I have to bring up something similar to what I asked about a year ago, and that is a question about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the question of authority in relation to Scripture. Before I ask the question, some context from a chat a my JW friend and I had should help people understand where I am coming from.
We had a rather longish chat on Facebook, since he no longer lives around my area due to university, which was in German, but I shall translate the relevant bits for you. Everything in blue are my messages, things in red are his.
The context of these messages is a question I asked about JWs and voting in countries where there is an obligation (as opposed to a right) to vote.
sends file with Watchtower quotes on voting
quotes from said document
“[The Witness] will make sure not to violate his neutrality [when complying with the obligation]” So you aren’t allowed to vote?
You can, if your conscience allows, but it is incompatible with the Bible.
But are you allowed to?
But if a Witness’ conscience permits him to vote, and he still believes everything the WT teaches, he won’t be disfellowshipped?
The Watchtower doesn’t teach.
It explains. The Bible teaches.
OK, then I shall reformulate. But if a Witness’ conscience permits him to vote, and he still believes the Watchtower’s interpretation of the Bible, he won’t be disfellowshipped?
I think it’s funny how one can express the same thing in two different ways, but say something entirely different. …] By that I mean: One can use similar words to explain the same situation, but achieve an entirely different effect.
Here comes the thing pertaining directly to the question.
I would still view the expression “the Watchtower’s interpretation of the Bible” critically, because that means that there are multiple interpretations, all of which are looked at as equally valuable. But I don’t see it that way, and I don’t believe you do either. At the same time I can understand that that you don’t want to say that the rules we have all conform to the Bible as I said they did. [In which he is correct, that is exactly what I was saying, since I won’t grant the “the Bible teaches” rhetoric.]
Well, it can’t be denied that there are thousands of interpretations to there. It is evident that not all are correct and that two mutually exclusive ones cannot be correct at the same time.
That’s where it basically ended, because he suggested immediately after this sentence we “peacefully co-exist until a higher Power decides”, to which I proposed peacefully co-existing but discussing this important and interesting question further. We were basically getting to who has the authority to interpret Scripture.
If I get to pose the question “What authority does the WT have?” directly, and having eliminated their 1914 thingy as grounds for it since it argues in a circle, I see myself running into the assertion: “Well, if you study the Scripture properly, only one interpretation will really make sense. The others will all fail at one point or another. You just have to study long enough to get it right.”
How would a Catholic respond to such an assertion, and – as a second question – how else might one go about talking about authority with him, given the basis we have in the above exchange?