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Understanding Belief Systems
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In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. 2 Timothy 2:25,26
Some of the more noticeable traits in this group. See Section II.
“Would you like to study the Bible?” This compelling question, asked millions of times each year by clean cut, smiling Watchtower “slaves,” is most likely a clear indicator that you have been approached by one of millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Because Watchtower is the world’s most well known sect, resources for understanding and refuting Jehovah’s Witnesses (hereon abbreviated JWs) are also widely available. Even so, few biblically grounded Christians make an effort to reach these dear lost souls, due either to a lack of personal understanding of JWs or for fear of somehow violating 2 John 10,11. Our study includes only the bare bones basics needed to converse with JWs and is provided in the hopes of stimulating some to dig even deeper into this important opportunity of testimony for Christ.
The Watchtower Society was organized in 1844 by Charles Taze Russell. Like LDS, SDA, and similar groups, Watchtower was formed during a period of millennial fascination and Russell studied along with folks who ended up in these groups. As a child, he had been troubled with the doctrines he found in the Bible regarding eternal punishment and the trinity. Russell was distinguished as a powerful speaker and a prolific writer. Claiming to be an end time prophet he made many false predictions, particularly in reference to Christ’s return and the end of the world1. This penchant for false prophecies by successive JW leaders, such as Nathan Korr, stands as Watchtower’s greatest embarrassment (Matthew 7:15; 24:11, 1 John 4:1).
A. A degraded view of the Bible. While JW’s affirm the inspiration of the Bible, they also teach that not all of the Bible is to be taken literally. They further claim that JWs are not allowed to interpret the Bible to “suit themselves” 2. The two most important things to remember in this respect are that, 1.) the mother organization retains the sole right to interpret the Bible, and that 2.) the clear statements of scripture are so far removed from JW doctrine that the Society has been forced to provide its own “translation.” This New World Translation (and associated Interlinear) is a shameless attempt to modify the Word of God in order to accommodate the unique views of the Society. It is a sham which has absolutely no serious scholarly support anywhere in the world.3 This disrespect for the Bible makes Watchtower culpable for both adding to and taking away from God’s Word.
B. A degraded view of God with respect to Jesus Christ. Watchtower denies both the triunity of God and the deity of Jesus Christ (See our article). Unlike Adventists who try to obscure their shifting anti trinitarian view, Witnesses make this denial the earmark of their teachings. JWs characteristically cite their retranslation of Colossians 1:16-18 in an effort to prove that Jesus Christ was not God revealed in flesh, but rather, a created being (Michael the Archangel). Notice that the word other (underscored for the reader here) has been blatantly added four times in this NWT:
“... because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible,+ whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him+ and for him. Also, he is before all other things,+ and by means of him all other things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation”.4
Jesus is Jehovah, not an angel, and is declared as such by Paul when he reminds us that confessing Jesus as Lord (i.e. Jehovah - see the passage from which Paul quotes in Joel 2:32) forms the very basis of our salvation! (Romans 10:9-13). Sadly, this issue stands between Watchtower and the salvation of its dear people.
C. A degraded view of God with respect to the Father and the Spirit. It should be noted that the Watchtower understanding of both God the Father (their Jehovah) and the Holy Spirit are also divergent from the biblical view. While non JWs are quick to focus on the anti-trinitarian aspects of this group, they should also take note that the biblical view of God the Father does not correspond with Watchtower’s view of their god on more than one level. Russell’s deep involvement with Freemasonry provides clues yet to be fully brought to light5. Additionally, the Holy Spirit of Watchtower is an impersonal force, and not a Person. Further, a closer look at Watchtower reveals that each of the biblical attributes of God as we understand them, are eroded in one way or another in JW doctrine. Omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence are not viewed in the same way that biblical scholars see these attributes.6
Salvation, however defined, is only through Watchtower. Keeping in mind that Watchtower has its roots in millennial speculation, Bible students should be aware that Witnesses originally built their system around the 144,000 of Revelation (the group they saw themselves as representing). These 144K are not saved by grace through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-10), but rather by their faithful obedience to the mother organization. The 144K alone are the elect, the church, and qualified to partake of the elements of communion. They alone are eligible to dwell with God in heaven. It is estimated that there are only a few thousand remaining of this group who are now living. Additional “prophecies” were received to accommodate the every enlarging group of witnesses who are not part of the 144K. These adherents, if successfully judged on the basis of their works for Watchtower, will be allowed to live only in the new earth and not with Jehovah. The Bible, of course, teaches salvation through Christ’s substitutionary work, not our works. Witnesses adamantly reject the substitutionary work of Christ.
Students of American millennial sects soon notice that similar errors are observable in many of these groups. For example, Watchtower and SDA both teach soul sleep and annihilation of the wicked. The LDS and Watchtower both share Masonic roots. Early SDA and Watchtower deny the deity of Christ. All of these groups have a variety of views of the Holy Spirit (personage or not). Each has something to “showcase.” Mormons want to be seen as family intense, Russellites as Bible students, and SDA as the remnant church known by Sabbath keeping. All of these groups see all others as apostate. All of these groups rely on additional authorities (both leaders and writings) which must be relied upon in order to find the truth. All mix literal interpretation with allegorical interpretation. All deny a literal seven day creation. While some oppose abortion from a cultural perspective, few oppose abortion theologically. SDA hospitals, for example, perform abortions for a wide range of reasons which go far beyond saving the life of the mom. The lesson: Once we tamper with the authority of God’s Word in any way our knowledge of God begins to deteriorate, and our doctrinal systems become less and less cohesive.
1. He must not take the witness of men over God’s witness. Our own religious feelings must be second place to what the Bible teaches (2 Peter 1:18-20). If the Watchtower scriptures are a true translation they will stand up to the plethora of manuscripts we have available. We must not trust their veracity simply because we are commanded to by men.
2. He, along with the whole human race, has enslaved himself to sin and cannot remedy this through works. (Romans 3:10, 23). Our sin separates us from God and no amount of good works can remedy this. Seeking to gain the merits of heaven through our good works only adds to our debt (Rom 4:4-9).
3. A Jehovah’s Witness can know he has eternal life by believing on the Son (John 3:16-18,35). To have the Son is to have life. To deny this truth is to make God a liar (1 John 5:10-12).
4. A Jehovah’s Witness can become a new creation in Christ, with new life (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We are not naieve. The webs of Watchtower are layered many times over. Only those who have a true love for lost sheep will willingly prepare themselves to confront these needy souls in the prayerful hope of turning some of them to Christ.
1. For a list of the unfilled prophecies which qualify Russell as a false teacher, consider visiting: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/1800s.php
2. See JW.org for documentation: http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g201008/what-do-jehovahs-witnesses-believe/
3. Consider the scholar Bruce Metzger’s treatment of the New World Translation under Article IV. Erroneous Translations in this paper: http://www.bible-researcher.com/metzger.jw.html
4. Source: http://www.jw.org/en/publications/bible/nwt/books/colossians/1/
5. This reference on Watchtower’s Jehovah is only a starting place for research and should not be taken carte blanc: http://watchtowerinvestigated.co.uk/2013/07/12/what-is-the-jehovahs-witness-view-of-god-the-father-in-relation-to-jehovah-by-jason-wright/
The following citing on theWatchtower’s Holy Spirit is highly reliable: http://www.teachingtheword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=59592&columnid=5440
6. See this JW source for a starter when considering omnipresence, etc.: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102011131