through history, beginning with Adam and Eve. God dealt directly with them before they sinned, and then through angels after they sinned. He dealt directly with Cain and Abel, pronouncing judgment on Cain. No organization in evidence here at the beginning.

The next period of note is Noah's time, and here we have a favorite Society organization "type" -- the ark representing organization. Although it is true that to survive the flood you had to be on the ark, there is no mention of any kind of organizational arrangement. Noah acted as a prophet in that he made God's pronouncements made known, and as a family head he took the lead to represent his family before God. But there is no indication that anyone else on the ark would have to "follow" Noah in some sense other than to get on the ark. We don't expect people to follow us when we study the Bible with them, do we? So Noah's example is merely one of God dealing directly with a family through the family head.

After the flood, how did God deal with humans? Well, he communicated with individuals by means of angels, dreams and visions. He also sent prophets to proclaim divine messages. But there was no central organization in place.

What about Abraham and his descendants, leading to the Mosaic Law? Isn't that a clear example of organization? Yes, but what kind of organization? A favored family and people, certainly. But God still dealt directly with that family. With Moses he also spoke directly, giving him a commission.

What about the Mosaic Law arrangement? Here was a special covenant relationship with God, codified by hundreds of laws. But how was Israel organized during this time? Is it similar to the way the Society is organized today?

Who directed things in Israel? The Levites? No, they carried out the religious functions, supervising the offerings and religious procedures, but that's it. The nation was divided along tribal lines and then by chieftains over large groups of family members. There was no human form of government or rule, other than the elders of a particular community who acted only within that community. Lawbreakers were judged by the people under the supervision of the community elders. Because of the Law, each individual was responsible before God, his family and the community for his own behavior. In other words, things were set up theocratically, with God as king in place of human rulers.

There was no correlation in ancient Israel to the current organization today. There was no group of persons to consult about community affairs except those in the community themselves. Things were dealt with as families, communities and tribes. When the nation finally demanded a human king, it was a step in the wrong direction. Theocratic rule worked, but human rule caused one problem after another. Human, visible, centralized rule was untheocratic, and the results bore that out. Soon the nation was divided into two separate kingdoms, hardly a good example of organization for the Society to claim they follow.

Even with human kings, there was no central administrative body existing in Israel that even remotely resembles the structure of the Society's organization today.

What about Jesus' day? Did Jesus set up, or describe a new way of organizing God's people? The Society says so, referring to the account of the Faithful and Discrete Slave, as well as the implied Governing Body of Acts 15. This is where the Society says they get their authority to organize the modern-day work as they have. So let's examine those biblical examples and see what they say.

The Faithful and Discrete Slave

Matthew 24:42-48 says:

"Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming. "But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. On this account YOU too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that YOU do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming. "Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to YOU, He will appoint him over all his belongings. "But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, 'My master is delaying,' and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his part with the hypocrites. There is where [his] weeping and the gnashing of [his] teeth will be."

Here is what the Insight book says under the heading "Faithful and Discrete Slave":

"Commentators often view this as a general exhortation to any and all who have individual positions of responsibility in the Christian congregation. The requirement of faithfulness in discharging responsibility clearly applies to all such. (Compare Mt 25:14-30; Tit 1:7-9.) Yet, the impossibility of each and every one of these individuals being placed over "all" his master's belongings at the same time, the time of the master's arrival, is obvious. This, however, does not require that the "slave" prefigure only one particular person who would be so privileged. The Scriptures contain examples of the use of a singular noun to refer to a collective group, as when Jehovah addressed the collective group of the Israelite nation and told them: "You are my witnesses [plural], ... even my servant [singular] whom I have chosen." (Isa 43:10) Similarly, the figure of the unfaithful "evil slave" could apply to a collective group in the same way that "the antichrist" is shown to be a class made up of individual antichrists. -- 1Jo 2:18; 2Jo 7."

Notice how the Society first says it can't refer to all Christians for how could every one of them be placed over "all" his belongings, then they turn right around and say that it can refer to multiple persons! It can't be plural, and then it can be, in fact must be plural. What does the actual scripture say, though? It clearly is an exhortation to Christians to remain vigilant, to stay awake. And until the appearance of the 'other sheep' class, even the Society would claim that it referred to all true Christians since they teach that the Faithful and Discrete Slave means all of the anointed ones on earth. Where does it describe any kind of centralized, organized governing body in that scripture?

The Governing Body

Who would be channel of communication for Christians after Jesus' death? Consider John 14:16, 17:

"If YOU love me, YOU will observe my commandments; and I will request the Father and he will give YOU another helper to be with YOU forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. YOU know it, because it remains with YOU and is in YOU."

Also, John 16:13-15:

"However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide YOU into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to YOU the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to YOU. All the things that the Father has are mine. That is why I said he receives from what is mine and declares [it] to YOU."

The scriptures clearly indicate the holy spirit would be the helper after Jesus' death. For how long would this be? "Forever" it says, not just for a few years. Jesus did not say he would set up a centralized group of human representatives for guidance and direction.

So where does the idea of a governing body come from? The Society takes it from Acts 15. However, if you look at the account in the whole chapter, and compare it to Paul's version of the same events, recorded in Galatians 2, you'll see that this is merely one way to look at this event. Another way to look at it is that Paul and Barnabas had to go to Jerusalem to set the brothers there straight! Read those two chapters and see if you don't agree. Certainly there is no evidence of the type of organization we see today.

During this time the governing body was supposedly in operation, what do we see happening? If you read the book of Acts, you will see Jesus directly involving himself, such as with the conversion of Saul. You will find angels being sent to free Peter from prison. You will see God sending visions to advance the work and directing individuals such as Phillip with the Ethiopian eunuch. We do not see the congregations constantly looking to the elders in Jerusalem for guidance and direction. Really, it is no wonder Brother Russell felt the way he did about organizations. What would he think of the situation today, where every move is dictated to us by a central body, including which things are conscience matters and which are not! Where to appoint a 21-year old brother to be a Ministerial Servant we have to consult with a circuit overseer who can then pass the recommendation on to the governing body so they can decide if this person, whom they do not know, is qualified to handle the magazines!

Think too about the way the governing body works today. Matthew 24 says that the faithful and discrete slave provides the food. The Society says that all of the anointed ones on earth are the faithful slave. That would mean that the spiritual food we receive should potentially come from all of the anointed, not just the members of the governing body. Is that how it works in real life? Not really. Think of individual anointed brothers and sisters you have known. How many of them have sent in suggestions or points to the governing body? How much time does the governing body spend poring over letters from anointed ones from around the world? Isn't it true that most of the input they get is from non-anointed circuit and district and branch overseers? Isn't that how decisions are made about which articles and letters to write? So really the way the Society does things is not even the way Matthew 24 says it should be done. Instead of the faithful and discrete slave providing the food, we have a small body of men providing the food suggested by a large group of non-anointed brothers. Is that what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 24?

With all this in mind, examine the history of the organization and see how it has steadily grown over the years, adding layer upon layer of regulations in a way never seen in the Bible (well, you could look at the example of the Pharisees, I suppose). Look at the way the congregations were set up a hundred years ago compared with the way they are set up today. Which one seems more like the first-century arrangement?

This now explained the deception I had seen in the Society's writings. When it comes to organizations, their primary function gradually becomes one of perpetuating themselves. This is done with sincerity, of course, and with a good motive. After all, if you believe this is God's organization on earth, perpetuating it is a very good motive, and an important one at that. Therefore, anything that would tend to tear down, or damage, that organization must be dealt with. This leads to situations where it becomes better to "gloss over" the past, so as not to disturb the brothers, even if doing so is essentially deceptive in its result. Keeping the organization intact thus becomes the prime thing.

Inevitably, bad results follow from following human organizations. Look at the ideals of the communist party upon its founding and see how it ultimately turned out. Their primary focus became their own survival to the detriment of their followers, even while telling their followers how good they had it.

This does not mean that I think the brothers are bad persons. On the contrary, I've seen almost nothing but good among the friends and I have no bitterness or anger toward anyone. They may have very good motives, and be quite sincere. But bad fruits can result from sincere individuals, and sincerity does not imply correctness.

Personally, I can't say I had problems with the Society's organization. I always followed its direction, so I was never bothered. But I knew many others who chafed under its close direction while, at the same time, sincerely wanting to worship God. But because they wanted to, say, grow a beard, they were restricted from all privileges. Had they lived in another time, or in another country, it would be fine. But in the U.S., at this time, the Society says No. It was not left to the person's conscience, but was legislated through the organization.

That's the problem with looking to a human organization for constant direction, even being afraid to think for yourself -- you never get to grow up and become more than a spiritual babe. Since I could now see that the Society acted deceptively, I realized that the problem was not with the persons involved, but with the structure itself. Having a central organization, while doing wonders for keeping unity and the brothers in line, also led inevitably to deception and oppression. I don't believe Jehovah would change and suddenly want humans to look to a human organization for guidance. We look to Jehovah through Christ by means of God's word. We exercise our conscience and look to the leading of the holy spirit. But to look to a human organization, and a deceptive one at that, is not what God has ever had in mind. We've always said, if Jesus wanted to teach a trinity, he would have made that very, very clear and obvious when he taught his apostles. Well, the same thing applies to organization. If this was God's arrangement, he would have explicitly said so. Brother Russell would have discerned this organizational structure from his Bible study. But it isn't clearly laid out in the Bible, and Brother Russell not only didn't discern one, he actually warned against such an arrangement.