Ever heard of “The Vindication of Jehovah’s Sovereignty”?

If someone asked you what the theme, or main message of the Bible is, what would be the first thing that you think of? Go ahead, think of your answer. Got it? Okay, good.

My immediate answer is something like “God’s relationship with humanity,” or “the salvation of mankind,” or simply “redemption.”

I have often wondered what the Watchtower’s answer to that question would be. My guesses were “God’s coming kingdom,” or “the end is near.” I have always wondered whether there was an underlying assumption or an over-arching theme that dictated and tied together most, if not all of the watchtower doctrine.

Recently I think I found what would be their answer. And yes, it does tie things together, if not perfectly, at least enough that it helps make sense of many of the WT doctrines that we consider quirky and disjointed. Here’s how I discovered watchtower’s answer to the Bible’s theme.

I was researching (on the internet) the watchtower’s view of God’s sovereignty as an attribute of God, and stumbled across an article critiquing the watchtower’s teaching about something called “The vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty.” Here’s an excerpt from that article:

“You are my witnesses,” declares Jehovah, “Yes, my servant whom I have chosen…” (Isa 43:10)

We are taught that we are like witnesses in a court case.  What is being judged is God’s right to rule and the righteousness of his rule.  We are told that we live under his rulership; that the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a true theocracy—a nation ruled by God with a population larger than that of many countries on earth today.  By our conduct and by showing that life in our nation is “the best way of life ever”, we are said to be vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty.

by Meleti Vivlon | Apr 26, 2015 http://meletivivlon.com, “Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Preach the Vindication of Jehovah’s Sovereignty?”

My immediate thought was, “I have never heard about this doctrine before, either in the WT literature, or in any of the talks at kingdom halls or conventions. Where is this coming from? Is this for real?” Well, I have come to find out that yes, it’s a thing. My suspicion is that the doctrine was something that was taught in the past, but now assumed to be true; part of the Watchtower mindset and culture, but not explicitly stated in current literature. I think it quite possible that modern JW’s have been operating under the assumptions of this doctrine for most of their history, but with few current JW’s being able to give a concrete expression of it. But now, I believe that someone at the WT headquarters has re-discovered the old expression of this doctrine, and is now bringing it again to the forefront.  When I searched “sovereignty” at www.jw.org, here’s what I discovered.

In the June 2017 issue of the Watchtower (study edition), there are two articles: First, there’s “Keep Your Eyes on the Big Issue.” (pp. 22-26) What is the Big Issue? It’s the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. Surprise! A ghost from the past has been resurrected! The second paragraph alone uses the phrase three times, with variations of the phrase occurring throughout the article almost too many times to count. (It’s a good example of mind-numbing  repetition.) Here’s the main argument:

The action of Satan the Devil has raised the question of the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty.

Of course, Jehovah knows that the Devil’s allegations are false. So why has God chosen to allow the issue to go on, giving Satan time to try to prove his point?

The first human couple rejected Jehovah’s rulership, and so have many others since then. This could lead some to wonder whether there might be validity to the Devil’s claim.

As long as the question remains unsettled in the minds of humans or angels, discord among nations, races, tribes, families, and individuals will exist.

The second article is “Uphold Jehovah’s Sovereignty!” (pp. 27-31.), which is the application of the doctrine, essentially saying that our everyday actions are needed in the great cause of vindicating the sovereignty of Jehovah:

“Now is the time to uphold God’s sovereignty by our integrity, our service, and our earnest endeavors to imitate him in all we do.” (Paragraph 20.)

There’s a third thing that I found that confirms that this old theme is being revived by the Watchtower. If you click on “The Message of the Bible” under “Bible Teachings” at jw.org, a page comes up reinforcing the theme as taught in the articles:

“The Message of the Bible: Jehovah God has the right to rule. His method of ruling is best. His purpose for the earth and for mankind will be fulfilled.”

Seven pictures give an overview of the Bible, beginning with “The serpent questions Jehovah’s right to rule and his way of ruling,” and ending with “Jehovah’s original purpose for the earth and for mankind is fulfilled, his name is cleared of reproach, and his way of ruling is vindicated.”

Essentially Watchtower is saying that God has been the defendant in an ongoing trial, beginning with the fall, and ending at Armageddon. I wonder then: Who is the judge in the trial? Who is the jury? (Apparently the unsettled minds of humans and angels, according to the WT article.) And why are the ranting accusations of Satan, the deceiver, the liar and father of lies, being taken so seriously?

The doctrine does, though, make sense of the whole Watchtower legalistic system. Humans, like character witnesses, are burdened with presenting the evidence for God’s right to rule. (As if the burden rested upon God, rather than Satan.) Nowhere in scripture is the doctrine of the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty taught or even mentioned. The verse usually quoted is Proverbs 27:11, which is about a father imploring his son to be wise so that the father “may answer anyone who treats me with contempt.” Making this verse proof of God’s need for our witness of his sovereignty is an obvious stretch, similar to the “new light” verse of Proverbs 4:18 (used to “prove” the need for ongoing updated revelation).

It will be interesting to see renewed emphasis given to this old doctrine in upcoming congregation meetings, regional assemblies, and district conventions. I’m sure the catchphrase “vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty” will soon become part of the “theocratic language” of the common Jehovah’s Witness. The best way to use it as an opportunity for ministry will be to simply ask your JW friends, “Where is that phrase found in scripture?” Then, share with them what YOU see as the main theme of the Bible.

Alternately you could use the tactic of quoting Jesus, when he says “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8), asking them to explain how different that is from being a character witness in a court case. You might also ask, “As a witness of Jehovah, are you a witness in the sense of announcing, or making known, the good news of the coming kingdom, or are you a witness like a character witness in the cosmic court case against Jehovah? I’m confused by the Watchtower’s two very different uses of the word.”

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Ever heard of “The Vindication of Jehovah’s Sovereignty”?

  1. Here’s a shout-out to my blog friend TJ, hoping he sees this post and provides us his take on it.
    TJ, Hello again my friend!
    Change of subject: What do you know about the “Vindication of Jehovah’s Soverignty”? See my posts related to that topic. It seems to be a doctrine that used to be held in prominence in the Watchtower system, faded into obscurity, to be recently revived again, but still a bit in the background. Is it something you’re familiar with?

    • TJ

      Hi Brian,

      If you think the vindication of Jehovah God’s sovereignty is a ‘new’ teaching revived from obscurity, then you haven’t been paying attention…

      The issue of universal sovereignty has always been a major point of emphasis in JW Bible studies and meetings as it’s the overarching theme throughout the Bible. From the outset in Genesis, Satan’s lie challenges Jehovah’s sovereignty and then Adam chooses to rebel against it. Everything that follows in the Bible revolves around that core issue: do we recognize Jehovah as our ruler by respecting his right to choose ‘the good and bad’ for us, or not?

      Vindicating and restoring God’s sovereignty is even the goal of Jesus’ Kingdom rule: “when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Corinthians 15:28) Once Satan’s lie against God is completely demonstrated to be false and Jehovah is fully proven to be justified as the unquestioned sovereign, then all rebellion, all sin, and all evil will be completely eliminated.

      • Hey TJ,
        Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. We had fires in our area of Northern CA, so that had me distracted for a while.
        I see what you mean by the doctrine of the vindication of God’s sovereignty (which I will abbreviate VOGS) being a “major point of emphasis” in the literature and meetings, because I do see and hear it mentioned often, but I was talking about explicit teaching of the doctrine. So far I have only seen one time when a whole article was dedicated specifically to the subject (WT 6/17). Otherwise it seems to be an implicitly accepted concept, almost a presupposition.
        I wanted to bring you in on the topic, because I’m hoping you can help clarify some things for me (and for others who may be reading). Let me start with two questions. First, will God’s sovereignty be vindicated by the evidence provided by his people, that is, “by our integrity, our service, and our earnest endeavors to imitate him in all we do,” or will his sovereignty be vindicated at the end of all things when God judges and destroys his enemies?
        My second question, which perhaps should have been asked first, since it’s more foundational, is: How do you define God’s sovereignty? Is it part of God’s being (that is, ontological), which God possesses by his very nature, and therefore independent of anyone’s accusation; or is God’s sovereignty dependent on, that is, contingent on whether or not enough evidence is presented to vindicate it?
        Asked another way, is God’s sovereignty defined as (1) his “right to rule,” which has to be proven, or (2) the fact of his ruling, which is eternally based on his character as one who intrinsically rules?

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