Part 2: “That Faithful and Discreet Slave”
Featuring: Anthony Norris III and Steven Lot
Norris: I have a Return Visit to make at this house on a, let’s see — a Mr. Socrates.
Lot: Oh, yes, I was with you on the initial call. I remember the gentleman well. Dressed rather oddly, I thought.
Norris: [Ringing the bell.] At least he wasn’t wearing tight pants.
Socrates: [Answering the door] Gentlemen! How glad I am to see you again, please come in! [They walk in, and he has them sit down on his couch.]
I obtained some Jameson Scotch for you in anticipation of your return visit. [Offering them a couple of tumblers full.]
Norris: Oh, thank you. But not while I’m “on duty!”
Lot: I’ll try some! [Gets dirty look from Norris, so sets the glass down on a coaster without sipping.]
Socrates: You know, gentlemen, I really must tell you how honored I am by your presence in my humble home once again. Since your last visit I have read the literature you left me, and have used the Internet to research your organization. I even obtained a Watchtower Library disk with all of your literature, searchable back to the 1950’s.
Norris: We’re very glad to hear of your interest.
Socrates: Yes, but more importantly, I learned that you two represent one fourth of the Governing Body: the “Faithful and Discreet Slave!” Isn’t that true?
Lot: We have that privilege.
Norris: And responsibility.
Socrates: Yes, and that responsibility, as I understand it from your writings, is to dispense the truth from God to the world! Is that right?
[Lot and Norris smile and nod.]
Socrates: Marvelous! Again, I am honored, but, a little confused as to why you are here today.
Lot: We are spreading the good news of the kingdom.
Socrates: Yes, but today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Aren’t you required to be in church today?
[Lot and Norris laugh.]
Norris: No, we don’t practice Mariolatry.
Nor do we believe that Mary ascended bodily into heaven. The Bible, at First Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 50 tells us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s Kingdom.”
Lot: [In a quiet aside to Norris.] But I thought Jesus and Elijah both ascended bodily into heaven. [Norris ignores him.]
Socrates: But, how can this be? Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as an article of faith in 1950, this was considered to be an ex cathedra declaration, and hence an infallible teaching which all believers must accept.
You’re saying the Pope made a mistake, but being infallible means that it’s impossible to make a mistake.
Heck, they’ve even got physical evidence: Mary’s girdle, which she dropped, while ascending heavenward, into the hands of Doubting Thomas himself! Or so the story goes. [Shows them the images he has found on the Internet.]
Lot: Man, that bishop is a dead-ringer for you, brother Norris. You haven’t been moonlighting, have you?
[Aside to Norris, in a whisper] Boy, if I had been Thomas I’d have been tempted to take a peek up her robe once that girdle came off; a vantage-point better than an escalator!
Norris: [After giving Lot a sly smile.] You see, Mr. Socrates, that is all from the Catholic Church: part of what the Bible calls Babylon the Great: Satan’s empire of false religion. From what I hear, there are several of these “authentic girdles of Mary” held in various churches. And they all made sudden appearances in the Middle Ages. Whenever they wanted to raise money to build a church, some monk or priest would whip off his belt and put it on display as “Mary’s girdle,” and their gullible members would pay good money to see it.
They manufacture ridiculous “evidence”: fake “relics,” and tell people the Pope is infallible just to get them to believe such nonsense as this, enslave them to their organization, collect their tithes, and distract them from The Truth.
Lot: [Laughing] Yeah, you could say that they’ve made a very big, and very wrong assumption. And we all know what happens when we assume.
[Aside to Norris.] Hey, we can maybe use that in our act!
Socrates: But as someone with a “pipeline to God,” mustn’t the Pope by definition be infallible when he’s instructing the faithful on matters of doctrine?
Norris: The fact is, the Popes have contradicted themselves many times, proving that they can’t be infallible.
Socrates: Well, I guess that would follow if you say that they are a false religion. But the true religion would have to have infallible leadership, don’t you agree?
Norris: No. The Faithful Slave is not infallible. God uses imperfect men [with a meaningful look directed at Lot] to accomplish his purposes.
Socrates: Imperfect men: sure. But of course they’d still be infallible when declaring doctrine. The Catholics don’t claim that the Pope is perfect (or “impeccable,” as they put it.) But they argue convincingly that God wouldn’t allow his “channel” to mess up his message, or tell the faithful to believe untruths as if they were “The Truth.” Surely you can see that this would make no sense. Therefore, you men — when acting as part of the Faithful Slave in its role of dispensing the truth from God — must be infallible!
Norris: We’re not. We’ve made some mistakes in the past.
Lot: [Aside.] That’s an understatement!
Socrates: Minor, doctrinal issues, I’m guessing. Surely not anything that could lead to physical or spiritual harm to your followers.
Lot: Oh, yes. Between 1967 and 1980 we taught that organ transplants were forbidden by God’s law. And this caused some harm and even death to those who listened to us.
Socrates: I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I’m confused. I thought for sure that you would say that the Slave, charged with feeding God’s people their spiritual food, was infallible when performing that duty.
Lot: What made you think so?
Socrates: Well, don’t you claim that the Governing Body goes all the way back to the Apostles of Jesus, and the elders who issued the edict against blood in Jerusalem, according to the book of Acts?
Socrates: And their edict must be infallible since it is included in the “inspired word of God”?
Socrates: So there you have an incidence of the Governing Body being infallible.
Plus, didn’t Jesus tell them that he would “always be with them,” and that he would send holy spirit to “teach them all things”?
Lot: Yes, he did say that.
Socrates: And neither Jesus nor the holy spirit would ever steer you wrong, correct?
Norris: That’s right, they wouldn’t steer us wrong, though we might not always fully understand their direction, being imperfect men.
Socrates: So, here you have divine guidance leading you, but due to your imperfection you don’t follow that guidance, and lead your followers astray. Is that a fair statement?
Lot: It’s fair.
Socrates: You are the weak link in the chain?
Socrates: So you’re telling me that God had the foresight to implement a perfect heavenly channel to communicate his Truth to humankind, but he slipped up on the bottom part: entrusting the message to human incompetents. Although all-powerful, God can’t manage to guide these hand-picked men sufficiently in order to get them to repeat his vital messages properly to those who yearn to obey him!
Yet, even knowing all this, what you proclaim as The Truth must be accepted by your followers, correct? For instance, if I say “I am a Jehovah’s Witness, but I don’t believe in the Two Witness Rule“; or “I don’t believe in shunning family members“; or “I don’t believe that all non-Jehovah’s Witnesses are about to be killed in horrible ways by a loving God (with the assistance of you very gentlemen),” if I said any of those things —
Norris: If you said any of those things you wouldn’t be a Jehovah’s Witness, and you’d be disfellowshipped for apostasy.
Socrates: What if, between 1967 and 1980, I had said “I don’t believe organ transplants are against God’s law”?
Norris: Disfellowshipped for apostasy.
Socrates: Even though I would’ve been right, according to the “New Truth” on the matter since 1980? I would’ve had the truth and rejected the lie: the “mistake” of the Slave. Yet you say I would’ve been disfellowshipped.
Norris: Absolutely! We have to have unity of belief in God’s organization.
Socrates: So you think it’s better to have everyone believing a lie than to have anyone think for themselves.
Lot: As long as the instruction comes from the Slave, yes. We are self-correcting. If something is wrong, we just have to “wait on Jehovah” to make it right, eventually.
Socrates: Everyone believing a lie told by their religious leader in order to have one catholic faith (because, as you know, the word catholic simply means universal.) That’s a strong clue as to what this sounds like to me.
But let me ask you this, in our hypothetical situation: After 1980, after the Slave realized I had been right about organ transplants, and they had been wrong — I’d automatically be reinstated, correct?
Norris: Absolutely not! You committed the sin of not “listening and obeying.” You had engaged in independent thinking: questioning God’s channel of Truth!
Socrates: Sort of like being excommunicated from the Catholic Church for heresy if I say that I don’t believe what the Pope says about the Assumption of Mary?
Norris: Very much like that, yes. Though you could be reinstated if you repented, and fully came back to our way of thinking on all matters, and committed to agreeing with whatever ideas we come up with in the future. We stress the unity of belief. Jehovah’s Witnesses must believe what the Slave tells them is True, even if it makes no sense to them.
Lot: [To himself.] And even if it isn’t true.
Socrates: So then, you see, you expect your followers to treat you the same way Catholics treat the Pope: exactly as if you were infallible! It makes no sense to expect this from them if you can later turn around and say, “Oh, sorry; we were wrong: that wasn’t God’s message at all. We were in error.”
So, you might as well claim infallibility; no other stance makes sense, given the claims you make, and the obedience you demand.
Lot: Well, we can’t claim infallibility because, uh —
Socrates: Is it for the same reason that you say the Pope is not infallible: that Popes have contradicted each other?
Lot: Well, yes. We could hardly be infallible when we keep changing our minds — and doctrines.
Norris: We’re not “changing our minds” so much as gaining better understanding of The Truth as time goes by, and we come closer to the end of this system of things. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the righteous is like the bright morning light that grows brighter and brighter until full daylight.”
Socrates: Isn’t that talking about a righteous person’s deeds shining forth, as when Jesus said to “let your light shine,” rather than to misunderstanding one’s own doctrines?
Lot: Some think so, but we don’t.
Socrates: So, how do you apply it? At first you were in the dark, stumbling about, and trying to describe what you could but dimly see or guess at. Then as the light got brighter you were able to clarify what you were seeing?
Lot: You’ve got it!
Socrates: And, being “discreet” means not blurting out half-baked ideas, or the first thing that comes into your head, but making sure that something is true before declaring it as The Truth to others. So, you would have to wait until the light was bright enough to make things out clearly before opening your mouth, correct?
Lot: That’s right.
Socrates: So, being the Discreet Slave, how could you possibly have ever told your followers that vaccinations and organ transplants were against God’s law, when you now admit that they never were against God’s law?
Lot: We “got ahead of the light.”
Norris: We made a mistake; we’re imperfect humans.
Do you understand?
Socrates: Yes. Thank you, gentlemen, for making it as bright and clear to me as that “path of the righteous” we spoke of. I now see your evidence as tangibly as if it were one of Mary’s girdles.
And I must tell you that the “we’re imperfect humans” excuse is perfectly valid — for anyone not claiming to be a divinely led Faithful and Discreet Slave.
[Long silence as the Slaves try to come up with some way to respond to this.]
Norris: Well, we haven’t always been as discreet as we are now. Over the years Jehovah has helped ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ to become steadily more discreet.
Lot: We know that we’re the Faithful and Discreet Slave because Jesus judged us to be so in 1919.
[Norris rolls his eyes.]
Socrates: And how do you know Jesus made this judgment?
Lot: Because I read all about it in the Watchtower.
Norris: Let me clarify that. [Giving Lot yet another dirty look.]
Lot: Oh, yeah, and corresponding to Jesus’ earthly ministry of 3 years, it was 3 years later that Jesus examined the religions of the world, and found only our organization to be faithful [we called ourselves the International Bible Students back then.] So he judged us to be his Faithful and Discreet Slave, and put us in charge of the spiritual food, in the year 1919. A position we have faithfully held ever since.
Socrates: Wouldn’t three years after 1914 be 1917?
Norris: Oh, it was three and a half years, and brother Lot skipped a step or two in there somewhere.
Lot: Oh, yeah, I remember: the 3 1/2 days of Revelation chapter 11, which we say symbolizes 9 months, give or take, and we add that to the 1,260 days of that same chapter, and, I think by starting in December of 1914, we come real close to the date of Rutherford’s release on bail from prison in March of 1919: proving that Jehovah and Jesus favored our organization.
Norris: [Frowning, with a puzzled look.] Yeah. Well, we don’t recall offhand exactly how we get to the 1919 date, but you get the idea.
Socrates: I’m not sure that I do. In fact, it sounds a bit like “manufactured ridiculous evidence” to me. So, let’s leave the 1919 date for the moment as an assumption, and get back to discretion.
You’re saying that the Slave has improved its level of discretion since the time it got God’s law wrong regarding organ transplants.
Norris: That’s correct.
Socrates: So, if we could assign a score, would you agree that announcing a ban on organ transplants — a literally fatal error — would have to get a score of zero on the discretion scale?
Norris: Not necessarily. The Slave just made a mistake on this one policy. They still had a lot right, and that shows they were more discreet than the religions of Christendom.
Socrates: But the Slave is guided by the holy spirit in its announcements of God’s laws, is it not?
Norris: Of course.
Socrates: And the holy spirit is infallible, is it not?
Norris: Of course.
Socrates: So, the ban on transplants could not have been due to the holy spirit’s guidance.
Norris: You’re right.
Socrates: So, did the Slave feel that they were being guided by the holy spirit when they announced and enforced the ban? Or did they just make this law up on their own?
Lot: I’m not sure what they felt; it was before my time as a member of the Governing Body.
Socrates: Well, if they weren’t 100% sure that this ban was being mandated by the holy spirit, it would be the height of indiscretion to announce the ban, and place the lives of its members in danger.
Norris: Certainly they felt that they were being guided by the holy spirit, or they would never have announced the ban.
Socrates: But they were wrong?
Norris: In this instance, yes: they were wrong.
Socrates: But didn’t they know what it feels like to have the holy spirit’s guidance? I mean, they supposedly had felt this guidance in all these other instances where you said “they had a lot right.” So, they had to know what that guidance felt like, or else they had never really felt it, and all of your doctrines become suspect.
Norris: Yes, of course they knew what it felt like.
Socrates: But in this case they must not have felt it.
Socrates: And yet they went ahead and declared that transplants were against God’s law without having felt the spirit’s guidance. Not very discreet, was it?
Lot: Okay, we grant that it wasn’t very discreet.
Norris: But, again: the Slave’s level of discretion has been steadily increasing.
Socrates: Okay, so here’s my problem: if the Slave’s level of discretion has been “steadily increasing,” and we found it to be at zero in 1967, then it must’ve been below zero prior to 1967.
Norris: I admit that, logically, that follows.
Socrates: And you tell me that Jesus declared your organization to be the “faithful and discreet slave” before 1967 — in fact, way back in 1919.
Lot: In 1919, that’s correct.
Socrates: But in 1919 the organization would’ve had a negative discretion score: they would not have been discreet. So, how could Jesus judge them to be discreet when they weren’t discreet?
Norris: Uh, because, even so, they were still the best thing going.
Socrates: Actually, the Christadelphians were much closer to your current understanding of “The Truth” back in 1919 than were your International Bible Students of that time.
Lot: [With a worried, disappointed look at Norris] So, we’re not the Faithful and Discreet Slave?
Socrates: Sorry to burst your bubble.
But, really, no one in their right mind should want to be a slave! I just looked up the definition of slave, and it says:
“A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey him.”
According to what I read in the Bible, Christian leaders are not “forced to obey,” but are supposed to serve God willingly:
Therefore, as a fellow elder, a witness of the sufferings of the Christ and a sharer of the glory that is to be revealed, I make this appeal to the elders among you: Shepherd the flock of God under your care, serving as overseers, not under compulsion, but willingly before God; 1 Peter 5:1-2 (NWT)
Today I have freed you from your slavery. I guess the Bible is right when it states that “the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)
So much for being a slave. Now we come to being faithful and wise. It seems to me that if you take Jesus’ words for the parable that they are [instead of as a convoluted prophecy about a 20th century ex-con and the equally error-prone group of egomaniacs that made up his successors], and if you pay close attention to Jesus’ words: “What I say to you I say to all,” (Mark 13:37) it turns out that we can all be “faithful and wise stewards” by performing our duties with integrity — as I hope I have done today, for your benefit.
Thank you for listening. All of you are now free to go.
You won’t want to miss: Part 3 in this Series of calls by Norris & Lot on Socrates.
For further comparisons with the Catholic church, please see Cedar’s excellent article: