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The incredible Creed of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Victor R. Claveau
There is a City full, as are all Cities,
of halt and main, blind and evil and the rest;
but it is the city of God…There are not
two such cities on earth. There is one…
Within that household the human spirit has
Roof and hearth. Outside it, is the night.
- Hilaire Belloc
In this series, I will cover the following topics:
1. What are sects and cults?
2. The Catholic Church's concern.
3. Why these groups are successful.
4. Brief history of Jehovah's Witnesses.
5. How the JWs make converts.
6. Authority in Interpreting Scripture
7. The Witnesses' doctrines.
8. Anti‑Catholic claims.
9. How to witness to Jehovah's Witnesses.
10. Pastoral challenges and approaches.
1. WHAT ARE SECTS AND CULTS?
CULT: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious.
SECT: A dissenting or schismatic religious body; especially one regarded as extreme of heretical.
In my opinion the Jehovah's Witnesses fall into both these categories.
Since the terms Cults, and Sects seems to have a negative connotation the Church usually uses the term "New Religious Movements".
The differences between these groups are usually found in the "sources" a group uses to establish their theology.
1. Some add to the Bible, such the Mormon's, adding the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrines and Covenants;
2. others take away from the Bible and deny Sacred Tradition, as do the Protestants;
3. and finally, there are those who radically change the Bible such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The United States Catholic Bishops have estimated that the Church in the US loses as many as many as 100,000 members to these various groups each year.
The JW'S have more than doubled their membership in the past 15 years.
60,000 Hispanic Catholics are lost each year to other religious groups, primarily fundamentalists.
Many mainline Christian denominations have seen drops in their memberships as well. Catholics and Southern Baptists seem to be the only religious groups that are experiencing annual growth. Partially, I suspect because these will not equivocate.
2. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH'S CONCERN.
The Holy See and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops cannot but help to be concerned about these defections and studies have been conducted.
According to "Sects or New Religious Movements: A Pastoral Challenge" published by the NCCB, the reasons for the success of these groups can be found in an providing for an individuals needs.
A. These groups answer the quest for belonging.
B. These groups seem to provide the answers to life's most perplexing problems.
C. These groups seem to provide the answer to brokenness.
D. These groups provide a cultural identity. Each of us have a desire to belong to something or some group.
E. These groups cater to a persons need to be thought of as special.
F. These groups appear to answer one's search for spiritual transcendence; in other words, something or someone beyond ourselves that can offer a meaning for one's existence.
G. These groups appear to be able to provide spiritual guidance.
H. These groups provide a vision for the future that will include peace, harmony and joy.
I. These groups provide a concrete mission for a better world.
These groups are most effective with attracting alienated individuals; people who have been marginalized by society. When attacking a herd of caribou, wolves go for the weak members on the edge of the herd. The cults such as the JWs do the same. These groups go after Catholics that are not grounded in the Faith; those that can be easily be confused about Christ’s teachings.
3. WHY THESE GROUPS ARE SUCCESSFUL.
A. Primarily related to needs not being met in the Catholic Church. We must admit that we as Catholics do a very poor job, on the parish level, in meeting the needs of the poor, the lonely and the marginalized.
B. Poor religious training. We have been suffering from unbelievably poor catechesis on the part of the Church since Vatican II. Uneducated Catholics are easy prey for any group that appears to provide a panacea. Most leave the Church out of ignorance of the teachings of Christ as taught by the Church. The study of apologetics is many times discouraged as being too aggressive.
C. Recruitment and training techniques of the sects. These people who go door to door, whether they are Mormons of Jehovah's Witnesses are highly trained in evangelization techniques.
Unfortunately, these groups are not yet seen as a threat by many of our bishops; rather they are seen as a "pastoral challenge".
We need a dynamic pastoral approach at every level of our Church if we are to save the souls that our Lord has entrusted to us.
My personal apostolate was started eleven years ago because of my personal concern.
John Donne said it best:
"No man is an island, entire of itself; everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee"
Each and every time a person leaves the true family of God, we are all diminished.
As adults, we need to have an adult understanding of Catholic doctrine and the Bible. 1 Cor. 13:11‑12 "When I was a child I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways aside.
Many adults still have a child-like understanding of Catholicism that we received from the Baltimore catechism. We were not necessarily taught Catholic doctrine from Scripture and other traditional writings. As a result, the faith many Catholics can easily be shaken when confronted by those who appear to have a better understanding of Scripture.
We must become evangelists of these evangelists.
Today’s Witnesses can be found on street corners in just about every major city throughout the world, pacing down the boulevards with a Watchtower magazine in their hands. Each and every weekend you’ll find the going from door to door searching for prospective converts.
50 years ago there were fewer than 100,000 JWs; today, they number over 5.9 MILLION worldwide.
Jan. 90‑‑788,709 Witnesses in the US
Jan. 98--Membership in the US including Alaska 1,040,283
Jan. 99—Membership 982,667 LOSS of 68,606
For an increase of 251,574 members.
Jan. 90—there were 9,007 congregations in the US
Jan. 98—11,064 congregations in the US including Alaska
Jan. 99—11,286 congregations in the US
For an increase of 2,057 congregations
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ARE A PARASITIC ORGANIZATION
It has been estimated that 65% of new converts come from established churches. The remainder are either born into the organization or were recruited from the unchurched.
In order to provide personal attention the congregations usually split when they reach 200 members.
4. BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WATCHTOWER SOCIETY.
The Watchtower Society was founded by Charles Taze Russell (b.1852). Russell called himself God's mouthpiece. He made his living at the time as a haberdasher. He had been raised a s a Presbyterian and then became a Congregationalist. The false doctrine of pre-destination and the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell troubled him. In 1870 he found Second Adventism in a basement church in Allegheny, PA. He was 18 years old at the time.
A farmer named William Miller founded second Adventism. Miller predicted that Jesus would come again and the end of the world would occur in April of 1843. Then that date came and went, he recalculated and the predicted that this would happen in November of the same year. When his predictions failed to come to pass, he apologized and resigned from the movement in disgrace.
A remnant of this group eventually became the Seventh Day Adventists founded by Ellen G. White. But, that's another story.
Russell's encounter with the Adventists aroused his interest in Bible study and although he had no formal training in theology began to call himself "Pastor". As a matter of fact, he never completed High School.
In 1879, at the age of 27, Russell started publishing "Zion's Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Presence".
By 1880 there were 30 Russellite congregations in 7 States.
In 1881 he moved his organization to Brooklyn, NY where it is still headquartered.
Russell was a person of dubious past. He promoted a "Miracle Wheat" which he claimed was five times better than other existing wheat. He promoted bogus cures for skin cancer, pneumonia, grippe, and typhoid.
His wife divorced him on the on the charge of infidelity and "having an inflated ego" after 18 years of marriage.
Russell offered himself as a prophet and the founder of a new religion. His life should be an open book. One must ask the question, Is this the type of individual God would have chosen to renew His Church?
In 1910 Russell predicted that the return of Jesus and the end of the world would occur in 1914.
Russell originally taught that Jesus had become present invisibly in 1874, the harvest had begun, the saints would be raptured, and the world would experience a time of trouble and woe such as it had never seen before. All this was to culminate in the battle of Armageddon in 1914, when Christ's kingdom would have full sway.
A major teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses is that Bible prophecy had pointed to the year 1914 as the end of the "Gentile Times" of Luke chapter 21, verse 24, and that in that year Christ Jesus actively took up his Kingdom power and began to rule invisibly to human eyes. In Daniel chapter four, references to a period of "seven times" were the foundation for the calculations leading to that date and, by use of other texts, these "seven Times" were translated into a period of 2,520 years beginning in 606 BCE, was held to be the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian conqueror Nebuchadnezzar.
When 1914 came and went Russell changed the date to 1915. Russell died in 1916, so it is safe to assume that Jesus did come for him.
The Watchtower has predicted that the end would occur in 1918, and again in 1925, and finally in 1975.
"Judge" Joseph R. Rutherford, the son of a farmer, (b. 1869), succeeded Russell in 1917. Rutherford had joined the movement in 1906. He had been reader as a Baptist and became the Society's legal advisor and frequently appeared in court in Russell's defense when he was charged with blasphemy or inciting civil disobedience.
Rutherford was a court reporter and had no formal training in the law. Actually, he was not a real judge. He simply took on the title after he was asked to be a judge pro-tem. In other words he substituted for a real judge on four occasions.
In 1917 Rutherford wrote "The Finished Mystery" and other works that contained virulent attacks on the clergy (who Rutherford labeled "The Swine Class") and military service. As a result he was arrested and charged with sedition. Rutherford and six of his Directors were tried, convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. They were released on bail after serving only nine months and a year later the government dropped the charges. Rutherford came out of prison an angry man, even more determined to wage war on the clergy, politics, and big business.
In 1920 Rutherford published a booklet entitled "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" This booklet predicted that the generation alive in 1914 would still be alive when Armageddon comes and the earth would become a paradise.
In 1921, Rutherford published his first full-sized book. “The Harp of God. It reaffirmed the Society’s confidence and faith in 1799 as the start of the “last days” and 1874 as the time Christ began his “invisible presence.”
In a steady stream of Watchtower articles during 1922 and 1923, the Society repeatedly used such terms as “indisputable,” “correct beyond a doubt,” “divinely corroborated,” “absolutely and unqualifiedly correct,” “incontestable established,” proven certainty,” “of divine origin” – terms applied to the whole chronological scheme including 1799, 1874, 1878 (the start of the resurrection of the anointed), 1881 (the time when Russell was fully appointed as the Lord’s steward), as well as 1914, 1918 and the most recent prophetic date of 1925, said to have “as much scriptural support as 1914.”
During the 1925 prediction his followers sold their homes and lands, quit their jobs and became pioneers for Rutherford.
How did the Watchtower handle the situation when Jesus did not return in 1925? Members were warned not to be easily swayed in favor of evidence from secular history that contradicted the Society’s chronology. The Watchtower wrote: “The fact that all the things that some looked for in 1914 did not materialize does not alter the chronology one whit. Noting the date marked so prominently, it is very easy for the finite mind to conclude that all the work to be done must center about it, and thus many are inclined to anticipate more than has really been foretold. Thus it was in 1844, in1874, in 1878 as well as 1914 and 1918. Looking back we can now easily see that those dates were clearly indicated in Scripture and doubtless intended by the Lord to encourage his people, as they did, as well as to be a means of testing and sifting when all that some expected did not come to pass. That all that some expected to see in 1925 may not transpire that year will not alter the date one whit more than in the other cases.”
Nothing strange is seen in this concept that God and Christ would use falsehood as a means of encouragement for Their servants.
In 1931, the organization changed its name to the Jehovah's Witnesses.
In 1934 phonographs were introduced in door-to-door evangelization, although Rutherford never went door-to-door himself.
Rutherford hated Catholics. He broadcasted on 403 radio stations and much of the literature produced was an attack on Catholicism. Eventually, he was not allowed to broadcast on the radio because of his hate filled diatribes. He claimed that all organized religion was a snare and a racket. Much of this anti-Catholic attitude still persists today.
In 1925 Rutherford predicted the return of Abraham. Isaac, and Jacob, King David, Gedeon, Samson, Samuel and other mighties of ancient Palestine. He had a ten room Spanish mansion called Beth-Sarim (House of Princes) built in San Diego to house the patriarchs (with a two-car garage) and actually had it deeded to them. Rather than leaving the mansion vacant, Rutherford lived there himself.
Rutherford was an alcoholic and during the prohibition days had booze smuggled in from Canada. He died at Beth-Sarim in 1942 of bowel cancer. His wish was that he be buried at Beth-Sarim. Officially, he was buried in on Staten Island New York, but many believe he was buried at Beth-Sarim. Eventually, the property was sold in 1948, as it had become an embarrassment to the organization.
Rutherford was succeeded by Nathan Homer Knorr (b. 1905 - d. 1977) Knorr did away with the phonographs and began to train members in serious door-to-door techniques.
Frederick (Freddy) Franz succeeded Knorr in 1977. Franz was in his late nineties and had 3 years of college. Knorr was the Society’s Bible scholar, lead theologian, and principal Bible translator of the NWT. Other members of the Committee were Nathan Knorr, Albert Schroeder and George Gangas; Fred Franz, however was the only one with sufficient knowledge of Bible languages to attempt a translation of this kind. He had studied Greek for two years in the University of Cincinnati but he was only self-taught in Hebrew.
In 1966 Jehovah's Witnesses literature once again predicted Armageddon (You would think they would have learned by then) in 1975.
Franz explained that Adam had been created in the year 4,026. Man had been allotted 6,000 years. 6,000 minus 4,026 = 1975. When this prediction failed as well, Franz explained that the time should have been reckoned with the creation of Eve rather than Adam and since we do not have any accurate knowledge of when she was created we'll just have to wait; but it's just around the corner. Remember that it must happen before the year 2014. As a result of the failed prophecy 390,000 members left between 1976 and 1978.
Watchtower members are not encouraged to read the writings of Russell or Rutherford. All materials are now published anonymously.
Franz was succeeded by Milton Henshell in 1992 and is the current president. Today's Watchtower Society is a very strict organization. A person can be excommunicated for being an unrepentant sinner, a smoker, for working in the Dept. of Defense, for entering churches, for being employed by a religious organization, receiving a blood transfusion, for saluting the flag of one's country, for patriotism, for celebrating birthdays or holidays, for speaking to a person who has been disfellowshiped (including relatives) or for disagreeing with doctrine. As of July 1984 disfellowshiping is now called voluntary disassociation, but it still amount to the same thing.
Approximately one million persons have left the Watchtower Society in the past ten years either voluntarily or by being disfellowshiped. The organization disfellowships an average of 28 people each day.
5. HOW THE JWs MAKE CONVERTS
The Watchtower Society has developed highly sophisticated recruitment and training techniques. When they knock on your door their approach has been well orchestrated and rehearsed. They have been trained in the techniques of social and psychological manipulation. The Society publishes a small book entitled "Reasoning from the Scriptures". This is their "how to" manual.
The first publishing of this book was 2 million copies - 3 for each Witness. It contains 76 topics. For example: abortion, ancestor worship, Paradise, philosophy, women and the world. It also teaches door--to--door techniques.
A few of the Catholic doctrines discussed are: Apostolic Succession, Baptism as a sin eradication sacrament, confession, holidays & holy days, Images, Marian doctrines, Mass, and purgatory. Approximately a tenth of the book is aimed at Catholics.
The book begins with a section entitled "Introductions for use in field ministry" and "How you might respond to potential conversation stoppers".
There are seven steps to conversion:
Step 1: The first step is to get someone to accept a Watchtower magazine.
Step 2: Complete records are kept on each and every person called upon. The call back is the second approach and its purpose is to invite the person into a home Bible study.
Step 3: The home Bible study. The prospect is there to learn not to teach. If you argue with them they will leave and mark you down as a "goat". Remember the parable about the sheep and the goats?
Step 4: Is an invitation the study further at the Kingdom Hall'
Step 5: Is an invitation to Sunday services. This is not like any Christian service whether Catholic or Protestant. There are no hymns sung and no preaching. An "elder" will deliver a 45-minute lecture on the latest Watchtower magazine. Scripture will be studied for field use.
Step 6: Wednesday or Thursday night meetings for Bible study. The average is 5 hours of "Bible Study" each week. At this time there is also story telling of successful field encounters, and the filling out of the monthly log of hours dedicated to witnessing.
Step 7: Admission to the sect. Baptism by immersion. Must agree to work as a missionary. Some work part-time; some log as many as 150 hours per month. Those who work full time as pioneers receive a small stipend.
1,144,566,498 hours were devoted to witnessing worldwide in 1999 which equates to 193 hours per member.
174,905,417 hours were devoted to witnessing in the US in 1999, which equates to 178 hours per member.
Their hierarchy is congregation elder, circuit or district overseer, branch overseer, zone overseer, and the god in Brooklyn.
They have no ordained ministry. The main task of the organization is to enlarge its rolls. The have no public service organizations such as hospitals, orphanages, welfare agencies or schools or colleges except the Gilead Missionary Training School in Lansing NY. Why bother with the welfare of others if the end is near?
The Society does not recognize the legitimacy of any earthly authority. All is of Satan. If you are not a Witness you are with the anti-Christ. Everything they do is focused on the end of Satan's rule and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. Keep in mind that Witnesses are taught that Christians are under the dominion of Satan, which is why they will not accept literature that does not originated with the Society.
6. AUTHORITY IN INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE
The Society states that the ultimate authority for them is the same as for Protestants, the Holy Scriptures. In actuality, the ultimate authority for Watchtower members is the Bible as it is interpreted according to the governing body of the Society. The witnesses claim that their doctrines can be found in the Bible.
The Society claims that all its doctrines come from the Bible. In actuality, much is made up by the Governing Body that sits in Brooklyn. The Governing Body acts as sole judge in all matters and its decisions are final. Nathan Knorr described the Society as “a theocratic organization, ruled from the divine Top down, and not from the rank and file up. The dedicated, baptized members of it are under a Theocracy!” (Watchtower, Dec. 15, 1971).
In 1942 Society published "The Emphatic Diaglott", which was purported to be a translation of the New Testament from the original Greek text, "according to (small print) the Recension of Dr. J. J. Griesbach." This, I believe, was the first attempt to provide a translation of the NT to the members of the Society. The justification for this new translation was that the King James version was faulty: “Though freely acknowledging that it is sufficiently plain to teach men the social and religious duties of life, and the path to immortality, yet it is a notable fact the King James’ Translation is far from being a faithful reflection of the mind of the Spirit, as contained in the original Greek in which the books of the New Testament were written. There are some thousands of words that are either mistranslated, or too obscurely rendered, besides others which are now obsolete, through improvement in the language. Besides this, it has been too highly colored in many places with the party ideas and opinions of those who made it, to be worthy of full and implicit confidence placed in it as a genuine record (Emphatic Diaglot, pp. 6-7).
An “anonymous” committee (identified above) developed The New World Translation, which is the JWs version of the complete Bible. The NWT was first introduced in 1961, revised in 1970, and further revised in 1984. These revisions were said to have been necessary because of improved scholarship. In actuality, it was because they recognized that certain of their doctrines were contradicted by the Scriptures. Rather than changing their doctrines, which would admit to their lack of infallibility and Scriptural bias, the Governing Body elected to revise the Scriptures.
In my personal opinion, that the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society is made up of men who lack intellectual, and moral integrity.
It is very difficult to prove the Governing Body wrong because individual members are taught that everything of the world is corrupt. They are also taught that all Christians are in league with Satan and that materials published by Christians can have demons attached to them. JWs will not accept Christian literature of any kind.
7. THE WITNESSES’ DOCTRINES:
I do not intend to delineate and refute each and every one of the Society’s doctrines here. I will only address the doctrines that are in conflict with revealed truth as taught by the Catholic Church. T
he Watchtower Society has changed the Word of God in so many ways that it is sometimes difficult to recognize various texts. I will occasionally compare translations from the NWT with the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (RSVCE).
Belief and Scriptural reason.
Bible is God's Word and is truth.
2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21; John 17:17
Here, the Society teaches that the Bible and the Bible alone is all that is needed to "completely" equip a person for every good work.
NWT - "All scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work."
RSVCE - All scripture is inspired of God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
Notice the not-so-subtle difference in translation here. The NWT states that the Bible is all that is needed, while the RSVCE states that it equips a man. If you compare verse with verse, throughout the Bible, you will readily see how the Society twists Scripture to its own ends. Anytime the Bible has contradicted the teachings of the Society the Bible became subordinated to the Governing Body.
Bible is more reliable than tradition
Matt. 15:3; Col. 2:8
We would agree in the full sense of these passages; that the Bible is more reliable than human traditions. The Society is implying that the Bible supercedes Sacred Tradition, which is divine revelation.
God's name is Jehovah
Ps. 83:18; Isa. 26:4; 42:8, AS; Ex. 6:3
In Exodus 3:13-15 God revealed His name: "Moses said to God, 'If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?' God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' And he said, 'Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you…this is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.'"
Out of respect for the holiness of God, the people of Israel do not pronounce his name. In the reading of Sacred Scripture, the revealed name (Yhwh) is replaced by the divine title "Lord" (in Hebrew Adonai, in Greek Kyrios). It is under this title that the divinity of Jesus will be acclaimed: "Jesus is Lord." (CCC, p. 57)
God's name is "I AM". The personal name of the God of Israel is written in the Hebrew Bible with the four consonants, J H W H and is referred to as a "tetragrammaton". By the 3rd century BC. Jews held the name of God in such high esteem that it was never written out in full or vocalized. The Jews used terms such as "The Eternal One, Blessed be He" rather than actually saying the divine name. The Hebrew word "Adonai" or the Greek word "Kyrios" both of which mean "The Lord" were used instead. In the early Middle-ages, when the consonantal text of the Bible was supplied with vowel points to facilitate its correct traditional reading, the vowel points for "Adonai" were used with J H W H, thus producing the form YeHoWaH. When Christian scholars of Europe first began to study Hebrew, they did not understand what this word really meant and introduced the hybrid name "JEHOVAH." This error has since been corrected and Jehovah God is not found in the Bible today. (Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 7, p. 680)
Christ is God's Son and is inferior to him.
NWT - Matt. 3:17: "This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved."
RSVCE - "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
NWT - John 8:42: "Neither have I come of my own initiative at all, but that One sent me forth"
RSVCE - " for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me."
NWT - John 14:28: "the Father is greater than I am."
RSVCE - "for the Father is greater than I."
NWT - John 20:17: "I am ascending to my Father and YOUR Father and to my God and YOUR God"
RSVCE - " I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
NWT - 1 Cor. 11:3: "the head of the Christ is God."
RSVCE - "the head of Christ is God."
NWT - 1 Cor. 15:28: "But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone."
RSVCE - When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one.
The aforementioned verses refer to Christ's humanity, not his divinity. This aspect of the JWs theology is crucial.
NWT John 10:30: "I and the Father are one."
RSVCE - "I and the Father are one."
John 14:9: "Jesus said to him: 'Have I been with you so long a time, and yet, Philip, you have not come to know me? He that has seen me has seen the Father [also] (NWT).
JWs do not believe in the Holy Trinity, they are Unitarians. For them, only the Father - Jehovah - is God. The Son is the first created creature. The Holy Spirit is Jehovah's power.
In interpreting John 10:30, "I and the Father are one," JWs say that this means that they ore "one in agreement, purpose and organization."
They ignore the next verse: "Once more, the Jews lifted up stones to stone him. Jesus replied to them, "I displayed to you many fine works from the Father. For which of those works are you stoning me?" The Jews answered him: "We are stoning you, not for a fine work, but for blasphemy, even because you, although being a man, make yourself a god" (NWT).
Yet, in the NWT Interlinear the word "God" is capitalized in the Greek. Men were sometimes called gods in OT times if they were in a position of prime importance, such as a magistrate. Why would the Jews consider stoning Jesus if He was only putting himself on a par with other important persons? Obviously, they wouldn't. They considered it blasphemous because Jesus equated himself with God.
They ignore the import of "The Great Commission" found in Matt. 28:19: "Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit" (NWT).
Realizing that the JWs are taught that the doctrine of the Trinity was "invented" at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. I submit the following for your edification only.
"The Father, however, with the same only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit is one in deity and of an equal and undivided nature. Our Lord entrusted the fulness of this faith to the Apostles, saying, ' Go, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'. 'In the name', he said, not in the names, so that in those in whom there is one strength, one power, one deity, one eternity, one glory, one omnipotence, one blessedness, one operation, and one nature, there would also be the integrity of one name. Indeed, nothing in the deity is divided, when only what is proper to the persons is designated by a clear distinction. All, therefore, that is the Trinity remains consubstantial and undivided divinity" (Pope Vigilius, Letter to all people of God [Feb. 5, 552] DS 415).
NWT - John 17:22: Also, I have given them the glory that you have given me, in order that they may be one even as we are one.
RSVCE - The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.
Forty times the NT speaks of God as threefold.
The Father is called God:
The Son is called God:
NWT - But with reference to the Son: "God is your throne forever and ever, and [the] scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of uprightness."
RSVCE - Heb. 1:8 "But of the Son he says, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom."
NWT - Acts 20:28: "Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son].
RSVCE - "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of the LORD which he obtained with the blood of his own."
See also Jn 1:1; 14; 5:18
The Holy Spirit is called God:
1 Cor. 3:17
More than one person is spoken of as God in the OT:
Where the Bible tells us that there is only one God.
NWT - John 1:1: In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.
RSVCE - John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
One of the original translations of John 1:1 and Matthew 27:52-53, used by the Society was taken from "The New Testament: A New Translation Based on the Oldest Manuscripts by Johannes Greber, 1937, p. 164.
Johannes Greber was a Catholic priest turned spiritist who translated the New Testament with the help of God's "spirits." His experiences with spirits and their communications with him are related in his book, Communication With the Spirit World, published in 1932. Greber was a well known spiritist and familiar to the Watchtower Society. The Society's writers quoted favorably from Greber 's New Testament translation for nearly thirty years, knowing full well of his connection with the occult. They have quoted him at least nine times in their publications dating from 1956 to 1983.
There are five instances in the NWT Interlinear translation of the NT where the word God is used in the Greek in exactly the same way: John 1:1; John 3:16; Acts 15:8; Acts 19:11; and 1 Cor 1:3.
In John 1:1 the word God is translated with a lower case g. In each of the other instances, it is translated with a capitol G, which shows a lack of integrity in the translations.
No reputable scholar recognizes the JWs translation of John 1:1.
John 20:28, where St. Thomas says: "My Lord and my God!" (NWT) This passage shows the logic of the Catholic position.
Also, look at Matt. 1:23: "Look! The virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and they will call his name Immanuel, which means, when translated, 'With us is God" (NWT).
We must not discount the Fathers of the Church when we analyze the meaning of various Scripture passages. That Jesus was Divine and spoken of as God is found in the early writings of the Church" The JWs will only recognize the Father's of the Church when it suits their purposes.
"Christians trace their origin to the Lord Jesus Christ. He that came down from heaven in the Holy Spirit for the salvation of men is confessed to be the Son of the Most High God. He was born of a holy Virgin without seed of man, and took flesh without defilement; and He appeared among men so that He might recall them from the error of polytheism. When He had accomplished His wonderful design, by His own free will and for a mighty purpose He tasted death on the cross. After three days, however, He came to life again and went up into the heavens.
It is possible for you, O king, to learn to know the report of His coming in the holy gospel writing, as it is called by us - should you chance to come upon a copy. He had twelve disciples who, after his ascent into the heavens, went out into the provinces of the world teaching about His greatness. In this way one of them came through the places around about us, announcing the doctrine of truth. Since then, they who continue observe the righteousness which was preached by His disciples are called Christians. These are they who, above every people on earth, have found the truth; for they acknowledge God, the Creator and maker of all things, in the only begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit" (Apology to Emperor Hadrian Caesar from the Athenian Philosopher Aristides, ca. AD 140, Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1, p. 49).
In addition, there are 39 other citations from the Fathers of the Church written in the Pre-Nicene era, in other words prior to the year 325 AD, which is when the JWs say that the doctrine of the Trinity was invented by the Church, the clearly spell out the divinity of Christ and that God is triune.
Only a little flock of 144,000 go to heaven and rule with Christ.
Luke 12:32; Rev. 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:40-53; Rev. 5:9-10
The 144,000 are born again as spiritual sons of God.
1 Pet. 1:23; John 3:3; Rev. 7:3-4.
The Watchtower Society teaches that only 144,000 members of the body of Christ will attain heaven. Those believers who are not part of this group will form a secondary class, known as the great crowd of "other sheep." The "other sheep" will never experience heaven, but will live on a renewed earth after the battle of Armageddon. The Society teaches that the gathering of the 144,000 began in the first century and continued through the year 1935. Why 1935? The date was selected by Judge Rutherford when he realized that the Society was growing and would outnumber more than 144,000.
The 144,000 will live in the upper-atmosphere and co-reign with God.
Only members on the elect, 144,000, can partake of the emblems, which is the Society's form of holy communion.
Rev. 7:4-8: "And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel."
The Witnesses take the first half of this verse literally and the second half of the verse figuratively.
But, if we are to take the 144,000 literally, then, let's look at Rev. 14:2-5 where the 144,000 are described:
RSVCE - Rev. 14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, 3 and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless.
If this passage is to be taken literally (which most biblical scholars would deny), it means that the 144,000 are to be virginal, Jewish, males.
In actuality, the assembly described is an idealization of the Church, protected by Christ and gathered about him. It includes all those who belong to Christ and to the Father and who therefore bear their mark, which shows them to be the children of God. They are so many that it is impossible to count them, but their number is complete. They are given a symbolic number.
The number 12 indicates fullness. The 144,000 is the number 12, the number of the tribes of Israel, multiplied by itself and then multiplied by 1000 (a number indicating a huge scale). The number, cited in Rev. 14, indicates the fullness of Israel; the Church in the NT is conceived as the fullness of Israel, and this is the heavenly Church in its final completion.
Images must not be used in worship.
Ex. 20:4, 5; Lev. 26:1; 1 Cor. 10:14; Ps. 115:4-8.
The First Commandment forbade not only the worshipping but even the carving, painting, molding, or the making of images in any manner (Ex. 20:3-5). The name of God was to be their supreme, spiritual, immaterial, and only representation of God. However, except during the Maccabean period, this law was never understood to be an absolute and universal prohibition of any kind of image, especially of those not easily thought of as idols. In fact some images were even commanded to be made: the brazen serpent (Num. 21:9); carved and molded garlands of fruit, flowers, and trees (1 Kings 7:18, 36); lions, finely carved, to support the king's throne (1 Kings 10:19); lions and bulls to support the basins in the Temple (1 Kings 7:25, 29); especially the great, carved figures of the cherubim that stood over the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:18-22; 1 Kings 6:23-28). It is the uncompromising attitude of the Jews in the Maccabean period, together with the literal interpretation of the First Commandment, that is responsible for the common idea that the Jews had no images whatsoever.
Images are in common use in the Catholic Church. The object of images is to set Christ, the Virgin, and the saints before our eyes. We do not worship the images themselves, the honor which we give these objects being referred to the persons whom they represent (Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible).
The Jews were forbidden images because of the great danger of the materialistic Hebrew falling into worshipping them as did their pagan neighbors. Though the Mosaic legislation in this respect had been abrogated by the New Covenant, it could still serve as a basis for the specious arguments of opponents of images.
Christian liturgy, however, revealed from the beginning a veneration for images. The catacombs contain rude but devotional representations of Christ, the Cross, and of the saints. After the triumph of Christianity, more elaborate expressions of Christian piety appeared above ground in the new churches. Sound Christian theology recognized both the use and abuse of images. Xenias Pbiloxenius, Monophysite bishop of Mabboug, is the first known objector to their veneration, and Agathias (d. 582) is one of the their earliest defenders. The correct attitude maintained by the Holy See is revealed in a letter of Pope St. Gregory the Great, written about 599 to Bishop Serenus of Marseilles. In this the pope admonished that prelate: "You ought not to have broken what was put up in the churches, not for adoration, but merely for the promotion of reverence. It is one thing to worship an image, and another to learn from the history represented in the image what we should worship. For, what Scripture is for those who can read, that a picture is for those who are incapable of reading, since in this also the uneducated see in what way they have to walk. In it they read who are not acquainted with the Scriptures" (Letter 9).
Taking blood into body through mouth or veins violates God's laws.
Gen. 9:3, 4; Lev. 17:14; Acts 15:28, 29
The first two Scripture passages are dietary laws. It is no longer necessary for Christians to eat kosher. If the JWs want to follow the laws of the Jews, why are they being selective? Shouldn't they follow the entire law. Read Acts 15 - which describes the Council of Jerusalem. This was a time of tension between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. The Jews still followed the Mosaic law and the Gentiles didn't. As a purely disciplinary, not doctrinal matter, the apostles, with Peter as their head, decided that the Gentile Christians should not follow a course that would antagonize the Jewish Christians, Thus the Greeks were instructed to adhere to the four conditions which, from early on, had been binding on Gentiles that wished to associate with the Jews. Jewish dietary laws no longer apply to Christians. The disciplines that were passed on by the Council of Jerusalem passed into disuse as Jewish conversions declined. There is no logical reason to classify blood transfusions as sinful. This belief has cost the lives of many JWs.
Wicked will be eternally destroyed – Hell does not exist.
NWT - Matt. 25:41,46: “Then he will say, in turn, to those on his left, ‘Be on your way from me, YOU who have been cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels’… And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”
NWT - 2 Thess. 1:6-9: “These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength.”
These verses actually prove the opposite of what the Society teaches.
Also, look at Matt. 10:28: “And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.”
NWT - Matt. 8:12: Whereas the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside. There is where [their] weeping and the gnashing of [their] teeth will be.’
See also; Matt: 13:42, 50: 22:13; 24:51; 25:30, Lk. 13:28. Each of these verses speak of a weeping and knashing of teeth, but, how can this be in a place that doesn’t exist? .
The Society does not deny eternal punishment, they teach that this eternal punishment is annihilation. This is illogical. How can a soul be punished if it does not exist? The Society’s theology does not allow for degrees in punishment.
The NWT - Lk. 12:43-48 speaks of different degrees of punishment. “Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so! I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings. But if ever that slave should start to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink to get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting [him] and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones. Then that slave that understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do in line with his will be beaten with many strokes. But the one that did not understand and so did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few. Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.”
Christ was and is Michael the Archangel.
1 Thess. 4:16- "because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel's voice and with God's trumpet."
In "Reasoning from the Scriptures" the JWs state that: "The evidence indicates that the Son of God was known as Michael before He came to earth and is also known by that name since his returned to heaven where he resides as the glorified Son of God." No other denomination interprets this passage in this way. All believe that when Jesus returns He will be heralded by an archangel.
They identify the archangel as Michael from Jude 9: " But when Michael had a difference with the Devil and was disputing about Moses' body, he did not dare to bring a judgment against him in abusive terms, but said "May Jehovah rebuke you." The words "The archangel" implies only one.
"Reasoning from the Scriptures" says "Interestingly, the expression archangel is never found in the plural in the scriptures implying that there is only one."
Actually, 1 Thess. 4:16 refers to an archangel's voice - not "the" archangel's voice, implying that there is more than one archangel.
Chapter 1 of Hebrews rebuts the JW position. --- Verse 5: "To which one of the angels did he ever say: 'You are my Son; I, today, I have become your Father'? (NWT) --- VERSE 6: "Let all God's angels do obeisance to him" Up until 1970 the NWT used the word "worship" rather than "obeisance." The witnesses want you to think that the angels do obeisance to the sole archangel, but they know that this isn't what the verse really says. Angels don't worship archangels, who, after all, are just other creatures. When the NWT was first printed, this verse slipped by the translating committee and effectively undercut the argument that Christ is really Michael.
JWs deny the Incarnation. Since Jesus is not God He could not have taken on flesh. They deny the resurrection of Christ's physical body. What rose from the dead was only a spirit body.
But after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles and said, "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself . . .for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have." Then He said, "have you anything to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it before them" (LUKE 24:39-43).
In Matt. 28:6, An angel offered as proof that Jesus had risen that the tomb was empty. This implies that Jesus' body was raised. If only His spirit rose, the tomb would have still contained His body. Remember, the guards were told to say that they were sleeping.
The Holy Spirit is Jehovah’s “active force.”
JW'S don't view the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity. They claim that the Holy Spirit is "Jehovah's active force." The words "Holy Spirit" are always written lower case.
They rely on such passages as Acts 2:1-4: “On the day of Pentecost ... and they all became filled with the holy spirit.”
NWT - John 14:26: “But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I have told you.”
RSVCE – John 14:26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Here, Christ spoke of the Holy Spirit as personal. These pronouns are not used for an impersonal force. This is another example of the Society’s selective translation.
When speaking to the Witnesses about the Holy Spirit bring up Acts 5:3-4, the story of Ananias and Sapphira. In verse 3, Peter asks “Why has Satan emboldened you to play false to the holy spirit and to hold back secretly some of the price of the field? As long as it remained with you did it not remain yours, and after it was sold did it not continue in your control? Why was it that you proposed such a deed as this in your heart? You have played false not to men, but to God.”
So it was God that was defrauded. The conclusion? That the Holy Spirit must be God. A conclusion drawn from the Witnesses’ own Bible translation.
Denial of the immortality of the soul.
The Witness doctrine of annihilation at death leads to the problem of the nature of the human soul.
According to Russell, Man does not have a soul, he is a soul. They try to justify this by the NWT Ezek.18:4: “Look! All the souls-to me they belong. As the soul of the father so likewise the soul of the son-to me they belong. The soul that is sinning-it itself will die.”
The context here refers back to Jer. 31:29. This passage is not about the soul, it’s about personal responsibility; about being punished for personal sins and not the sins of your ancestors.
First of all, objectively one calls every living being “soul”, even the animal (Gen. 1:20f, 24; 2:19); but most of the time it is a question of human beings; thus one speaks of “a community of seventy souls” (Gen. 46:27=Acts 7:14, Dt 10:22; Acts 2:41; 27:37) A soul is a man, it is someone (Lev 5:1; 24:17; Mk 3:4; Acts 2:43; 1 Pt. 3:20; Rev 8:9) as opposed to a cargo of a ship (Acts 27:10) The height of objectifying is reached when a corpse can be designated, in memory of what it was, as a “dead soul’ (Nm 6:6).
Subjectively, the soul corresponds to our “I”, just as the heart or the flesh, but with a nuance of interiority and living power: “As truly my soul lives!” (Dt 32:40; 2 Cor 1:23; Am 6:8) signifies the profound commitment of one who takes an oath. David loved Jonathan “as his own soul” (1 Sam 18:1-3). Finally, this “I” expresses itself in some activities which are not at all “spiritual.” Thus the rich man: “I will say to my soul: ‘Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.’ But God said to him, unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul from you soul from you. Who then will have the things you stored up?’” (NWT - Lk 12:19-20). In this context, the word soul = the persons’ life.
Russell was not impressed by any of the Scriptural references that refer to the living reality of the patriarchs and prophets after death, such as Abraham, Moses, Elias, Samuel, and others.
See Matt.: 1 7:1-13; Lk 9.-28-36, OR Mk 9:2-6 for the account of the Transfiguration.
When confronted with the words of Christ to the dying thief, “And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (RSVCE - Lk 23:43). Russell said that the proper Greek rendering of this text is: “"Truly I tell you today. You will be with me in Paradise” (NWT). With all the Greek scholars in the world against him, this man who did not know the Greek language, tells us what this verse means.
Baptism by complete immersion symbolizes dedication.
Mark 1:9, 10; John 3:23; Acts 19:4, 5
Society members are taught that baptism is not necessary for salvation. It is not a saving act, but one that symbolizes One’s dedication to be a JW minister. They baptize by immersion even if a person has been previously baptized in another religious body, which indicates that baptism is not seen as making a mark on the soul. They baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit. The Catholic Church does not recognize the JW baptism as valid as they do not use the proper Trinitarian formula. The JWs do not recognize any other baptism other than their own. For a Christian, baptism is a sign of faith by which one turns his or her entire life toward Jesus Christ and enters into the family of God.
263,855 Baptisms in 1989
316,092 Baptisms in 1998
The Lord’s Supper.
Witnesses celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which they call a memorial, once each year on Nisan 14. “The true passover date of the Jews”, which approximates Easter. They use unleavened bread and wine as symbols called “emblems.” Only members of the anointed class of 144,000 can receive the emblems.
In 1989 over 9 million attended the celebration worldwide and of those 8,734 partook of the emblems.
In 1998 over 13,896,312 attended the celebration worldwide and of those 8,756 partook of the emblems.
How is it determined that a person is one of the anointed class? Well, if a person believes he is of the anointed class then he must be of the anointed class. It is up to the individual.
The Society teaches that all holidays are of pagan origin, hence, not to be celebrated. They oppose Christmas trees based upon Jer.10:3-4: “ For the customs of the people are false. A tree from the forest is cut down, and is worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. Men deck it with silver and gold.” Yet verse 5 shows that this is an idol.
8. Anti-Catholic claims.
“Reasoning from the scriptures” lists a number of anti-Catholic claims:
1. Purgatory – uses the same argument as Fundamentalists.
2. Under “Mass,” Matt. 26:26: “This is my body” is given as “this means my body.”
3. They claim that Catholics worship Mary.
4. They oppose Confession and interpret Jn. 20:22:23 as a mere declaratory power.
5. Most of the other anti-Catholic claims are the same as Protestants and can be handled in the same manner.
9. How to witness to Jehovah's Witnesses.
What you can do.
It has happened to many of us. It’s a Saturday morning and you are relaxing with the family. There’s a knock on the door. It first you might say to yourself, “I wonder who that can be.” But then you think, Maybe it’s them again, so you go to the window and peek out to see who it might be. Yep, it’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses. You hope they will just go away, but then they look over and see you and wave. Now your trapped, you don’t want to be impolite, and besides, they know you are home. You answer the door and try to scare them away be telling them that you are Catholic. They say wonderful, but have you heard . . .
The conversation goes on for an hour and they leave in triumph. You know that you didn’t handle yourself very well. Scriptures were taken out of context, but you don’t really know what the context is supposed to be. You kick yourself for not knowing how to answer them. When you tried to explain Catholic beliefs in your own words, you seem to put your foot in your mouth. Yet, they seemed to know what they were talking about. You may even begin to believe that they made sense in a lot of areas. You did not handle yourself well, and you know it.
Moral: knowing how to argue is as important as knowing what to argue. You must learn to marry delivery and content.
If you are not properly armed, you have two options:
Romans 16:17: “I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.”
2 Jn 1:9: “Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. 10 If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; 11 for he who greets him shares his wicked work.”
Don’t be afraid to say “I’m not interested.”
The second option is to get armed.
This must begin with a serious prayer life. Put everything in God’s hands.
Then follow these three principles:
Principle #1. Recognize that the real problem that must be dealt with when witnessing to a JW is the question of religious authority. To the average Jehovah's Witness, the Watchtower has the greatest theologians and Bible experts. He is told that the Watchtower has great Greek and Hebrew scholars when in reality they do not have even one such scholar. The Watchtower is "God's only channel of truth." The leaders of the Watchtower are: “The greatest religious authorities since the Apostles." To question the teaching or the authority of the Watchtower is to be in danger of being disfellowshiped. They are not to read other religious books. All religious issues are solved in Brooklyn, and nowhere else can the truth be found.
You must recognize that you have no religious authority in the eyes of a Witness. Your religion is of Satan. You pray to Satan. If you doubt this, try praying with a Jehovah's Witness. He will be quick to tell you that he will not and cannot pray with you.
Even the Bible itself has no real authority to a Witness. The Bible as correctly interpreted by the Watchtower has authority, but a Witness is trained not to trust himself or others to interpret the Bible. As long as the Witness trusts the watchtower as a reliable and faithful guide, you will never get anywhere with him.
Principle #2. To destroy the blind obedience and submission which the Jehovah's Witness has toward the Watchtower, you must demonstrate that the Watchtower is not trustworthy or reliable. You must prove that the watchtower is not “God's visible organization on earth.”
Principle #3. The simplest and most efficient way of destroying a Witness' blind allegiance to the Watchtower is to show from Scripture and official Watchtower literature that the Watchtower is a FALSE PROPHET. Since it is a false prophet, it is unreliable and not worthy of trust, respect, obedience, or submission.
Always place the wedge between the Bible and the Watchtower. Use words like "us" and "we."
How can we establish that the Watchtower is a false prophet?
Establish from scripture that if someone claims to be a prophet of God the success or failure of their prophecies will determine whether they are a true or false prophet, and whether or not they speak in Yahweh's name. A false prophet will give false prophecies which do not come to pass. A true prophet of God will ALWAYS be infallible in his prophecies. He will be right 100% of the time. The Watchtower has claimed to be God's inspired prophet who gives prophecies under angelic direction.
Deut. 18:20‑22 and Matt. 7:15‑20 tell us how to judge whether or not the Watchtower is a true or false prophet and whether it truly speaks in God's name.
In 100 years of giving prophecies there has been a 100% failure rate. All prophecies of the Watchtower have been shown to be false by the passage of time. Time is a false prophet's worst enemy.
According to Deut. 18 and Matt. 7, the Watchtower is a false prophet and does not speak in God's name. The Scriptures command us not to fear, respect, believe or trust the Watchtower.
THE COP‑OUT‑‑PROVERBS 4:18
The Watchtower Society employs Scripture to cover up all their erroneous predictions, prophecies, and doctrinal error. Proverbs 4:18 says, "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day." This passage contains a father's advice to his son. Verse fourteen warns not to enter the path of the wicked, and verses sixteen and seventeen explain the consequences of the evil path.
In verse eighteen the path of the righteous is shown to, like the dawning of the day, get brighter and brighter as the full day appears. Verse nineteen contrasts the path of the wicked. Rather than bright like day, it is constantly dark like night. But the society selected verse eighteen of this total context and applied this to themselves. The meaning they attach to the verse, which is not only out of context but also devoid of its true meaning, is that as time passes, the society learns more and more. Their path gets brighter and brighter. This they say allows for their prophetic error. In fact, they say their followers should appreciate being associated with a group who so humbly changes its position when they "get more light."
The Watchtower Society admits it is not inspired. New light comes when a prophecy fails. The society has invented a term called "present truth," which allows the society to change truth as circumstance dictates. When the world did not end in 1914, the error was covered up by the statement "all that was expected to happen didn't."
No matter how fine your religious training, no matter how well you think you know doctrines of Church history, you need to be at home with the Scriptures if you are to be able to make an impression on a JW. Of course, you should be conversant with the Bible anyway, not solely in preparation for controversy, but for its own sake – for your own sake. Concentrate on the NT , but not to the exclusion of the Old. It is more important to go through the NT a dozen times than to go through the OT twice. There is no need to memorize great chunks of the Bible, the way some do. You should be especially familiar with the Gospels. If you are not at ease with the details of Christ’s life you are in trouble.
The NT is short enough to be read in the evenings of a single week. Spend several weeks with it before doing anything else, again, paying particular attention to the Gospels, but not ignoring the epistles. Work in the OT gradually. You should not, of course, read the Bible to the exclusion of other works because if you do, you will end up lacking perspective. Still, the Bible has to be the foundation of your other reading.
But which Bible? It does little to purchase the “best” version, whichever that may be objectively, if you will not read it.
I personally prefer the RSVCE for the text, but the St. Joseph edition of the NAB is best for its Bible helps, such as its doctrinal index in the back of the book.
The first thing is to get into the habit of Bible reading. Once you do, it will be easy to take up a superior translation.
It might be wise to purchase several translations even if you know which you will use for your regular reading. Particularly useful will be a cheap copy of the King James Version of the NT and a copy of the NWT for dealing with the witnesses. I love used book stores and thrift stores that have a book section. Over the years I have found many gems.
There are two preliminary points to keep in mind when in discussions with JWs. The first is that there is nothing wrong in itself with arguing. Some people have the mistaken belief that all argumentation is uncharitable, but that tells more about their own skills, or lack of them. The second point is that most JWs welcome a good argument; they want to see if their position “works”. Many of them have been trained to argue with Catholics whom they seek to evangelize, though to be sure, they do not expect to find Catholics that are knowledgeable enough to argue back.
You will discover that most Witnesses have a surprisingly limited repertoire of accusations. They have been told that Catholics not only know nothing of the Bible, but little about their own Faith, so they expect us to be pushovers. It is disturbing enough for them to find Catholics answering their questions instead of standing openmouthed; it is worse to be put on the defensive and to be forced to answer pointed questions about the Society’s doctrines. This, few of them are trained to do, and in short order, they will take refuge in the plea that they will have to check with their overseer. Do not gloat when you see them forced to make a strategic retreat. You might soon be “Advancing to the rear” yourself the next time.
When arguing, do not argue to win. You may win an argument and drive someone further away from the Church Argue to explain. Your task is to show the JWs the Catholic position from the inside, not to make cheap debater’s points. You must scrupulously avoid striving for quick victories with which to impress onlookers and you must realize that each time you sink to attack the person, you alienate another listener and the Church loses another present or perspective member. People who interpret “argument” to mean raised voices, large gesticulations, and cutting remarks are not suited to apologetics. All these are out. The skills of a good apologist are not the same as the skills of a good orator or a good debater. Instead, strive for the skills of a good missionary, because that is what an apologist is.
If you take offense at being called a pagan or blasphemous or stupid when explaining Catholic doctrines, if you flaunt your annoyance and cannot help shaking your head when confronted
With unthinking comments, find some other way to occupy your spare time.
If you stick with apologetics, you will discover, soon enough, the lure of verbal combat, which, although an unbloody warfare, can leave wounds every bit as lethal. It must be done right or not at all. Remember, you are not opposing JWs so much as explaining Catholicism. Your work is essentially positive and constructive, not negative and destructive to the extent that you oppose the Witness doctrine, and after all, error should be countered, even when mixed with truth. Make certain that you oppose the doctrine and not the individual JW.
Few JWs, even those who are actively anti-Catholic, do what they do out of spite. They are working with clear consciences, but they have been misinformed. Perhaps they should have done their homework, but the fault is not entirely theirs. They trust the sources they have had, but now they should be shown there is more to consider. You will not get them to open their minds by encouraging them to close their hearts.
Hatred directed against the Church cannot be offset by hatred on behalf of the Church You must approach the Witnesses with charity.
When you do enter discussion, avoid verse-slinging. It accomplishes little. A barrage of Biblical citations overwhelms only those who are ignorant of the Bible.
Do not go to the other extreme and fail to use biblical citations. They are absolutely necessary if you want to make your points effectively. What is to be avoided is the carefree tossing around of verses that only seem to be related, usually because they have a word in common.
Your goal is to reorient your listeners, giving them a new perspective. Remember, they think that they take their beliefs straight from the Bible. In fact, the Bible is used to substantiate already-held beliefs. They begin with their own “tradition”, which is generally their overseers interpretation of the Bible. For many Witnesses, their overseer is their Pope. They accept his every word. When confronted with hard questions, they do not turn to the Bible for answers; they say instead “Let us ask our overseer.” You must enter discussions with a plan. Know what your main points should be, and then stick with them. All anti-Catholics concentrate on a few Scriptural passages that seem damaging to Catholicism. Take the initiative. Address their points, but do not allow them to ask all the questions. Ask your own. You must, of course, know how to respond to their standard charges, but be prepared to bring up issues they conveniently skip. Put them on the spot and point out the weaknesses of the Society’s teaching. Do this not to demonstrate how smart you were for choosing the Catholic Church, but to emphasize that although some of what they hold may be true, some is not and for the fullness of truth they need to look to Rome.
One of the most annoying things in getting into a conversation with JWs is that you do not seem to get a word in edgewise. You do not seem to be able to steer the conversation your way. The less well versed you are in Catholicism, the worse the problem. The discussion may start with any of several standard openings. It seems as though you hardly start to form a reply when more questions are thrown at you, each leading you into uncharted areas. You feel adrift, unable to turn to a topic on which you have done your homework. By the time your visitor leaves, you feel stymied, having no good answers and having posed no good questions.
You need to learn a few techniques for taking charge. Here is one, and it is simple: sidestep the first question and pose your own, so that you can turn the conversation to your favorite topic. It is not at all rude to do this; you are under no obligation to let yourself be led around by the nose.
The way to do this is to use Jesus’ ploy; of course he did not do this for the same reason you would. Recall how he responded when the Chief priests and elders approached Him and asked: “ What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority? Jesus said, “I will ask you a question, just one; if you tell me the answer to it, then I will tell you my authority for acting like this” (Mt 21:23‑24). He took charge of the discussion by bringing up the point he wanted to discuss, by setting aside His questioner’s topic.
Do the same thing yourself. Let us assume that you are asked, “Where does the Bible mention Purgatory?” And let us also assume that you are not up to discussing Purgatory, having not done your homework, but are up to discussing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. You can use this approach: “I’d be happy to talk about that if we can first talk about why you deny the divinity of Jesus.”
Follow up with more questions. You may or may not get back to Purgatory. If you do, you will just have to wing it, but you will steer the conversation. Mainly to topics on which you are prepared. You can discuss only what you know, and until you can handle most topics with ease, you will have to be able to turn the conversation to topics with which you are familiar.
Keep in mind that your JW opponents are really not any more knowledgeable than you are today, quite possibly less.
They seem more knowledgeable because they pose the first question and usually steer the conversation, yet they can get flustered easily. Their success depends entirely on your ignorance. As likely as not, they would not know what to say if you made intelligent responses or posed tough questions of your own.
The witnesses are trained to recite a fixed patter on the assumption that people they talk to, including virtually all Catholics, do not know enough about Christianity to ask tough questions of their own. The Jehovah’s Witness instructor are mostly right in training them this way. The technique works well, which is it is why it is used. They expect to have doors slammed in their faces, but they do not expect to be talked back to—at least not intelligently. When you throw out a question of your own and take charge of the conversation, as often as not they do not
know what to say. They have been trained on how to win converts, but they receive little training in being on the defensive. Why prepare for the statistically improbable? By taking charge of the discussion, you not only keep yourself from getting frustrated, you get to evangelize the evangelist.
By the way, never be afraid to acknowledge ignorance. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. You will survive, and so will your ego. The answers you give on the other points will be taken more seriously if people you speak with see you are not trying to bluster your way through a conversation. There is nothing easier to spot than a fake.
You must be absolutely honest. Never pretend doctrines or facts are other than they are. Do not avoid hard cases, but do not pander to your listeners either. Never succumb to the temptation to tell them what they want to hear or, more commonly, not to tell them what they do not want to hear. Christ informed the people of his day that there would be many things difficult to accept in his teaching. Acceptance has gotten no easier. Whether doctrinal or moral, there is no need to make hard truths palatable. Just state them as they are, but first know what they are. Admit your ignorance, at least to yourself, and then do your homework, an embarrassment today can result in fuller understanding tomorrow.
Early on, discuss the history of the Bible. You need to make it Plain that it was the Catholic church that formed the bible, not the bible that formed the church. Note, too, that the new Testament was not designed as a catechism. Its various parts were written to people who already were Christians, so it could not have been intended as the sole source of religious teaching.
In the beginning, teaching was oral and was under the authority of the church, which eventually decided what books belonged to The bible and what did not. No matter who well they have memorized it, Jehovah’s witnesses know little other than the Bible, which they know only
selectively. They know little accurate church history, even their own, and little formal theology. They may never have seen a catechism. You must provide the larger picture. If the topic is an interpretation of a scriptural passage, go to a good commentary and study up, but also go straight to the fathers of the church to learn what they wrote about the subject and to books dealing with the history of doctrines and catholic customs. Appeals to the early Christian writers are often useful. Explain to your listeners that what the apostles were understood to have taught is crucial; make them see that is unlikely that people who were writing when the church was young and memories of Christ were vivid would be incorrect. If writers living a few generations after Christ mentioned the Real presence, which they did, that argues in favor of the Catholic interpretation of John 6. Try to show a doctrine in relation to other doctrines, a custom in relation to other customs, new testament times in relation to the immediately following centuries. It is important for us and our listeners to see the church and church history as a totality. You have to show them how everything fits together. If and when talk turns to awkward points of church history, do Not misrepresent them. Do not hide blemishes. There is no need to.
Put things in context, and remind your listeners that the kingdom of god (a term that, in the Bible, usually refers to the church Rather than heaven) contains wheat and chaff, saints and sinners.
Sarcasm will not do either. Sarcasm always backfires. Avoid it even if your opponents stoop to it. When they do, their consciences will annoy them later; if their consciences are dormant, things will eventually catch up with them anyway. Do not allow them to justify their rudeness by exchanging wisecrack for wisecrack. Keep clear of name‑calling.
To argue effectively, you will not only have to control your temper; you will also have to know what the witnesses mean by particular terms. You can waste much time by discussing two different things while using the same terminology. Avoid technical words unless a thorough grounding has been Laid. Even Catholics misunderstand what is meant by Transubstantiation, Immaculate Conception, and Hypostatic Union.
Take a single topic at a time; look at it leisurely, from several angles, and never presume that witnesses know what you mean by apparently simple terms such as soul, revelation, Mass. If they did, they would not have such odd ideas of what the church stands for. You have to speak to them as you would uninstructed Catholics.
Keep your expectations modest. Do not expect conversions, because they are not overnight things. Count yourself successful if your opponents leave with the feeling that there is a sensible, even if not acceptable, Catholic response to each of their charges. It would be a great triumph just to have an anti-Catholic withdraw from the fray and mull things over. You have to give things time.
Jehovah’s witnesses think Catholics have no answers at all to the usual charges and believe a few snappy questions are all it takes to transfix a Catholic, to leave him dumbfounded, groping
helplessly for answers that are not there. Many witnesses are converts. They did not fall away from their old faith in an instant, as though struck down on the Damascus Road. They forget that their conversions to the witnesses came only after a long leave‑taking of their old religion.
Similarly, their return, if there is to be one, will not be quick. It will take months, even years before they begin to see the church as it really is and begin to shed their prejudices, each prejudice acquired with difficulty and let go with even more. So if an active anti-Catholic sits it out for a while, that is as much as can be expected. If he at length gets a few things straight about Catholicism, there likely will follow an avalanche of understanding. Perhaps he will come all the way home, either with your help or on his own. Although you would wish more for him personally, defusing an agent of anti-Catholic bigotry would be a success in itself, because it would mean fewer Catholics would be enticed out of the church before they could be authentically catechized and fewer witnesses would have their
From the beginning you must make those outside see what the Church’s positions really are. Do not start by justifying catholic doctrines through bible passages or appeals to reasoning. Those can be effective techniques, and at some point they will be necessary, but at the very beginning they invite digressions. First you need to show your listeners what the church really teaches.
They almost always will have preconceived and quite wrong Notions. Your first task, then, and often your hardest, is to get terminology straight and be able to explain, in your own words, what Catholics hold. Only once the doctrines are understood in themselves should you turn to justifications, but showing what doctrines mean is the principle task you have. Until you do that, you cannot move forward. Once you have the definitions clear, Jehovah’s Witnesses, like other non‑Catholics who have gone through similar instruction, will want to learn more because they will have something fresh, something whole, something fulfilling. They will have glimpsed the unity of Christianity for the first time.
Finally, be aware that the key doctrine that separates you from the witness is the trinity: the one uncreated god in three persons. The trinity is the foundation of Christian faith, and thus no one can deny it and remain a Christian.
10. Pastoral challenges and approaches.
Note: this final material are excerpts from “sects or new Religious movements; Pastoral Challenge.”
What is to be our attitude, our approach to the sects?
Clearly, it is not possible to give one simple answer. But, there are things that can be done:
we must reach out to those in our catholic communities who feel lost and want to be found. In other words, there is a vacuum crying out to be filled, which is indeed the context in which we can understand the criticisms toward the Church. I have no intention to point out the deficiencies and inadequacies of the Church, but, there are a number of positive pastoral approaches which can be suggested:
There must be a strong emphasis on the need for evangelization, catechesis, education and on‑going education in the faith—biblical, theological, ecumenical—of the faithful, at the local level, and of the clergy and those involved in formation. The church should not only be a sign of hope for people, but should also give them the reasons for that hope; it should help to ask questions, as well as to give answers. In this process there should be an overall emphasis on the centrality of Holy Scripture.
People must be helped to know themselves as unique, loved by a personal God, and with a personal history from birth through death to resurrection. “Old truth” should continually become for us “new truth” through a genuine sense of renewal, but with a criteria and framework of thinking that will not be shaken by every “newness” that comes our way. Our pastoral concern should not be one‑dimensional, it should extend, not only to the spiritual, but also to the physical, psychological, social, cultural, economic and political dimensions.
The word of god should be rediscovered as an important community‑building element. Preaching must be revitalized, there is a need to speak the people’s language; the need for careful preparation of the liturgy (as far as possible by a team, including lay participation).
Preaching is not mere theorizing, intellectualizing and moralizing but presupposes the witness of the preacher’s life. Preaching, worship and community prayer should not necessarily be confined to traditional places of worship.
Most of us are aware of the growing shortage of ordained ministers and of religious men and women. This calls for stronger promotion of diversified ministry and the ongoing formation of lay leadership. More attention should perhaps be given to the role that can be played in an approach to the sects—or at least, to those attracted by the sects—by lay people who, within the church and in collaboration with their pastors, exercise true leadership, both spiritually and pastorally. Priests should not be identified mainly as administrators, office workers and judges, but rather as brothers, guides, consolers and men of prayer. There is too often a distance that needs to be bridged between the faithful and the bishop, even between the bishop and his priests.
The ministry of bishop and priest is a ministry of unity and communion which must become visible to the faithful.
In conclusion, in order to deal with the pastoral challenge presented by the Jehovah’s witnesses, it is necessary to inform the faithful, especially the young, to put them on their guard by education in the doctrines of Catholicism, other faiths and sects.
We know from experience that there is little or no possibility of dialogue with the sects; and that not only are they closed to dialogue, but they can also be a serious obstacle to ecumenical education wherever they are active.
And yet, if we are to be true to our own beliefs and principles; respect for the human person, respect for religious freedom, faith in the action of the spirit working in unfathomable ways for the accomplishment of god’s loving will for all mankind, for each individual man, woman and child, we cannot simply be satisfied with condemning and combating the sects. The “challenge” of the new religious movements is to stimulate our own renewal for a greater pastoral efficacy.
It is surly also to develop within ourselves, and in our communities, the mind of Christ in their regard; trying to understand “where they are” and, where possible, reaching out to them in Christian love.
We have to pursue these goals, being faithful to the true teaching of Christ, with love for all men and women.