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At the Door Now
Down the Street
Bible or proof-texts?
Where to Start
Ask JWs For Help
Give the Gospel
A Bible Test
WHAT IF THEY ARE AT THE DOOR NOW?
SHARE your Christian TESTIMONY
Share your Christian testimony.
No special preparation is needed.
Tell them how Jesus has made Himself real to YOU.
Talk about what Christ has done in YOUR life.
Jehovah's Witnesses have NO ARGUMENT to REFUTE your testimony. It happened to YOU!
The typical Jehovah's Witness has a distant relationship with God -- through an organization. Your testimony may remind them of the New Testament where believers EXPERIENCED GOD instead of just reading about Him in one publication after another.
Then ask the JW to return another time to HELP you with your QUESTIONS about their beliefs. (That's usually the only way they'll agree to come back.)
Read the rest of this file before they return, so you'll be prepared.
"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV)
Even if you never see them again, the message you give them is not wasted.
Are JWs at the bottom of your street, heading your way?
Read through Romans ch. 8 with them.
Tell them it's one of your favorite passages. * Ask to hear it read in THEIR Bible.
Only a few comments are needed, as suggested here:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, [SAY: "Many people feel condemned." (Many JWs feel condemned, though they won't admit it. Their organization teaches only "the anointed remnant" -- approx. 8000 elderly JWs -- are "in [union with] Christ" in the sense Romans chapter 8 describes.) ] because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.
Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. [ SAY: "Imagine being in a situation where you cannot please God no matter how hard you try. Everyone is in that situation until they receive Christ:"]
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. [ SAY: "So, people CAN please God only when the Spirit comes to live in them." ]
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [ SAY: "What a blessing it is that God adopts us as his children by sending his Spirit to live in our hearts!" (JWs believe only the 8000+ of "the anointed remnant" experience this, while 14,000,000 others follow their "spirit-directed organization.") ]
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. [ Unfamiliar with verses 1-14, many JWs will recognize 15-17 as quoted in their publications concerning "the anointed remnant." Millions of JWs learn to respond to such New Testament promises by saying "That does not apply to me, for I am one of the 'other sheep' and not begotten of God's spirit." - Life Everlasting-In Freedom of the Sons of God (1966) page 153 ] SAY: "So, we are all condemned, unable to please God no matter how hard we try, until God sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, adopting us as His children."
They will try to hide their reaction, but Romans 8:1-17 proves devastating to JWs who grasp its meaning.
Vs.8-9 shows we either "belong to Christ" or "cannot please God." It does not allow for a secondary class of 'other sheep' sanctified by an organization.
Not just indoctrinated, but also trained, drilled and rehearsed
Whether they are relatives, workmates, or strangers visiting your doorstep, Jehovah's Witnesses are difficult to talk to.
And this is no accident. They are thoroughly indoctrinated.
Following the complete program of congregation meetings and personal study, a JW who does all the assigned homework ends up reading approximately 3,000 pages each year from Watchtower Society publications. That includes 24 semimonthly Watchtower magazines of 32 pages each, an equal number of Awake! magazines, 12 monthly Our Kingdom Ministry internal publications of 4 or 8 pages each, plus one or more books, brochures and/or booklets -- the typical year's output from the organization's printing factories.
It also includes re-reading "study" material a second time when underlining answers in each paragraph in preparation for meetings, and re-reading that material a third and perhaps even a fourth time during the course of those meetings. There are usually two or three "study articles" in each issue of The Watchtower that receive such close close attention and repetitive reading in preparation for Sunday morning Watchtower Study meetings. There is also a book studied paragraph-by-paragraph at Congregation Book Study meetings typically held every Tuesday evening. And there are other books used in preparing assignments for the Theocratic Ministry School on Thursday or Friday evenings.
Even Witnesses who don't do much or any of the assigned reading do find themselves sitting through nearly five hours of meetings each week. Besides question-and-answer coverage of "study" materials, these meetings consist mostly of lectures and staged discussions.
Both the aforementioned "School" and the Service Meeting feature many roll-playing demonstrations, with one JW playing the part of YOU and another playing himself or herself calling at your door or speaking to you in less formal circumstances.
These demonstrations on the platform in front of the Kingdom Hall audience show Jehovah's Witnesses how to present their message effectively. They learn how to handle, not just their prepared message of the week, but also the objections, questions, and arguments that YOU are most likely to bring up.
By rotation, nearly all active JWs take turns acting one part or another in these demonstrations, actually trying out the various approaches and learning to overcome objections and defeat arguments raised by non-Witnesses.
In addition to the sessions at Kingdom Hall meetings, similar practice sessions are held when groups meet for door-to-door work and even in homes when families prepare for this activity.
So, the chances are that a clever argument you have thought of to share with the next JW who calls, may well be an argument he or she has already heard, practiced, and learned how to defeat.
A Typical Example
For example, a Christian discovering that the Witnesses do not believe they can be "born again" might decide to confront the next one to knock on his door with Jesus' words, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3 KJV)
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people are born again in the biblical sense of experiencing a new birth as God's adopted children by receiving the Holy Spirit (or 'holy spirit' in the JW vocabulary) as Romans 8:15 says, "ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (KJV)
They believe that the full number of 144,000 was reached in 1935 so that, with the exception of replacing an unfaithful member, the opportunity to be born again ceased in that year.
Most have since died off, leaving a "remnant" of some 8,000 "anointed ones" -- the only ones recognized as being born again out of the nearly 15,000,000 people attending JW Kingdom Halls worldwide.
"I'll ask the Witnesses on my doorstep, 'Are you born again?'" the eager Christian may plan. "They'll answer, 'No,' and then I'll get them to read John 3:3 and just blow them away!"
But I recall one morning in 1980 or 1981 when the District Overseer visiting our JW congregation rehearsed with us how to deal with a householder at the door asking, "Are you born again?"
"The answer is 'No,' of course," he explained to the group assembled for door-to-door work. "But we don't have to give them that answer. Instead, we can respond with a question: "'Do you mean by that, Have I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior?'"
"When the person at the door agrees," he continued instructing us, "You can truthfully respond, 'Yes, I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.'"
So, the JW skillfully avoids answering "No" to the question, "Are you born again?" and the Christian householder is left standing there dumbfounded as the JW goes on to give his prepared presentation.
(Even if the householder had got the JW to admit to not being born again and then to read John 3:3, a well-trained Witness would have replied without hesitation, "That's right! Only the 144,000 who are born again get to be part of the Kingdom government ruling over the earth. Not being one of the anointed class myself, my hope is to live on earth under the Kingdom's rule, rather than actually entering the heavenly Kingdom. Here, let me show you from the Bible the wonderful earthly hope that means we don't need to be born again.").
See target="_blank" onClick='alert("ON-site link will open in a new window. To return here, simply close the new browser window.")'The 144,000 and What and Where is Heaven?
Do they know the Bible? - Or just certain proof-texts?
Jehovah's Witnesses give the impression of knowing their Bible. They flip back and forth to their favorite "proof" texts with the greatest of ease, "proving" their points and defeating your arguments -- or at least stirring up enough dust to cloud the issue. But, in reality, most JWs don't know the Bible.
What they do know is those few dozen "proof" texts, taken out of context by their organization and re-assembled to form arguments far afield from what the Bible actually says.
The Witnesses are taught to believe they "study the Bible" more than other religions, but their study material actually consists of Watchtower Society publications. Bible verses are quoted, but out of context. Not only is the context omitted, but the verses are actually placed in a different context, namely the context of the Watchtower material.
To grasp how this can change the meaning, think of the entire biblical passage as a cooked turkey breast. Someone cutting into that turkey breast and eating it will know what it tastes like. However, someone who is given just a thin slice smothered with mustard between layers of rye bread will know only what the sandwich tastes like -- not the taste of the turkey itself. Similarly, the original flavor or meaning of a Bible verse can be completely lost or changed when sandwiched between introductory words and concluding application in the pages of a Watchtower book.
Feeding on steady diet of such "scripture sandwiches," Jehovah's Witnesses never really come to know the Bible. But they do learn the Watchtower Society's teachings, along with the proof texts the Society uses to make those teachings appear to be "Bible-based."
InPlainSite.org Note: One of the most dangerous mistakes any Christian can make is to Take Bible Verses Out of Context
No Biblical author simply strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on, stand alone verses. The reader can only be accurately informed by God's Word the way it is written… in its context. Understanding what the author meant comes not only from the words he wrote, but also by what the overall message of the chapter is intended to convey. But, since this takes a little more time, study and effort, most Christians are content with allowing a verse to be wrested from it's context, and used to convey whatever meaning the speaker/author wishes it to convey which, all too often, is nothing but a corruption of the truth. This perversion of Scriptures is done (whether intentionally or unintentionally) in order to persuade men that whatsoever the false teacher says is based on Biblical truth.
[See Context is Crucial]
When discussing matters among themselves, JWs will reference and turn to Watchtower publications to prove a point or to determine what they should believe. Turning to a Bible verse is never sufficient, because they know their beliefs really depend upon the Society's interpretation of the verse.
In fact, JWs routinely search their publications for the Society's latest interpretation, if they have been in the organization long enough to see "the light get brighter" on various matters.
When the Society revises failed prophecies or reverses doctrinal positions, it often uses the very same verses to support the new teaching. The old interpretation is simply discarded and a new interpretation supplied as the official meaning of the verse in question.
Yet, through a process that George Orwell called double-think in his futuristic novel Nineteen Eighty-four, JWs actually believe that their teachings come directly from the Bible, and the Bible alone, while at the same time knowing in their hearts that everything depends on the current interpretation coming from Brooklyn headquarters.
Occasionally, however -- such as when some internal upheaval in the organization frightens the leadership into using strong language to keep the members in line -- a statement is published that betrays their real attitude:
"Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization, his 'faithful and discreet slave,' made up of spirit-anointed ones, to help Christians in all nations to understand and apply properly the Bible in their lives. Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do." -- The Watchtower December 1, 1981, page 27
When speaking with outsiders, the Witnesses are trained to quote and cite only the Scriptures -- not the Watchtower publications that form the real basis for their beliefs.
The central doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses is their faith in the organization.
Failure to grasp the role of the organization in Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs is, in most cases, the reason why outsiders find argumentation with a JWs so frustrating.
What is the organization's role? It is spelled out clearly in these quotes from Watchtower publications:
"The world is full of Bibles, which Book contains the commandments of God. Why, then, do the people not know which way to go? Because they do not also have the teaching or law of the mother, which is light. ...God has not arranged for that Word to speak independently or to shine forth life-giving truths by itself. ...It is through his organization that God provides this light that the proverb says is the teaching or law of the mother. ...we must recognize not only Jehovah God as our Father but his organization as our mother." -- [The Watchtower May 1, 1957, page 274]
"He wants his earthly servants united, and so he has made understanding the Bible today dependent upon associating with his organization." -- [The Watchtower November 1, 1961, page 668]
"He [God] does not impart his holy spirit and an understanding and appreciation of his Word apart from his visible organization." -- [The Watchtower July 1, 1965, page 391]
"Put faith in a victorious organization!" -- [The Watchtower March 1, 1979, page 1]
"We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the 'faithful and discreet slave' organization." -- [The Watchtower February 15, 1981, page 19]
Because the proper understanding of the Bible can come only through the organization, this means that all other doctrines must come from that source. The doctrine about the organization is the foundation on which all other JW doctrines rest.
Their beliefs about God and the afterlife all depend on their belief that the organization speaks for God.
Failure to understand this point leaves any effort to change their thinking on theology by discussing theology doomed to failure.
It would be like a primitive jungle tribesman staying as a guest for the first time in a heated apartment, who tries to turn off the heat by pouring a bucket of water on the radiator. He could keep pouring water on the radiator all day to no avail, whereas a single bucket of water properly directed at the fire in the basement furnace would have accomplished his goal.
Similarly, trying to persuade a Jehovah's Witness of the deity of Christ can prove frustrating to the Christian who doesn't see that the JW's theology is turned on or off at the basement furnace; i.e., because he believes that only the Watchtower Society can determine correct theology, the JW will continue to believe Jesus was the first angel created, no matter how much 'cold water' is thrown on that belief.
Only when he discovers that the Watchtower Society is not God's organization, will he feel free to re-examine the theology he received from that source.
Ready for a game of Bible ping-pong?
When any of their unorthodox beliefs come up for discussion, Jehovah's Witnesses will say, "I believe this because the Bible says [paraphrase of verse] at [chapter and verse citation]," while a more accurate response would have been, "I believe this because the Watchtower Society teaches us that this is what the Bible says."
Unfortunately, however, this is a point where most Christians believe Jehovah's Witnesses, as evidenced by the Christian's typical response consisting of Bible verses to refute the JW doctrine in question.
So a typical Christian-vs.-JW encounter resembles a game of Bible ping-pong or table-tennis. The Christian comes up with a verse of Scripture refuting a JW doctrine, and the Witness responds with one of his or her favorite "proof" texts. The Christian responds with another verse, and the JW does likewise. Bible verses fly back and forth across the table until both parties, sweaty and exhausted, call a halt to the game.
A re-match the following week yields similar results. Even if the Christian manages to score more points, the JW is still a JW, and the Christian feels like giving up on JWs, concluding that it is pointless to get into a conversation with them.
In a sense, that conclusion is correct -- in the same sense that the primitive tribesman finally concludes that it is pointless to pour more cold water on the hot radiator in the apartment he is visiting.
In both cases failure is attributable to misdirected efforts. Those efforts might have succeeded if they had been aimed at the proper target.
Knocking down a Jehovah's Witness's belief system is similar to chopping down a tree. The woodsman who takes aim at the biggest and brightest leaves can swing his axe all day without results. So it is with the Christian who takes aim at prominent JW doctrines and starts swinging.
Witness beliefs on theology and the afterlife are attractive targets for Christians who know what the Bible really says on these matters. But those erroneous beliefs are upheld by the Watchtower Society, just as the leaves and branches are held aloft by the tree trunk. Until the woodsman takes aim at the trunk, he swings his axe in vain. Likewise with the Christian who gets into debates with JWs over doctrine.
Rather than belabor the point, I'll conclude with a real-life example -- a close look at what actually happens when you show a JW a Bible verse that refutes JW beliefs:
Two ladies called at my door with Watchtower and Awake! magazines in their hands. I let the one taking the lead go ahead with her presentation for a minute or two, rejected her offer of the magazines, but then asked if she could answer a question for me before she left. I asked,
"Is it true that you people believe the 'great crowd' of believers will be rewarded with life on earth forever instead of going to heaven? Can you show me in the Bible where it mentions this 'great crowd.'"
"Yes," she replied, promptly opening her New World Translation, as I knew she would, to Revelation 7:9, where she read, "After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, and there were palm branches in their hands."
When I showed her the context and pointed out that the "great crowd" is pictured there "standing before the throne" of God in heaven, rather than on earth, she answered that all the earth stands before God's throne.
So I had her turn over a few pages to Revelation, chapter 19, which also speaks of the "great crowd," and asked her to read the first verse: "After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said, 'Praise Jah, you people! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God.'"
"So, where is the 'great crowd'?" I asked.
"On earth," was her answer.
"Please read it again," I asked.
This time I stopped her after she read the word heaven and asked again where the verse located the "great crowd." "On earth," was still her reply.
"What was that last word you read?" I asked.
"It says 'heaven'," she finally admitted, "but the 'great crowd' is on earth. You don't understand," she went on, "we have men at our headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, who explain the Bible to us. And they can prove that the 'great crowd' is on earth; I just can't explain it that well."
There it is! A Jehovah's Witness can look at the word 'heaven' in the Bible and see 'earth' instead -- because that is what the Watchtower Society teaches. It is as if JWs look at the Bible through Watchtower-tinted glasses that color the meaning of everything they read.
The same mental mechanism kicks in whether the topic is the nature of God, the condition of the dead, the future hope of Christians, or any other subject the Witness has been drilled on repetitively at Kingdom Hall meetings and in the pages of Watchtower publications.
But this does not mean that discussions with JWs are doomed to failure. Success is possible if you treat the disease rather than the symptoms, if you pour the water on the furnace rather than on the radiator, if you swing the axe at the trunk of the tree rather than at the leaves. Chop through the trunk, and the whole tree will come down -- including all the brightly colored leaves that first caught your attention.
Undermine the Foundation
The central foundation of Jehovah's Witness beliefs -- the main doctrine on which all of the other doctrines depend -- is the one that must be targeted first.
This is their belief that their organization is God's channel of communication, God's authoritative spokesman or mouthpiece. Before you can successfully challenge Watchtower doctrine, you must first undermine the Watchtower Society's authority to teach that doctrine.
Again, however, there are approaches that work and other approaches that are doomed to failure. One strategy that Christians often try without success is to quote recognized authorities on biblical Greek and on Bible interpretation, to show that the JW translation and the organization's interpretation are untrustworthy. That approach doesn't work.
Although the Christian may accept the authority of renowned Greek scholars and theologians, the JW views such men with suspicion. Not being part of "God's organization," such outside authorities are clearly part of Satan's organization in the JW's mind. That explains why they take a different stand on Bible translation and interpretation.
In JW thinking, God's organization must be correct, and anyone disagreeing with it must be wrong -- even great names held in awe by the academic community or the world at large. Library reference books, encyclopedias and Bible dictionaries are all wrong if they disagree with the Watchtower Society.
Start with materials JWs will trust
What printed materials will a Jehovah's Witness trust and put confidence in? Only those published by the Watchtower Society. So, that is where you must start. You must show the JW abundant evidence of teachings in Watchtower publications that are wrong.
But how can you prove that these teachings are wrong, when Witnesses will accept only Watchtower publications as authoritative? You must show them Watchtower publications that prove other Watchtower publications wrong.
These may take the form of doctrinal reversals, back-and-forth flip-flops, failed prophecies, or outright dishonesty. Faced with two or more of the organization's books or magazines making contradictory statements, the JW is forced to think critically about the reliability of the statements and about the organization publishing such contradictions.
In the case of doctrinal reversals, for example, the organization's new teaching contradicts the former teaching, and in some cases the Society's publications actually condemn the former teaching.
This becomes even more interesting in back-and-forth doctrinal flip-flops, because the Society condemns the original teaching when replacing it with a 'new truth,' but then later returns to the original teaching which it has already condemned in print.
Or, in the case of failed prophecies, the false prophetic utterance stands as evidence against itself after the predicted time period has expired. And, in the case of outright dishonesty in Watchtower publications, this can often be documented by comparison with other publications of the Society which state the truth on the matter in question.
Outwardly, JWs tend to react to such documentation by defending the Watchtower Society. They do this automatically, as a reflex, regardless of whether they actually believe the defense they are making, or not -- very much like a college debating team required to respond with a rebuttal to every challenge from the opposing team.
But in their private thoughts -- especially when they lay their head down on their pillow at the end of the day -- they may admit to themselves that they have no valid defense. And as such damning evidence accumulates in their memory banks, it may eventually begin to outweigh the positive propaganda instilled by the Society.
Ask the JW for HELP with your QUESTIONS
With the same papers in your hand you could say:
"Look at this! I have evidence that your religion is a cult. Look at the proof in these photocopies. See! I told you so!"
But that goes directly against the JW's programming. He or she will feel obligated to refuse.
or, you could say:
"Can you help me? I'm interested in your religion, so I've been doing some research -- in the public library and on the Internet. These papers are copies of pages from Watchtower publications. They have led to a lot of questions. Can you help me with my questions?"
That will almost certainly bring a favorable response. JWs believe that only they have the answers. And they are trained to help people. When asked to HELP by answering your QUESTIONS a JW will look at papers he would have refused to examine in a negative confrontation.
There is no lack of evidence, because this sect has changed its teachings more than any other major religion. In instance after instance, new Watchtower publications have come out rejecting the organization's own teachings and replacing these with new teachings.
During its first fifty years the sect gave prominence to the Great Pyramid of Egypt, referring to it as "God's Stone Witness," and basing time calculations and prophecies on measurements of the Pyramid's internal passageways. Then, the November 15, 1928 Watch Tower reversed its teaching, saying instead that, "If the pyramid is not mentioned in the Bible, then following its teachings is being led by vain philosophy and false science and not following after Christ." (page 341) And, "Satan put his knowledge in dead stone, which may be called Satan's Bible, and not God's stone witness." (page 344)
During the late 1920s and early 1930s the Society's second president Joseph Franklin ("Judge") Rutherford repudiated many other teachings of founder Charles Taze Russell -- teachings Rutherford had endorsed under Russell's presidency and throughout the first ten years of his own presidency which commenced shortly after Russell's death in 1916.
Among the teachings rejected during this time period were the celebration of Christmas, belief that Jesus died on a cross, and democratic church government in local congregations. (See the books Index of Watchtower Errors and Answering Jehovah's Witnesses Subject by Subject both by David A. Reed and published by Baker Book House.)
Leadership that could change from viewing an Egyptian pyramid as God's stone witness to the Devil's bible and that could reverse itself on a host of other topics would be enough reason for most people to quit a religious group. But clever Watchtower leaders introduced another doctrine that converts such indecisiveness into "proof" that this is God's organization.
When shown such doctrinal reversals, Jehovah's Witnesses respond with a well-practiced reflex, quoting Proverbs 4:18,
"But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established." (NWT)
Trained to see each doctrinal change as an example of 'the light getting brighter,' JWs have been taught to see this as evidence that they are indeed in God's organization: Where else would one find God correcting the leadership and bringing them into greater understanding?
Still, these doctrinal reversals are worth showing to a Jehovah's Witness -- especially if you can document each one with actual pages from Watchtower publications. Most JWs are totally unfamiliar with the details, and actually seeing the old teaching in print, defended and taught using scriptural arguments, can have great shock value in getting a Witness to wake up and re-examine his or her beliefs.
To have the greatest effect, however, it becomes necessary, to show a JW instances where the 'light gets brighter' excuse could not possibly apply, because the Watchtower Society taught a certain doctrine, reversed itself and rejected that doctrine, only to reverse itself again some years later and resume teaching the old rejected viewpoint.
Prior to 1975 it taught that each Jehovah's Witness is a minister. Then, in 1975, it reversed this and began teaching that most members are not ministers, even changing the monthly Kingdom Ministry's name to Our Kingdom Service; then in 1981 it returned to the old teaching and again renamed the publication Our Kingdom Ministry.
The 1972 Organization book instructed that "none in the congregation should greet" disfellowshipped persons. (p. 172) Then the August 1, 1974, Watchtower reversed this by teaching that "Jesus' own example protects us against adopting the extreme view" of refusing to speak to them. (pp. 464-465) Then the September 15, 1981, Watchtower returned to the previous point of view. (pp. 24-26)
Originally the Watchtower Society taught that the "superior authorities" or "higher powers" of Romans 13:1 are the secular governments, but in 1929 this was rejected as a 'false doctrine.' (Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, p. 91) The new teaching was that the "higher powers" are God and Christ. But decades later the old teaching was adopted again, so that J.W.'s now say Romans 13:1 refers to the secular governments. (The Watchtower, May 15, 1980, p. 4)
Will the men of Sodom be resurrected? The Society has answered 'yes' (Wt. July 1879, p. 8), 'no' (Wt. June 1, 1952, p. 338), 'yes' (Wt. Aug. 1, 1965, p. 479), 'no' (Wt. June 1, 1988, p. 31), 'yes' (1988 book Insight on the Scriptures, p. 985), 'no' (1988 book Revelation: Its Grand Climax At Hand!, p. 273). In fact, as pointed out in Our Kingdom Ministry (December, 1989, p. 7) early printings of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth say 'yes' but later printings of the same book say 'no.' (pp. 178-179)
Aware of the devastating effect such information can have on its followers' faith in the organization, the Watchtower Society either tries to cover up the facts or to deny that the changes constitute a return to a previous point of view:
At times explanations given by Jehovah's visible organization have shown adjustments, seemingly to previous points of view. But this has not actually been the case. This might be compared to what is known in navigational circles as "tacking." By maneuvering the sails the sailors can cause a ship to go from right to left, back and forth, but all the time making progress toward their destination... -- The Watchtower December 1, 1981, page 27
Yet, close examination reveals many of the flip-flops to be total reversals, not any sort of forward-moving tacking process. Why this uncertain vacillation on doctrine, affirming "truths" today, denying them as "errors" tomorrow, and returning to the discarded teachings the next day for recycling as "new truths" once again?
When the organization was under one-man rule in earlier days, J.F. Rutherford apparently waited to consolidate power before casting aside many of the teachings of his predecessor -- and even then, some of his moves were clearly strategic, isolating his followers from contrary opinions and thus giving Rutherford firmer control. His death in 1942 put the team of Nathan Knorr and Fred Franz in charge, and they proceeded to change teachings and procedures to suit themselves.
Former Governing Body member Raymond Franz in his book Crisis of Conscience reveals how a virtual coup against third president Nathan Knorr resulted in a new process for determining doctrine, a two-thirds majority vote of the Governing Body now being required for any doctrinal change to take place. Since then, conservatives have prevailed most of the time, with liberals asserting themselves during the mid-1970s, only to be shut down in a purge.
When confronted with the resulting back-and-forth doctrinal changes, some JWs begin to realize the political nature of Watchtower leadership -- far from the "theocratic" rule by God that the organization claims for itself.
This zigzag course means Jehovah's Witnesses are "carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching" or "forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different, or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth." -- Ephesians 4:14 New World Translation and Living Bible
"TO SUCCEED IN THE RACE FOR LIFE" "not on a zigzag course" -- The Watchtower, August 1, 1992, p. 17 The organization says:
Seeing the strenuous efforts needed to succeed in the race for life, Paul went on to say: "Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly" (1 Corinthians 9:26) ...Hence, to run "not uncertainly" means that to every observer it should be very evident where the runner is heading. The Anchor Bible renders it "not on a zigzag course." If you saw a set of footprints that meanders up and down the beach, circles around now and then, and even goes backward at times, you would hardly think the person was running at all, let alone that he had any idea where he was heading. But if you saw a set of footprints that form a long, straight line, each footprint ahead of the previous one and all evenly spaced, you would conclude that the footprints belong to one who knows exactly where he is going. -- The Watchtower, August 1, 1992, p. 17
Yet, when we look at the Watchtower organization's own footprints, what do we see? The very thing the Bible condemns: a zigzag course. (Compare December 1, 1981 Watchtower, p. 27, illustration of "Tacking into the Wind" showing a zigzag course.)
The Watchtower Society has a long history of making prophecies and then changing them after they proved false. Dozens of references could be quoted and documented, but a few will suffice to prove the point.
For example, the 1920 booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die, declares,
...we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death, being resurrected... Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old. -- pages 89-90
This failed to come true, of course.
Starting in the mid-1960's numerous discussions in the Society's publications pointed to the year 1975:
This seventh day, God's rest day, has progressed nearly 6,000 years, and there is still the 1,000-year reign of Christ to go before its end. (Rev. 20:3, 7) This seventh 1,000-year period of human existence could well be likened to a great sabbath day. . . . In what year, then, would the first 6,000 years of man's existence and also the first 6,000 years of God's rest day come to an end? The year 1975. -- Awake! October 8, 1966, page 19
The August 15, 1968 Watchtower indicates that there might be a slight delay between the end of humanity's first six thousand years in autumn 1975 and the end of the world -- corresponding to the interval of time between Adam's creation and Eve's -- but assures that the delay will be only a few weeks or months, not years:
Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man's existence coincides with the sabbathlike thousand-year reign of Christ. If these two periods run parallel with each other as to the calendar year, it will not be by mere chance or accident but will be according to Jehovah's loving and timely purposes....It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years." -- page 499
Such predictions led Jehovah's Witnesses to believe that the end would come toward the end of 1975 or early in 1976.
The most recent prophetic failure is likely to have the greatest impact on JWs: 'New truths' in the November 1, 1995 Watchtower magazine changed the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses concerning "the generation that saw the events of 1914," and the November 8, 1995 Awake! drops that magazine's long-standing prophecy.
Ever since the late 1940's Awake! magazine had been promising the "sure hope for the establishment of a righteous New World" on page 2 of each issue. Then in 1964 it added the thought that this would happen "in this generation" -- "...reflecting sure hope for the establishment of God's righteous new order in this generation."
In 1975 it was no longer Awake! magazine's promise but now became the Creator's promise: "...the Creator's promise of a new order of lasting peace and true security within our generation." -- January 8, 1975
It was a very serious step to add this expression, "the Creator's promise," since it meant that the Watchtower Society (the magazine's publisher) was now prophesying in the Creator's name -- in God's name. The Creator warns in the Bible against doing this without receiving a command from Him to do so:
But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. -- Deuteronomy 18:20-22 NIV
Did the Creator really command the Society to say that He promised the new order would come "within our generation"? Elsewhere, the Society specified more precisely what it meant by "our generation":
"Jesus was obviously speaking about those who were old enough to witness with understanding what took place when the 'last days' began....Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the youngest of 'this generation' nearly 70 years old today....Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death." -- Awake! October 8, 1968, pages 13-14
In 1982 the Watchtower Society changed the prophecy on page 2 of each Awake! issue to include the same thought about 1914. It was no longer a vague "our generation" that would see the world's end, but the generation that saw the events of 1914: "...the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new order before the generation that saw the events of 1914 C.E. passes away." (January 8, 1982)
Nearly identical wording repeated the same prophecy in each issue until January 8, 1987, when Awake! magazine's statement of purpose was moved to page 4 in a redesigned format. Starting with that issue, the 1914 generation prophecy was dropped entirely. Then it was restored on page 4 of the March 8, 1988 issue -- "...the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away" -- wording that continued to appear through October, 1995.
By then, however, the generation that saw the events of 1914 had largely passed away. All that remained were a relatively few surviving individuals in their late 90's -- people nearly a hundred years old.
Obviously, the prophecy had failed. Continuing to print it as spiritual food for Jehovah's Witnesses was like serving meat or milk long after the "sell before" date stamped on the package. Like spoiled food, the expired prophecy began to stink.
JW leaders in Brooklyn finally replaced it in the November 8, 1995 Awake! by returning to language similar to that used prior to 1964. Awake! now declares "...the Creator's promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things."
Actually the prophecy on page 4 of each Awake! is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. It is the most prominent part of a whole chronological system of Bible interpretation that has proved false.
This is the most noticeable revision, so far, in a process of changing beliefs that has only just begun. The October 15, 1995 Watchtower (pages 22-23) changes the Watchtower Society's interpretation of when Christ sits down to separate sheep from goats at Matthew 25:31-33.
It transforms this from a process that began when Christ allegedly returned invisibly and became king in 1914 to a future event associated with his judging mankind at the Battle of Armageddon.
The old teaching is presented clearly in the Society's 1982 book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (page 183 original edition):
Yes, since Christ returned and sat down on his heavenly throne, all humankind has been on judgment...During the present judgment people are being separated as "goats" to Christ's left hand or as "sheep" to his right.
The October 15, 1995 Watchtower (pages 22-23) rejects this interpretation and substitutes a new one:
Does this parable apply when Jesus sat down in kingly power in 1914, as we have long understood?... ...the parable points to the future when the Son of man will come in his glory. He will sit down to judge... Understanding the parable of the sheep and the goats in this way indicates that the rendering of judgment on the sheep and the goats is future. It will take place after "the tribulation" mentioned at Matthew 24:29, 30 breaks out and the Son of man 'arrives in his glory.'
The change introduced here is two-fold. The Society re-interprets Matthew 25:31-32 so that
(1) Christ's sitting down on his throne does not refer to his becoming king in 1914, as the Society has long taught. Instead, it refers to his sitting as judge during the future great tribulation.
(2) The separating of the sheep from the goats is also a future event -- even though JWs had long been taught that their preaching work was accomplishing that separation right now and throughout much of this century.
Even more significant is the 'new truth' introduced in the November 1, 1995 issue of The Watchtower. On pages 17-19 it changes the Society's interpretation of Jesus' words at Matthew 24:34, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." (NIV)
On page 17 it admits that "Jehovah's people have at times speculated about the time when the 'great tribulation' would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914." Now it says, instead (page 17):
Rather than providing a rule for measuring time, the term "generation" as used by Jesus refers principally to contemporary people of a certain historical period, with their identifying characteristics.
Then it goes on to identify the generation that Jesus supposedly pointed to at Matthew 24:34-35 in this way (page 19):
Therefore, in the final fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy today, "this generation" apparently refers to the peoples of earth who see the sign of Christ's presence but fail to mend their ways.
This new interpretation drops the thought that the world will end during the lifetime of the people who were alive to see the events of 1914. Instead, it has Jesus speaking of the "wicked generation" -- people who see the sign of his invisible presence but fail to become JWs -- with no time period attached.
BORED TO DEATH?
Yes, the info needed to reach JWs can be tedious. Think of it as comparable to learning Chinese to share the Gospel in China.
Was the recently abandoned teaching about the 1914 generation really a false prophecy spoken by a false prophet? Or was it merely an instance of faithful Christians manifesting eagerness for Christ's return?
Deuteronomy 18:20-22, quoted earlier, supplies the basis for determining the answer. It states that its words of condemnation apply when what a "prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true."
Obviously, the prediction did not come true, and so the Watchtower Society has now stopped making that prediction.
Was the prediction spoken "in the name of the LORD"? Yes, because it was introduced as "the Creator's promise."
The Watchtower has said elsewhere:
Those who are convinced that The Watchtower is publishing the opinion or expression of a man should not waste time in looking at it at all... Those who believe that God uses The Watchtower as a means of communicating to his people, or of calling attention to his prophecies, should study The Watchtower..." -- [The Watchtower January 1, 1942, page 5 ]
More recently, the Watchtower Society has tried to escape the "false prophet" label by saying Jehovah's Witnesses have not made prophecies in God's name. "Never did they say, 'These are the words of Jehovah.'" (Awake! March 22, 1993, p. 4)
But the Watchtower Society actually did describe its prediction that the 1914 generation would live to see 'the end' as Jehovah's prophetic word through Jesus Christ.
"Jehovah's prophetic word through Jesus Christ is: 'This generation [of 1914] will by no means pass away until all things occur.' (Luke 21:32) And Jehovah, who is the source of inspired and unfailing prophecy, will bring about the fulfillment...
"Just as Jesus' prophecies regarding Jerusalem were fulfilled within the life span of the generation of the year 33 C.E., so his prophecies regarding 'the time of the end' will be fulfilled within the life span of the generation of 1914. ...
"...Yes, you may live to see this promised New Order, along with survivors of the generation of 1914 -- the generation that will not pass away." -- The Watchtower May 15, 1984, pages 6-7 (The bracketed expression "[of 1914]" is in the original.)
So, the Watchtower Society fits the description of a false prophet found at Deuteronomy 18:20-22. The Society made the prediction in God's name, and the prediction failed to come true.
Was this false prophecy simply a one-time offense? No, because the prediction was published repeatedly over the years, not only in Awake! magazine's masthead, but also in other places -- sometimes even with minor variations which indicate that thought was given to the matter on a number of occasions:
"...the generation alive in 1914, some will see the major fulfilment of Christ Jesus' prophecy and the destruction..." -- Awake! October 8, 1973, page 19
"Which generation is this, and how long is it?... "Thus, when it comes to the application in our time, the 'generation' logically would not apply to babies born during World War I. It applies to Christ's followers and others who were able to observe that war and the other things that have occurred in fulfillment of Jesus' composite 'sign.' Some of such persons 'will by no means pass away until' all of what Christ prophesied occurs, including the end of the present wicked system." --The Watchtower Oct. 1, 1978, p. 31
"What, then, is the 'generation' that 'will by no means pass away until all these things occur"? It does not refer to a period of time, which some have tried to interpret as 30, 40, 70 or even 120 years, but, rather, it refers to people, the people living at the 'beginning of pangs of distress' for this condemned world system. It is the generation of people who saw the catastrophic events that broke forth in connection with World War I from 1914 onward. ...
"And if the wicked system of this world survived until the turn of the century, which is highly improbable in view of world trends and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, there would still be survivors of the World War I generation. However, the fact that their number is dwindling is one more indication that the 'conclusion of the system of things' is moving fast toward its end. ...
"Yes, there was a generation of people that was living in 1914, and that saw the major historical changes...We can be happy, therefore, for Jesus' assurance that there will be survivors of 'the generation of 1914' -- that this generation will not have completely passed away -- when the 'great tribulation' rings down the curtain on this wicked world system." -- The Watchtower October 15, 1980, page 31
"Jesus used the word 'generation' many times in different settings and with various meanings. But what did he mean when he spoke of a "generation that would not pass away"? ...a generation is really related to people and events, rather than to a fixed number of years.
...the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their 80's or 90's, a few even having reached a hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive. Some of them 'will by no means pass away until all things occur.'" -- The Watchtower May 15, 1984, page 5
Thus judgment would be executed sometime during the life span of people seeing the first evidence of the time period foretold by Jesus. ...this time period began in 1914. Thus before the 1914 generation completely dies out, God's judgment must be executed. -- The Watchtower May 1, 1985, page 4
"a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away" ... "The Hebrews...reckon seventy-five years as one generation...".
"...today, most of the generation of 1914 has passed away. ...Jesus' words will come true, 'this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.' This is yet another reason for believing that Jehovah's thieflike day is imminent." -- Awake! April 8, 1988, pages 4 and 14
In fact, this episode of making predictions concerning "the generation of 1914" was not the first time the Watchtower Society made such prophecies. Years before 1914, it published volume 4 of Studies in the Scriptures, in which it calculated a hundred-year "generation" stretching "from 1780, the date of the first sign" and including the
gathering time beginning October 1874; the organization of the Kingdom and the taking by our Lord of his great power as the King in April 1878, and the time of trouble or "day of wrath" which began October 1874 and will end October 1914 -- 1908 edition, page 604
Alternatively, it calculated the generation of Matthew 24:34 as spanning 36 1/2 years, "the 'generation' from 1878 to 1914." (page 605) Interestingly, the Society encountered similar problems back then as time limits ran out and prophecies proved false. The length of the "generation" was adjusted to accommodate later reinterpretations, in a manner similar to the recent adjustments during the 1970's-1990's. Thus, later editions of the same Studies in the Scriptures volume were reprinted with alterations in the dates. In the reference quoted above from page 604, for example, the words "will end October 1914" were changed to "will cease about 1915" in certain later editions.
Many of the documents cited above are reproduced in our booklet "1914 Generation" Prophecy Proves False. See CFTF.com or write the publisher.
The Gospel in terms a JW will understand
When speaking about events leading up to the end of this wicked world, Jesus Christ warned that "many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many." (Matthew 24:11, KJV)
Did he suggest that believers should follow such false prophets, loyally sticking to them through one prophetic failure after another, in the hope that they would eventually get it right? Far from it! Rather, Jesus warned, "Take heed that no man deceive you." (Matthew 24:4 KJV)
If the Watchtower Society is a deceptive false prophet, where else can individual Jehovah's Witnesses turn for sound spiritual guidance? 'Whom shall we go away to?' No one! -- is the Watchtower Society's answer, drilled into each Witness through constant repetition. Our organization is the only way, the only truth, the only life. This view of things makes it very difficult for Jehovah's Witnesses to leave the organization -- and very confusing and even frightening for those who do leave.
The scripture verses that the Watchtower Society applies to itself actually apply to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus is the One the disciples were talking to when they said, "Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69 New World Translation)
They were not speaking of an organization.
And "the Truth" is not an organization, either. Scripture identifies Jesus Himself as "the Way and the Truth and the Life." (John 14:6 Modern Language Bible)
Jesus did not teach, as the Watchtower Society does, that people should "come to Jehovah's organization for salvation" (The Watchtower November 15, 1981, page 21). Rather, he said, "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
The way of salvation that Jesus proclaimed was not through organizational membership or accurate knowledge of the Scriptures -- although these enter into it. In order to gain life, people had to come to Jesus personally.
Under the new covenant there would be no other way to the Father, except through Jesus. God sent His Son to earth to fulfill the "new covenant" prophecy of Jeremiah, chapter 31. Under this new covenant "'they will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,' is the utterance of Jehovah. 'For I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.'" (verse 34 NW)
Jeremiah was not offering a new covenant for just a handful of men in the First Century. Rather, it would be God's way of dealing with men from that time onward.
For example, Paul's relationship with God through His Son began when Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Later on, Paul told of occasions when "the Lord stood near me and infused power into me" (2 Tim. 4:17 NW), and when Paul spoke to the Lord about his "thorn in the flesh." (2 Cor. 12:7-9)
As a zealous Jew, Paul had had a relationship with God before, but only from a distance. Now, as a Christian, he really knew God.
Stephen saw Jesus in a vision during his trial. Some time later, after his trial broke up and he was brought outside the city, Stephen called out to Jesus. "And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'" (Acts 7:59-60 RSV)
There is no indication that the earlier vision was repeated then. Rather, Stephen had an on-going relationship with Jesus and felt free to call upon Him.
Were Paul and Stephen unique in having a personal relationship with the Son of God, calling upon Jesus in time of need? Evidently not, as Paul described Christians as those "who everywhere are calling upon the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 1:2 New World Translation)
Jesus promised this continuing relationship with His disciples:
"For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst." (Matt. 18:20 NW)
In fact, we have Jesus' promise that
"he that loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will plainly show myself to him. ...and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him." (John 14:21-23 NW)
The Living Bible paraphrases it this way:
"When I come back to life again...I will only reveal myself to those who love and obey me. The Father will love them too, and we will come to them and live with them." (verses 20-23)
Jesus does not usually reveal himself to people today in a blinding light, as he appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Rather, it is more as described at Galatians 4:6 -- "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Revised Standard Version)
Christ assures at Luke 11:10-13 --
"For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or it he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (RSV)
So, the Gospel of the Christian Scriptures, the new covenant that Jeremiah 31 foretold, is not a new set of doctrines to learn or new facts about God (although many Watchtower doctrines need to be unlearned). Rather, it is a salvation that includes a new life right now, as a new creature by virtue of being born again and living a new Spirit-filled life.
Jesus introduced this new life when He told Nicodemus,
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." (John 3:3-7 KJV)
All who come into the new covenant undergo this change:
"You, however, are controlled not by your sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. ...Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit who makes you sons. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:9-11, 14-16 NIV)
The Father will help you grow as His child. You will form a longing for the Word, and the Holy Spirit will teach you as you read.
You may have to admit, though, as Paul the Apostle did, that
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV).
So, while 'accurate knowledge' of every detail is not yet available, and we cannot know ahead of time when Christ will return, it is the Christian's privilege to "know" God through a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you have not yet done so, tell God right now that you need Jesus as your Savior, and receive Him as your Lord.
He invites you: "Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28 Today's English Version) "I will never turn away anyone who comes to me." (John 6:37 TEV)
No visible progress?
"Why do Jehovah's Witnesses MISS THE POINT -- even when it seems they ought to get it?"
FRUSTRATED? Does it seem you are getting nowhere in conversations with JWs? Why is this so often the case?
Although good, your argument may be lacking something.
The most common situation involves the Christian who wants to teach true Christian doctrine to the JW and who therefore starts out trying to do that, using the Bible. Sooner or later he notices that he is just spinning his wheels, getting nowhere.
Why? Because he has left out some necessary steps.
His efforts are comparable to trying to teach calculus without first teaching algebra and arithmetic. You can't learn calculus without knowing algebra, and you can't learn algebra without knowing arithmetic. The JW can't learn Christian doctrine until he first sees that Watchtower doctrine is wrong. And he can't learn that Watchtower doctrine is wrong until he first sees through the organization's claim to divine authority as God's spokesman.
If you don't first prove the organization unreliable (documenting its false prophecies and back-and-forth changes) and then second reason verse-by-verse through the arguments the JW previously learned to support Watchtower doctrine, you can't expect much success with the third step of teaching Christian doctrine from Scripture.
Still, even when a Christian starts off correctly, a JW may just shrug off the evidence. Why? Many people have trouble admitting they are wrong. JWs, even more so -- because they have so much at stake.
How so? Well, if you have introduced a few doubts into the JWs mind, but he has not yet rejected the Watchtower organization, he doesn't dare admit those doubts. He still feels an obligation to bring you into "God's organization" -- and does not want to undermine his efforts by admitting uncertainty on his part.
Or, if what you said has actually gotten him to question seriously whether he is in the true church, he will still be afraid to express those thoughts before he has completely resolved the issue in his own mind.
He knows that, if he confesses his doubts to you, there is a possibility that this information about him may become public, and then he could be put on the spot by congregation elders -- forced to declare himself either for or against the organization, before he has a chance to fully explore the facts privately at his own speed. So, don't give up. As long as a JW is willing to listen, there is reason to hope that what you are saying is having a good effect.
Moreover, even if you have completely convinced the JW that the Watchtower Society is a false prophet, and he now wants to stop following it and to become a follower of Jesus, he may still be unwilling to admit this to you.
Why? Because he or she may be faced with the problem of helping a marriage mate or close friends or relatives to reach the same conclusions.
Any premature announcement could result in disfellowshipping, cutting off communication with these loved ones and blocking efforts to help them.
In this situation a JW might be willing to confide in you, but only if absolutely convinced of your reliability in keeping the matter private -- i.e., that you would cooperate with his or her becoming a secret disciple like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, maintaining this secrecy for months or even years.
The problem is not always with the Christian's presentation or with the JW's fear of admitting error. Sometimes the JW simply does not want to hear the truth, or, hearing it, does not want to receive it.
But isn't the Gospel message, properly presented, powerful enough to overcome any obstacle? Yes. Still, people can make choices. Of the thousands in Galilee, Judea, and Samaria who heard Jesus preach in person, how many became His disciples? How many ignored the message, or even became angry and hated Him? So, can we expect to have better results than Jesus did? The fault may not lie with our message, but rather with hearers who have closed their ears and their hearts.
If you have been skipping essential steps in reasoning with JWs, re-read this booklet to see how to undermine the sect's authority (step #1), and our book Jehovah's Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse which will help you untangle twisted reasonings (step #2).
Then, when you are sure you are using the best strategy and techniques, it becomes a matter of patience and perseverance. Don't be discouraged by apparent lack of progress.
Breaking through to a JW is like tunneling through a mountain. There is no visible indication that the tunnel has almost broken through -- just the same pitch black darkness until suddenly you break through into the light of day.
The Lord knows who will eventually respond and who will not. We continue His work of sowing seed on all sorts of soil, cultivating it to the best of our ability. And, especially as regards witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses, the words of Ecclesiastes 11:6 apply:
"In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."
The JW who begins questioning and thirsting for truth may be forced to keep quiet about it for a while, and may not be able to encourage you with signs of progress. But when the time is ripe you will hear him praise the Lord!
Meet Them on Common Ground
LEAD THEM TO HOLY GROUND
Remove obstacles instead of creating them.
We could start out by saying, "You people worship the wrong god!" But that would inspire defensiveness and hostility. We have not only attacked his or her understanding of doctrinal matters, but have also attacked God Himself, in the eyes of the Witness.
The Apostle Paul could have fired accusations at the pagan men of Athens, condemning them for worshipping false gods and idols, but, instead, he commended them:
And then, rather than focus on the most abhorrent aspects of their idolatry, he sought common ground:
"For as I walked around and observed your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you." (Acts 17:22,23 NIV)
Taking a similar approach, we might tell JWs that we, too, know and worship the God of the Bible and recognize that his name is Yahweh or Jehovah -- perhaps mentioning a hymn of praise that features the name Jehovah or the expression Hallelujah!
Then, having established common ground, we could go on to explain that our relationship with God is through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, rather than through an organization.
The question at issue then becomes, "Does the Watchtower Society truly represent God?"
Taking this "test" may help a Jehovah's Witness re-think his or her relationship with Christ:
BIBLE TEST Indicate whether the passage applies to everybody, to some people, or to nobody at all -- and in the 4th column (also) if it applies to you.
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you -- unless, of course, you fail the test?" -- 2 Cor. 13:5 NIV
"But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." -- John 14:17,18 NIV
". . . this mystery, which is Christ in you . . ." -- Col. 1:27 NIV,RSV
". . . that Christ may actually live in your hearts . . ." -- Eph. 3:17 J.B. Phillips
"To prove that you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying 'Abba! Father!'" -- Gal. 4:6 New Eng. Bible
"You, however, are controlled not by your sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you . . ." -- Rom. 8:9,10 NIV
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." -- Rev. 3:20 RSV
"I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. ...I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.' " (John 3:3-7, NIV)
"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. " (John 6:37, NIV)
"Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'" (Acts 7:59 NIV)
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord... But he said to me, '...my power is made perfect in weakness.' ...Christ's power..." (2 Cor. 12:8-9, NIV)
"...together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-- their Lord and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2 NIV)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29, NIV)