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(Last Updated: 05 Jan 2002 )
A Knock at the Door...
Paganism in the Church?
Is Jesus God?
The Return of "Is Jesus God?"
Cross or Torture Stake?
Who Goes to Heaven?
Has Christ Already Returned?
IntroductionSomewhere in your neighbourhood is a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall, and in there is a map, with your house on it. Getting visited by the JWs is only a question of when, not if, so it helps to know something about them. They were founded in the USA in the 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. They're very well-organised, they're very keen, they publish the most widely-circulated magazines in the world, but they also believe a lot of weird stuff. Today we're gonna meet one. Sort of.
A Knock at the Door...JEHOVAH'S WITNESS: Hi there. My name's Russell. I was in the neighborhood, talking with people who are concerned with what is happening in the world today. Especially since September 11, international events have become fairly worrying haven't they?
CATHOLIC: Well, yeah...
JW: Glad to see you share our concern. Do you think it's reasonable to expect human governments to be able to sort this all out?
C: Uh, well, I think it would take a miracle actually...
JW: Yes, well, that's probably true. Are you a religious person, by any chance?
C: Yeah, I'm Catholic.
JW: Oh, I used to be Catholic - but I found there was a bit too much emphasis on church tradition... So you believe the Bible then? It's the Word of God, you know.
JW: Then you'd want to be part of an organisation that really followed the Bible and lived what it teaches, wouldn't you?
C: Uh, what organisation did you have in mind?
JW: Well, maybe you've heard of the Watchtower? We publish a range of literature on topics important to everyone... you're welcome to take a copy of our popular magazines Awake! or The Watchtower if you like. [Holds out copies] Perhaps you'd like to discuss what the Bible says about what God's organisation looks like?
C: Sure, come on in. Don't you guys normally travel in pairs?
JW: Yes, we do, but we bumped into some Mormons just up the road, and my partner is in the middle of a fairly long discussion with them, so I thought I'd just go on ahead. You know how it is with those cults...
C: Uh, yeah. I should tell you that I'm already familiar with some of what the Watchtower says, and to be honest, the Watchtower does seem to have a few issues with, ah, credibility.
Paganism in the Church?JW: Credibility? Look, I'm afraid it's the Catholic Church that has a credibility problem. It's become encrusted with traditions of men and all sorts of pagan baggage, and it happened very early on - by the time Constantine made this false Christianity the state religion in the fourth century, God's true organisation had been well and truly buried underneath all sorts of pagan superstition, like Christmas, birthdays, the cross, Mary worship, necromancy, hell, the Trinity...
C: Wait a second - first of all, that's not true; and secondly, are you saying that any group that picks up practices associated with paganism has fallen away from Jehovah God's true religion?
JW: That's right, and the Catholic Church is probably the best example of this in the world.
C: So you personally would never adopt any pagan customs?
C: What day is it today?
JW: It's Monday. Why?
C: Well, "Monday" comes from the Old English "Moon Day", the day of the moon, a special day for pagan religions. And you know what month it is, don't you?
JW: Uh, January...
C: Which is named after the pagan god Janus, Roman God of beginnings. But just because out calendar is pagan, that doesn't stop you from using it to plan what day you're gonna knock on my door now, does it? And hey, you look pretty fit - you do a bit of running? What sort of shoes do you use?
C: Hmm, that's pagan too; Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. Do you guys exchange rings when you get married?
JW: Yeah, everybody does that...
C: That's adapted from a pagan custom too. Baptism - you guys do baptism don't you? The pagans do that too. But don't you think God would be powerful enough to transform pagan things into something that's OK, if he wanted to?
JW: Well, I guess so...
C: Yeah, well, that's what he does whenever a pagan person becomes a Christian, doesn't he? Look, even circumcision was a pagan custom before God introduced it to Abraham as the sign of his covenant. So I think the issue is not as cut and dried as you might think. But lets talk about you guys - there's some important questions I have about the Watchtower that you'll have to help me out with. The first is about Jesus - the Watchtower has a different opinion about him than most Christians do.
Is Jesus God?JW: Well, he is the Son of God
C: But you don't think he's God, do you?
JW: Uh, no, actually, he's Michael the Archangel.
C: Jesus is Michael?
JW: Yes; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that Jesus "will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel's voice and with God's trumpet". So, if Jesus has the voice of an archangel, he must be the archangel Michael. After all, Michael is the only archangel mentioned in Scripture.
C: Couldn't that verse just mean an archangel announces his return? If I said I pulled into the driveway with a screech of tires and a horn's honking, does that make me part of my car? Besides, right at the start of the letter to the Hebrews, it talks about Jesus and says... uh, let me look it up here... "in these last days [God] has spoken to us by a Son... He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs." It goes on to say "Let all God's angels worship him". But since God's the only one we're supposed to worship, then Jesus must be God.
JW: That's Hebrews 1:6, right? A better translation instead of "worship" there is "do obeisance", which just means to bow down.
C: Well, the Bible I have right here says "worship". And so does this one! Let me just check which translation it is... oh look, it's the New World Translation, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Well, what do you know?
JW: Let me see that... Uh, look, this was published in 1961. Mine's from 1985. It, uh, it must have been changed. Yeah, that's right, it was changed to make things clearer - can't have people going around thinking Jesus is God now, can we?
C: Well, that's certainly an interesting revision. What about near the end of John's Gospel where Thomas sees the risen Jesus and says "My Lord and my God!". Jesus didn't seem to have a problem with this, but it would have been pretty blasphemous if he wasn't really God, don't you think?
JW: That was a cry of praise to Jehovah God.
C: You think? Why don't you read John 20:27-28 from your Bible?
JW: "Next he said to Thomas: "Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it in my side, and stop being unbelieving but become believing." In answer Thomas said to him: "My Lord and my God!".
C: Don't worry, maybe that one will be clarified later too. Just kidding! There's a few other points though: first, have a look at Psalm 102:25.
JW: OK... "Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth itself, and the heavens are the work of your hands."
C: Who do you suppose that is talking about?
JW: Jehovah God.
C: Cool. But did you know, in the Letter to the Hebrews, this same verse is quoted, and applied to Jesus? In Hebrews 1:8 it says "But with reference to the Son" and goes on to say in verse 10: "You at the beginning , O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are the works of your hands." So we've got the Old Testament reference to God being applied to Jesus in the New Testament. Proving that Jesus is God is one of the main points of the letter to the Hebrews. And the Old Testament, in lots of places, says that God created everything by himself, while the New Testament, in lots of places, says that Jesus created everything. So there you go. Jesus is God.
JW: Actually, the only thing Jehovah created was Michael the archangel, and then Michael created everything else.
C: But that's not what the Bible says. What about Colossians chapter 1, verses 16-17?
JW: That Scripture just proves my point. Let's read it together, shall we?
BOTH (BUT JW INCLUDES "[OTHER]" AS HE READS): "He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth... 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".
C: Look, you're adding the word "other"! You've got the tricky Greek/English interlinear New Testament there - is the word "other" there in the Greek?
JW: Well, no, but that's what the text has to mean, because otherwise Michael/Jesus wasn't created.
C: Exactly! He's God! Of course he wasn't created!
JW: But it says Jesus is the first-born of all creation, which means he was created first, and everything else, every other thing, was created through him.
C: Yeah, except first-born also means the one who's pre-eminent or the head of the family. Think about King David: he was the youngest in his family, but in Psalm 89, God calls him the first-born, because he's the King of Israel. It's the same with Jesus. Besides, there's other verses that are even clearer, like John 1:3, "apart from him not even one thing came into existence".
Here's something else to think about: Jesus uses God's holy name when he says: "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" in John 8:58. "I am" is the name God gives to himself in Exodus 3:14, and it was blasphemy for anyone to say it.
JW: John 8:58? A better translation is: "Before Abraham came into existence, I have been".
C: "I have been"? Hey, that's a bit dodgy too. I've checked about 10 Bible versions, and none of them translate it like that. And I don't know much Greek, but the words for "I am" are ego eimi, and ego means "I", and eimi means "am", and of all the two word phrases in the Greek language with that kind of structure, there is nothing easier to translate. It seems to me like the Watchtower's just changed the translation because they have to. Besides, what do you think the Jews would have done if Jesus was making himself equal to God by using God's name?
JW: Well, they would have stoned him, but...
C: And what does the next verse say?
C: "So they took up stones to throw at him". So there you go. And that dodgy translation reminds me of another one: John 1:1 "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the Word was..."
JW: "a god".
C: Yeah, that's what I thought you'd say. But in the Greek it just says "the Word was God", doesn't it?
JW: Well, yes, but there's good linguistic reasons for changing it...
C: Well, this is something I've checked out in some detail, and those reasons the Watchtower gives just don't hold water. It really looks to me like they had to say "a god" because otherwise it puts a big hole right through the middle of their theology. We could go through all the linguistic arguments if you like - I've got a photocopy summarising them right here - but how about I just point out one thing. I thought that one way to settle this without getting into all the tricky Greek stuff would be to find someone who was a native speaker of Biblical Greek, who lived within a hundred years or so of when John's Gospel was written, and who commented on this verse. I'm sure they'd give us some helpful insight, don't you think?
JW: Well, yeah, they might...
C: Guess what I found: have you heard of Clement of Alexandria?
C: He was an early Church Father, he lived in Alexandria, where Greek was the language everyone spoke, in the late 100s to early 200s AD. He wrote a book called Exhortation to the Heathen, where he commented on John 1:1, and he said: ""in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." ... This Word, then, the Christ, ... this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man—the Author of all blessings to us". Elsewhere, talking about God and the Word in this verse, he says that "both are one - that is, God".
TIME OUT: The study of the writings of the early Church fathers is called "Patristics". There is a huge volume of writings, and they are really valuable for showing that the early Church was Catholic. Heaps of Protestant Christians have become Catholic through reading the early Church fathers. Recently I thought I'd try to see what the JW attitude to the Church Fathers was. To have any serious historical claim of being the true Church, they'd have to show some evidence of this in early Christian writings. So I looked up a JWs "Patristic Studies Index" on the web - note how it says "Sorry, no material currently available."
C: Remember, this is back around 200AD: surely you don't think that Jesus and the apostles were such pathetic teachers that everything they taught had managed to get messed up that early?
The TrinityJW: Hey, those early church guys messed up a lot of things. Like the whole concept of God - bringing in the idea of three gods instead of the one true Jehovah God of the Bible. That's obviously a pagan corruption; lots of religions believe in three main gods, and once the early church fell away from the truth, that's one of the things they picked up.
C: We believe in the Trinity. We don't believe in three gods.
JW: Really? Do you believe the Father is God?
JW: Do you believe Jesus is God?
JW: Do you believe the Holy Spirit is God?
JW: Well, there you go. Three Gods.
C: Has the Watchtower ever explained to you what we really believe about the Trinity?
JW: Yep, it's all right here in this little booklet. Take it, I've got plenty of copies ["Should You Believe in the Trinity?" booklet]. It's what we just went through now. And it's totally illogical. I don't see how you can believe it.
C: Well, what we actually believe is that in the one divine nature, there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Is this the way the Watchtower presents our belief?
JW: No, not really.
C: That's a bit irresponsible, misrepresenting things like that. But there's nothing illogical in what we believe. There's a big difference between person and nature. Our nature determines what we are; person describes who we are. My nature decides what I can do - like eat or laugh or sit here and discuss the faith with you - because those actions go with human nature. But I do them, I the person. And when we apply this to God, we say that there is one divine nature, one answer to the question "What is God?", but there are three persons who possess that one nature, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
JW: Sorry, still sounds pagan. Egyptians, Babylonians, even the Hindus all had a triad of three gods.
C: Well, yeah, maybe they all had groups of three gods. But did any of them say anything about 3 persons sharing one divine nature?
JW: Well, I dunno if they used those words...
C: Then the Trinity can't be pagan, can it? The Christian idea of the Trinity is totally different from anything pagan. It might be hard to get your head around, but it's the only way to make sense of all that Scripture has to say about God.
JW: Well, in your Bible it says God is not the author of confusion. And I'm confused.
C: But Russell, in that passage St. Paul is talking about order in the Church, not mysteries of the faith.
JW: Ah! So you agree that the Trinity is a mystery, then.
C: Sure, but a mystery is not something we can understand nothing about, like a museum where the door is locked; it's something we can explore and learn about forever without exhausting its richness, like a museum with an endless number of exhibits.
JW: Well, I've never yet met a Catholic who could even start to explain it to me - they always just say "it's a mystery" and stop there. I mean, isn't it supposed to be the most important part of your whole religion?
C: OK then - do you want the easy explanation or the tricky one?
JW: You decide.
C: OK, we'll start with the easy one. The Bible tells us that God is love, right?
C: Well, can love actually exist in isolation? In order for love to exist, you have to have someone who loves, and someone who is loved, and the love between them. If Jehovah God was a solitary Person, then there would have been nothing for him to love until he started creating things, which would mean God was dependent on creation for part of who he actually is - remember, the Bible says God is love, not that God simply shows love. So since an all-powerful God can't be dependent on what he has created, then we see there must be more than one person in the Godhead: the Father is the one who loves, the Son is the one who is loved, and the Holy Spirit is the love between them. The Trinity is an eternal union of love between these three divine Persons.
JW: That's the easy explanation? Sorry, you haven't sold me.
C: OK, we'll move on to the explanation that St. Augustine and St. Thomas developed. Their way of explaining things basically goes from John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Now, God is pure spirit, so a word produced by God wouldn't be a spoken word, it would be more like a thought or an idea. So what idea produced in God's mind could possibly be God? The answer is the idea that God has of himself. When God thinks of himself, this thought must be perfect, because God is perfect, so whatever is in God the Father must be in this idea of himself, and must be exactly the same as it is in himself. Otherwise God would have an inadequate idea of himself, which wouldn't be possible for a perfect God.
Now, the Father knows and loves, so his idea or concept of himself knows and loves. In other words, the idea is a person. The thinker and the thought are distinct, but they are of the same nature. The idea, or word, of God, is the Son. And God has always been thinking, so he has always been Fathering the eternal Son.
And then, between the two infinite persons of the Father and the Son, there is an infinite love. They love each other with everything they have, so their love is like them: infinite, eternal, living, a Person, God. Their love produces an eternal person as well, the Holy Spirit.
JW: Uh, that's interesting, but I don't really get it. Sorry. I think I'll stick with what I know. "Listen, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah".
C: Well, the Trinity is not something you're supposed to get the first time you hear about it. Remember what God says: "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." But taking some time to think about the Trinity and explanations like these is something that really pays off.
And one other thing: Hebrew has two words for "one". One of those words means alone, absolutely one, but the other word, 'echad, means a unity of several parts, as in husband and wife becoming "one" flesh, or morning and evening being "one" day, or all the Israelites answering Moses at once with "one" voice. And it's that word that is used in Deuteronomy where it says that our God is one God. Interesting, don't you think?
The Return of "Is Jesus God?"JW: Look, you still have a lot of problems. I still don't think you've even proven that Jesus is God, let alone the Trinity. Why don't you read John 14:28?
C: My Bible or yours?
JW: Yours should be fine.
C: OK; Jesus is speaking to the disciples at the last supper: "You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I."
JW: See? How can Jesus be God if the Father is greater than he is?
C: OK, that's a good question, but you have to think about what other passages say about Jesus' status. If you look at Philippians chapter 2, you get the picture: "Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." Both the Father and the Son have a role in getting us saved. Jesus' job involved emptying himself, becoming a man like us, and taking the form of a servant; so when he says the Father is greater, he's speaking from that perspective.
JW: Oh really...
C: Really. When his job was finished, God the Father restored Jesus to the glory he had in the first place. Read John 17:4-5.
JW: "I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do. So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was."
C: Exactly. Paul definitely thought Jesus was God - he says so in Colossians 2 verse 9: "For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily".
Actually, I have a list of more than 20 divine characteristics that are applied to God the Father and that are also applied to Jesus: King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Alpha and Omega, the only Saviour, Creator of heaven and earth, Judge of the world, and so on.
Cross or Torture Stake?C: The amazing thing is, Jesus is God, and yet, like St. Paul says, "he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross".
JW: Ah, Jesus wasn't killed on a cross; it was a torture stake.
C: You mean like this? [Cue slide: JW picture of Jesus on torture stake.]
JW: Yep, that's it! The cross is just another pagan symbol - it comes from the greek letter tau, which stands for the Babylonian god Tammuz. This is why we never use that symbol. Besides, if you look at the word used for cross, you'll see that it is actually stauros, which in classical Greek means an upright stake.
C: Well, that's interesting, except the New Testament wasn't written in classical Greek, it was written in Koine Greek, which is a different dialect altogether. And in Koine Greek, stauros can mean an upright pointed stake, but it can also mean a stake with a cross-beam at the top, or two intersecting beams. Just look up any good Bible Dictionary and it'll tell you all about how in an execution with a stauros, the criminal would have to carry the crossbeam to the place where the stake was already standing upright, then he'd be tied or nailed to the beam he had carried, and then that would be hoisted up and stuck to the top of the stake. And maybe you'd see all the evidence about the cross from archaeology and from the Church Fathers as well.
JW: I'm not convinced, and one of the reasons I'm not convinced is because you guys give way too much attention to images of the cross - just like you would if it was a pagan idol. Look, it's all over the place. It's sick, don't you think; it's like if your best friend was executed by the electric chair and then you go and put up posters of electric chairs and wear little electric chairs around your neck and stuff. Why do you make such a big deal of it?
C: Because St Paul does: he said "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified". And tell me: how many nails do you see in that picture?
C: But doubting Thomas says in John 20:25, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails", plural. So I think the Watchtower's wrong here. We honour the cross because that's where Jesus died for us, that's where he opened the way for us to go to heaven.
Who Goes to Heaven?JW: Heaven!, that's another distortion: the Bible reveals that there will be an earthly class and a heavenly class of believers - only the anointed 144,000 of Revelation chapter 7 and chapter 14 will enter heaven, while the rest will live forever in a paradise on earth.
C: So there's only gonna be 144,000 in heaven?
JW: That's what the Bible teaches.
C: Lemme see... Revelation 7?
JW: Yep, verses 1-4.
C: OK, so we've got angels, saying "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until after we have sealed the slaves of our God in their foreheads.’ 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel."
So you take the 144,000 literally?
JW: We always take the Bible for what it means - it's the infallible Word of God.
C: But what about how they are sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel?
JW: Remember, God's organisation is the "Israel of God", as Paul says in Galatians 6:16.
C: Hmm, OK, what was the other passage?
JW: Revelation 14:1-3.
C: "And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads." You know, I don't think you really take that all literally.
C: Really. Check out the next few verses for each passage. In the first one, straight after it says the 144,000 were sealed out of every tribe of Israel, it goes on to make it quite clear who it's talking about: "Out of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed; out of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand" and so on, through all the 12 tribes. And then in the passage from Revelation 14, after the bit we looked at the next verse says that the 144,000 are "the ones that did not defile themselves with women: in fact, they are virgins". If you take it literally that would mean it's talking about 144,000 celibate Jewish males. That would mean St. Peter's not in heaven because he was married; Mary's not in heaven because she's not a man, and you can't go to heaven because you're not a Jew.
JW: I'm not a part of that anointed class, so I don't have a heavenly hope anyway.
C: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.
JW: It's OK. The 144,000 anointed started with the Apostles and the full quota was finished by about 1935. These are the ones who will rule with Christ over the restored earthly paradise.
C: So the Old Testament saints aren't in heaven?
JW: Nope, they'll be part of the paradise on earth.
C: Not even Elijah, who the Bible says was taken up by a whirlwind into heaven?
JW: Uh, no...
C: Not even Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who Jesus says are in the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 8:11?
JW: I'll, uh, I'll have to check that out
C: Besides, right after the bit about the 144,000 being sealed out of the tribes of Israel, it says "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" (which is in heaven) "and before the Lamb," (who is also in heaven) "dressed in white robes". So I think that when St Paul said that "our citizenship exists in the heavens", he knew what he was talking about.
JW: Look, all I know is that God is going to restore the earth so it will be just like it was before Adam and Eve messed it up. Remember, Jesus said the meek shall inherit the earth, and he was quoting Psalm 37, which also says "The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it." You see, you can live forever in a paradise on earth! [Cue Paradise on Earth image.]
C: OK. Well, would you agree with this quote: "The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, 'so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,' sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ. 'We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed. The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men.'"
JW: Sounds good. Is that from the Watchtower?
C: No, it's from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I think that the Church and the Watchtower may have a little bit of common ground here - the renewed earth does play a role in God's plan, and a lot of people overlook that.
JW: Hey, that's really interesting. No Catholic has ever shared that with me.
Bogus PropheciesC: Yeah, well, I've got something else to share with you: one big problem I have with Watchtower credibility is the fact that they are really quite famous for setting dates for the end of the world: 1914, 1918, 1925, 1941, 1975. Have a look at these quotes I've collected [reads from Palm/projector]:
[Looks at JW questioningly...]
- In 1894, the Watchtower said "The end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble."
- In 1914, Charles Taze Russell said "The present great war in Europe is the beginning of the Armageddon of the Scriptures".
- In 1924, the Watchtower said: "The year 1925 is a date definitively and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than 1914."
- In 1931, they said "There was a measure of disappointment on the part of Jehovah's faithful ones on earth concerning the dates 1914, 1918, and 1925... and they also learned to quit fixing dates for the future and predicting what would come to pass on a certain date."
- In 1938 the Watchtower said "Armageddon is so near that Witnesses should wait until it is over before they marry and raise children."
- In 1946 they said: "Armageddon... should come sometime before 1972."
- In 1968 they said: "According to this trustworthy Bible chronology, six thousand years from man's creation will end in 1975... six thousand years of man's existence on earth will soon be up, yes, within this generation."
- In 1974 they said: "Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end."
- And then after 1975 came and went a whole lot of disappointed JWs left the Watchtower.
- Now the Watchtower says "Before the last members of the generation that was alive in 1914 will have passed off the scene, all the things foretold will occur, including the 'great tribulation' in which the present wicked world will end".
JW: Say, that's a pretty cool gadget you have there. But hey, I really should get going...
C: What about those quotes though?
JW: Hey, it's easy to criticize - but at least the Watchtower is doing what Jesus said, keeping watch and staying awake.
C: Yeah, but for an organisation that claims to be Jehovah God's "faithful and discreet slave", making a bunch of bogus prophecies like that seems kinda indiscreet, don't you think?
JW: Well, like it says in Proverbs 4:18, "the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established."
C: Seems to me more like stumbling in the dark. I have a whole book listing Watchtower contradictions, and that just doesn't seem right for an organisation guided by the Lord.
JW: Well, really it's just like sailing. You know, tacking. A yacht can go forward even when the wind is blowing the other way, by shifting the sails so the boat goes back and forth from right to left, but always making progress in the right direction.
C: Uh huh. Sounds to me more like what St. Paul warned the Ephesians about: being "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men". What about how the Watchtower used to forbid vaccinations or organ transplants, but now those things are considered OK? What if someone, who needed a new kidney but wasn't allowed one, died just before the Watchtower "changed tack"? And that reminds me of something else to do with those predictions: didn't the Watchtower prophesy that Jesus would return to earth in 1914?
Has Christ Already Returned?JW: Yes, and he did. It wasn't a physical return though, it was his invisible presence.
C: Right, so from the Watchtower point of view, a verse like Matthew 24:30, which says "all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory", really means, "none of the tribes of earth will see him because his power and glory will be invisible".
C: And that reminds me of something else: you guys have a regular communion service, don't you?
JW: Only for the anointed class with the heavenly hope. There's only a few thousand of them left now. They celebrate Christ's memorial supper every year at Passover.
C: And that's kind of inconsistent; have a look at what St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:14.
JW: "For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives".
C: So if he arrived in 1914, your anointed folks should have stopped a long time ago.
JW: Speaking of stopping, I really need to go now.
FarewellsC: OK, thanks for calling in. I hope you can see some of the reasons why I don't want to commit myself to an organisation that seems to totally lack credibility. My advice to you is that maybe you should look for an organisation that can trace its historical roots back to the time of the Apostles, and that can believe the whole Bible without having to change the meaning of some of the words. In fact, you ought to look for the organisation that actually discerned the list of books that make up your fancy interlinear New Testament. And what you'll find will be the Catholic Church.
JW: Yeah, well, thanks for the advice.
C: Hey, before you go, would you like some chocolate?
JW: Uh, sure, thanks. [Starts to bite]
C: Yeah, I got it as a Christmas present. Glad to be able to share the celebration with you!
JW: We're not uh, allowed to celebrate pagan festivals like Christmas.
C: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Well, there's another good reason to become Catholic. Plus we get to have birthdays too!
ConclusionOK, the aim of that dialogue was to expose some of what the Watchtower teaches. In real life the conversation would never go exactly like that, and a more experienced JW would be better at changing the subject to get away from the tricky stuff. They'll often start talking about the Inquisition or the Crusades or something and say how the JWs are pacifists and love each other and never fight in wars and stuff like that. Some of them will have better answers than our JW did for some of these issues as well. But overall, their system is full of holes, and they are deceived in lots of ways.
When you're face to face with a real JW, head-to-head argumentation is often not the best way to go. Most of them are very heavily indoctrinated into trusting the Watchtower, and they have to be shown the Watchtower's lack of credibility before you can make much progress with anything else.
When you're witnessing to the Witnesses; don't forget to pray for help from the Holy Spirit, and also make sure you really listen to what they're saying - they'll only listen to you if it's obvious you care about what they are saying as well. Don't forget that they train for several hours each week on how to convince other people to join the Watchtower.
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