After much internal debate, I have decided for my first official adventure into my Apologetics series on World Religions, I would take a closer look at Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) and their beliefs. I keep seeing and hearing discussions about JWs all over the place.
I recently had a special-needs friend make an announcement that she was now attending a Jehovah’s Witness meeting, after a lady knocked on her door and warned her she was going to hell if she didn’t join them at one of their meetings. This made me realize, even more, the importance of being able to understand these other worldviews.
Think long and hard about the last interaction you had with a JW when they knocked on your door or hit you up at the Walmart. How did you respond? Did you simply tell them you had a church and send them away? Or did you do something to plant that seed with them?
It’s my hope that by the end of this article you are able to engage in a healthy, hopefully productive conversation with them. Armed with a better knowledge of their basic beliefs, you should have a better idea of how to plant the seed with them during your short conversation!
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses actually believe?
First, some history! The Jehovah’s Witnesses were founded in the USA in the 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. Raised in the protestant church, Russell decided to take what he liked about the Christian faith and leave what he didn’t. In 1884 he founded the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) and these little pamphlets that they distribute door to door are held in the same esteem as the Holy Bible (of which they have their own translation, the “New World Translation”).
Russell first predicted Armageddon would begin in 1914. (Although he passed away in 1916, despite Armageddon’s failure to happen!) Several of his successors would also falsely predict the end of the world, occasionally leading to an exodus of JW members upon their failed predictions.
Russell’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, had a moment of panic when his prediction of a 1925 Armageddon failed to happen and the church was approaching 144,000 members. This number is significant because, according to their belief, 144,000 faithful JWs will be admitted into heaven. Once their following surpassed that number, the beliefs switched a bit. Now, 144,000 will be admitted to heaven. The rest of the faithful members will live on Paradise Earth (The new Earth referenced in Revelation 21) where they will be allowed to live peacefully until they fall from grace and are booted. (Yes, you read that right – even in the “afterlife” JWs believe that we are able to lose our salvation and be kicked from Paradise Earth into the abyss.)
So here we are in 2018, several failed Armageddon dates later, and many more than 144,000 members. So what else does the JW faith believe?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe in one God, much like Christianity. However, that’s about where our similarities end. They do not believe that the Holy Trinity is scriptural. They do believe that Jesus is the Son of God, in that God created him. But he was not God on earth.
In fact, they believe that Jesus was actually Michael the Archangel. That his spirit was implanted in Mary, making him human.
They do believe that Jesus was born, lived, and died (on a stake, not a cross). They also believe that he was resurrected, although only spiritually and not physically. (This is important, because everyone else who has died is in a state of unconsciousness – awaiting the Armageddon when they will awaken and take up residence of the New Earth.)
Another variance between the JWs and Protestant Christians? JWs do not believe in hell. They believe that all spiritual beings who have passed are in a slumber, and those chosen to live on Paradise Earth will be awakened at the end of the world, and those who are not awakened will just rest in an eternal slumber.
So the next time a Jehovah’s Witness knocks on your door, what should you do?
Greet them with kindness! Like my mom always told me, “You get more flies with honey.”
Also, don’t bombard them with negative facts! No one wants their belief system to be attacked with anger, and made to feel less than. Sure, there are many discrepancies – but that’s NEVER a way to lead into a discussion!
One thing I have found true about nearly all of my interactions with JW members? They are scripted. Once you appear to be open to talking to them, chances are good that this will set them up for their memorized speech. This speech will often cover the depressing events around the world, God’s plan for Paradise Earth and that God’s name is indeed Jehovah.
One of my favorite approaches is to turn this into a dialogue and share with them some of the amazing ways I have seen God act in my life. What I was like before I was truly following God, how Jesus came into my life, how my life has changed, how much I enjoy my daily time with God.
This is giving them a glimpse into a reality that they don’t often learn about. (They learn that all those outside the JW organization don’t have hope, that we are all sad and striving to live up to an unattainable lifestyle.) You are giving them hard proof of God acting OUTSIDE their norm.
If you feel comfortable, and that the seed you’ve planted is starting to grow? Agree to take their literature – you can tell them you’re interested in learning a little more about their beliefs. (Hopefully you are! I know it fascinates me!) You can even invite them to come back and share more with you once you’ve had your chance to study!
Now here’s the hard part: Actually study! Take their literature and study it. Come up with solid questions, doctrinal differences. And be prepared to discuss those with them! Hopefully you’ll be watching seeds grow within them, as they discover more outside of their current view.
It’s my hope, that within this post I have introduced you to a few of the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and encouraged you to have a productive conversation the next time they knock on your door! We are, after all, called to be ready always to give a defense to our faith!