Engaging with a Jehovah’s Witness
Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be Christian, they are preaching a false gospel. Most notably, they do not accept the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, or justification by faith alone. Rather, they believe that Jesus is the archangel Michael, that He was crucified on a pole rather than a cross, and that He did not have a bodily resurrection. However, even though they are not Christians, they do claim to base their beliefs off of the Bible, and we ought to resolutely stick to the Bible when engaging with them.
An organization called the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society started the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1870s as a part of the “Bible Student movement” under Charles Taze Russell. Jehovah’s Witnesses, similar to many Muslims, will be ostracized from their community and completely cut off from their family for leaving their faith. For this reason, it is very rare that a Jehovah’s Witness will be interested in leaving their faith, perhaps because of the extreme impact that it will have on their life and relationships. This impact is worsened by other facts, including that they are usually forbidden from attending college, not allowed to be friends with anyone that is not a Jehovah’s Witness, and declared an apostate in front of the whole Kingdom Hall.
The Watch Tower also produced the New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible, which has seriously changed many parts of the text to fit their interpretation. Most notably, they changed John 1:1 from “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (ESV) to “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” (NWT).
Jehovah’s Witnesses are radically brainwashed and entrenched in their beliefs. Due to this, it is essential that Christians love them and never give up on them. It may be easy to lose your temper with them due to their lack of reasoning, but that does not give them a good example of the true God, who is patient. So, be patient, try to spot the fallacies and errors in their arguments. Finally, remember that while almost every verse they use against you will be taken out of context, it is God who will work in their hearts to save them rather than your apologetics.
Approaching Jehovah’s Witnesses
When approaching a Watch Tower stand, know that the Witnesses are there to engage. They are out, giving their time freely, without pay, to talk to people, so don’t be afraid! As I approach, I usually introduce myself and let them know that I am a Christian. Then, I ask them a question, typically saying, “I was just wondering about this passage…” or “Can you let me know what you think about this verse?” or “How did you become a Jehovah’s Witness?” Now, Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that Christians are deceived. They believe that Christians believe in a false gospel and they will try and to use a variety of tactics and and verses to sway us. Most commonly, they change the subject when presented with evidence that contradicts their view of the gospel. They will try and talk about the church’s role in government, the devil and his plans, or they will simply walk away from a conversation. Do not be led astray or distracted. Bring them back to the point that they are fleeing from and show them why Jesus is God. In order to make the most out of a conversation, a full defense of the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity is necessary. You must be ready with verses that prove Jesus’ divinity and the Trinity.
Engaging the Witnesses with Scripture
More often than not, I will begin by referring to two passages, Psalm 102:25-27 and Hebrews 1:10-12. Psalm 102:25-27 clearly refers to Jehovah. If you look at the beginning of the chapter, before verse 1 your Bible, like mine, will probably say “A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD.” Noting this is very important before starting a dialogue. After reading these verses, lead them to Hebrews 1:10-12, again looking at the beginning of the chapter to point out the phrase before verse 1, “The Supremacy of God’s Son.” Now that you know Hebrews 1 is talking about Jesus, bring them to verses 10-12, noting that they are quoting Psalm 102. Any intellectually honest person, who values the inerrancy of the Bible, would have to note, after reading these two passages, that Jesus is God. If A=B and B=C, then A=C. If one passage is about God and that same passage is also about Jesus, then Jesus is God.
After bringing up the last two verses, the Witness who you are talking to may think that you are polytheistic. Remember, they are not trinitarian and they think the Trinity we believe in is either a contradiction of Scripture or a belief in three different gods. If this happens, explain to them, as simply as you can, the concept of the Trinity, making sure to say God is three in Persons, one in being. Be careful not to bring up any dangerous metaphors like the three states that water can exist in because often these can have characteristics that definitely do not apply to the Triune God. For instance, water can change from solid to liquid to gas, but the Father never becomes the Son, etc… After you explain the Trinity, point to the Bible verse Genesis 1:1. Explain to them that in the original Hebrew, the word for God (Elohim) is plural, and the word for created (bara) is singular. This doesn’t seem right if you do not believe in the Trinity, but God’s word is inerrant, and there are no contradictions anywhere in it.
Jehovah’s Witnesses correctly believe that Jehovah alone raised Jesus from the dead. Acts 4:10 clearly helps affirm this belief but then John 2:19-21 explicitly states that Jesus raised himself from the dead. These cannot both be true within their theology. Never have I been in a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness that has been able to explain to me how this could be possible if Jesus wasn’t actually Jehovah. They either change the subject or they say that they don’t know and that they’ll have to get back to you. This is one of the most convincing passages of the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. However, you may want to wait to reference John 2:19-21, and Acts 4:10 first. I like to ask them, “so just to be sure, it was Jehovah who raised Jesus from the grave, correct?” and have them affirm that so when they see Jesus saying that he will raise up his own body from the grave they cannot simply deny the first statement.
The passage (Col. 1) must be understood in order to refute a common Jehovah’s Witness belief. The Watch Tower believes that Jesus is God’s first “creation.” They believe that he was made by God in the beginning as the master builder and that Jesus, God’s first creation, helped God to create the world. They pervert a couple of verses to justify the heresy that Jesus was a creation, rather than the Creator, but Colossians 1:15 is the most common. They believe that when Paul says that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation,” he is saying that Jesus was created. Going back to the original Greek for this is extremely helpful. The word that is used for “firstborn” is prototokos. This word is a title, meaning preeminence. It does not mean, in any translation, that Jesus was created in any way. If Paul actually wanted to say that Jesus was created, he could have used the word protoplastos, which clearly means “first created.” It might be helpful to reference the remaining sections of this passage, Colossians 1:16-20 to show how the chapter continues to describe Christ’s preeminence.
There are numerous other verses and arguments that can be used against the Watchtower, but these are just a few that I use to refute their major heresies. Again, do not become angry, impatient, or disappointed when they do not respond the way that you expect. For many of them, dying would sound more appealing than becoming an apostate and being kicked out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Also, be sure to know the preceding arguments front and back as Scripture commands us, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15b). If you get stuck and they bring up things that you were not prepared for, that is a great opportunity to show grace and to set an example for them by actually going home and studying what the Bible says for yourself.