By Andre Holwerda
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the religious organisation that oversees the international movement known as Jehovah's Witnesses (hereafter referred to as JWs). It is one of the largest and most profitable organisations of its type in the world, with its publishing houses producing a greater number of publications per year than all the denominations of Christendom combined. If you live in a major city in almost any part of western society, you have probably experienced that familiar knock at the door on a Saturday morning from two well dressed individuals who wish to talk to you about Armageddon, the end of the present world governments and how you can survive it all and live forever in a kind of paradise on earth. In such a situation as this, many of you would no doubt be tempted to express your views to these people using the time-honoured door-slam method. I write this article to urge you to rethink that particular strategy.
When you are being visited by a pair of JWs, what you are being presented with is your own personal home mission field. You are being visited by two individuals who have been the unfortunate victims of brainwashing. They have been taught not to think independently but to depend almost exclusively on what they are being taught by the Watchtower. There are severe repercussions within the organisation for anyone who dares to entertain an independent thought. This kind of brainwashing is typical of cults and is extremely damaging to mental health. This is one of the primary reasons why instances of mental illness among cult members are statistically far more common than among the general population. It is imperative then, that we as Born Again Christians take the time to carefully witness to these folks who have been seriously deceived by this dangerous cult.
As you can probably tell from the introduction, this article is not designed to be read by Jehovah's Witnesses. Its purpose, rather, is to shed some light on what these people believe and how best to witness to them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Firstly then, let's establish some basic ground rules that should be kept in mind whenever we are dealing with a JW.
- Cultists (and especially JWs) are, as I mentioned already, the victims of mind control. Therefore, much patience, self-control and tact is required when dealing with them. They simply will not understand most arguments from scripture and logic the first time you make those arguments. The importance of this point cannot be overstated.
- JWs are typically well-meaning and, frankly, nice people. You should adopt a similar attitude.
- JWs are trained by their organisation to be teachers rather than learners. They do not come to your door to have you give them a course in theology (although that is what you are subtly going to do). They come to teach YOU about THEIR version of God. So play dumb and act like you want to have them teach you.
- Ask questions! Use buzz words and phrases, such as: "Can you help me?", "I don't understand that. Could you explain it to me please?", "I have a problem with that. Can you give me the answer?"
- Pray! Pray! Pray!
If you keep these five points in mind you will find that your JW friends are more likely to come back again next time. If, instead, you just try to grill them with scripture, one of two things will happen. They may become extremely defensive and offended and will shut down mentally to everything you say and you will have ruined the opportunity. The other possibility is that you will have insufficient knowledge of scripture to deal with their arguments and you will be twisted into a doctrinal pretzel. With all of that said then, let's move on to part two of this article and discuss the beliefs of the Watchtower and how to deal with them.
When you put forward your arguments to a JW you must be sure to focus on only two major themes; the diety of Christ and His resurrection. Of all the unbiblical beliefs held by JWs, their denials of Christ's deity and his physical resurrection are the most damming. Do not allow the JW to distract you from these issues. When you start talking about these things, they WILL attempt to take you down a rabbit trail and get you talking about issues like Hell, the 144,000, corruptions in your version of the Bible and their pet favourite – The Trinity. You must not allow them this luxury but when they attempt this strategy you will simply say, "I'd love to talk to you about that but we'll have to come back to it later because right now I really need you to help me with the issue at hand."
In my experience witnessing to JWs, a very solid and dependable approach is to begin with the resurrection by stating something like this:
"Hey, I was wondering if you could help me with something. I have a problem. You see, I was speaking to another one of your people a little while ago and they said something I didn't quite understand. They said that Jesus, when he was raised from the dead, didn't actually rise in a physical body but came back as a spirit creature. Is that correct?"
The JW will emphatically answer yes and you will say:
"Well, you see now that's my problem! What if Jesus had said that he was going to come back in the same body he had before his death?"
Following this statement, the JW will virulently object, claiming that Jesus never said that. You must keep your cool and assure them that you have in fact found some place where he did say that. You will then, with head-spinning speed, turn to John 2:19-20, where we read:
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?"
You must get the JW to follow along with you in their Bible, which although a woefully inaccurate translation, is nevertheless quite correct in its rendering of this verse. Get them to read those two verses with you if you can and then turn to them and ask:
"Which temple was Jesus talking about?"
In my experience I have received two common answers to this question. One is "I don't know" and the other is "the temple in Jerusalem". Either of these answers will provide the perfect opportunity for you to read the very next verse, which says:
But he was speaking of the temple of his body (emphasis mine).
So there you have it. Jesus promised that he would physically raise himself from the dead. That this is speaking of his resurrection is clear from reading verse 22. It does not say he was speaking of the temple of his spirit but rather his BODY! The Greek word somatos, translated here as 'body', only ever refers to a physical form. Under no circumstances can it possibly mean a spiritual form. In this context it can only have one meaning and that meaning is 'a physical body'. You will press this point to the JW and will not leave John chapter 2 until they are prepared to admit that there is at least a chance that they might be wrong about the resurrection being spiritual. If they will not admit right there and then the possibility that they may have been mislead regarding the resurrection, you must bid them farewell and ask that they please return when they have discovered the answer to your problem. You will remind them that you would be most willing to consider joining their organisation if they could only convince you that what Jesus said about being raised physically was not in fact what occurred. This may or may not get them to return but if nothing else it will hopefully plant a seed of doubt in their mind and get them thinking independently about whether or not what they have been taught is true.
Of course, things may not always go so smoothly when witnessing to a JW. They do have a pre-programmed list of go-to texts up their sleeve that they have been trained to twist in order to provide answers to the claim that Jesus' resurrection was physical. None of their answers are any good, but they are confusing enough to stop the average Christian in their tracks. In another article I will deal specifically with these and other objections and provide tips on how to refute them. However, for now, I would like to give a couple of scripture references you can have up your sleeve that will add further weight to your side of the argument. Those references are as follows:
- Luke 24:36-43 – In this passage Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection and their first reaction is to assume that they have seen a spirit. However, Jesus corrects them and says, "a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have". This statement obviously indicates that Jesus was physical and not a spirit, as the disciples had supposed. Not only that, but he also ate with the disciples. Since when does a spirit eat?
- John 20:24-27 – In this passage Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples, states that he will not believe the reports of Christ's resurrection unless he personally sees him and touches him. In order to counteract Thomas' unbelief, Jesus does appear to Thomas eight days later and does allow him to place his fingers in his wounds. So not only was Jesus able to be touched (thereby demonstrating his physical nature) but he also still bore the wounds of his crucifixion, thus confirming that he still possessed the same body he had before his crucifixion. Verses 28-29 of John 20 will also come in very handy when we begin to deal with the issue of the deity of Christ.
To summarise then, the John 2 reference, when combined with Luke 24 and John 20, provides a cogent argument for the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. This argument stands in stark contrast to the teaching of the Watchtower that Jesus' resurrection was only spiritual and not physical. Frankly, this argument is unanswerable from a Biblical standpoint. JWs cannot make a solid defence against it. They will, however, attempt to take certain texts out of context and twist their meanings in an attempt to confuse you enough to get you off the subject. I will deal with these attempts in my third and final article. My next article, however, will present some arguments that I recommend using to make a case for the deity of Christ. Again, remember that when talking to a JW the two issues of greatest concern are the resurrection of Christ and the deity of Christ. All other issues are peripheral and should be treated as such. In fact, it may be best to avoid them altogether if at all possible.
Soli Deo Gloria!