There are no new heresies, but instead they are simply more elaborate.
I have decided to skip all of my updates, which I will get to at some time in the future. Instead I wanted to directly introduce a new category on this site and dive into the launch of that said category. The new category will be centered on the religion of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. What sparked the inspiration for this category is simply that I have had an encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness. The word “encounter” makes it seem like an X-Files episode, but nonetheless the word seems accurate whenever I examine what Jehovah Witnesses believe. In that same encounter I found my curiosity of their religious beliefs causing the witness to witness to me in which I retaliated by witnessing to him. To say the least, it has been an interesting week, full of exciting new research, which I definitely need while on a break from school. Without further ado I present to you the first post on the subject of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I. The History of Jehovah’s Witnesses
II. Beliefs and Key Differences in beliefs from Christianity
III. What to Expect
IV. Points to Focus On
I. The History of Jehovah’s Witnesses
In the nineteenth century we witnessed the birth of several movements, which altered orthodox Christianity so much that they were deemed new religions. The three well-known religions to be born in the nineteenth century are Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Science. Our focus, of course, is on Jehovah’s Witnesses and despite the claims from these three religions that say they are “Christian” they simply are not when you observe the core tenants of Christianity. We will get into the differences in beliefs in section two.
Most recognize the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses as Gnostic in the core of its beliefs, which is a post on its own, but this truth sheds some light when we examine history. The heretical teachings of Gnosticism were one of the first problems for the early church; in fact, the letter of 1 John was motivated to show the difference between the heretical teachings and the teachings of scripture. One of the key ideas in Gnosticism is that only certain individuals are enlightened to teach truths in scripture in which John responds with you need no man to teach you (1 John 2:27). This Gnostic nature, then, also explains the manner in which New World Translation formed since we are told that, “the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses was a result of the manner in which many were reading Scripture, as a book where hidden clues could be found regarding future events and the end of the world” (Gonzalez, 2010. p. 346). I will be going over the NWT and how to show Witnesses how this translation is weighed and found wanting, but that is for another day. The lesson to be found in the Gnostic nature of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that there are no new heresies, but instead they are simply more elaborate.
Charles T. Russell, the founder of the religion, insisted that the great instruments of Satan consisted of government, business, and the church. As we can see now days, he also rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Russell’s mentor was an Advent Christian preacher, Jonas Wendell, whose family was involved with the “Great Disappointment of 1844” in which the return of Christ was predicted and failed to be fulfilled. This essentially led to another prediction of Christ’s return, which was said to happen in the fall of 1874. This time, when the prediction proved yet again incorrect, the magazine Herald of the Morning made the claim that Christ did return, but invisibly. It is important that my readers understand what we are told in the book of Revelations at this point, which is that everyone will know, and recognize Christ when he returns. Russell supported this magazine until he started his own, which you surly will recognize, in part, by its title, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence (Walter, 2003).
Russell ran with the belief that Christ had returned in 1874 and declared that Armageddon, the end of the world, would be in 1914. Of course, the year 1914 brought on an event that may have lifted up the hope of Russell’s followers, but World War I was nonetheless not the end of the world. Russell’s successor was Joseph F. Rutherford, who was better known as Judge Rutherford. Judge Rutherford named the movement Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he also “organized it into a vast missionary machine, while reinterpreting Russell’s teachings after the fiasco of 1914” (Gonzalez, 2010. p. 346). It was the newly elected president of the society, Nathan Knorr, who renewed confidence in the eschatological teachings of the organization. Knorr went on to add to the track record of failed prophesies when he predicted the end of the world would occur in 1975. After this failure, and Knorr’s death, the society lost nearly 100,000 members. This debacle led to some of the practices we see today such as shunning former members, disfellowship, and placing members on trial to determine whether or not they are apostates. In all of this, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are making the most progress overseas, and continues to grow extremely fast despite its embarrassing roots.
II. Beliefs and Key Differences in beliefs from Christianity
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be the only true religion on earth. They believe Jehovah is God Almighty while they deny the deity of Christ and His physical resurrection. They believe that the church age has past and that we are in “the kingdom age” hence their meetings in “kingdom halls” opposed to churches. Among these beliefs, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the era of human government is over, and they will not pledge allegiance to flags, governments, or nations. They also deny the existence of hell and teach that only 144,000 people will go to heaven. I must say that I am trying very hard at this point to not intervene while sharing this information. The temptation to debunk these beliefs is boiling within me…we will get there…. I digress. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only Witnesses will survive the Battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah is the only divine name for God. They believe Jesus is Michael the archangel, who is a lesser god. The Holy Spirit is viewed as God’s impersonal active force. Jehovah’s Witnesses say that the doctrine of the Trinity is a satanic lie, putting emphasis on the fact that the word “trinity” never appears in scripture. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that salvation is impossible apart from total obedience to the Watchtower. Jehovah’s Witnesses also divide believers into two groups. The first are the 144,000, which will go to Heaven, and this group will rule with Christ. This group is called the ‘little flock’, which has been completely filled since 1935 and less than 5,000 of those in the flock are alive today. The remaining believers are Jesus’ ‘other sheep’ that will live eternally on an earthly paradise. They also believe the work of Christ to be limited in comparison to Christianity. They call the work of Christ, “the ransom” which is a very narrow view of Christ’s work.
The source of truth for Jehovah’s Witnesses is the New World Translation, which can be understood only by the elite governing body through continued revelation provided by Jehovah, or to be more accurate, The Watchtower. The revealed truth is spread through The Watchtower Magazine and elder’s operational manuals.
III. What to Expect
You can expect the following when encountering a witness (1) an offer of hope for troubles that face us and (2) an attempt to get you involved in and committed to a Bible study, and ultimately, convert you. As for my Jehovah’s Witness friend, he brought me a NWT bible along with Watchtower material regarding, ‘what the bible teaches’. While I think he believed that he was succeeding in converting me, he was unaware that I simply wanted a New World Translation for the sole purpose of study and arguing against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In casual discussion with him I did indeed continue to ask him questions, in which he responded with prompt, practiced, responses.
As I talked to him I learned that he knew proof texts for a variety of themes and objections, but he seemed to know little of scripture as a whole. I have heard this charge given to Jehovah’s Witnesses and so the best way to be prepared with a Jehovah’s Witness is to know scripture. Whenever we talked about theology on and off, he would “click” into a particular mode, which honestly sounded like a type of speaking pattern a salesmen, which I have used in retail, would use. He appeared sincere in his belief, but here and there holes would pop up in that sincerity. An example is that he at one point said, “They tell us to say that the bible says this…”.
I did notice that he was really well trained and because of this his words were very tactful, though, whenever bringing up an issue he would jump to a secondary subject to prove a point, while avoiding the first issue and point being made. Another observation is that he deemed the Watchtower publications as study aides that simply taught what scripture teaches. To say the least, his tactics were well played, and sly, but by the end of the week I noticed that he stopped initiating the subject and would get a worried (or distressed) look whenever I would raise a question.
In talking to him, and while I do whole-heartedly confirm that the Jehovah’s Witness religion is heretical, we did find common ground in the teachings of Christ. Though, in some of the things we delightfully agreed on, I couldn’t understand how he could find that agreement based on his theology. For example; somehow he agreed that salvation was by grace through faith, yet he later would advocate that salvation is earned only by total obedience. He didn’t understand how that contradicted itself, either. In another instance he believed that being saved meant the doctrine of “once saved always saved”. Whenever I talked to him further, he acted as if he knew what salvation was, but also admitted that he didn’t understand what Christians meant by “I am saved”. To further demonstrate how tactful the Jehovah’s Witnesses are, I would recommend that you visit JW.org. You can start here: http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/jehovah-witness-beliefs/
IV. Points to Focus On
In a book by Ron Rhodes titled, The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness, he provides topics which will ultimately stump Jehovah’s Witnesses if they aren’t prepared. While some may not need this list to find holes or ‘apologetic points’, I would still recommend looking through the list regardless to find any areas you could brush up on. Before I share the list I would like to say that I personally hold that the divinity of Christ will ultimately (a) disprove their governing bodies’ validity (the Watchtower), which (b) disproves their translation, which (c) helps the Jehovah’s Witness realize that they have been deceived. The reason I believe the divinity of Christ does this is because we can actually prove the divinity of Christ in the NWT because the Watchtower has yet to successfully omit every passage, or alter every passage, related to Christ’s divinity. Though, I believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not make those connections because they only study what the Watchtower issues every week. I don’t believe they look past whatever study is issued and therefore they miss scriptural points. In addition to the issued studies, I don’t believe they study scripture without Watchtower “aides”. It is important then to study their translation first, to disprove the translation or governing body, so that you can show them another translation which will keep you from jumping through hoops when speaking to them.
The list Ron Rhodes provides gives us ten areas to focus on which will challenge the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is as follows:
- The Watchtower Society does not speak for God
- The New World Translation is inaccurate and misleading
- God has other names besides Jehovah
- Jesus is God Almighty
- The Holy Spirit is God, not a force
- The biblical God is a trinity
- Salvation is by grace through faith, not by works
- There is one people of God – Not two peoples of God
- Man is conscious in the afterlife, and hell is a real place of eternal suffering
- Jesus changes personal lives forever (share your personal testimony)
On JW.org you will see under the question, “are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian?”, that the website confirms that they are indeed Christian. But, the witnesses blatantly ignore biblical Christian doctrine, which has been taught at least 1800 years prior to their existence. They teach a different gospel, and therefore are deemed heretical. We can, however reach out to them with prayer, tactfulness, love, and knowledge of scripture.
My next post will focus on the topic of whether or not Jesus is Michael the Archangel, which is easily disproven. If you’re currently talking to a Jehovah’s Witness, stand strong in your faith, don’t let their tactics trick you, and challenge them with powerful questions. If you aren’t prepared to discuss scripture with them yet simply re-schedule a meeting and get prepared. A good starting point is debunking Christ as Michael the Archangel with these two things; (a) “Where is scripture does it say that Christ is Michael the Archangel?” and (b) “How come (book of Jude) we’re told that Michael couldn’t rebuke Satan on his own, ‘the Lord rebuke you’, yet Christ rebukes Satan on his own?”
If you have any tips, pointers, experiences, or thoughts on the topic of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please feel free to share in the comments section! Share this post with your friends, subscribe, and keep an eye out for new posts!
God bless you all!
Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2003.
Rhodes, Ron. The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.
Rhodes, Ron. The 10 Most Important Things you Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001.
Gonzalez, J. L. (2010). The story of Christianity : the Reformation to the present day. Volume II. New York: HarperOne.