Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses

We have already touched base on the Mormon and Islamic faiths, and have found their arguments wanting. So now lets turn our attention to the Jehovah's Witnesses.

The Jehovah's Witnesses are officially known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and they are a product of Charles Taze Russell, who was born on February 16, 1852. in 1870, without any formal theological education, Russell organized a class who designated him as a Pastor. By 1879, he founded the Zion's Watchtower. This was where he reinterpreted the Bible and by 1886, the Millenial Dawn was published, a 7 volume series.

Its interesting that the Jehovah's Witnesses wish to claim that the Bible is the only authority that they wish to go by given how many principles of Messianic Judaism/Christian thought they violate. Among them are the divinity of Yeshua, and his resurrection, and salvation by grace.

Lets further look at some of Russell's claims that he makes about the Bible. "If the six volumes of Scripture Studies are practically the Bible, topically arranged with Bible proof texts given, we might not improperly name the volumes "the Bible in an arranged form," that is to say, they are not mere comments on the Bible, but they are practically the Bible itself.

Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the Scripture Studies aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years-if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references and had not read a page of the Bible as such, he would be in the light at the end of two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures." (Watchtower, Sept 15, 1910)

Obviously with this statement there are problems within adding to Torah as mentioned in Deuteronomy 4:2, and 12:32, also in Revelation 22, there are problems with adding to the Bible. Russell runs into a problem here. Its also very interesting how Russell contends that one should not go to the Bible alone, and that if someone follows the Bible alone, they will go into darkness (we at Congregation Zion Sake wonder how this darkness would be found in such a manner! To see why, look at http://www.zionsake.org/ ).

One other thing that the Watchtower makes mention of that many Christians would take issue with is that the Trintiy doctrine is not stated by Yeshua. Yes, this is true. But the personification of God is mentioned in Deuteronomy 6:4 which infers a unified nature about God. The issue with the Watchtower understanding is that neither Yeshua or the Ruach Hakodesh is God.

Many people would recognize this movement as Aryanism, the very movement that the Nicene Creed put an end to. Some of the comments of the Jehovah's Witness understanding can be seen as reflective within an Aryanistic understanding. See for instance some of the following claims. "Jesus, the Christ, a created individual, is the second greatest personage of the Universe. Jehovah God and Jesus together constitute the superior authorities." (Make Sure of All Things, p. 207)

"He was a god, but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah." (Let God Be True, p. 33).

"If Jesus were God, then during Jesus' death God was dead in the grave." (Let God Be True, 1946, p. 91).

"The truth of the matter is that the word is Christ Jesus, who did have a beginning." (Let God Be True, p. 88).

We have already addressed the Torah in a previous article. See here - http://hamashiachagape.blogspot.com/2010/08/is-torah-forever.html

The Torah is in fact forever, and this is detrimental to their position about Yeshua having a beginning. One Biblical passage utilized by the Jehovah's Witnesses for backing up the other presuppositions we need to examine.

In John 14:28, it is stated "My Father is greater than I." Tim Hegg addresses this claim here - www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/Lesser&GreaterYHVH.pdf As we see, the matter is over role vs. the essential nature of God. As Josh McDowell puts it "This verse refers to the voluntary subordination of Jesus during his earthly life when He willingly placed Himself in submission to the Father. It says nothing about His nature, only His temporary rank on earth. Thus, the "greater than" refers to His position rather than His person." (McDowell, A Ready Defense, pg 334-335). Likewise, this is the case when Jehovah's Witnesses utilize John 17 to ask why Yeshua was praying. Another commonly cited verse to attempt to deny the divinity of Yeshua is Luke 18:19 ""Why call me good, only God is good?"

Of course Yeshua was also making sure that the man in question was actually declaring whether he was God or not. The question was more directed in this effect.

What most of this incorporates is a Western and Americanized understanding of Theology being applied to scripture.

Colossians 1:15 is also utilized by Jehovah's Witnesses to attempt to deflect the position that Yeshua is God. They claim that the term "firstborn" atually is referencing him being created. In fact, this would be understood from a Jewish perspective as Yeshua being pre-existing. This is totally missed by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

The final major problem of Jehovah's Witnesses, and I have actually discussed this position with other Biblical scholars as well, is John 1:1. Those who are fluent in Greek declare that John 1:1 meant "the Word was God." Of course, Jehovah's Witnesses declare that in John 1:1, it should read "the word was a god." Again, this is making Yeshua less than a God. In effect, its also teaching polytheism, which through the writings of Dr. Phil Fernandez, we have ventured to refute.

The Watchtower however, pursues this understanding. "how are we to understand John 1:1,2 of which there are differing translations? Many translations read: "And the Word was With God, and the Word was God." Others read: "And the Word (The Logos) was divine." Another: "And the Word was God." Others, "And the Word was a god." Since we have examined so much of what John wrote about Jesus who was the Word made flesh, we are now in a position to determine which of those several translations is correct. It means our salvation." (The Word Who Is He? According to John, p. 52).

However, a quick visit to http://www.biblegateway.com/ will show this statement to be incorrect.

The primary premise behind this which is faulty in the case of God, is that theos appears with the definite article, and without the definite article. They contend that the places without the definite article should read "a god." However there is no basis for this claim. "Ha Theos" means The God, and "Theos" would merely be translated as God. IOW, there is no difference in Greek between Ha Theos and Theos. Secondly, it would contradict the way they would read the book of John. Their own Theology would be undercut, since the rest of John would read, for example in verse 6 "There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of a god." But they do not read the verse like this. So in essence, they are being inconsistent with their expression of theos.

They also take issue with the Ruach Hakodesh, failing to even begin to understand what this term actually is. In its very understanding, it is the breath of God as it is translated accurately from Hebrew to English. Obviously its not hard to see that this is a part of God, thus making the Ruach Hakodesh, one with God.

The last problem with Jehovah's Witnesses theology is in the area of their prophecy. Jehovah's Witnesses prophecied that Yeshua would return to the earth in 1914, of course prior to 1914. Charles Taze Russell has been quoted as saying "the full establishment of the Kingdom of God in the earth at A.D. 1914, the terminus of the times of the Gentiles." (C. T. Russell, Thy Kingdom Come, 1891, p. 126).

To back this up, we look also at a few other statements made by the Watchtower prior to 1914. ""But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. (Zion's Watch Tower 1894 July 15 p.226)

"The year A.D. 1878, being the parallel of his assuming power and authority in the type, clearly marks the time for the actual assuming of power as King of kings, by our present, spiritual, invisible Lord...." Studies in the Scriptures - Thy Kingdom Come p.239)

Both 1878, and 1914, we see the same failed prophecy by the Jehovah's Witnesses regarding the return of Yeshua.

Do Jehovah's Witnesses accurately portray their history? Excellent question to ask. What is stated next will demonstrate this to us. "When Jesus said He would come again, He did not mean He would return in the flesh visible to men on earth. He has given up that earthly life as a ransom and therefore, cannot take such life back again...The good news today is that Christ Jesus has come again, that God's Kingdom by Him has been set up and is no ruling in heaven...all the evidence shows that Jesus took up His Kingdom power and began His reign from Heaven in the year 1914." (Pamphlet, "This Good News of the Kingdom", pp. 19, 21).

As with Preterists, the best way to combat this understanding is to demonstrate what was stated in the Bible. See my article here http://hamashiachagape.blogspot.com/2010/08/letter-to-brian-simmons-on-few.html, also, tho written a bit differently, on Brian Simmon's website here http://antipreterist.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/testimony-of-a-former-preterist/

For a fuller list of detailed prophetic failures of the Jehovah's Witnesses, see here - http://ecclesia.org/truth/jw-3.html - although I do see some of this material as ad hominem attacks against Jehovah's Witnesses, the resources are valid. Just FYI for the readers.

A major obstacle will be encountered when discoursing with Jehovah's Witnesses about the above material. We must keep in mind how the Jehovah's Witnesses operate. So in like manner, they may not be open to hearing much of what people have to say. As a matter of fact, one need look at what the Jehovah's Witnesses believe about this as well ""Have No Dealings With Apostates, ... For example, what will you do if you receive a letter or some literature, open it, and see right away that it is from an apostate? Will curiosity cause you to read it, just to see what he has to say? You may even reason: `It won't affect me; I'm too strong in the truth. And besides, if we have the truth, we have nothing to fear. The truth will stand the test.' In thinking this way, some have fed their minds upon apostate reasoning and have fallen prey to serious questioning and doubt." (Watchtower, March 15, 1986 p12) "

The best remedy for this strategy is to do two things. Once again, this is a contradiction within their theology. See "We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God's Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the Truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination" (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, 1968, p. 13). Secondly, we need to encourage them to read the Bible, and to remind them of the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 which states "21Test everything. Hold on to the good."

With JW's utilizing this strategy, we obviously see why it is hard for them to be open to what the Lord truly has to say. Nonetheless, our job is to witness to them, and from there let the Ruach Hakodesh do the rest.

In the end, we can see that the Jehovah's Witnesses understanding is based around a faulty understanding of some essential Biblical doctrine. While we most certainly should not throw the baby out with the bathwater, for the most of its part, the Jehovah's Witness doctrine is Theologically bankrupt, especially as it concerns the understanding of what God is, and what the word of God says. Its also a good reminder of what happens when we add or take away from the scripture of God. Its important to take the Word of God in context within its cultural identity, centered around a Jewish understanding. When we do this, we finally see what God wants out of his creation, and we can start properly living for him the way he intended, and not based upon the interpretation of what man desires.

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