Negative Arguments Against the Banning of Blood Transfusions
Now when I first examined the Lord’s Witnesses web-site it became quickly apparent that they also rejected blood transfusions on a similar basis to the JWs, considering it to be an abuse of life. However check out this initial Q&A between myself and the LW Helpdesk on the subject of blood:
Q - 'Whilst I would strenuously try to avoid a transfusion for myself and my loved ones, if genuine alternatives were available for any particular circumstance, I would not refuse one in circumstances in which a life was at serious risk (mine or a loved one unable to make the decision for him/herself at the time). I believe that this would be tantamount to the breaking of a higher commandment from Jehovah ‘Thou shall not kill’ by removing the ability to sustain a life. This has been put into sharp focus for me recently with the massive blood loss, experienced by a lady that my wife knows, as a result of birth complications. Without an equally massive series of blood transfusions she would be dead today. I think a life is more sacred than the blood that makes life possible.'
A - 'Nice Argument, it is akin to a self defence argument. It is permissable to kill someone in self defence. So is it permissable to take a blood transfusion and abuse life in order to save yours – hmmmm I like it!'
So from the very beginning of my dialogue with the Lords' Witnesses the subject of blood, as important a topic as it is, was not off-limits for the LWs to reconsider their doctrine on the matter. The rest of my original argumentation against the banning of blood transfusions follows with the exception of those arguments that quickly proved invalid:
- Such extenuating circumstances as those presented in the previous point have powerful precedent in scripture, e.g. by Christ carrying out healing work on the Sabbath (Luke 14:2-6). Dare I even suggest that this practice of Jesus did not appear to please the Pharisees.
- Let us consider another example. Suppose a JW has an unbelieving spouse. Imagine the spouse has a serious accident that doctors can only fix with a blood transfusion. If the Witness were to refuse blood for the spouse then this would be a denial of further life in which that person could have found faith, perhaps even more so having come through the trauma. Since Jehovah wishes to save as many as will come to him I do not think he would deny someone with this history.
- A compelling scripture for me in the negative camp is in 1 Samuel 14:31-35 where the tired and hungry Israelite soldiers fighting with the Philistines were severely castigated by Saul for eating bloody meat even though they were exhausted and probably starving. However it is noteworthy that Jehovah apparently took no action himself even by word of warning that these sinners had committed a mortal sin and should be punished accordingly. So this, I would argue, supports my view that, when in danger of actual physical loss of life, Jehovah is prepared to prioritise his laws. N.B. As a direct result of this argumentation, the LWs changed their stance on the blood issue. You can read all about that important topic on their web-site at: http://www.truebiblecode.com/joining.html#j7
- Colossians 2:16,17 appear to allow eating and drinking without judgement in the context of the superseding of all by Christ’s body. This would seem to override the dietary and sacrificial significance of animal blood and therefore by imputation the JW objection to blood transfusions. Hebrews 10:1-10 appears to devalue animal sacrifice (and consequently their blood) further in the same context.
- Matthew 7:15 states that a man is not defiled by what passes into him but by what issues forth out of him’. Verse 19 goes on to say that ‘..all foods are clean…’ This presumably must include bloody meat or blood itself. Assuming that eating is equivalent to having a transfusion by JW logic then arguably Jehovah is rather more interested in the hearts of men than in their dietary/medical predilections.
- Romans 14:20 indicates that all food is OK but one’s own conscience and those of weaker brothers could affect one’s dietary habits. This presumably therefore must include the eating of blood (and consequently transfusions) which are thus put completely into the realm of conscience. In a similar vein (sorry but I couldn’t resist the pun!) 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 goes a little further in specifically indicating food offered to idols; the issue again being the stumbling of a weaker brother rather than the food itself.
- The more I look into this, the more it seems to me that the New Testament admonitions in Acts 15:20, 29 to abstain from blood, meat offered to idols, fornication and things strangled are all to do with the avoidance of the pagan worship practices of the day. These four practices have their origins in the feasting at the pagan temples on the meats offered to idols, in temple prostitution (fornication), in the eating of the bloody meat of things strangled which was considered a delicacy, and in the eating or drinking of blood which was considered by some pagan religions to be the food of demons. So do JWs consider blood transfusions to be a pagan practice? 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 identifies those who ‘will never possess the Kingdom of God’; these include fornicators and idolaters but does not reference those who do not abstain from blood or meat offered to idols. This seems to relegate these latter two to a lesser pair of evils.
- Further commentary on the verses in Acts 15:20,29 related to their context suggests that these admonitions to the Christian Gentiles was by way of appeasing the Christian Jews who still wanted to keep to their dietary customs because they had not quite yet got used to the new order in which the Mosaic Law was no longer necessary.
- The JWs would argue that Genesis 9:4, in which Noah and his sons were prohibited from eating bloody flesh, represents a prohibition aimed at all mankind. This is based on its preceding the Mosaic Law and is therefore not included in the rescinding of the Law as described in the Greek scriptures. The fly in this ointment is that Deuteronomy 14:21 states that the Mosaic Law allowed the Israelites to give/sell bloody meat to aliens/foreigners. This runs counter to the above Genesis interpretation for application to all mankind. So which is it guys? This sounds like having your blood and imbibing it!! On top of this Galatians 2:16 determines that a man is not declared righteous through works of law but by faith. Here I think all forms of law are intended not just the Mosaic Law; this would clearly include the law placed on Noah would it not?
- Colossians 2:16 states ‘Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking…’. I assume this would also include transfusions and 'no man' to include the Watchtower's Governing Body? Another example of the Watchtower's taking on God's role for themselves.
So, to sum up the current Lords' Witness view of the blood issue, the law provided that you could kill a burglar without blood guilt if you killed him whilst he was still in your property, effectively threatening you. But you could not chase after him and then kill him outside your property without incurring blood guilt. So you can abuse life in order to save your life. So you can abuse blood in order to save your life.
In fact in the case of 1 Samuel 14, the troops were tired, and in a battle situation such a state is lethal. When you are hacking people with swords and chasing after them, if you are tired you are more likely to be killed. So it appears that God commuted the abuse of blood from murder to justifiable homicide. By doing this he is explaining the very grounds on which we too can permit a blood transfusion. He is also lifting the stone from around our necks that Saul put there. This sacrifice that God never asked for.
In other words, if the doctor judges life to be in danger and ONLY IF the doctor so judges, you can take a blood transfusion ‘in self defence’.
Positive Arguments in Favour of the Banning of Blood Transfusions
- If Jehovah had wanted men to exchange blood, why would he have invented blood groups? I am not aware of any obvious biological reason as to why there are different groups. These clearly made the whole business of blood transfusions fraught with danger in the early days prior to our gaining adequate knowledge of blood typing.
- Leviticus 17:14 states ‘…You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh…’. The questions remaining are: is this still in force since Christ’s sacrifice (I think not) and does ‘eat’ include any form of imbibing and does it include the blood of live creatures, e.g. by transfusion? The law is no longer in force, but Paul said, by law is the accurate knowledge of sin so, arguably, it is still a sin to take blood.
- Acts 15:20,28,29 clearly state that we should ‘…abstain…from blood…’. Arguably these are the only verses in scripture that need to be considered in the blood issue since the Mosaic law has been rendered redundant through faith in Christ (Romans 10:4).
The Banning of Blood Transfusions by the Watchtower Society
The blood topic has been an issue for me ever since I have associated with the Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs). I spent two whole months studying this topic prior to becoming a Lords' Witness. I made a point of weighing the scripturally based arguments in both directions since I wished to find the truth from God's word without bias although I would have to say that the banning of blood transfusions in life-threatening circumstances has never felt right to me. I have since learned that if any view does not feel right then, with a couple of exceptions for me, it is almost certainly incorrect. I have subsequently used this philosophy with LW doctrine as well; the difference being that the Lords' Witnesses are a living church with their understandings growing as they continue to knock on God's door rather than lazily assume they have the whole story. We know that we do not have the whole story despite having significantly richer understandings than any other church. We have attained this position by 'continually seeking' as our Lords have requested of us.
Anyway my investigations into the blood issue brought my conscience down strongly on the side that the banning of blood transfusions is scripturally incorrect. This was not what I had expected or hoped for at the time since it placed me in a no-man’s land of personal belief unaligned to any ‘true’ church. This was very uncomfortable for me but in the end it is I, and I alone, that will face my personal judgement with my maker.
I originally put my position down in the following break-down between positive and negative arguments on the doctrine of banning transfusions. It can be seen that the number of negative arguments far outweighs the positives although I have subsequently removed those arguments that have been demonstrated to me as being invalid. This in itself is interesting since some of the points that have ended up in the negative camp started life in the positive. I think this means that I have seen through JW reasoning and have settled on a stronger counter argument. However it is the quality of the negative arguments rather than their sheer number that wins the day.
The Lords' Witnesses Allow Blood Transfusions for Life Preservation