Sources of "Theocratic War Strategy" DoctrineWhen the term was used, here was the direction in the Watchtower:
Februrary 1st, 1956 Watchtower says, "Never swear falsely in Jehovah’s name. Jehovah declares that at his temple he will be a “swift witness against . . . the false swearers.” (Mal. 3:5, AS) Never take an oath in his name and then tell lies as a sworn witness. Rahab of Jericho was under no oath in Jehovah’s name to tell the facts to the king’s officers and hence was not a false swearer or a false witness. “A faithful witness will not lie; but a false witness uttereth lies.” (Prov. 14:5, AS) A faithful witness does not love a false oath. So he tells the truth as he swore to do. What he does speak will be the truth. If he speaks at all he will tell the truth. To the extent that he chooses to talk he will state the truth. If for conscientious reasons he refuses to tell everything he will be willing to suffer the consequences if he be judged deserving of a penalty. He refuses to tell everything, not to escape punishment, but facing punishment for conscientious reasons. Even Jesus kept silent before Pilate, refusing to answer though knowing Pilate’s power.—John 19:8-11."
The 1960 Watchtower, p.352, emphasized, "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.”"
What this is saying is that if the judge orders him to betray his brothers, he must hold his tongue. It does not say to lie.
In the May 1st, 1957 Watchtower, in the article, "Use Theocratic War Strategy", it gave the example of a sister who was in her ministry in Eastern Germany. When she saw a violent opposer of Jehovah's Witnesses, she immediately went around the corner and changed from a red blouse to a green one. When an officer stopped her and asked if she saw a woman with a red blouse on, she said, "No." Was she lying? No. She had seen no woman walking around with a red blouse on. She, in fact, was the woman, but chose not to reveal that matter. Then the article tells of several examples where such strategy was appropriately applied.
Did the woman lie about doctrine? No. Did she lie at all? No.
Modern Discussions of OmissionThe latest discussion of this "strategy" is found in the November 15th Watchtower, 2004. It states:
"The faithful witness does not commit perjury when testifying. His testimony is not tainted with lies. However, this does not mean that he is under obligation to give full information to those who may want to bring harm to Jehovah’s people in some way. The patriarchs Abraham and Isaac withheld facts from some who did not worship Jehovah. (Genesis 12:10-19; 20:1-18; 26:1-10) Rahab of Jericho misdirected the king’s men. (Joshua 2:1-7) Jesus Christ himself refrained from divulging total information when doing so would have caused needless harm. (John 7:1-10) He said: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, neither throw your pearls before swine.” Why not? So that “they may never . . . turn around and rip you open.”—Matthew 7:6." (Emphasis mine.)
Yes, the doctrine holds today. But it is very succinctly spelled out here that we are never to lie under oath and even gave an example of Jesus himself demonstrating omission to prevent unnecessary action.
Deceptive Omissions of Our OpposersSome try to claim that we lie about doctrine and even lie to our own brothers and sisters or in courts of law. Is that true? No. It is a fabrication.
In fact, our opposers like to very overtly avoid referencing statements in such articles, such as in the above older article, just two paragraphs down from the experience of the woman, it says, "Perhaps some will wonder as to where the line is to be drawn between use of theocratic war strategy in hiding the truth and the telling of lies. First of all, let it be noted that whenever one takes an oath to tell the truth he is obligated to do so. By dedicating himself to do God’s will each Christian has taken a vow or made an oath to do God’s will and to be faithful to him. To this oath he certainly must be true. Likewise, when a Christian is placed on a witness stand he is obligated to speak the truth if he speaks at all. At times he may prefer to refuse to speak and suffer the consequences rather than betray his brothers or the interests of God’s work. And, of course, there is no occasion for use of war strategy when dealing with our Christian brothers. In dealing with them we tell the truth or tactfully remind them that what they seek to know does not concern them." (May 1st, 1957 Watchtower, p.285)
In what circumstances was "theocratic war strategy" supposed to be applied? Only where revealing the truth would bring harm to servants of God in the face of opposition and only where the strategy does not bring harm to anyone, spiritually, socially, physically or otherwise. 2 Thessalonians 2:11 was used in one article to show that, while God does not lie, He allows individuals to believe a lie, though in this case no lie necessarily be told.
There is no publication in the history of Jehovah's Witnesses that encourages anyone to lie at all.
Once again, "theocratic war strategy" does not and never has applied to doctrine and does not encourage lying for any reason. So in their own hypocrisy, our opposers use deceptive omissions and outright lies to lead the reader to believe that we lie under oath and to our own brothers and sisters. Note the following example of how our opposers try to accuse us of using this strategy to tell lies.
Lies About Little Things?In an example given by one individual, they cite the book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, pg. 63, where the interviewer asks, "is it true you have never published a biography of Pastor Russell?" The answer that the interviewee gives is, "That's right. Jehovah’s Witnesses admire the qualities he possessed as a man, but were we to give the honor and credit to Pastor Russell, we would be saying that the works and successes were his." (Emphasis mine.) Then the individual goes on to state that biographies of Russell were indeed given in three successive years: 1925-1927. (Note that the individual does not provide the publications, but that matter is not important.) But what are the facts?
The question cited by this individual comes immediately after actually discussing a biography that appeared in the Foreword of a later edition of Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 1. So clearly, the interviewer asking the question knew that a biography of sorts had in fact been provided. Thus, when the interviewer asked, immediately after discussing such biography, if it was true that Jehovah's Witnesses had never published a biography of Russell, she was clearly referring to a whole book, not just a Foreword or article.
Additionally, the answer specifically related to "Jehovah's Witnesses", a name that the organization did not take on until 1935. Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses had not printed a biography of any kind of Russell up to that point.
Does that matter fall under the category of "theocratic war strategy"? No. It would not hurt anyone to know that a biography had appeared in Bible Student literature before then. So neither a lie, nor the need to lie was present. But neither was there any need to point anyone to outdated literature.
Jehovah's Witnesses are, in fact, the most honest people you will ever come across. We are neither in the practice of lying, nor do we lie to suit our own purposes.
- Update [10/4/14]: I just learned that this may be being confused with the Masonic direction to lie outright to protect fellow Masons. Jehovah's Witnesses are not Masons and are not associated with them in any way. For more on Masons, see Freemasons — Roots and Links to the Occult. That article is sound research that provides ample citations to look up.