Monday, December 20, 2010

What is an apostate?

As defined by the Jehovah's Witness book Reasoning From the Scriptures, "apostasy is abandoning or deserting the worship and service of God, actually a rebellion against Jehovah God. Some apostates profess to know and serve God but reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible but reject Jehovah’s organization."[1]
A black hole sucking away gasses from a much larger star

There are also two different types of apostates. Members of an apostate religion who are either converts or born into it are apostate on a sociological level. This also applies to converts and people born into an ex-JW splinter group. As they are not ex-JWs, they personally are not apostate. But since they are in an ex-JW/WTS splinter group, they would be in an apostate religion.

However, Jehovah's Witnesses who desert their religion and turn to attack it are apostate. Since Jehovah's Witnesses believe they are serving God and doing his will, and have the best knowledge and understanding of the Bible, deserting and rebelling against them would be apostate. That not everyone agrees that Jehovah's Witnesses fill that role is irrelevant. Jehovah's Witnesses have the right to label things and people as apostate.

At this point we can ask, 'From the viewpoint of Jehovah's Witnesses, are members of other religions that do the same apostate?' The answer is 'No,' for apostasy is only against the truth, the true God. People leaving other religions and attacking them are not apostate, for they never abandoned and attacked the truth. Thus, Jesus was not an apostate. As one person said, "It is interesting that this does not apply to those who have left other faiths to come to the truth." Thus, an ex-(fill in the blank) Jehovah's Witness is not an apostate. This is not hard to grasp, yet some have a very difficult time understanding this, for reasons known only to themselves.

Also, Jehovah's Witnesses have more freedom than some want to acknowledge. We can read things outside of the 'Watchtower.' We can read a wide variety of things, even things written by ex-JW apostates that are not apostate in nature. For example, say one apostate ex-JW wrote a book that fills a niche that has nothing to do with religion, not even mentioning Jehovah's Witnesses or alluding to them. Yet, he also wrote apostate material in a separate, unrelated work. Is it permissible to read his non-religious work? Why would it not be? A recent Awake! magazine did just that, even quoting from one.[2]

There is also the danger of being contaminated by reading ex-JW apostate material, as a 1986 Watchtower points out. Notice the comparison made:
Let us illustrate matters in this way: Suppose your teenage son received some pornographic material in the mail. What would you do? If he was inclined to read it out of curiosity, would you say: ‘Yes, son, go ahead and read it. It won’t hurt you. From infancy we’ve taught you that immorality is bad. Besides, you need to know what’s going on in the world in order to see that it’s truly bad’? Would you reason that way? Absolutely not! Rather, you would surely point out the dangers of reading pornographic literature and would require that it be destroyed. Why? Because no matter how strong a person may be in the truth, if he feeds his mind on the perverted ideas found in such literature, his mind and heart will be affected. A lingering wrong desire planted in the recesses of the heart can eventually create a perverted sexual appetite. The result? James says that when wrong desire becomes fertile, it gives birth to sin, and sin leads to death. (James 1:15) So why start the chain reaction?

Well, if we would act so decisively to protect our children from exposure to pornography, should we not expect that our loving heavenly Father would similarly warn us and protect us from spiritual fornication, including apostasy? He says, Keep away from it![3]
As one of Jehovah's Witnesses on the Yahoo! Answers forum said: "Like any normal person, we do not bother to read *purposeful* misrepresentations and *slanderous* material by opposers any more than we care to read pornography."[4]

Apostasy is also death-dealing, and finds its origins with Satan, the author of human death. (Hebrews 2:14) As one source said,
It must be emphasized that while apostasy is a danger for all who drift from the faith (Heb. 2:1-3) and fall away from God (6:6), it is not made complete without constant and willful sinning against the voice of the Holy Spirit (see Mt 12:31, note on sin against the Holy Spirit).[5]
Thus, apostates are opposed to the truth. The Apostle Paul described them as "mentally diseased," in that they debate in an autistic manner, and are "corrupted in mind and despoiled of the truth." They may fail to grasp even simple concepts. From them "spring envy, strife, abusive speeches, wicked suspicions, violent disputes about trifles," and most serious of all, alienation from the holy God of truth.—1 Timothy 6:4-5.

When certain people are bitterly opposed to Jehovah's Witnesses and are very knowledgeable about them, does that mean they must automatically be apostate? No, certainly not. They may have been informed from apostate sources, informed from knowledgeable opposition sources, or may have associated with Jehovah's Witnesses but were never baptized as one. Thus, it is important to not immediately label all knowledgeable opposers as apostates. That identification cannot be made on their knowledge or opposition alone.

The 'Bible reading alone' comment
The August 15, 1981 Watchtower article Serving Jehovah “Shoulder to Shoulder” on pages 28-29 paragraph 14 made this observation:
From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah’s people those who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude. They do not want to serve “shoulder to shoulder” with the worldwide brotherhood. (Compare Ephesians 2:19-22.) Rather, they present a “stubborn shoulder” to Jehovah’s words. (Zech. 7:11, 12) Reviling the pattern of the “pure language” that Jehovah has so graciously taught his people over the past century, these haughty ones try to draw the “sheep” away from the one international “flock” that Jesus has gathered in the earth. (John 10:7-10, 16) They try to sow doubts and to separate unsuspecting ones from the bounteous “table” of spiritual food spread at the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where truly there is ‘nothing lacking.’ (Ps. 23:1-6)[6] They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such ‘Bible reading,’ they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom’s clergy were teaching 100 years ago, and some have even returned to celebrating Christendom’s festivals again, such as the Roman Saturnalia of December 25! Jesus and his apostles warned against such lawless ones.—Matt. 24:11-13; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Pet. 2:1, 22. (underscore added)
Is this Watchtower making the claim that apostates discovered authentic Bible teachings through the Bible alone? While opposers would like you to believe that it does, notice the qualifiers of "strangely" and the apostrophes around "Bible reading." Thus the point is that some who split off from Jehovah's Witnesses, claiming to be reading the Bible alone, have ironically returned to beliefs and practices that are foreign to the Bible. It may also be noted that the paragraph was vague and sensational: that is, vague as to what false, unscriptural doctrines the apostates were returning to, and sensational in that it replaced "Christmas" with "the Roman Saturnalia." Aside from that, it should still be very clear what the main point was, that they have ironically returned to beliefs and practices that are foreign to the Bible.

JW: Jehovah's Witness(es).
WTS: Watchtower Society, organization used by Jehovah's Witnesses.

[1] Apostasy. p. 34.

[2] January, 2011, page 15. "Was it Designed? The Inverted Retina." (The source being on biology, which quoted "Is the Backwards Human Retina Evidence of Poor Design?" from the young-earth creationist Institute for Creation Research [ICR], as found on ICR's website:

[3] 'Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason.' March 15, p. 13 par. 11-12. (Italics original.)

[5] Full Life Study Bible, Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids Mich, editor Donald Stamp, p. 1918.

[6] The expression "there is 'nothing lacking' (Ps. 23:1-6)" means that (1) core doctrines are secure and (2) together with Psalm 23 is an assurance that Jehovah's spirit will continue to lead his people into increased scriptural understanding. (Footnote posted by JIMSPACE.)

Black hole graphic from

Additional reading: