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“But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”—Acts 28:22


Theocratic warfare and deception?

A protestor held a placard that read:

JW Public Relations: JR Brown is he authorized to lie to the press? Yes!
“He is in theocratic warfare…we must tell the truth to one who is entitled to know, but if one is not so entitled we may be evasive” Watchtower 1960 June 1 page 351

This is found in an online photo album of an organized march done on September 27, 2002 in Brooklyn, NY USA.ftn1 Regarding the Watchtower quote, is one to conclude that the first portion came before the last part? Naturally. Also we are lead to believe that theocratic warfare is deceptive. But this 1960 Watchtower was also publicly distributed through the door-to-door preaching work of Jehovah's Witnesses. Is something wrong with that quote then? Yes. First, it's out of order: the last part came before the first part, and a qualifying sentence following the last sentence was omitted.

Here is the above quote in context as it appears in a “Questions From Readers” article. The quoted portions above are
underlined, and qualifying statements are in bold or bold italics:

Questions From Readers

From time to time letters are received asking whether a certain circumstance would justify making an exception to the Christian’s obligation to tell the truth. In reply to these the following is given:

God’s Word commands: “Speak truth each of you with his neighbor.” (Eph. 4:25) This command, however, does not mean that we should tell everyone who asks us all he wants to know.
We must tell the truth to one who is entitled to know, but if one is not so entitled we may be evasive. But we may not tell a falsehood.

At this point we can see the critic is guilty of deception himself and is promoting misunderstanding and intolerance. The 1960 Watchtower continues on the next page:

There is one exception, however, that the Christian must ever bear in mind. As a soldier of Christ he is in theocratic warfareftn2 and he must exercise added caution when dealing with God’s foes. Thus the Scriptures show that for the purpose of protecting the interests of God’s cause, it is proper to hide the truth from God’s enemies. A Scriptural example of this is that of Rahab the harlot. She hid the Israelite spies because of her faith in their God Jehovah. This she did both by her actions and by her lips. That she had Jehovah’s approval in doing so is seen from James’ commendation of her faith.—Josh. 2:4, 5; Jas. 2:25.

Here a distinction is made when dealing with God’s foes, and with the case of Rahab, deception saved the lives of God’s servants. Thus it would be scripturally permissible for one to protect lives by obscuring or concealing the truth from those who have no right to know. This principle is repeated when Jehovah God fooled his enemy King Ahab, as reported at 1 Kings 22:20-23.

Even with this scriptural precedent however, there is the inherent danger of taking it too far and simply lying at will to get out of trouble, making up various reasons why someone was not entitled to know—which would naturally be wrong due to being a misapplication and abuse of this scriptural allowance. Only by letting the scriptures set the precedent can we be following Jesus advice below, as the Watchtower continues:

This would come under the term “war strategy,” as explained in The Watchtower, February 1, 1956, and is in keeping with Jesus’ counsel that when among wolves we must be as “cautious as serpents.” Should circumstances require a Christian to take the witness stand and swear to tell the truth, then, if he speaks at all, he must utter the truth. When faced with the alternative of speaking and betraying his brothers or not speaking and being held in contempt of court, the mature Christian will put the welfare of his brothers ahead of his own, remembering Jesus’ words: “No one has greater love than this, that someone should surrender his [life] in behalf of his friends.”—Matt. 10:16; John 15:13.

We do not cooperate in efforts to stifle our ministry. The press by itself, when objective, is not God’s enemy. God’s enemies would be ones who try to use Christians to betray or mislead their fellow believers. Christians use Jesus’ advice to be “cautious as serpents” wisely in such situations. “Theocratic warfare” is simply not giving someone information that they are not entitled to, and may include hiding the truth from hostile opposers. It is not about telling lies, that is evidently the affair of the “theocratic warfare” critics who have knowingly spread their deceptively distorted definition. If they were honest, that placard would have to read thusly:

(short version)
JW Public Relations: JR Brown, is he authorized to lie to the press? No!
We may not tell a falsehood. ... He is in theocratic warfare ... he must utter the truth.” Watchtower 1960 June 1 pages 351-2

(long version)
JW Public Relations: JR Brown, is he authorized to lie to the press? No!
We must tell the truth to one who is entitled to know, but if one is not so entitled we may be evasive. But we may not tell a falsehood. ... He is in theocratic warfare ... he must utter the truth.” Watchtower 1960 June 1 pages 351-2

On the contrary, it may be stated: Are “theocratic warfare” critics authorized to lie to the press? Yes! Authorized by whom? Jesus supplies the answer: YOU are from YOUR father the Devil, and YOU wish to do the desires of YOUR father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of [the lie].”—John 8:44.

As the Bible states at Proverbs 6:17, a false tongue is one of the seven things that is detestable to God, and other scriptures cast having a tricky tongue in a dishonorable light, like Psalm 120:2, Micah 6:12, and Zephaniah 3:13. Yet, to knowingly isolate the underlined portions in the Watchtower quote considered above is just that: using a false, tricky tongue. If you associate with a group that has promoted this dishonest and hateful claim, then its time to sever all connections with it!


1. As the organization that conducted this protest march publishes extremely inflammatory and slanderous material assailing the good reputation of Jehovah's Witnesses in the community, no link to this photo album is provided. However, to verify that the quote is accurate, a trimmed version of their picture is available here. Incidentally, this organized march was actually protesting the excellent yet misunderstood pedophilia policy of Jehovah's Witnesses. For a defense of this policy, see the websites under the category 'Child Protection Policy' in Contents. (back)

2. This phrase was last used in the January 1, 1989 edition of The Watchtower. (back)


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Revised: November 8, 2007. Copyright © 1997 by Jehovah's Witnesses—Setting the Record Straight. All rights reserved. This web site is not affiliated with or sanctioned by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. However, every effort has been made to adhere to the current views published by the "faithful and discreet slave" (Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42) through the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The "Official Web Site of Jehovah's Witnesses" can be found at, and should be recognized as the authoritative source about the beliefs, teachings, and activities of Jehovah's Witnesses.