The Jehovah’s Witnesses is a non-christian cult that denies the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. They deny the deity of Christ and relegate Christ to a created being. The JW’s do not affirm the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection. They teach that Jesus rose spiritually from the dead and some even go as far to say that his body dissolved into gases (Which would explain the empty tomb). They deny the biblical doctrine of the trinity and believe that the Holy Spirit is God’s impersonal active force. Furthermore, they deny that salvation is by faith alone and add works righteousness to the salvation process.
JW’s train their members very thoroughly in their doctrines and are very often able to quote extensively from the Bible (their particular translation, NWT) and their own literature. The JW is often at an advantage over the Christian in that they are usually more well studied and versed in the Bible. Unfortunately, the average Christian is ill-equipped to respond to their biblical points and peculiar interpretations. This truth is usually manifested in the fact that when Christians hear the JW’s approaching their door, they are quick to lock up and pull down the shades, pretending not to be home. Or, when the Christian does open the door to engage, they find out quickly how little they know about JW theology and their own beliefs about the Bible. Given this kind of situation, what is the Christian to do?
While studying the beliefs of the JW’s is an important part of preparing an adequate apologetic, it is vitally important that the Christian be very well versed in his own position. The Christian should be constantly and regularly in the Word of God and so familiar with it, that distortions of the Word are quickly recognized. Knowing God’s Word and hiding it in your heart (Psalm 119), will help you recognize the often misunderstood and misrepresented biblical position as presented by the JW. The difficulty in interacting the JW’s is that they too utilize the Bible to defend their position. Here are a few points to look for when the engagement takes this route:
- When the JW quotes scripture, be sure to recognize when the particular verse is taken out of context so as to fit a particular interpretation. The Christian must also be sure to understand the correct context so as to not fall into the same error.
- Recognize when the person refuses to read a verse in a way that is consistent with the entirety of scripture. Remember, that the Bible is the God inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:16), and so it will never contradict itself. If a particular interpretation sets itself up against what the scripture teaches elsewhere, this needs to be pointed out.
- Try to recognize when the JW is trying to insert their theological presuppositions into the text, as opposed to properly exegeting the text. Remember, since the Bible is God speaking to us, we want the text to speak its intended meaning, not insert what we want the text to say.
- We want to also recognize the problems with the particular Bible translation that the JW’s are using. There are clear examples of mistranslation of the text so as to fit the peculiar theological doctrines of the JW’s. Perhaps studying up on the (New World Translation) would be helpful. Just know that the Bible they are using is not the same one you are using. While similar in many ways, they differ at key important doctrinal points. Its important to recognize this and point out those differences when the opportunity arises.
There are many other things to watch out for when interacting with JWs, but I think the above list is a good place to start keeping these things in mind. Remember also to speak with patience and grace. The JW is indoctrinated with their unbiblical ideas and they are not encouraged to think for themselves. As a matter of fact, those who think outside the authority of the Watchtower’s guidance are compared to Satan himself: “From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah’s people those, who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude…They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But strangely, through such “Bible reading” they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom’s clergy were teaching 100 years ago…” (The Watchtower, August 15, 1981). Interestingly enough, the “apostate doctrines” that Christendom have been teaching, are the very doctrines they deny (i.e. Trinity, Salvation by Faith alone, Deity of Christ, etc.). So if one were to read the Bible alone, one would be drawn to the very doctrines the JWs deny. Now orthodox Christianity does not encourage a rogue spirit in which folks are reading and interpreting the Bible independently of guidance. Christians welcome the guidance of those more learned than we. Studying the scripture is often done in community with others, however, without the final authority resting in God’s own self disclosure in His Word, then there is nothing to prevent one’s ability to test the truth of the Watchtower’s claims. If we are told to “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), then this does not exclude the Watchtower Organization.