Friday, June 3, 2011

Encountering the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Yesterday, I spent several hours studying with two people who showed up at my door representing the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  When these people come by, it’s my pattern to invite them in and let them engage me in a Bible study.  At the very least, it’s an opportunity for me to share with them my own faith, and I consider that a good thing.  As we talked, the topic inevitably turned to Jesus Christ.

The question that we grappled with yesterday, which is the same as in previous encounters with members of this group, was “Who is Jesus?”  For example, we looked at whether Jesus was a created being or not, and whether it is correct to worship Jesus as God.  We also spent some time talking about the Holy Spirit (who they believe is merely an active force and not a person), and whether the Christian theology of the Trinity is a Biblical one.

Because these questions are so essential to the Christian faith, and also because I’m convinced that so few Christians are prepared to respond to issues like this, I have decided to devote a number of posts to my conversation and the topics we covered.  In order to do this, my goal is to focus on the three areas I’ve just mentioned:

  • Is Jesus Christ God or merely a created being?
  • Is the Holy Spirit God or merely an active force?
  • Is the doctrine of the Trinity Biblical?

Let me say at the outset that I very much admire people such as the ones who came to my house.  They take time out of their lives to evangelize total strangers, and they are obviously caring and kind people (the two who were at my house yesterday were very kind people, even though we disagreed strongly on essential points of doctrine).  So I am not attempting to deride any person or group in this or future posts.  Instead, I am merely trying to state what I believe is the doctrinal position when it comes to these three areas.

In order to get this series started, however, I think it’s important to convey something of what this group appears to believe.  What I’ve listed below is what was told to me, or what I read in the publication they gave me entitled “What Does The Bible REALLY Teach?”. 

  • Jesus is the first created being (and, indeed, the only thing created by Jehovah God)
  • Jesus is not God and does not deserve our worship
  • Jesus is actually the archangel Michael
  • God did not directly create the universe.  Instead, He created Jesus and Jesus created everything else
  • While they will call Jesus ‘God’, they believe him to be “mighty god” while Jehovah alone is “almighty God”
  • Jesus only became Christ when he was baptized by John the Baptist
  • Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead…he was merely a spirit creature upon his resurrection
  • The Holy Spirit is merely an active force and is not a person

Given these positions, it goes without saying that they deny the doctrine of the Trinity and consider it to be a heretical teaching.

(NOTE: While I’m not going to list all of the JW resources that verify each of the beliefs I’ve listed here, you can find specific references for each of these things in Ron Rhodes’ excellent book Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  It continues to be one of my primary resources in preparing for my conversations, and in providing these posts)

Finally, let me say something about the version of the Bible used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.  This is a version known as the New World Translation (NWT).  And rather than being a translation, it’s more accurately described as a mistranslation since verses are changed throughout this version so that they “agree” with Jehovah’s Witness teachings.  An example of this is John 1:1.  See below how the NWT and other versions disagree on this important verse:

New International Version

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

English Standard Version

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Holman Christian Standard Bible

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Notice how these 3 popular versions of the Bible agree word-for-word.  But now look at how the New World Translation translates this verse:

New World Translation

John 1:1 – “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”

Just from this one comparison, it’s easy to see how the NWT alters this important verse to ensure that Jesus is not viewed as God (he is only 'a god’ according to the NWT).  And here is the key point…no Greek scholar agrees with the NWT reading of John 1:1!  Even the Greek scholars they sometimes reference have publically denied that this is a legitimate wording for this passage.

What lesson can we take from this?  Simply that we can’t rely on the New World Translation as an accurate interpretation of scripture.  This version has been deliberately re-written in order to make the Bible seem to say what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach.

So when you engage with these people (as you surely should…they are dearly loved by God and deserve to learn the truth just as much as anyone), be aware that your version of the Bible is not the same as theirs.  Don’t take the NWT at face value.  Compare it with another one and you’ll see how different the readings are.

As I go through these upcoming posts, I’ll point out these differences where possible, and I’ll also try to reference places where their own translation supports the orthodox Christian view.  If you can point this out to them, then it goes a long way toward making the case that Christ was and is God.

That’s probably enough for now.  Starting with the next post, I’ll begin addressing the question of Jesus’ divinity.  Is he God or just a created being?

Until then…

1 comment:

  1. Great post. The Watchtower can't edit every mention of Jesus' divinity out of Scripture. The "Alpha-Omega proof" in Revelation is one of my favorites--and you can use the witness' own NWT to share it, too! Thanks for sharing this.

    Apologetics Guy