When you talk to Jehovah's Witnesses, you will soon realize that an essential part of their life of faith and their motivation to preach is the so-called controversy issue. This controversial question is also repeatedly mentioned in the writings of the Watchtower Society, such as in the Watchtower (WT) and in its other publications, for example in the WT of 01.12.2007 on pages 26-30. This is supposed to be a controversial question between God and his adversary, the devil.
Satan had doubted, even denied, the legitimacy of God's sovereignty, and God was now compelled to justify or have justified his sovereignty. The whole activity of the witnesses is now directed toward this justification of God and only secondarily toward the salvation of people from sin and death. The work of Jesus also had the same reasons and aims.
Every believing Christian knows and knows the statements of Scripture about the reasons why Jesus was sent to earth by his Father: to free us from sin and death. The statements about this in the Gospels as well as in the other writings of the New Testament are numerous, manifold and unambiguous. Just to give a few examples: John 1:29; 3:14-17; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 12:47; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2 and many more.
Is the issue of the salvation of people really only secondary, the issue of the controversy in connection with God's justification primary?
Certainly, Jesus always made it clear that He only does what the Father has commanded Him to do; He testified to the truth about His Father (for example, John 5:19-20+30; 6:37-38; 8:28; 18:37). But did he act this way to resolve the issue of Jehovah's sovereignty? Or not much more so because his behavior was in essence love for his father?
While the Bible talks so much and so often about the supposedly secondary reason for his coming, namely the salvation of people, it does not mention the issue at all. Nor does the concordance of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the Bible contain the keyword controversy in this sense.
There only 5 texts are quoted about unnecessary controversial questions that should be avoided, but no text about the alleged main purpose of Jesus' coming. Therefore other texts had to be bent in order to apply them to this constructed issue. Here is an example later.
In fact, the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses has always regarded the salvation of people as secondary. For example, the book »The truth will set you free«, page 271 says: "Christ Jesus, when he was on earth, did not put the salvation of human creatures first, nor was he bent on converting the world". I personally remember being taught that the salvation of people is not as important as the justification of the name of Jehovah.
Today this point sounds something like the Watchtower of 15.05.1995, page 20: "Finally, rays of light revealed that Jehovah's purpose is not primarily to save creatures, but to justify his sovereignty. The most important theme of the Bible is not ransom."
The justification of the name Jehovah was the most important doctrine for decades. Here are some quotes:
The justification of Jehovah's name at the center of the Watchtower doctrine, more important than the salvation of human beings, most outstanding teaching of the Bible: firmly engraved for decades in the minds of Jehovah's Witnesses. But then, all of a sudden, in the Watchtower of 15.05.1995, they say:
"For a long time the Witnesses have also spoken of the justification of the name Jehovah. But did Satan question the name of Jehovah? Had any of his henchmen acted as if Jehovah did not have the right to bear that name? No, not at all. Jehovah's name was not questioned and had to be justified. That is why the Watch Tower Society's more recent publications no longer talk about the justification of Jehovah's name, but about the justification of Jehovah's sovereignty and the sanctification of the name."
A lot of times something new, you can only say. The most outstanding teaching of the Bible, more important than the salvation of people, is suddenly no longer outstanding at all, important or even only necessary and consequently also not present in the Bible, it never was! Si looks like the biblical instruction, the food that the faithful and intelligent slave distributes.
But there is nothing in the Bible to be found of the newly formulated controversy either, and we can wait and see, even if it will still take some time before new rays of light make this definition superfluous. How is God represented here? Like a child who lets himself be provoked, who gets involved in an argument? As a person who lets himself be challenged by his adversary and forced to prove and justify his power and sovereignty?
Who would ever have the right and the power to challenge God like that? God owes no justification to anyone in any way. The teaching of the witnesses disgraces God, that is how I feel it. It makes him manipulable by his adversary. A lot could be said about this. Neither Jesus nor the apostles taught such things. But if the Bible does not know such a controversial question, then one has to turn the texts that seem suitable to support such theses directed against God – for example the report on the third temptation of Jesus according to Matthew 4: 8-11.
There Jesus was offered the kingdoms of the world if he would worship the devil. Please, says the slave, this is about Jehovah's sovereignty, about the issue. But when I read the devil's demand and Jesus' answer to it, it wasn't about Jehovah's sovereignty, but only about the question of worship. Do the Jehovah's Witnesses even read this after the Watchtower of 01.12.2007 interpreted it that way on page 27?
It is said of Jesus – in paragraph 17 on the same page – that he was faithful until death. Right! He proclaimed the kingdom of God because he is his representative. Right! He acted always and exclusively according to the will of the Father. Right! God intended to bring all things back together through and with him (Ephesians l:7-10).
Jesus is our atoning sacrifice and high priest, as the whole letter to the Hebrews shows. This was and is God's will and law. But not because of a controversial question, because he had to justify himself before Satan or because he had to justify his power and sovereignty, but only because it was his will and because, as John says, he loves people.
But the Watchtower recognizes – page 28 above – that Jesus did not come as a teacher or a miracle-worker, not even just as a Redeemer, but for the sake of the controversial question mentioned above. When he said, "It is accomplished," he did not, according to paragraph 10, think of his sin-preaching sacrifice, nor of the Father's accomplished will regarding his sacrifice, for "he had not come to earth first of all to clarify the issue of Jehovah's sovereignty?"
Strange: Jesus spoke so openly and so often about the forlornness of man and about the salvation of sinners. It seems so unclear that only the slave, with the help of rays of light, noticed it at all. After this watchtower, Jesus had to be put to the test to restore Jehovah's glory; therefore the watchtower on page 30, paragraph 16 says in relation to the people to be converted: "We must make them understand what it is really about: the controversy".
The angels proclaimed a great joy at Jesus' birth and we learned of a Good News of God's kingdom, a Good News about Christ, a Good News of salvation. Only the Faithful and Intelligent Slave, the leading body of Jehovah's Witnesses, knows of a message of dispute.
There is much really at stake in God's Word: love for Him and for His Son; the fulfillment of all His promises in Christ, in which they have all become yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20); forgiveness of sins and salvation of lost people; life and judgment. But about a controversial question in which God must justify himself before the adversary? Only the slave has noticed this and through him the teachers of him; all the others have not yet noticed it. Neither have I!
More about the special watchtower doctrine of the controversial question