Changes That Disturb People

Norman Hovland


That was the title of an article in the April 22, 1970, Awake! magazine. As the title indicates, people became disturbed by certain changes. What changes? Let the Awake! tell us:

"Changes That Disturb People"
"One of the reasons is that people are disturbed by what is happening in their churches. Yes, millions of persons have been shocked to learn that things they were taught as being vital for salvation are now considered by their church to be wrong. Have you, too, felt discouragement, or even despair, because of what is happening in your church?" (Awake!, April 22, 1970, p. 8)

Oh yes, how awful. Millions of Catholics have of course been shocked by all the doctrine shifts of the church. How wonderful it must be a Jehovah's Witness, because we all know that the Watchtower Society never changes anything.

"Changes That Disturb People"
"A businessman in Medellín, Colombia, expressed the effect the changes have had on many. "Tell me," he asked, "how can I have confidence in anything? How can I believe in the Bible, in God, or have faith? Just ten years ago we Catholics had the absolute truth, we put all our faith in this. Now the pope and our priests are telling us this is not the way to believe any more, but we are to believe 'new things.' How do I know the 'new things' will be the truth in five years?" What are some of these changes that disturb people?" (Awake!, April 22, 1970, p. 8)

The businessman from Colombia certainly raised some interesting questions which indeed demand some answers. Maybe they should ring some bells with the Jehovah's Witnesses as well. Anyway, the changes that were so shocking to the poor Catholics were as follows:

"Should Meat Be Eaten on Friday?"
"For centuries Catholics abstained from eating meat on Fridays. It was a Church law. Many sincerely believed it was a law of Almighty God. But now this has changed. The fact is that the meatless-Friday rule was made an obligation only some 1,100 years ago. Pope Nicholas I (858-867) was the one who put it into effect. And how vital was it considered that Catholics abide by this rule? A publication that bears the Catholic imprimatur, indicating approval, states: "The Catholic Church says that it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to eat meat on Friday knowingly and wilfully, without a sufficiently grave and excusing reason." It adds: The "Church says that if a man dies in unrepented mortal sin, he will go to hell." -- Radio Replies, Rumble and Carty (1938)." (Awake!, April 22, 1970, pp. 8-10)

Imagine that! Some Catholics even regarded this as "a law of Almighty God" and then (gasp) it was CHANGED! No wonder they were upset. But Awake! continues to milk this subject for all its worth.

"Should Meat Be Eaten on Friday?"
"Thus the devout carefully avoided eating meat on Fridays. They sincerely believed that failure to obey could lead to their eternal punishment in a fiery hell. But then, early in 1966, Pope Paul VI authorized local Church officials to modify this abstinence requirement in their countries as they saw fit. The pope was acting in line with recommendations made at the recently completed Second Vatican Council. Thus, in one country after another, meatless Fridays were virtually abolished -- in France, Canada, Italy, Mexico, the United States, and so on."

"The Effect"
"The effect upon many devout Catholics has been devastating. "All these years I thought it was a sin to eat meat," explained a housewife in the midwestern United States. "Now I suddenly find out it isn't a sin. That's hard to understand." If you are a Catholic, can you understand how a practice that was considered by the Church a "mortal sin" can suddenly be approved? If it was a sin five years ago, why is it not today? Many Catholics cannot understand. When a woman in Canada was asked how she felt about the changes in her church, she replied: "I don't know. Maybe you can tell me. What are they going to do with all those people sent to hell for eating meat on Friday?" Not just a few Catholics have asked such questions. The change in teaching has shaken their confidence in the Church. Would you not feel the same way if what you had always been taught to be vital for salvation was suddenly considered unnecessary? Would you not be inclined to question other teachings of your church also?"

"Should Meat Be Eaten on Friday?"
"Many persons have begun to ask questions regarding the basis for this teaching, as well as about other Church teachings. And what especially disturbs them is that they have not received satisfying answers."

"What Becomes Evident"
"The inability of the Church to explain its position Scripturally makes evident an important fact: The Catholic Church has not based its teachings upon what God's Word says. Rather, it has founded many of its beliefs and practices on the unstable traditions of men." (Awake!, April 22, 1970, pp. 8-10)

The Awake! article indeed raises interesting and good questions. It would indeed be disturbing for a sincere Christian when the church that he belongs to for many years claim that something is a deadly sin and then suddenly it isn't. This would be especially disturbing if that church claimed to be the only true Church. In defense of the Catholic Church it can be said that not eating meat on Friday's didn't put anybody's life in jeopardy. A stupid and inconvenient rule, yes, but hardly lethal.

The superior and indignant tone of the Awake! article indicates that something like this could of course not take place in the Watchtower Society. Jehovah's Organization is of course different from those "man made". To display such shifts in doctrine is of course unknown for Jehovah's "channel of communication". Or is it?

Lets investigate and see what we will find. In the 60s when transplants were in its beginning the Watchtower wrote:

"Questions from Readers"
"Is there anything in the Bible against giving one's eyes (after death) to be transplanted to some living person? -- L. C., United States."

"The question of placing one's body or parts of one's body at the disposal of men of science or doctors at one's death for purposes of scientific experimentation or replacement in others is frowned upon by certain religious bodies. However, it does not seem that any Scriptural principle or law is involved. It therefore is something that each individual must decide for himself. If he is satisfied in his own mind and conscience that this is a proper thing to do, then he can make such provision, and no one else should criticize him for doing so. On the other hand, no one should be criticized for refusing to enter into any such agreement." (The Watchtower, August 1, 1961, p. 480)

As correctly pointed out there wasn't anything in the Scriptures about this so it would be up to the individual, and there should be no criticism of the decision. Then in 1967 another "Questions from Readers" gave this answer:

"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.A."

"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 [...] When men of science conclude that this normal process will no longer work and they suggest removing the organ and replacing it directly with an organ from another human, this is simply a shortcut. Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic." (The Watchtower, November 15, 1967, p. 702)

From being a question of individual conscience it was now regarded as cannibalism to accept transplants. If you remember one of the statements from the above Awake! article that said: "For centuries Catholics abstained from eating meat on Fridays. It was a Church law. Many sincerely believed it was a law of Almighty God." So like these Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses who had sincerely believed that transplants was up to them to decide, now very sincerely had to believe that it was cannibalism and "a law of Almighty God". In obedience to the "Almighty", all Jehovah's Witnesses abstained from transplants. Compared to the "meat on Friday" business this was a much more serious matter, because it involved peoples' health.

But that didn't stop "Jehovah's Channel" in Brooklyn from continuing the tragedy. 13 years later it was time for Jehovah's Witnesses to once again "sincerely" believe that transplants "is a matter for conscientious decision by each one of Jehovah's Witnesses":

"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. [...] 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." (The Watchtower, March 15, 1980, p. 31)

The Catholics' "meat of Friday" change, completely pale in significance compared with this insane mess of wishy washy rules who put peoples' life and health in danger. Look at how the Awake! ridicules the Catholics' approach to the Bible:

"Should Meat Be Eaten on Friday?"
"This is obviously true with regard to Friday meat abstinence. For, look as you may, nowhere in the Bible will you find that Christians were ever instructed to refrain from eating meat on any Friday of the year, or on any other day. It is not a requirement of God." (Awake!, April 22, 1970, pp. 8-10)

Oh, dear. You can't find anywhere in the Bible instructions about refraining "from eating meat on any Friday". Yet the same complete lack in the Bible of instructions about refraining from transplants, didn't stop the Governing Body from presenting them as "a law of Almighty God". That this so obviously wasn't "a requirement of God" didn't seem to bother them a bit. But of course Catholics have every reason for being disturbed and upset. Jehovah's Witnesses obviously haven't.

"Should Meat Be Eaten on Friday?"
"Thus, many truth-seekers are having their eyes opened to see that the Catholic Church has not been holding strictly to God's Word. And they are wondering whether any religion that does not do so is worthy of their confidence and support. But there are other changes that are also disturbing people today." (Awake!, April 22, 1970, pp. 8-10)

According to Awake! this shift in doctrine had the effect that "truth-seekers" now could see that: "the Catholic Church has not been holding strictly to God's Word." Apparently there is no reason for any "truth-seekers" to draw such conclusions about the Watchtower Society despite the fact that their changes are far more serious.

Imagine what would happen if a Witness "in Medellín, Colombia" had expressed these questions: "how can I have confidence in anything? How can I believe in the Bible, in God, or have faith? Just ten years ago we Jehovah's Witnesses had the absolute truth, we put all our faith in this. Now the Governing Body and our elders are telling us this is not the way to believe any more, but we are to believe 'new things'. How do I know the 'new things' will be the truth in five years?"

Let us do another experiment, lets take another part of the Awake! article and substitute Catholic with Jehovah's Witness, etc., and see how well these things fit the Watchtower:

The Effect

The effect upon many devout Jehovah's Witnesses has been devastating. "All these years I thought it was a sin to take an organ transplant," explained a housewife in the midwestern United States. "Now I suddenly find out it isn't a sin. That's hard to understand." If you are a Jehovah's Witness, can you understand how a practice that was considered by the Society a "mortal sin" can suddenly be approved? If it was a sin 13 years ago, why is it not today? Many Jehovah's Witnesses cannot understand. When a woman in Canada was asked how she felt about the changes in her religion, she replied: "I don't know. Maybe you can tell me. What are they going to do with all those people who were disfellowshipped for accepting an organ transplant?" Not just a few Jehovah's Witnesses have asked such questions. The change in teaching has shaken their confidence in the Society. Would you not feel the same way if what you had always been taught to be vital for salvation was suddenly considered unnecessary? Would you not be inclined to question other teachings of your church also?

Why don't we see such relevant questions posed by Jehovah's Witnesses? Because the person asking them would immediately find himself outside of the organization. It is only Catholics and others who can afford the luxury of being "disturbed" by doctrinal changes.

Jehovah's Witnesses have of course no reason to do so. When the teachings of the Watchtower change, it is of course an entirely different matter.

"Why have there been changes over the years in the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses?"
"The Bible shows that Jehovah enables his servants to understand his purpose in a progressive manner. (Prov. 4:18; John 16:12) Thus, the prophets who were divinely inspired to write portions of the Bible did not understand the meaning of everything that they wrote. (Dan. 12:8, 9; 1 Pet. 1:10-12) The apostles of Jesus Christ realized that there was much they did not understand in their time. (Acts 1:6, 7; 1 Cor. 13:9-12) The Bible shows that there would be a great increase in knowledge of the truth during "the time of the end." (Dan. 12:4) Increased knowledge often requires adjustments in one's thinking. Jehovah's Witnesses are willing humbly to make such adjustments." (Reasoning From the Scriptres (1985), p. 205)

The Catholics of course not being Jehovah's servants cannot claim that they understand God's purpose in a progressive manner. I mean, when the Prophets of old didn't understand what they were writing, how can one expect that the Governing Body should understand it?

They have time and time again demonstrated their inability to understand anything in the Bible. So when Catholics realized how utterly unbiblical the "meat on Friday" ban was and simply stopped the charade, that would lead to "truth-seekers" realizing that they were less than "strict" with the Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses are unlike these detestable Catholics "willing humbly to make adjustments."

The moral of this matter is that when other religions make doctrinal shifts, that is a a matter of great concern for their members who then have every reason to be upset, disturbed, etc. Sincere "truth-seekers" should then realize that "the Catholic Church has not been holding strictly to God's Word."

When Jehovah's Witnesses do much more serious full circle shifts from regarding transplant as an individual decision to regarding it as cannibalism back to being an individual choice, it is painted as understanding God's purpose in a "progressive manner", and perfectly in order. You can say whatever you want about the Watchtower Society, but honesty isn't one of their most noticeable characters.


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