The Jehovah’s Witness Blood Issue: Resolved! Part 2: How Good is Their Word?

This is part 2 of a multi-part article. If you haven’t done so yet, please read part 1 first.

In part 1 we began peeling the Watchtower’s onion: the many layers of assumptions that must be accepted in order to believe that blood transfusions are sinful. We saw that the first three layers were: (1) belief in Jehovah; (2) belief in the Bible; (3) belief in the Watchtower’s interpretation of the Bible.

A Question of Credibility

The next layer is: faith in the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses (for convenience we’ll refer to them by their publishing organization and chief publication: the Watchtower). This layer may seem optional; after all, we’ve written before about the fallacy of ad hominem attacks, and how even stupid people and liars can make valid points and tell the truth at times.  So, if the Bible really does prohibit blood transfusions, it little matters how reliable the Watchtower is.

However, most Witnesses really haven’t used their own reason in deciding whether the Bible prohibits transfusions. Instead, they have simply adopted the thoughts of the Watchtower. This is quite obvious in how all Witnesses change their minds in unison as the Watchtower issues its “new understandings.” They remind one of a flock of birds following the leader and turning in sync.

When the Watchtower changed from banning blood entirely to banning non-fractionated blood, all of the Witnesses (though supposedly studying their Bibles daily) suddenly all at once understood the Bible to state that fractionated blood was acceptable (despite the fact that the Bible says nothing at all about fractionated blood.)

So, a word or two is in order regarding the Watchtower’s reliability when it comes to this issue. When a person’s life is at stake (or that of their child) I think it’s important that we know something about the record of an organization’s reliability. If you have an important medical question to decide, are you more likely to consult The Journal of the American Medical Association or The Weekly World News? Are you more likely to visit WebMD or JoesFaithHealingBeatsBastardDoctorsBlog.com?

What if you discovered that a particular publication that dispensed medical advice had made fatally flawed and grossly incorrect statements in the past? What if you knew that by following such advice people had died, and afterwards the publication admitted that their advice was incorrect (but took no responsibility and offered no apologies)? Would you be quick to entrust your life-and-death health decisions to the words in that publication?  Sure you would; if you had the mental capacity of a speed bump.

It turns out that a look at the Watchtower’s history reveals exactly the pattern we’ve just described. Let’s look at the evidence in two instances:

1. From 1921 to 1952 the Watchtower organization banned the use of vaccinations.

Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant God made with Noah after the flood… Vaccination has never saved a human life. It does not prevent smallpox.
-–The Golden Age, February 4, 1931, pp. 293-294

In 1952, after loyal Witnesses had suffered persecution for refusal to be vaccinated, had endangered their own lives and health as well as that of their communities, and after an unknown number of deaths had been caused by the above ruling for over thirty years, the Watchtower simply changed its mind:

The matter of vaccination is one for the individual that has to face it to decide for himself… all objection to vaccination on scriptural grounds seems to be lacking.
-–Watchtower, Dec. 15, 1952 p. 764

There can be little doubt that vaccinations appear to have caused a marked decrease in contagious diseases, including “smallpox” and “polio.”
-–Awake!, August 22, 1965, p. 20

2. From 1967 to 1981 the Watchtower banned organ transplants as “cannibalism.”

…removing the organ and replacing it directly with an organ from another human… 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, p.702

For thirteen years Witnesses who needed organ transplants and who listened to the Watchtower died. Then the Watchtower simply changed its mind:

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. . . . Other sincere Christians today may feel that the Bible does not definitely rule out medical transplants of human organs. . . . It may be argued, too, that organ transplants are different from cannibalism since the “donor” is not killed to supply food.”
Watchtower, March 15, 1980, p. 31

Let’s throw in a bonus third instance: Witnesses who listened to the Watchtower’s blanket ban on blood, but who could’ve survived on a blood fraction, also died prior to the time when the Watchtower changed its mind and began allowing blood fractions.

Pop Quiz:

1. If someone is in need of a medical procedure which comes under a current Watchtower ban, should they go ahead and have the procedure, or should they die waiting for the Watchtower to change its mind?

2. If an organization has a record of making mistakes in defining what constitutes God’s law, would it be smart to consider them a reliable source of information regarding what constitutes God’s law?

Scoring: Submit your answers in the Comments section, and we’ll let you know how you did.

The bottom line is that history has proven that we can’t just take the Watchtower’s word for what is God’s law. They have a dismal record of always having been wrong in the past when it comes to medical issues. Yes, it was the same Watchtower organization that published all of the following ludicrous medical statements:

Ad in The Golden Age, April 22, 1925 p. 479

There is no such thing as rabies!
(The Golden Age, Jan. 3, 1923, p. 214)

It has never been proven that a single disease is due to germs.
(The Golden Age, Jan. 16, 1924, p. 250)

Thinking people would rather have smallpox than vaccination, because the latter sows the seed of syphilis, cancers, escema, erysipelas, scrofula, consumption, even leprosy and many other loathsome affections. Hence the practice of vaccination is a crime, an outrage and a delusion.
(The Golden Age, May 1, 1929, p. 502)

A lady had been cured of malignant cancer of the breast by living on grape juice and taking every day a high enema of plain warm water…

These cases offered such complete proof that cancer is curable, even in an advanced stage, that I supposed… that the attention of doctors everywhere would be called to these cures… But… I have never seen a hint regarding the grape juice or fruit juice cure.
The Golden Age, April 2, 1930 p. 435

By creating a radio vibration similar to that used by a disease in the human body it is possible to cancel or neutralize that disease.
The Golden Age, April 22, 1925 p. 453

Sleep on the right side or flat on your back, with the head toward the north so as to get benefit of the earth’s magnetic currents.
The Golden Age 1929 Nov 12 p.107

The following table shows just how confident we all can be that the Watchtower’s pronouncements on blood policy issue from their “unchanging” god, Jehovah, and that they are ever discreet in making sure of themselves before opening their mouths on such life-and-death medical issues:

1909 Initially blood could be eaten: “This prohibition was not extended to the Gentiles ever, because they were never under the Covenant of the Law” The Watchtower April 15, 1909, page 117.
1925  A man is commended for having donated his blood 45 times without charging a penny. Golden Age 1925 July 29 p.683
1927 Blood can no longer be eaten.  ( The Watchtower  1927 December 15 p.371)
1940  Blood transfusions are acceptable: “one of the attending physicians in the great emergency, gave a quart of his blood for transfusion, and today the woman lives and smile gaily over what happened to her” (Consolation 1940 Dec 25 p. 19)
1945  Blood transfusions are not acceptable. (The Watchtower  1945 July 1 p.198-201)
1954 Blood fractions should be treated as blood and are not acceptable.  (Awake! 1954 January 8 p.24)
1958 Blood serum and fractions are acceptable.  ( The Watchtower  1958 September 15 p.575)
1961 Blood fractions are not acceptable. (The Watchtower 1961 September 15 p.559)
1972 Hemodilution is not acceptable. (Awake! 1972 April 8 p.29)
1975  Hemophilia treatments (Factor VII and IX) are not acceptable. (Awake! 1975 Feb 22 p.30)
1978 Hemophilia treatments (Factor VII and IX) are acceptable. (The Watchtower 1978 June 15 p. 30-31)
1983 Hemodilution is acceptable. (Awake! 1983 March 22 p.16)
2006 Blood fractions are acceptable. (Our Kingdom Ministry, November 2006 page 4)

So, instead of foolish blind trust in the organization’s vacillating and dubious interpretations regarding blood transfusions, we will have to examine their arguments strictly on their own merits — quickly, before they change their minds again! We will do that starting in part III.

Part 3: Context, Context, Context!

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