I was never baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses but I did grow up in the religion. I recently had contact with them and decided to visit among them after some 30 years of being away from a Kingdom Hall. What I learned from this weekend’s Watchtower study and comments from current Witnesses has helped me to see that the Jehovah’s Witnesses no longer practice or believe in the same things they did prior to the year 2000. And it appears greater changes are on their way. Here are two points of change that shocked me off my feet:
**Point No. 1: **Soliciting Begins, Even Though Governing Body Claims Their Requests Do Not Count as “Soliciting”
Quote from Watchtower books about their official doctrine before this month of May…
“Jehovah’s people will never beg for money.”—God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 194.
“Although the costs of supporting our evangelizing work are high, we do not solicit money…we believe we have Jehovah as our backer and that we ‘will never beg nor petition men for support.’”—Who Are Doing Jehovah’s Will Today, Lesson 24.
This month a member of their Governing Body changed all that when on their televangelist Roku he spent a significant amount of time asking Witnesses to dig deeper into their pockets due to a significant need for financial support.
This fundraising appeal is new for the Witnesses because all other similar appeals by other churches were ridiculed and judged as evil by the JW religion for over a century. While many are happy to do what they can (one person actually said that they would buy less groceries for their family in order to give their organization everything it asks), there were just as many I heard from who were shocked by the whole thing.
**Point No. 2: **Watchtower Ends Reading Prophecies Into Old Testament Narratives
Each Sunday they review and discuss an article from their indoctrination journal (or magazine), The Watchtower, which usually publishes their unique take on the Bible, rotating subject matter to discuss their doctrines and keep these fresh in the minds of adherents. It is like sitting in a Sunday school meeting where everyone is discussing the answers to a test they took the night before because all you have is someone standing in front of the audience directing the “class,” another man reading each paragraph, and people answering the pre-printed question for each paragraph of the article to review what was just read. It is a very efficient system.
This weekend they reviewed an article which looked into a matter announced at a special meeting held by the Governing Body not too long ago. The JW religion, which reads most every narrative in the Old Testament as a prophetic type for the “last days,” has now officially abandoned its most fundamental hermeneutic approach to their eschatology. In other words, the building blocks for claiming end-time dates and events as they have for the past 100+ years had been discarded like trash.
While the article discussed did not mention it, many had the same question afterwards as they discussed the ramifications of this change in their religion: the validity of their famous 1914 date. Their belief that they were chosen as the one true religion relies heavily on reading not only Old Testament narratives as types to be fulfilled in the last days, but they also read many parables of Jesus as prophetic types too. The article showed how even reading Jesus’ illustrations this way was no longer to be done.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have taught that a narrative in Daniel chapter 4 regarding Nebuchadnezzar was a prophetic message providing hidden numerical data to enable them to calculate that the end of days and Christ’s Parousia would begin in 1914. Add to this a parable by Jesus at Matthew 24.45-51 has been viewed as foretelling that Jehovah would use their current Governing Body as the sole channel of truth after 1914 onward. Now that the rules have changed and the Governing Body has directed that no narrative or parable will be considered prophetic unless the Bible specifically says so, many are now expecting the Governing Body to ditch the 1914 doctrine very soon as well.
Many changes have occurred that would never have been allowed before the year 2000, many of which changing the view on time prophecies the Witnesses have used to claim that they were the sole channel of truth. Now that the formula for these is gone people are wondering what is coming next.
Also: JWs to Begin a Greater Emphasis on Jesus Than Before
The current tide of information suggests that this summer the Governing Body is preparing to do two things: center their people on being Witnesses of Jesus more than ever have in their past history and taking an active interest in seeking out and engaging in active outreach programs to those that have either left their religion or been excommunicated in the religion’s past. This latter effort would include a major change to their doctrine which up till now has excluded such outreach and viewed expelled ones as marked for death at the outbreak of Armageddon.
While these changes are actually something I welcome, I notice that a lot of long-time Witnesses are confused. These changes are making their religion more and more identical with mainstream Protestantism by adopting views, practices, and doctrines that were considered anathema just 15 years ago. I guess they are taking a page out of the LDS handbook and realized it is time to make themselves appear like they are just as Christian as anyone else, except in this case the JWs are actually adopting more traditional Christian beliefs than the LDS has.