The Watchtower has consistently claimed to be the only channel of communication that God is using today. The question that we wish to raise in this article is whether or not the Watchtower has been consistent in its message. If the Watchtower serves an unchanging God (Malachi 3:6- “For I am Jehovah; I have not changed…”New World Translation), then it is a fair assumption that God’s spokesman should be consistent in the message that is presented as God’s view or message. Our research has brought up too many issues to address here, so we have chosen to explore one key example.
A few years ago we had a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) come to our door. They were passing out a magazine that raised some questions regarding medical matters. We invited the JW’s in and asked about organ transplants. When one Witness was asked if he would receive an organ transplant, he replied, “I am not sure. I will have to check.” The question that immediately went through my mind and out of my mouth was, “Who do you have to check with? I am asking if YOU would take an organ transplant.” The witness rightfully looked embarrassed and just said that he would have to research it and get back with me. We asked that since this was a very serious topic, that he make sure that his research was thorough.
Our JW visitor returned the next week with an elder and an answer. He produced a copy of a Watchtower magazine article that explained “his” view of organ transplants.
Questions from Readers
Should congregation action be taken if a baptized Christian accepts a human organ transplant, such as of a cornea or a kidney?
Regarding the transplantation of human tissue or bone from one human to another, this is a matter for conscientious decision by each one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some Christians might feel that taking into their bodies any tissue or body part from another human is cannibalistic. They might hold that the transplanted human material is intended to become part of the recipient’s body to keep him alive and functioning. They might not see it as fundamentally different from consuming flesh through the mouth. Such feelings may arise from considering that God did not make specific provision for man to eat the flesh of his fellowman when he made provision for humans to eat the flesh of animals that had been drained of their life-sustaining blood…
While the Bible specifically forbids consuming blood, there is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue. For this reason, each individual faced with making a decision on this matter should carefully and prayerfully weigh matters and then decide conscientiously what he or she could or could not do before God. It is a matter for personal decision. (Gal. 6:5) The congregation judicial committee would not take disciplinary action if someone accepted an organ transplant. (Watchtower 3/15/1980 p.31)
I read the article and asked how in the world someone could come up with the idea that an organ transplant could be considered cannibalism. Neither JW knew how that was possible and quickly added that that idea did not reflect their view. Our JW friend seemed proud that he could show us that organ transplants were acceptable and more importantly that the Watchtower would not prohibit such valuable medical procedures.
We asked if this was the only information that they had for us and they said that this article was all they could find. We then presented a couple of photo copies of Watchtower literature and proposed that we knew where someone could get the idea that organ transplants were cannibalism.
Questions from Readers
Is there any Scriptural objection to donating one’s body for use in medical research or to accepting organs for transplant from such a source?—W. L., U.S.
It would be good, though, for Christians to consider the Scriptural principles that apply, and then make decisions in harmony with these principles so as to be pleasing to Jehovah.—Acts 24:16.
First, it would be well to have in mind that organ transplant operations, such as are now being performed in an attempt to repair the body or extend a life-span, were not the custom thousands of years ago, so we cannot expect to find legislation in the Bible on transplanting human organs. Yet, this does not mean that we have no indication of God’s view of such matters.
Humans were allowed by God to eat animal flesh and to sustain their human lives by taking the lives of animals, though they were not permitted to eat blood. Did this include eating human flesh, sustaining one’s life by means of the body or part of the body of another human, alive or dead? No! That would be cannibalism, a practice abhorrent to all civilized people.
To show disrespect for the sanctity of human life would make one liable to have his own life taken.—Gen. 9:5, 6.
Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others. (Watchtower 11/15/ 1967 pgs. 702-3)
Our JW friend could not take his eyes off of the pages as he poured over the contradictory information. There was silence for a time and then the elder spoke first. “We are thankful for an organization that keeps up to date and presents new truth.” I questioned how truth could be new. Especially in the light of the fact that the 1967 Watchtower said that it was God’s view that organ transplants were cannibalism. We asked, “Is God’s view true and inspired?” This question troubled our friend. The elder tried to explain that sometimes the organization makes mistakes and that the 1980 Watchtower article corrected that mistake.
We were quick to point out that the 1980 article makes no mention of correcting a previous view and that there was no apology for misleading Jehovah’s Witnesses for almost thirteen years. More importantly, there was no admission to misrepresenting God and attributing their mistake as “God’s view.” There is no way to know how many JW’s died or went blind because they believed God’s view” and refused organ transplants.
This situation raises a number of questions:
- Did God change His mind?
- Did truth really change?
- If truth doesn’t change, and neither does God, then who changed?
- How was the 1967 article presented as “God’s view” in the first place? Did the Watchtower get some sort of spiritual insight? Now that we know this was not true information, what was the source of the misinformation?
- Is God’s organization in the habit of mistaking other spiritual sources as God?
- If there was no spiritual insight, how could they purposely present their view as God’s view? Isn’t that lying?
- If the Watchtower isn’t certain where their information is coming from, what other important doctrines and decisions have they made mistakes on?
These questions deserve serious, thought, meditation and prayer.