At first glance, Jehovah's Witnesses
seem to be the model of religious democracy.
However, in reality the Watchtower Society is an absolute autocracy. All authority is vested in the Governing Body, including the authority to understand and teach the Bible.
Dissent is not permitted and, if discovered, is punished swiftly and completely. Jehovah's Witnesses are excluded from membership or disfellowshipped
not merely for gross, unrepentant immorality or heresy but also for questioning
the teaching and authority of the Society. Should a Witness be disfellowshipped, he learns firsthand what it means to be shunned
by the very people he once considered his friends, family, and brother and sisters in Christ.
Witnesses are not only to isolate themselves from those who were once Witnesses and have been disfellowshipped or disassociated but also from anyone who is not a Witness and who attempts to present a view contrary to the Watchtower. No Witness is allowed to read dissenting materialm whether it is written by a disgruntled Jehovah's Witness, a disfellowshipped or disassociated Witness, or someone who has never been a Witness.
Surprisingly, prospective Jehovah's Witnesses are told that it is right to question what one believes and to search out God's will for themselves. In what used to be their standard introductory study for new prospective members, The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life,
We need to examine not only what we personally believe but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachingsg in full harmony with God's Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination. It should be the sincere desire over every one of us to learn what God's will is for us, and then to do it.
However, the Society means by this exhortation that one is supposed to test his own non-Witness
religion, not the teachings of the Watchtower Society. Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to study the Bible on their own, to interpret what they read in the Bible for themselves, or to teach directly from the Bible. Rather, they must teach from approved Watchtower publications about
The Watchtower and Tract Society has weathered the storms of its inconsistent and turbulent history by enforcing absolute control over its members and by excluding anyone who dares to question anything. It should not surprise us, then, that most Witnesses have memorized the basic doctrinal teachings of the Society
and will defend them adamantly, even when their defense is irrational, unbiblical, and nonhistorical.
Source: Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watchtower, The Kingdom of the Cults
, Walter Martin, Revised, Updated and Expanded Anniversaty Edition, pp. 96-99. Note: this quote comes from the Bethany House Publishers; 1 edition (November 1, 1997). We recommend that you purchase the Bethany House Publishers; Rev&Updtd edition (October 1, 2003
- or later) instead.
As Walter Martin pointed out, Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that it is right to question what one believes. But since Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to question the teachings and authority of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, we know the intention is to have you examine believes other than those taught by the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Nevertheless, the WBT&S would be hard-pressed to come up with a logical explanation as to why statements like these should not be applied to the Jehovah's Witnesses:
Next we take a look at the doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses.