Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door Pt. 2

As I wrote about in my last blog, I love Jehovah’s Witnesses and pretty much any religion that makes their people knock on my door. Well, if you read my last blog, than you know that I am troubled by the very brief amount of time that they last in my house. But, I finally found a question that didn’t immediately make them sprint to the nearest exit: if we both agree that God is love, then how is a Unitarian God, a non-multi-relational being able to actually be love?

This made them think a bit, and, while they still rushed back to the door, they assured me that they would come back with the “real” truth and a good answer. This made me smile, both inside and out. The date was set for 8/12 at 10 AM CT, they were going to give me the truth!

Well, I spent most of yesterday preparing a presentation for them. I wanted to make it as JW-friendly as possible. I started with simple Greek. The reason I wanted to do this is because ALL New Testament translations come from it. So, we were going to compare what the writers said to what was in the Jehovah Witnesses’ New World Translation, hereafter NWT.

So, this morning, right on time, they knocked on my door.

We sat down and I said, “Ok, what do you have for me?”. They had thought about my question and offered their solution: We are able to love others because we are made in God’s image and he is love. So, like Him, we love others, and this is how God loves. I responded “But the question wasn’t are we able to love like God, or are we in His image, but how is God, on his own within Himself, able to be love itself?” I then granted that due to being made in God’s image, we have the capacity to love, but that doesn’t make us love itself, does it? Their answer had missed the point entirely.

This all took place within a minute or two and they were already out of ammo. This really irritated them and one of them repeatedly jumped off the couch and shouted insults at me.

Jehovah’s Witnesses think that Jesus is a created being through which God created the universe (usually Michael the Archangel), and not divine. So, we started with words that commonly mean different things now, but were very different in ancient Greek. For example, “begotten”, which appears in John 3:16 (which is protokos and was used to describe rank, not creation). Then, “firstborn”, which appears in Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:16 (which is monogenes and means to be a special part of a certain type of relationship). Next, I wanted to address the Jewish culture and the claims of divinity made by Jesus and the Jewish audiences’ response of shock when he described himself as “I AM” (which is, in Greek, ego eimi and strict term for God and “I AM” is used in the OT to describe God alone). Then, I wanted to talk about the Holy Spirit’s equality with God. Finally, I wanted to use the New World Translation’s words against their own theology.

JWs claim the Holy Spirit is an impersonal “tool” or a “force” used by God. I explained how in original Greek language, the Holy Spirit has a mind (Rom. 8:27), is personal and speaks (Acts 13:2), is eternal (Hebrews 9:4), and is referred to as equal with God (Acts 5:3-4).

But they, verse after verse, kept doing something that astonished me. The kept looking in their JW bible and saying, “No, that’s not true! Look here!”

Over and over I kept telling them that it didn’t matter what translation we referred to because this is the original language, but they just kept doing it. It was unbelievable. I kept thinking, “Wow, there’s no way I’m going to be able to describe the Trinity to these guys”.

I was just like “Whatever, OK, let’s move on”.

I advanced to the JW’s absolute massacre of John 1:1. Those of Orthodoxy, such as readers of the New International Version, hereafter NIV, know this verse well: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”[1]. It is like this in all major translations because there is no other way in which to translate it.

In Greek, it reads “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward the God, and God was the Word.” In Greek, if there is no article before a noun, then at times you add an “a” or “an”, depending on the grammar.

John organized the verse like this in order to express the subject. In Greek, finding the subject of a sentence is done by looking at the end of the word, but God and Word have the same word endings. So, “ God” is the direct object and “the” means that the “ word” was the subject.

But JWs add the article “a” BEFORE “GOD”, making the verse:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was a god.”[2]  This makes the whole sentence nonsense in Greek.

Gibberish abounds in the NWT. For instance in Hebrews 1:8, the NWT reinterprets it as, “God is your throne forever”[3]. This statement on its own makes no sense whatsoever, especially in light of traditional interpretations, such as the NIV, which say, “But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever . . .[4]

I compared all of the passages back to its original Greek and showed that it was grammatically belligerent when compared to the NWT.

I was astonished even further that they didn’t understand this either. They kept referring back to their bible and saying, “Aha! It says here he is a god!” I continued to reply, “Yes! That’s the problem!”

Then the angry one accused me of not being able to speak on the matter because I wasn’t Greek.

It was at this point that I finally admitted to myself that I am, in fact, dealing with members of a cult.

I always gave some JWs a greater benefit of doubt than I do with other sects, mainly because I knew their bible was not quite as far off from others’ as many think.

Exhausted, I jumped past my “Were these ideas added to the NT over time (which is really ironic, since the NWT is a 19th Century translation) to the final steps of my presentation: show New World Translated scriptures in which articles are not added, showing that Jesus was God just like Orthodox translations, such as the NIV.

For example, NWT’s John 20:28, in which Thomas calls Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”[5]

And in the NIV, it says, “Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”[6]

Or the NWT’s Mt 3:3 that says, “Listen! Someone is crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of Jehovah, YOU people! Make his roads straight”. [7]

He is talking about Jehovah, right? Then why is John the Baptist pronouncing the entrance of Jesus?

He definitely was in the NIV, “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”[8]

It is the Orthodox view that Jesus is the second person of the Triune God and is “the first and the last”, “Alpha and Omega”, and “I AM”, and, like I earlier described, were statements used in the OT that are reserved for God alone.

And there are multiple NWT statements of Jehovah’s being “first and last” (Isaiah 44:6, 44:12, to name a couple) but then the NWT’s translation of Revelation 1:17-18 says, “And when I saw him, I fell as dead at his feet. And he laid his right hand upon me and said: ‘Do not be fearful. I am the First and the Last, and the living one; and I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Hades”[9]

How does Jesus suddenly claim to be the “first and last”? And how does the “first and last” die? This would require an Incarnate God with a human form to die in, right?

Or the NWT’s Isaiah 44:24, “This is what Jehovah has said, your Repurchaser and the Former of you from the belly: “I, Jehovah, am doing everything, stretching out the heavens by myself…”[10]’.

So where is Jesus, this created creator of the cosmos?

There are literally dozens of other NWT passages that defeat their own theology.

But it was all too little too late. As they were leaving, I was asking them “Hold on, guys. What about your own scriptures?”

They paused. Even the frantic one offered radio silence. Staring at the ground, they gently replied, “We’ll think about it”.

Their leader handed me a small book called “What Does The Bible Really Say?”. This writing turned out to be an elementary-level attempt at theology (at least a third of it was in picture form), and after the meager hour it took to read through it, a more apt title could be something along the lines of “How To Butcher Both Testaments While Becoming A Theological Legalist”.

I sat down in bewilderment. I thought, “What the hell, God?”

But as the day moved on, I found some wisdom and positive advice for apologists: there is no thinking outside of the JW box for a Jehovah’s Witness. So my advice would be the following:

  1. Start with their scriptures. Words don’t seem to have any meaning to them unless they are found within their own translation.
  2. Don’t give them the credit that you think a normal person is due. That doesn’t mean treat them with disrespect, just don’t assume that they are prone to rational inquiry when discussing their faith.
  3. Remember that their psyche is no different from some of those whom one wouldn’t typically call a “cult member”. This week, I have actually met several “flat-earthers” (yeah, that’s a thing), and their confirmation bias is essentially identical to those of a cult member. Walk their own logic out with them, no matter how absurd it is. There’s a serious possibility that you’re dealing with a moderately to severely psychologically and/or emotionally damaged person.
  4. Just like in any other conversation, be patient and kind. JWs knock in pairs and the leaders that I’ve met often go from happy to agitated once given an outright objection, so being the level-headed one in the room will offer a contrast to the their subject in training. Sometimes their embarrassment is clear. Over a decade ago, I was in training as a door to door electrical sales agent and I remember my rude and short-tempered team leaders’ behavior like it was yesterday. It left a mark on me.
  5. Let them know that it is impossible for them to be in a saving relationship with God without recognizing and worshipping Jesus.

For my general readership, this is just the tip of the iceberg. But what you need to take away from what you’ve read so far is that JWs believe that Jesus was not God in any way, shape, or form. Therefore, it is abominable to put their whole trust in him, or to worship him. This means that they are outside of a saving relationship with God. The doctrine I’ve explained is why they are a cult.

It is also a major reason why they knock doors, they cannot know they are saved so they must put in “good works”. I’ve discussed this with many of their leaders and you have to squeeze it out of them, but that is definitely why they do it. The more they bring into the Kingdom Hall, the more sure they can be of their salvation. Their desperation for God is twisted into a disturbing antithesis to freedom in Christ.

It is a part of their theology that Jesus’ death and resurrection was only a fraction of atonement (which, by definition, is not cogent since atonement literally means “reparation”, which means “to make amends” or to “make whole”).

Their soteriology (doctrine of salvation), ultimately leaves Jesus as no better than offerings made to God in the OT. That is because the idea that Jesus is not divine, but perfect due to the causation of a “force” named the Holy Spirit, renders Christ a determinate subject who lacks the free will required in order to be a flawless and also voluntary offering for humankind’s sins. More simply put, in JW theology, Jesus’ decision to go to cross was not a decision at all. He could not have done otherwise. In Orthodox theology, Jesus couldn’t have done otherwise because he is God and God is perfect in all aspects and, by definition, cannot sin. So when he is on the cross and says “It is finished”, it was finished. Not so for the JW.

So they keep on knocking.

But this leads me to my final suggestion for apologists:

The JW wants the Gospel, but they are missing the point. Yes, they’re brainwashed. There are no “in-house debates” for them. There is no real systematic theology to expect from them. Our role as Christians and apologists is to, as Greg Koukl says, “Put a rock in their shoe.”

Leave them with questions that their leaders cannot answer, proposed to them by Christians who can.

That is our role, that is our mission. And it is a rare occasion when a mission knocks on your door. So thank God for that and remember 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord, and always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within you.”[11]

That hope can be theirs as well.

[1] John 1:1. Zondervan New International Version Study Bible. 4th Ed. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan. 2008, Print.

[2] John 1:1. New World Translation. 1st Ed Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1961, Print.

[3] Hebrews 1:8. New World Translation. 1st Ed Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1961, Print

[4] Hebrews 1:8. Zondervan New International Version Study Bible. 4th Ed. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan. 2008, Print.

[5] Mark 20:28. New World Translation. 1st Ed Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1961, Print.

[6] Mark 20:28. Zondervan New International Version Study Bible. 4th Ed. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan. 2008, Print.

[7] Matthew 3:3. New World Translation. 1st Ed Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1961, Print

[8] Matthew 3:3. Zondervan New International Version Study Bible. 4th Ed. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan. 2008, Print.

[9] Revelation 1:17-18. New World Translation. 1st Ed Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1961, Print.

[10] Isaiah 44:24. New World Translation. 1st Ed Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1961, Print.

[11] 1st Peter 3:15. Zondervan New International Version Study Bible. 4th Ed. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan. 2008, Print

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