Letter # 4 of 9
FOURTH LETTER, 2 weeks later:
March 1, 2000
From: R. Jensen 24 Running Deer Road Phenix City, AL 36870
To: Watchtower Bible & Tract Society 25 Columbia Heights Brooklyn, NY 11201
Re: Blood and upholding righteous standards
I appreciate your February 21, 2000 reply in consideration of my letters dated February 16, 1998, July 31, 1998 and November 15, 1999 together with your previous replies dated March 23, 1998 and August 24, 1998. However, I fear that you brothers do not understand the full measure--indeed specific requests--of my concern. (Compare 2 John 12) For this reason and fearing that others carefully considering our stance on blood may realize similar difficulties I will make one more attempt to spell out more exactly those difficulties. Before doing so, as follows let me first ease your minds about concerns raised in your February 21, 2000 response.
I am not seeking to impose anything on anyone, indeed I try hard to avoid such, nor am I inclined to do so. At this point I am not sure I could impose anything regarding medical use of blood components because I am unable to do so, which is part of my problem. For example, if a local friend chose to accept white corpuscles to bolster their immune system then as an elder I would be expected to impose our stance, which prohibits acceptance of white corpuscles. Since I cannot explain scripturally the distinctions of our stance I could not impose that stance--I would be forced to recuse myself as incompetent to hear the case.
I am not seeking ways of convincing everyone that we are correct; such is unrealistic and contrary to Jesus' utterance that most are on the road to destruction. (Compare 2 Timothy 3:7) Regarding physicians or anyone else, I am not looking for ways of "absorb[ing] implicit demand[s]" but rather gaining needed conviction for teaching whether that be to physicians, my family, congregation publishers or anyone else. (See your letter dated February 21, 2000 page 2, par. 3)
I am not seeking scriptural clarifications regarding a "new" teaching, but rather one that has existed for decades. Your letter of February 21, 2000 wisely admonishes that each of us should have or gain the waiting attitude of Micah. Regarding that attitude, as you noted The Watchtower of January 1, 2000 on page 10 makes the following comment:
"If a Christian does not fully understand a new explanation of a scripture, he does well humbly to echo the words of the prophet Micah: 'I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation.'"
That comment is regarding how we should deal personally with "new" views, not how we explain views long held. My questions are not concerning something "new" but rather views held for decades. Is it unreasonable to request clarification of reasons/views offered regarding teachings decades old? Is it unreasonable that someone asked to teach asks for an understanding of the "reasons behind [the] answers" or "the Scriptural reasons for [the] explanations"? (See Organized To Accomplish Our Ministry page 44; Our Kingdom Ministry, February 2000 page 8) My concerns have existed for some time now, they are not new or short lived. I have asked you for scriptural clarifications. I have also waited, allowing time for your thorough consideration of my request. Regarding "new" views, we usually do give corresponding scriptural reasons for them. Whether we understand or not has more to do with our understanding of those scriptural reasons not just a "new" idea itself. In this case our stance is pretty clear--though I think dynamic details and their consequences are very much missed by many, including many of our brothers. What I have asked is for corresponding scriptural explanations regarding certain pertinent details of our stance.
Now to clarifying issues of concern.
Our stance on medical use of blood makes distinctions between components of blood. Naturally the question arises, If we tolerate intentional acceptance of one component of blood then why forbid intentional acceptance of other components of blood? Since we represent our stance as scriptural, in order to adequately defend distinctions made we must provide scriptural reasons for them, otherwise distinctions made become indefensible either way, the tolerance or the intolerance. Our literature and your previous replies indicate one possible scriptural distinction and one possible distinction as a matter of reasonableness.
The one possible scriptural distinction is the element of nutrition, that is whether a blood component provides nutrition versus "utilize[ing] other mechanisms" thereby "immunizing the body from a certain disease." (See your letter dated March 23, 1998 page 2, par. 3) However, as previously expressed there are terrible flaws regarding the distinction of nutrition. Itemized below are three flaws in that distinction, two of which I enumerated earlier plus an additional one.
1. Components considered "a matter of conscience" are nutrition to the body, thus saying that nutrition is the distinction is indefensible. (See my letter dated July 31, 1998 page 2, par. 3,4)
2. Confounding the distinction of nutrition is the following paragraph from Insight On The Scriptures Volume 1 page 629 under the heading Disease and Treatment:
However, if a person were to take blood into his body for the treatment of disease, this would violate the law of God.--Ge 9:3, 4; Ac 15:28, 29; see BLOOD.
Clearly that comment above has to do with affects of blood other than nutrition. Specifically that comment is contrary to the notion that utilizing components of blood for "immunizing the body from a certain disease" is okay, which confounds the "nutrition" distinction.
3. Confusing the distinction of nutrition is our published comments comparing the "significant" transfer from mother to fetus via the placenta. (See Questions From Readers, The Watchtower of June 1, 1990 page 31, par. 11-14) Since a fetus gains every bit of its nutrition from its mother's blood via the placenta then our use of that as an example, again, goes contrary to the distinction of "nutrition". (See my letter dated July 31, 1998 page 5, par. 1)
The offered scriptural distinction as a matter of reasonableness has to do with whether we should consider parts of a substance the same as the whole. (See your letter dated March 23, 1998 page 2, par. 2) Such a distinction must be somehow defined (i.e., by uniqueness, size, amount, common recognition, etc.). Even then, since our stance is represented as scriptural, we must show scripturally that our distinction based upon reasonableness is proper (e.g., We could never say that reasonably certain minor aspects/components of porneia are tolerable because without exception the Bible says "abstain from fornication"--see 1 Thess. 4:3). However, as itemized below there are at least three terrible flaws regarding the idea of distinctions based upon reasonableness.
1. Components considered "a matter of conscience" are just as unique to blood as forbidden components thus no reasonable distinction can be made based upon uniqueness (i.e., white corpuscles are as unique to blood as clotting factors.). Also, classifying components of blood as "major" or "minor" components is meaningless unless "major" and "minor" is effectively defined.
2. Consistently components considered "a matter of conscience" do not make up less of blood by volume, thus no reasonable distinction can be made based upon size or amount. (I.e., forbidden white corpuscles makes up less volume of blood than tolerated albumin.)
3. Medical practitioners commonly refer to red corpuscles, white corpuscles, platelets and plasma as components of blood. Taking the stance that "abstain from blood" applies to medical transfusion then the Bible offers no proper exceptions from abstaining from blood based upon components. In that case the phrase "abstain... from blood" is just as categorical as "abstain from fornication". (Acts 15:20, 1 Thess. 4:3) There is no indication in scripture that God commonly recognizes one component of blood as more or less unique/important/common than another component. Designations and divisions of red corpuscles, white corpuscles, platelets and plasma are purely manmade. Modern medicine divides, recognizes and names components of blood as they discover and understand them. God has recognized from the beginning the various components of blood and their purpose. Thus no reasonable distinction can be made based upon common recognition.
Additionally our stance on blood exhibits certain other contradictions/inconsistencies that appear indefensible. For example:
1. The contradiction of our utilizing donated and stored blood while simultaneously condemning the donation and storage of blood for medical use.
2. Saying that we abstain from blood when in fact our stance tolerates acceptance of some components of blood. Physicians or anyone else can simply say, "Jehovah's Witnesses abstain from some parts of blood and but not all parts of blood."
In your February 21, 2000 reply you stated, "Your concern is why the accepting of some fractions of blood for medical treatment has been left as a matter of conscience." Actually, regarding fractions, more accurately my concern is "Why is accepting certain fractions considered 'a matter of conscience' while acceptance of other fractions is not considered 'a matter of conscience'"? I see no such distinction that can be made scripturally and my specific concerns--detailed above--are not addressed in your February 21, 2000 response.
Like other brothers, I am able to tell our stance on medical use of blood and direct interested persons to where our publications address it. Afterward, as you say, each must decide for themselves, uncoerced, according to their conscience. But, what I am interested in is having scriptural answers to critical aspects of our position. Such answers allow that I can teach--and that with conviction--rather than just tell. Teaching with conviction requires knowing and understanding the reasons for answers or explanations, in this case scriptural reasons for a scriptural stance. My difficulty is with explaining and teaching our published "scriptural" stance with scriptures and sound reasoning, not informing persons what our stance is. (Compare The Watchtower of March 15, 1998 page 19, par. 4)
I fear now that my concerns and questions raised about our present stance have no scriptural answers. If they existed I feel you brothers would have already shared them with me. This is very disheartening. Nevertheless, I will do my level best in serving Jehovah and trust that you brothers will continue pondering issues raised toward resolution. In the meantime if issues such as those expressed are raised to me I will show persons where our publications address them. If pressed for scriptural answers to issues about which I have questions myself then I must honestly reply that I do not know them. In some instances I may have to decline being used.
In my November 15, 1999 letter I stated, "While patiently awaiting answers to my questions I have continued to pray and ponder over our stance of tolerance toward some blood components and intolerance toward other blood components as well as our overall teaching regarding medical infusion of blood." That pondering has included the idea that maybe my questions are irrelevant because perhaps our stance requires more than intended based upon scriptures, that perhaps "abstain from blood" does not address medical blood transfusion as we know it today, thus mooting my questions. So, regarding our overall teaching about medical infusion of blood versus the decree to "abstain from blood" and in harmony with admonitions in The Watchtower of June 1, 1982 page 20, par. 15, I submit a suggestion for an improved view of the decree to "abstain from blood".
My suggestion is the result of long, hard, intense and sometimes distressful and prayerful consideration. I expect no response to it. I only submit it for your consideration. I assure you that my suggestion has only the loftiest of intentions to better understand, respect and obey our Father, Jehovah and His requirements. My motivation is genuine and not at all toward seeking ways of diluting God's express will. Seeking to dilute God's word is counterproductive toward pleasing our Maker and gaining His rich rewards. If you have any questions or wish to communicate regarding it you should feel free to do so but again, I have no need for a reply to it. I believe that my suggested view is already fundamentally realized in our publications yet without elaboration as they apply to the decree "abstain from blood" versus medical transfusion of blood as practiced today. I must admit that though I have always enjoyed reading and studying the Bible along with vigorously researching our publications that I had to dig harder and deeper than ever to realize what turned out to be simple elements as presented in my suggested improved view. My suggestion is enclosed as a separate document. Though somewhat long it contains basic and simple elements strongly favoring the view presented.
Finally, I know this is now my fourth letter to you brothers on the same subject of blood and upholding righteous standards. I am reminded of Abraham's questioning toward that one whom Jehovah was using. (Gen. 18:22-33) I hope you brothers will not chaff but rather that you will see a way to clarify my inquiries if possible. If need be I am more than willing to travel and meet you in person, face to face, so that with a full measure my questions, responses or suggestions can be understood and put to rest or to the test. (2 John 12) I want to express my appreciation to you brothers for responding at all to my letters regarding blood and upholding righteous standards. As I said earlier, considering the nature of my questions, I really had no one else to turn for dialogue. I realize that my letters have been somewhat long and tedious but that is the nature of corresponding by letter on such subjects as this, which I have tried to address objectively toward better understanding God's will. Again, I appreciate your time and responding.
Please be assured of my love and respect for you and accept my appreciation for all your hard work in behalf of our neighbors, our brothers, my family and myself.
Your fellow servant of Jehovah,
[Signed: R. Jensen]
Suggested View Of The Apostolic Decree "Abstain from blood" (6 pages)
ENCLOSURE OF FOURTH LETTER:
Suggested View Of The Apostolic Decree "Abstain from blood"
Acts chapter 15 contains an apostolic decree that is binding upon Christians. Part of that decree requires that we abstain from blood and things strangled. (Acts 15:20, 29; see also 21:25) Faithfulness to Jehovah requires that we observe that decree by obeying it. Obedience to that decree is not optional for Christians.
Questions arising in considering our stance on medical use of blood has led to reconsidering the basis for, import and application of the apostolic decree "to keep abstaining... from blood and from things strangled" and everything we have published concerning it. (Acts 15:29) Clearly that decree was instituted based upon the law God gave to Noah recorded at Genesis 9:1-16. Regarding the apostolic decree we teach that "there was not an imposing on Gentile Christians of a responsibility to conform to the Mosaic Law or some portion of it but, rather, there was a confirming of standards recognized prior to Moses." (See United In Worship of The Only True God, page 149) In short, we teach adherence to the apostolic decree as defined by what God said to Noah, not the Mosaic Law. Yet, we also utilize aspects of the Mosaic Law as applied to Israel to teach God's intentions regarding the prohibition decreed to Noah. In effect we teach that the law given to Noah as defined by application of the Mosaic Law to Israel defines the apostolic decree. Defining of the apostolic decree by prohibitions given to Noah is easily demonstrated scripturally. On the other hand, the extension of defining the apostolic decree by the Mosaic Law applied to Israel is more tedious and perhaps unwarranted.
Before discussing whether the Mosaic Law applied to Israel should define aspects of God's prohibition regarding blood to Noah and by extension the apostolic decree, I want to first state the following premises:
1. The apostolic decree defined only by the law God gave to mankind through Noah is insufficient basis to conclude that God condemns medical blood transfusions as practiced today.
2. The apostolic decree defined as the Mosaic Law applied to Israel is sufficient basis to conclude that God condemns medical blood transfusions as practiced today.
If the first statement is true then it becomes critical to ascertain whether the Mosaic Law applied to Israel clarifies God's law to Noah. However, first we will take up whether the law to Noah necessarily prohibits medical blood transfusion as practiced today.
As recorded at Genesis 9:3,4 God said to Noah, ""Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for YOU. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to YOU. Only flesh with its soul--its blood-- YOU must not eat." Do those words provide a basis for absolutely prohibiting medical blood transfusion as practiced today?
Prior to the flood Noah and his family witnessed extreme and growing degradation among their fellowman, including the wanton taking of human life--and probably animal life too. (Genesis 6:4,5; compare The Watchtower of January 1, 1986 page 11, par. 6) During the flood Noah and his family witnessed the most devastating event in mankind's existence up to that time. So, besides the wanton disregard for life manifest prior to the flood, during the flood Noah's family witnessed animal and human life being taken on an unprecedented scale. In fact the taking of human life nearly to extinction was the specific intention of the flood with catastrophic loss of animal life being consequential, yet it was not wanton. Afterward, considering what Noah's family had witnessed, God spoke to Noah regarding His valuation of life, the sacredness of life, making it clear, which is the context of Genesis 9:1-16.
Though mankind had never been prohibited from taking animal life, according to Genesis 9:3,4 Noah/mankind was for the first time allowed to take animal life for food, he was permitted to kill and eat animal flesh. (Genesis 3:21) Also, through Noah, mankind was for the first time permitted to kill humankind, but only as recompense for committing murder. (Compare Romans 13:4) Though Noah was permitted to eat killed animal flesh he/mankind was prohibited from eating blood from such flesh. Out of regard for life, specifically Noah was prohibited from eating blood from life taken unilaterally though with God's permission. Out of respect for Jehovah's word Noah was to obey. Along with His decree to fill the earth and His unilateral rainbow covenant, Jehovah's decrees prohibiting eating the blood of slain animals and murder instilled a high regard for life. Germane to our subject is that Genesis 9:3,4 prohibits no more than eating blood obtained from the taking of life, from killing. That conclusion is certainly narrower than our present elaborated teaching. (See footnote 1) Is there scriptural confirmation of this narrower conclusion? Yes.
A fundamental difference between the law given to Noah and the Law of Moses is that God's prohibition to Noah applies to all mankind whereas the Mosaic Law applied uniquely to the nation of Israel or proselytes to that nation. However, in the Law of Moses is found the curious text of Deuteronomy 14:21. Pertinent to our subject is Jehovah's decree to Israel, "YOU must not eat any body [already] dead. To the alien resident who is inside your gates you may give it, and he must eat it; or there may be a selling of it to a foreigner, because you are a holy people to Jehovah your God." With those words God stated that Israelites could appropriately provide unbled meat for purposes of eating to those whom the law of Noah applied. Since God has never revoked his law for mankind given to Noah we then must ask, Would Jehovah have suggested an act that would have facilitated, encouraged or aided in the breaking of His own law, His own expressed will? As Jehovah says, "I have not changed." (Malachi 3:6) Additionally, under inspiration the disciple James stated, "with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone." (James 1:13) God certainly has never facilitated, encouraged or aided in breaking His own law to mankind.
Since 1) God would not facilitate, encourage or aid humans in breaking his own law and since 2) Deuteronomy 14:21 contains Jehovah's decreed permission to give already dead and thus unbled meat for purposes of eating to those outside the Mosaic Law yet under the law to Noah then that text stands as confirmation of the conclusion that Genesis 9:3,4 prohibits no more than eating blood obtained from the taking of life, from killing. (Compare Insight On The Scriptures Volume 1 page 345, par. 6; See footnote 2) Therefore Deuteronomy 14:21 demonstrates that God does not hold blood as more sacred than life itself. It demonstrates that it was not blood itself or necessarily the eating of blood that God was so interested in when addressing Noah. Rather, Jehovah was interested in instilling a high regard for life. Prohibiting mankind from eating the blood of animals slain by man for food and decreeing that murderers are subject to death acted as strong reminders of God's high valuation of life, the sanctity of life, which is the context of Jehovah's post-flood decree to Noah. After that catastrophic loss of life God wanted to remind mankind that life is precious. Jehovah did not want mankind's previous degradation or presumptions based upon His own action of the flood to minimize life's value thus He made His views plain by decree.
Now we get to the question of whether the Mosaic Law applied to Israel clarifies God's law to Noah. We will see that between the two laws in question that a very relevant difference exists in the application and scope of the Law of Moses as well as God's reasons for a specifically more restrictive decree in respect to prohibitions on blood. That relevant difference effectively prevents using the Mosaic Law for clarifying prohibitions on use of blood decreed to Noah.
One large obstacle to applying specifics of the Mosaic Law to Christians is texts such as Ephesians 2:15, Romans 7:6; 10:5, and 2 Corinthians 3:14, all of which indicate quite clearly that Christians are not bound by provisions of the Mosaic Law. Besides that considerable obstacle we have another in God's stated reason for "why" His specific prohibitions on use of blood were more restrictive within the Mosaic Law, which reason we can find at Leviticus 17:10-12. It reads:
"'As for any man of the house of Israel or some alien resident who is residing as an alien in YOUR midst who eats any sort of blood, I shall certainly set my face against the soul that is eating the blood, and I shall indeed cut him off from among his people. For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for YOU to make atonement for YOUR souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul [in it]. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: "No soul of YOU must eat blood and no alien resident who is residing as an alien in YOUR midst should eat blood." (Italics added)
God's reason for applying to "the sons of Israel" more restrictive prohibitions regarding use of blood consisted of two elements. (See footnote 3) Please note that Jehovah had a single reason "why", which was composed of two separate elements. Together those elements constituted the reason "why" Jehovah's specific prohibitions on use of blood were more restrictive within the Mosaic Law for "the sons of Israel". Regarding blood, Jehovah had incorporated into the Mosaic Law the law given to Noah, which law uses blood illustratively of life. Additionally Jehovah pointed out how for "the sons of Israel" he had made blood part of their atonement sacrifices. Considering that blood was already used illustratively of life and that, as of the Mosaic Law, blood was by decree uniquely important to the sacred atonement sacrifices outlined by God for Israel, Jehovah then set forth more restrictive laws governing use of blood for Israel than for anyone else.
Consequentially, defining the law to Noah regarding blood by means of the Mosaic Law as it applied to Israel is unworkable and unjustified because Jehovah's blood prohibitions to Israel and reasons for those prohibitions were relevantly different than those to Noah and all mankind outside the Law of Moses, they were more restrictive. Though the Mosaic Law incorporated the decree given to Noah it nevertheless instituted prohibitions regarding blood that went beyond and were internal and unique to that law, specifically that having to do with atonement sacrifices. Since Christians definitely are not obligated to atonement sacrifices of the Mosaic Law then the very reason for that law's more restrictive prohibition on use of blood disappears--indeed it never existed at all for anyone other than those under the Mosaic Law.
Inherent to this suggested view of the apostolic decree is that, in God's view, life itself is not secondary to blood, that is, Jehovah does not consider blood as more sacred than life. Regarding that idea is the question, Is it okay to donate our life that another might gain temporary life from that donation? Jesus said, "No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends." (John 15:13) Actually Jesus encouraged that Christians be willing to donate their life that another might gain temporary life from that act. Unless blood is considered more sacred than life Jesus' expression allows that we donate blood also for the purpose of saving life, even if that life is just a temporary gain. (See footnote 4)
Likewise, Biblical personages like David and Abishai were willing to endanger/donate their lives in behalf of others. Such men willingly imperiled and sometimes lost their lives fighting Israel's enemies and in defense of fellow Israelites. True, motives had to do with carrying out God's will; nevertheless they also knew that Israelite fellows benefited from their selfless acts and those selfless acts were gratefully acknowledged and accepted. (2 Samuel 21:15-17; compare Acts 9:24,25) (See footnote 5)
The suggested view above acknowledges and advocates deep respect and obedience to the apostolic decree to "abstain from blood". Doing so requires that Christians hold life in high esteem just as God does. Adherence to the apostolic decree obligates Christians to a high degree of respect for life, God's view of life. It requires that Christians respect and regard life such as God instilled with his words to Noah rather than harboring the discounted view of life manifested prior to the flood. It requires 1) abstaining from eating any blood from animals slain for purposes of food and 2) abstaining from taking human life if at all possible. Considering the Christian requirement to make disciples by preaching and teaching the good news of God's kingdom and the results of not accepting that message, the apostolic decree also obligates 3) that we work whole-souled at following that mandate. (Compare Matthew 24:14 and 28:19,20 with 2 Thessalonians 1:8) However, the apostolic decree does not require abstaining from medical transfusions of blood as practiced today because such does not require any taking of life.
In conclusion I would like to address a peripheral reasoning in our present elaborated comments regarding blood transfusion.
We have imputed wisdom to refraining from medical transfusion of blood based upon dangers inherent to the practice. However, considering that God's permission to eat flesh likewise poses significant health risks, such reasoning becomes problematic. Like blood, if flesh is exposed to virulent organisms or is not prepared or selected correctly it can--and has--caused significant loss of health and even death. Today even in developed lands thousands die annually from food poi