I wish to start this post by stating that this article can be of assistance when discussing with JWs their blind obedience to the governing body and why as Christians this may not be supported in scripture. This utilises scriptures they will be familiar with and examples that they have heard many times. I would also point out that religious debate with witnesses can be frustrating but it at least gives you a starting point.
I have been pondering over the demands made by the Governing body for absolute loyalty and unquestioning obedience to their interpretation of scripture. Is this a reasonable request and is it in line with scripture? Is there in fact a scriptural defence for taking personal responsibility for beliefs and having a questioning attitude when being told what is to be believed.
There are ample scriptural warnings about trusting in men Psalm 146 v 3 warns us not to put our trust in Nobles or earthly men and Galatians 1 v 8 goes even further stating that even if an angel were to preach to us something contrary to the teachings of Christ it should be ignored. These scriptures show that people can be in error and not everything preached is to be followed unquestioningly regardless of the source.
In fact it would appear that the Bible does not encourage passivity either in the old or new testament. What can we learn from the example of the Israelites? The Bible talks of a nation chosen by God with a form of religion laid down by him and yet they frequently went astray. The religious leaders tasked with interpreting God’s will for the nation and acting as mediators often abused the people whilst they themselves followed corrupt practices. This inevitably led to religious corruption at all levels . If the Bible is to be believed were the people judged as less guilty than their leaders because they passively followed them without question? No they were not, the whole nation was punished with exile or defeat in battle and the whole nation was considered worthy of punishment. Only individuals that took a stand were separated and given any form of divine protection.
Those individuals singled out for praise were often the lone voices acting with courage of conviction. Phinehas in Numbers 25 v 8 took affirmative action against Zimri and Cozbi who had brought foreign women into the Isrealite camp whilst the rest of the people stood by. His aggressive and violent response is applauded as a sign of faith and zeal for what is right. In addition prophets such as Elijah, Jeremiah and Malachi highlighted corruption and preached warnings and were applauded as fine examples of faithful men but were not universally popular at the time or heads of large factions within the nation. The majority of the nation followed the prevailing majority viewpoint.
The New Testament is even clearer about the responsibility of the Christian to follow the examples of men of faith and that Christian have to take personal responsibility for their beliefs. Romans 14 v 12 talks about how each one will render an account of themselves to God. There is no suggestion that this can be delegated to another person or group. The Bereans were applauded as people who took this to heart constantly checking whether what they were being told was correct. Acts 17 v 11 talks about them as a fine example to be imitated.
To suggest that it is unnecessary to check because “We have the truth” is not supported by the Bible. To suggest that men are imperfect and make mistakes but should be followed without question until God sorts things out is also not a view supported in the Bible accounts above. You cannot abdicate your faith to another and you cannot sign over your integrity to a group whoever they claim to be. If someone is critical of your faith then they may be the Jeremiah who is warning of the corruption within it. How will you know if you are not diligent?
Gal 2 v 11 & 12 shows that even the men of faith such as Peter were not immune from making mistakes. But did this mean that the early Christians should not correct him or point out his error. Paul saw an issue and was forthright in his criticism. Once again this is cited as a fine example. Without checks and balances and scrutiny corruption is inevitable and then a religion becomes about control . Christianity is a dynamic faith that does not fear scrutiny but supports and encourages it. Truth does not become a lie because we look at it closely only liars fear exposure.
So there is no scriptural basis for blind obedience if we accept that religion has representatives who are imperfect they need to be humble enough to accept that they will make mistakes and will need to be accountable to their followers for their interpretation. They should invite and expect good Christians to check the validity of their claims and have complete transparency after all each Christian has a personal responsibility for their conduct and beliefs and they should respect the conscience of another even if it disagrees with their own.