When the scholars weigh in—after peering and peering—they may not present Watchtower history as Watchtower does itself. What to make of this? It is a combination of several reasons, is my guess. de Vienne advances one when lands such a work on their doorstep and it is met with silence—that they may be just be “incurious as to their own history.” They are doers more than contemplators of the past. They put their eye to the rows and they don’t look back, because the furrows get squirrelly when you do that. There is a plank devoted to such things of history, but it is not a rudder that steers the ship. “No man who has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well-suited for the Kingdom of God,” says the Lord.
Another person advances another reason—that to a certain degree, history is unknowable, written by the victors, modified over the years by those of myriad agendas, and much of the original data is lost forever. Thus, because they are doers more than thinkers, at Bethel they research the past, come up with what seems tight enough, and say (as one local sportscaster used to say) “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” To do otherwise is to yield to thinkers who frequently will not engage in doing if you light a stick of dynamite under them. “God gives his holy spirit to those doing his will,” they say, maybe not so much with those just writing about it.
It is a scholar-light approach that infuriates scholars too caught up in the supposed ascendancy of their own discipline—scholars who simply assume takeover rights. They get those rights in many venues—and the greater world offers testimony as to what happens when the world’s scholarship runs the show—you would think that would be taken into account by those who carry on about how essential higher education is—but they do not get them in Jehovah’s organization. Once in awhile they even get sent to the doghouse, but only when they howl too much.
“I have no problem with this,” I say, once I get over the problem I have with it—for I come from a world of ideas, readers, and books. Still, I notice that those ideas don’t add up to much when they are poured into the world vat, and may collectively even bring that world to its knees. I yield to Someone whose ways just might be higher than mine. He gives his spirit to those obeying him as leader.
In general, when I hear any viewpoint of challenge, I look for deeds at least as much as ideas. Frequently, there are none, and the remarks can largely be dismissed on that account. That is my take on what Paul says on the prospect of confronting the self-styled superfine apostles of his day—‘when I see them, I will get to know not just their words—anyone has them and many have them in great abundance—but I want to get to know their power—their deeds. (1 Corinthians 4:19)
That’s why whenever some malcontent, oozing malice, launches a new topic entitled: “Honestly—No Malice Here—But Let us Speak Earnestly About the Wrong-doing of the Jehovah Witness Leaders,” I say, “Have you actually done anything besides quit? Do you have anything to show for yourself besides grumbling? ” Just any sorehead is going to throw a tirade about something I hold dear and expect me to engage in earnest debate with them? I don’t think so. I wait for Brother Egghead to do it on the basis of addressing the points, not the person—and then Brother Flamethrower to do it on another basis—and then several pages in, after the original malice has been obscured, I override my better judgement and jump into the fray.
The saying goes that ‘if you can do something, you do it. If you can’t, you critique it.‘ Absent someone’s “power”—their good deeds, their honest track record—why should they be taken too seriously? They are critiquing—and the reason just may be that they are capable of nothing else—they are like inside-the-beltway wonks who majored in “political science”—as though that were scientific. At least Rolf has a track record—how hot it is and what has been allowed to go stone cold was my first initial question about his book—which may not be answerable until I go talk to him.
The saying is often escalated to a usually (though not always) unnecessarily cynical, “and if you REALLY can’t do it, you teach it.” Here we come to Dr. Gene Hwang, who did not fit the pattern. He taught at Cornell, and was for years, among the most published authorities on statistics. His work provides mathematical support for scientists who study gene function. He became a Witness in the late 1990’s.
I speculate in ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ that after a dozen years or so, when he has proved himself stable, he or someone like him is invited to look over our science offerings and contribute an update if they see fit. Many brothers seem to think that at Bethel, they assign such material to the Witness who did really well in high-school science, straight A’s!—he or she holed up for a few weeks, and “out came this book” on creation blowing the cover off evolution.
No. Plainly it will be someone like Brother Hwang “bringing his gift to the altar” upon invitation. However, will his work silence the critics? You know it won’t. The writings of evolutionists versus those who favor intelligent design would fill multiple libraries. So they take Gene Hwang’s book at Bethel—he is a heavy-hitter—and say: “That’s our story and we’re sticking to it,”—same as they do with history. Do other “scholars” debate their own competing version? “Yeah—well—we’ll see,” they say, as they envision a headline in the paper that they have seen so many times before: “Everything You Thought You Knew About Such-and-Such is Wrong!”