The Guardians of Doctrine Delusion

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On Friday 14 August 2015, via video link, Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  During the hearing, which started at 10 am and finished at 3:13pm, Jackson used the word  “custodian”, “guardian” or “guardians” six times in reference to himself and his governing body colleagues, with respect to their responsibility to the doctrine and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Geoffrey Jackson stated the following in reference to the Governing Body being Guardians of Doctrine:

There can be any number of members on the Governing Body … the qualifications of a member for the Governing body – it involves someone who is considered an anointed Witness, who has … a scriptural background, either as a missionary or a full-time servant for many years, and is able to fulfil the role of the Governing Body, which is … a spiritual group of men who are the guardians of our doctrine, and as guardians of the doctrine, look at things that need to be decided based on our doctrines, which are based on the constitution of the Bible.

If the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses are truly Guardians of Doctrine as Geoffrey Jackson claimed, then all honest-hearted individuals should ask themselves this pertinent question:

Wouldn’t Geoffrey Jackson’s testimony to the Royal Commission in Australia show that he has carefully protected the doctrine and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, even if such teachings may seem bizarre, or maybe even detestable, to non-believers?

Let’s review the Transcript of Jackson’s testimony and determine if he truly is a Guardian of Doctrine, as he has claimed to be.

Jackson’s Expertise and the Decision Making Process

Geoffrey Jackson clearly explains that he serves primarily on the writing committee but also serves on the teaching and personnel committees, with his field of expertise being translations.  His roles and field of expertise allow him to evaluate recommendations and determine if, “first of all, they are scripturally accurate and correct, and, secondly, whether they are translatable.” With regard to translation, he claimed that “these committees need my input with regard to how things will be translated into other languages.”

Take note of the fact that he is responsible:

  • First of all to determine if recommendations are scripturally accurate and correct.
  • Secondly, whether they are translatable, in other words, how things will be translated into other languages.

These are key statements that we need to bear in mind when Geoffrey Jackson makes the claim that he is a Guardian of Doctrine. For Guardians of Doctrine, it is imperative that they are scripturally adept so that any direction provided in their literature is accurate and correct. Likewise, it’s critical that such direction is translated correctly so that it conveys the same thought from whichever language it has been translated.

Jackson went on to explain the Guardians of Doctrine decision making process. “… If a policy or a question comes up with regard to doctrine, or something that involves a biblical stand, we will allow someone to come in and present to us all the facts concerning that – obviously the seven involved cannot be familiar with every aspect that we need to consider. So once the proposal has been given to the Governing Body, it’s an agenda point. Ahead of time, each Governing Body member, with prayer, by means of prayer and reading the  Bible, then tries to see how the Bible would affect any particular decision. So then, in our discussion, generally … in most cases it’s unanimous … but [if it’s not], it’s a rare thing, because if someone – perhaps their conscience is not clear or feel comfortable with a certain decision, then more often than not, we would rely upon God’s spirit by holding up on making a final decision until more research is done, and then we would meet again.”

The Irony in Devotion

How Jackson understands God’s spirit to direct the Guardians of Doctrine in coming to a decision is “by prayer and using our constitution, God’s word, we would go through the scriptures and see if there was any biblical principle at all that would influence our decision – and it could be that in our initial discussions there was something that maybe we were missing and then in another discussion that would come to light. So we would view that as God’s spirit motivating us because we believe the Bible is God’s word and came by means of holy spirit.”

He emphasized the Governing Body’s role is “to devote ourselves to prayer and the word of God, and that’s why 30 helpers have been assigned that are involved more with the practical side of policy and implementation.” by quoting Acts 6:3, 4:

So, brothers, select for yourselves seven reputable men from among you, full of spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them over this necessary matter; but we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

In quoting this scripture, Geoffrey Jackson was liking himself and the rest of the Governing Body to the first century Apostles – they devote themselves to prayer and ministry, while others were assigned to implementing policy (although this scripture in context has nothing to do with Christian policy but rather with feeding needy widows). However, he failed to note how they are unlike the Apostles in this verse. The apostles allowed the broader congregation of Christians to select “seven reputable men from among” themselves; whereas – and this was pointed out by Senior Counsel, Angus Stewart – the 30 men responsible for implementing the policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses are selected directly by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The fact of the matter is, the global Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses have no input into this selection process.  And as one of the Guardians of Doctrine, Geoffrey Jackson could not guard this aspect of their doctrine. He could only reply, “Your point is well taken” and feebly followed it up with a hypothetical assumption “that others selected these seven men … at the direction of the apostles”.

Make another note of these facts:

  • Each Governing Body member by means of prayer and reading the Bible try to see how the Bible would affect any particular decision.
  • If a decision is not unanimous, due to maybe something being missing in their initial discussions, additional prayer and using their constitution, God’s word, that would bring it to light.
  • A Governing Body member, who considered himself a Guardian of Doctrinerelied on a hypothetical assumption to defend an aspect of their doctrine that he himself had Angus Stewart SC draw attention to by way of a scriptural quote.

Geoffrey Jackson claimed that the Guardians of Doctrine devoted themselves to prayer, bible reading and ministry to come to unanimous decisions about doctrine. However, when a worldly man with little biblical knowledge questioned a simple aspect of scripture that Jackson used to explain the position the Governing Body see themselves in, he failed to guard their doctrine. He could only make a hypothetical assumption.

Here is the irony. Senior Counsel Angus Stewart then asked Jackson if members of the Governing Body regard themselves as being appointed by Jehovah God, or under the capacity, or authority of Jehovah God.  Jackson responded, “… we have been given a responsibility to guard or to be guardians of doctrine .. as being appointed by holy spirit”. The very same man who could not defend a simple question of doctrine asked by a man with very little bible knowledge, now claimed that he was appointed by holy spirit to be a guardian of doctrine. Either he is making a mockery of his position, of God’s selection process, or of both.

In another example of irony, Justice Peter McClellan asked Jackson if there was any biblical impediment to a judicial determination being made by a body which included women, although the elders thereafter may respond as the decision-maker in relation to what happens to someone after a decision has been made as to the truth or not of an allegation. Jackson responded by saying that “biblically speaking, the role of the judges in the congregation lays with men. That’s what the Bible says and that’s what we endeavor to follow.” However when asked to give a Biblical reference to such a claim, he couldn’t provide an exact scriptural reference. Instead, he simply quoted one of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ scriptural staples, This statement is trustworthy: If a man is reaching out to be an overseer, he is desirous of a fine work. The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible, a husband of one wife, moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly, hospitable, qualified to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, but reasonable, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, a man presiding over his household in a fine manner, having his children in subjection with all seriousness.1 Timothy 3:1-4 which describes the requirements a man must meet to become a bishop or overseer, and this response has absolutely no bearing on the question being asked. Here again is the irony: How could a man who claims to devote himself to Bible reading not be able to preserve the Doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses with the appropriate Bible quotation?

Contradicting Doctrine

A Guardian, in the context of religious doctrine, is one who guards, protects or preserves the belief system of a religious group. In Geoffrey Jackson’s capacity as a Guardian of Doctrine, did he guard, protect or preserve the religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Let’s first consider different aspects of the belief system of Jehovah’s Witnesses and compare them to statements Geoffrey Jackson made in his testimony.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Faithful & Discreet Slave as found in Jesus’ Parable at Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?Matthew 24:45  is the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and that they are God’s only channel of communication. 

… the governing body of the expanding Christian congregation, … was recognized by the early Christians everywhere as the channel of communication used by God to render decisions and direct the affairs of the congregation throughout the earth.
Insight on the Scriptures Vol. I, p.128-129.

By word of action, may we never challenge the channel of communication that Jehovah is using today. (Then Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, got up together with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, of the sons of Reuben. They rose up against Moses along with 250 Israelite men, chieftains of the assembly, chosen ones of the congregation, prominent men. So they gathered together against Moses and Aaron and said to them: We have had enough of you! The whole assembly is holy, all of them, and Jehovah is in their midst. Why, then, should you exalt yourselves above the congregation of Jehovah?Num 16:1-3) On the contrary, we should cherish our privilege to cooperate with the slave class.
The Watchtower Nov 15 2009, p.14 para 5.

Today, we may not clearly see why some organizational matters are handled in a certain way, but we have every reason to trust in Jehovah’s guidance through his faithful channel of communication.
The Watchtower Dec 15 2007, p.20 para 16.

… in heaven (1) Jehovah God originates his utterances; (2) then his official Word, or Spokesman – now known as Jesus Christ – often transmits the message; (3) God’s holy spirit; the active force that is used as the medium of communication, carries it earthward; (4) God’s prophet on earth receives the message; and (5) he then publishes it for the benefit of God’s people.
All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial, p. 9 para 16.

That faithful and discreet slave is represented today by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has as its publicity agent the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Most appropriately, that faithful and discreet slave has also been called God’s channel of communication.
The Watchtower Sep 01 1991, p.18-19 para 15.

Take into consideration these points:

  • The governing body are recognized as the channel of communication used by God to render decisions and direct the affairs of the congregation throughout the earth.
  • Never challenge the channel of communication that Jehovah is using … cherish the privilege to cooperate with the slave class.
  • Trust in Jehovah’s guidance through his faithful channel of communication.
  • The faithful and discreet slave is … the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which … has also been called God’s channel of communication.

Angus Stewart SC asked Geoffrey Jackson, “… do you see yourselves as Jehovah God’s spokespeople on earth?”

As one of the Guardians of Doctrine, as a person giving testimony at a legal hearing, and in answering this question, it was imperative that Geoffrey Jackson legally defend, guard and preserve Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrinal position that the Governing Body are God’s channel of communication, or God’s spokespeople on earth. But did he? No! He responds, “That I think would seem to be quite presumptuous to say that we are the only spokesperson that God is using.” And yet, in the same statement, he contradicts this lie by saying, “we view ourselves as trying to fulfill that role.”

In this case, either he made a mockery of his position AND the position of the governing body, of God’s communication process, or of both.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in, and take literally the Proverb, “Whoever holds back his rod hates his son”. 

Parental authority. “Rod” is used also to symbolize the authority of parents over their children. The book of Proverbs makes many references to this authority, the term symbolizing all forms of discipline used, including the literal rod used for chastisement. The parent is actually responsible before God to exercise this rod, controlling the child. If the parent fails in this, he will bring ruination and death to his child and disgrace and God’s disapproval to himself also. (Proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes his father rejoice, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.Pr 10:1; A wise son makes his father rejoice, But a stupid man despises his mother.Pr 15:20; A stupid son brings grief to his father and heartache to the one who gives birth to him.Pr 17:25; A stupid son brings adversity on his father, And a quarrelsome wife is like a roof that never stops leaking.Pr 19:13)
Insight on the Scriptures Vol II, p.818.

No wonder, then, that Whoever holds back his rod hates his son, But the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.Proverbs 13:24 says: “The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline.” In this context, the rod of discipline represents a means of correction, whatever form it may take. By administering loving discipline, a parent seeks to correct faults that if they were to become deeply rooted, would cause the child much misery in adult life. Truly, withholding such discipline amounts to hate; administering it is an act of love.
The Watchtower Apr 01 2008, p.14.

Taking away a privilege may work. God’s Word says, though, that in some cases physical chastisement—spanking, given without wrath—may be needed.—Do not hold back discipline from a boy. If you strike him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you should strike him, In order to save him from the Grave.Proverbs 23:13, 14; Whoever holds back his rod hates his son, But the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.Proverbs 13:24.
Happiness – How to Find It Chapter 9, p.94 para 23.

There are times, of course, when every child needs discipline, even with the literal rod, but this should be done—and not overdone—firmly and in love, without displaying the heat of anger. Children will come to appreciate deserved chastisement, and it will not ‘exasperate’ them.
Good News to Make You Happy Chapter 19, p.166 para 3.

Remember these points:

  • “Rod” is … the term symbolizing all forms of discipline used, including the literal rod used for chastisement.
  • The rod of discipline represents a means of correction, whatever form it may take.
  • God’s Word says … that in some cases physical chastisementspanking … may be needed.
  • There are times .. when every child needs discipline, even with the literal rod.

Justice Peter McClellan asked the Guardian of Doctrine, Geoffrey Jackson, if the verse at Whoever holds back his rod hates his son, But the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.Proverbs 13:24 was to be taken literal, or in other words, to inflict corporal punishment.

SEVEN TIMES Justice McClellan questioned Geoffrey Jackson on whether Jehovah’s Witnesses take Whoever holds back his rod hates his son, But the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.Proverbs 13:24 literally and accept corporal punishment. FOUR TIMES, Jackson tried to avoid the questions and THREE TIMES he vehemently denied that this scripture was to be taken literally by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here are McClellan’s questions and Jackson’s responses:

  1. Q. “And the exact quote is: Whoever holds back the rod hates his son. What does that mean?”
    A. “So in the application of Whoever holds back his rod hates his son, But the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.Proverbs 13:24 the term “rod” is used as a symbol or a metaphor to indicate the authority to give some punishment.”
  2. Q: “So it’s not about inflicting corporal punishment, then?”
    A: “It absolutely is not about inflicting corporal punishment.”
  3. Q: “Does your church accept corporal punishment of children?” 
    A: “Our church accepts the family arrangement and expects that parents have the responsibility to discipline and raise their children.”
  4. Q: “That doesn’t answer my question. Do you accept corporal punishment?”
    A: “In our literature, I think you will see time and time again we’ve endeavored to explain that here “discipline” is referring to more a mental point of view, not corporal punishment.”
  5. Q: “I am going to tell you, you are still not answering my question. Do you accept corporal punishment?”
    A: “No.”
  6. Q: “You don’t?”
    A: “Not – not personally, no, and not as an organisation – we don’t encourage it.”
  7. Q: “But do you prohibit it?”
    A: Our literature has pointed out that the true way to discipline children is by educating them, not giving corporal punishment.

In two of the four Watchtower literature references above, Whoever holds back his rod hates his son, But the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.Proverbs 13:24 is directly quoted. If you were to look up the other two literature quotations, you’ll find that Proverbs 13:24 is also referenced in the context of those publication references. And in all cases, Watchtower has interpreted this verse literally. Yet repeatedly, Geoffrey Jackson contradicted Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine on discipline, of which he is a Guardian.

To reiterate, a man who claims to be appointed as a Guardian of Doctrine by God’s holy spirit, made a mockery of his position, of the position of his colleagues, and quite possibly God’s view of discipline.

A Response to Jackson’s Written Statement

Click here to download Jackson's Written Statement to the Australian Commission
Click here to to read Don Kennedy Albert's response to Jackson's Written Statement

Mr. Reed,

Thank you for your gracious letter, which certainly made me feel good about my efforts. I am well aware that I am but one of many who have attempted to help sort through the confusion, and hope that you are equally well aware of our collective admiration of the Royal Commission.

I have had a chance to look at Geoffrey Jackson’s letter to the RC, and have found a few unanswered points that could be addressed. I hope that a consideration of the questions raised by his addendum will assist those who are tasked with addressing this very real and difficult issue that is clearly being obscured and obstructed by the governing body.

For starters, though, I wish to mention that the letter, as well as much of the testimony of not only Jackson but several others who have attempted to defend the Watchtower, employs two tactics of obfuscation typical of Watchtower literature and presumably appropriate, according to the Watchtower, for “theocratic warfare”: Careful omission of contradictory scriptural evidence, and statements of fact that are, in fact, conjecture.

I will try to keep this concise, and will deal with each of the three issues addressed by Jackson in sequential order.

 

Issue #1: Use of Male Judges

Why, in his delineation of the post-exodus scriptural references that support the prohibition of female judges, does Mr. Jackson not refer to the Bible book of Judges, wherein several women are mentioned and glorified as leaders, rulers, and yes, judges?

For example, he makes no mention whatsoever of Deborah, who ruled Israel for 40 years and whose leadership is exalted for the peace enjoyed under it. And Deborah was one of many such leaders who were included in Jewish scripture despite the patriarchal nature of the times in which it was written.

(A good but by no means comprehensive rundown on female leaders and judges in scripture can be found at http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/mutuality-women-leaders and many other sites.)

 

Issue #2: Use of Secular Courts in Cases of Abuse

Why, after offering so many citations to substantiate the Watchtower policy of barring women from determining any kind of judgement in the congregations, does Mr. Jackson provide only a single reference to substantiate his claim that elders are given instruction to notify authorities in the case of a child in danger of further abuse?

In his statement “I can’t tell you all the sections where we’ve said that,” Mr. Jackson implies that it has been said many times. Is this the only reference in all of Watchtower literature that he could find? If so, is it reasonable to expect that elders would conscientiously follow it?

The reference provided is from the book Keep Yourselves in God’s Love (2009), which is not a guide for elders but for those preparing to be baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses and those who have recently done so. Why did Mr. Jackson use this reference to suggest that elders receive instruction to report in those circumstances?

Further, the reference says “it would not be unchristian to report the matter to authorities” – a far cry from mandating elders to do so. It also enumerates four and only four offenses for consideration: “rape, assault, murder, or major theft.” There is no mention of sexual abuse of children.

Does Mr. Jackson believe that elders who read this should “go beyond the things written”?

 

Issue #3: Explanation of If, however, the man happened to meet the engaged girl in the field and the man overpowered her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her is to die by himself, and you must do nothing to the girl. The girl has not committed a sin deserving of death. This case is the same as when a man attacks his fellow man and murders him. For he happened to meet her in the field, and the engaged girl screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.Deuteronomy 22:25-27

In addressing this point, Mr. Jackson confidently asserts that the use of Deuteronomy 22 to reveal an instance where two witnesses were not required in a case of sexual assault “is not a correct reading of these passages” – a fairly overt condescension similar to that shown by Mr. Jackson when questioned by Mr. Stewart.

Jackson begins by citing On the testimony of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die should be put to death. He must not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.Deuteronomy 17:6, which explicitly refers to dealing with a claim of apostasy, not sexual assault. He then quotes No single witness may convict another for any error or any sin that he may commit. On the testimony of two witnesses or on the testimony of three witnesses the matter should be established.Deuteronomy 19:15, which does in fact state a requirement of two witnesses for “any” conviction, but as an isolated scripture, it is to be elucidated, according to Jackson’s testimony, by allowing the rest of the Bible to speak.

He then claims that it is “assumed” that the man in Deuteronomy 22 is guilty in both references, when in fact that is not explicitly stated. The assumption is on the part of Mr. Jackson, specifically that “the man had already been proved guilty and worthy of death, this being determined by proper procedure earlier in the judges’ inquiry” – as if this is a case study under discussion rather than a law. In fact, several questions arise from this passage:

What “proper procedure” would be used to determine the guilt of the hypothetical man, when “there was no one there” to witness the event?

If he had provided a confession, as hypothesized by Jackson, why is this not mentioned in the passage? If not, how possibly could he be convicted?

If a pregnancy is assumed to be the evidence for the determination that “improper sexual relations had occurred”, and there were no witnesses, is the man not to be put to death on the testimony of the woman and the circumstantial evidence of her pregnancy?

It is also noteworthy that Mr. Jackson makes no mention of the surrounding verses of the chapter in question, despite the fact that these verses reveal the patriarchal nature of the law itself.

Verses 13-21 place the burden of proof of virginity upon new brides who are accused of having misled their prospective husbands, specifically requiring proof that they had sufficiently bled during intercourse. If they cannot provide such proof, they are to be stoned to death, whereas if they can provide proof, the man is to pay a monetary fine to the father of the bride.

Perhaps more disturbing, in the context of the addendum, is what is found in If a man happens to meet a virgin girl who is engaged and he seizes her and lies down with her and they are discovered, the man who lay down with her must give the girl's father 50 shekels, and she will become his wife. Because he humiliated her, he will not be allowed to divorce her as long as he lives.Verses 28-29. Considering Mr. Jackson’s off-topic claim that Deuteronomy considers rape as reprehensible as murder, it is curious that he does not mention that these verses clearly state that the punishment for rape is a specific monetary fine payable to the father of the rape victim (half the amount required for false testimony in a capital crime) and require that the man marry his victim.

It would seem that Mr. Jackson could consider the context a bit more before wielding his considerable power as a modern day theocratic judge over eight million people. His hubris in “instructing” the Royal Commission on its incorrect reading of scripture is as baseless as the application of the “two witness rule” is to sexual abuse.

 

Thank you for considering these points. My hope and confidence is that you will do all that you can to ensure that Australian children (and, by extension, children the world over) are protected from this menacing hierarchical power structure into which they have been born.

Again, profuse thanks for all that you have already done for this cause.

 

Don Albert

The Guardian of Doctrine Delusion

There is much more that could be written about Geoffrey Jackson’s testimony to prove how deluded he and his colleagues are in thinking that they are divinely selected to be Guardians of Doctrine.

In reality, Geoffrey Jackson has contradicted his claim that, as a Guardian of Doctrine, he devotes himself to Bible Reading, when he couldn’t defend his interpretation of scripture against the simple inquiries of legal individuals with limited biblical knowledge. If his claim to devoting himself to bible reading had been so readily undermined, how are we believe the claims that he devotes himself to prayer and ministry? Indeed, how are we to believe that he has been divinely selected by God to be a “Faithful & Discreet Slave providing food at the proper time” when he couldn’t provide any spiritually enlightening responses to these legal personnel’s doctrinal and scripture-related questions?

Geoffrey Jackson has clearly proven that he is deluded if he thinks he is a Guardian of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine, when he continually contradicted it, denied it, or lied about it. If his testimony is supported by the other remaining members of the Governing Body, or the remaining Guardians of Doctrine, they too have placed themselves in a dangerous position. Why? Because if they are truly Guardians of Doctrine, and believe the Doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be biblical truth, then they should distance themselves from Geoffrey Jackson’s lies, contradictions and denials. Instead, they should do what they claim to be, as Guardians of Doctrine, and stand up and speak the truth. This could include removing Geoffrey Jackson as a member of the Governing Body.

However, such action isn’t going to happen. Because, although Jackson is deluded in thinking he is a Guardian of Doctrine, all the other Guardians of Doctrine are as much deluded, if not more so. Isn’t it no wonder? Each one possibly thinks he is a GOD (Guardian of Doctrine).

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