As I am sure many of you have, we had Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on our door recently. We had several discussions with them over a few weeks, developing a friendship but reaching an impasse in our conversation. I felt a burden to write them a letter, and also to share it here. I’ve removed any specific or personal information to protect their privacy.
If you are Christian, please pray for these people. If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read and carefully consider this, I beg you. All others, I also ask you to read and consider.
We want you to know that we greatly appreciate that you took the time to know us, to spend time with us, and care enough to share with us what you feel is of highest importance in this life. I hope you know that we love Yahweh and we love His Word. We have deep and profound respect for the Word of God and are bound by what God has told us in the Bible. We seek to study and know the Bible – not just to say we can quote it or throw pieces of it out during an argument, but because it is the very mind and heart of the God we serve revealed to us. We search and learn the scriptures so that we can know Him more intimately and worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Having said that, we take very seriously challenges to our beliefs. When we are confronted with teaching from the Scriptures that differ from what we hold to be true, we are careful not to simply dismiss it out of hand, but to carefully and prayerfully measure it up against God’s Word, to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We are loyal first and foremost to God and His truth. We believe what we believe because we believe it is biblical, but we are not loyal to our beliefs simply because it is what our parents have taught us, or our church, or our denominational creeds. We are loyal to these things only insofar as they are true to the Scriptures. Moreover, we are bound so closely to the Word of God that if we can be shown from the Bible error in our personal belief, we will change our belief and submit to the true teaching of the Scriptures. We have both experienced this humbling correction in our lives before. God’s Word truly is useful for “correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
As we examine the Scriptures and measure teachings and doctrines against it, we are also careful to consider the whole counsel of God, and not to pick and choose verses and phrases out of context simply to make a point. How and where and when and why and by whom something is said is just as important as what is said. The classic out-of-context example of reading Scripture is “Judas… hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5), “Go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). We absolutely do not want to be guilty of this kind of mishandling of the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
So when you came to our door, though we had heard rumors of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses before, we sought to give a fair investigation to the claims of your church. We hope you felt respected by us as you shared your hearts. The questions we asked and the challenges we raised were truly to seek better understanding, to ensure that we heard what you were actually saying rather than jumping to a conclusion or making an assumption. Rightly so, we approach any new teaching presented to us with a wise amount of biblically concerned caution, but it was a caution that aimed to give grace and the benefit of the doubt.
We have read through the tracts you left for us, as well as investigated your church’s website. We sought to consider what you said from your point of view, not just from the point of view of disgruntled ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses online. We reasoned that if the claims your church makes are true, then they will be able to stand up to all criticism. All truth is God’s truth, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).
As we studied and researched, we grew uneasy. And that unease grew into full-blown concern and fear for you. It became increasingly evident to us that your church’s organization is characterized by half-truths and deliberate deceptions, manipulations of the Word of truth that lead to false hopes and empty promises.
We have utmost respect for you as sincere people and do not want to belabor the point. But with such a bold claim, we feel we must offer at least a couple of examples. Please, we beg of you, investigate these things for yourself. Please, we implore you, return the favor and do not dismiss us out of hand but give this a fair investigation. Your very eternal lives are at stake.
We did read and consider the tract you left, “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” This tract – more than anything else we have studied, read, or heard – made us incredibly fearful for you. We learned something incredibly important about the Watch Tower Society while reading this pamphlet: that the Watch Tower is accustomed to blatant misrepresentation of sources and intentionally deceptive misquotations. If we had read nothing else, knew nothing else, and had heard nothing else about Jehovah’s Witnesses, this tract alone would engender in us a deep and profound distrust toward your church.
We could write pages and pages in response to this single tract, but instead we will offer just one example and strongly encourage you to follow up by looking up the various resources and “scholars” quoted within the tract. “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” uses as one of its main evidences a book by Arthur Weigall entitled The Paganism in Our Christianity to support the Watch Tower claim that the concept of the trinity is fundamentally a pagan concept that has corrupted true biblical teaching on the nature and essence of Yahweh.
Please do a google search of Mr. Weigall. If you can, get your hands on a copy of his book and peruse his argument for yourself.
In a matter of just a few minutes you will discover two things:
First, Arthur Weigall was not a biblical scholar, a theologian, learned in Biblical languages, or even Christian in his own personal philosophy. He was an Egyptologist by training and trade. He did not believe in any of the Bible as the Word of God and did not claim any sort of Christian faith for himself.
Second, his book claims that many other doctrines were also of pagan origin. He outright rejects the writings of Paul as canonical Scripture and claims foundational biblical teachings like the existence of angelic beings, the concept of the devil/Satan, the virgin birth, and many aspects of the life of Jesus are pagan in origin.
In the matter of the first point, Weigall cannot be quoted as an “authority” on the subject either academically or theologically. He cannot be quoted as accurate “representative” of either the Christian perspective or the Watch Tower perspective. His opinions on the subject are just that, subjective opinions that hold no credibility in the discussion of the origins of the concept of the trinity.
In the matter of the second point, it is irresponsible and inconsistent to use Weigall’s work to defend one single pet point and reject the rest of his work. If the Watch Tower agrees with Weigall’s assessment that the trinity is pagan, that is great. However, to be consistent and credible, they also must agree with his assessment that other beliefs of theirs are pagan as well. From what I know of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they do not. We cannot take seriously an argument made which loyally quotes part of a source and disagrees wholesale with the rest of it.
This is either irresponsible and misguided scholarship at best or direct and deliberate deception at worst. In the first case, we can give the benefit of the doubt to the Watch Tower Society as an organization that means well but we still refuse to trust it because it misses the mark. In the second case, we absolutely cannot trust the Watch Tower Society and must speak out actively against its lies. If the Watch Tower handles extra-biblical sources this way, can we remotely trust how it handles the Scriptures?
Unfortunately, as we’ve read more about the teaching and claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have seen this tendency and pattern. Over and over we have seen deliberate or irresponsible misquotations and out-of-context references that have been manipulated to give support for what the original author never meant to support. While investigating the scholarly “support” for the New World Translation given on jw.org, it became clear that every single scholar given was grossly misquoted and misrepresented. We would strongly encourage you to begin researching the sources your Watch Tower uses and evaluate whether they are trustworthy. Please do not just take the quotations at face value. To do so insults not only the men and women who are misquoted, but insults Yahweh himself by refusing to evaluate the claims made about Him.
“By their fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:16), as you emphasized repeatedly to us. You are correct. “Fruit” is not simply door-to-door evangelism. If that were the case, your church is not the only one bearing this fruit. The Mormons are well-known for their door-to-door mission work. We, as protestant Christians, have also been involved with door-to-door evangelism. The fruit we have seen of the Watch Tower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses has been the fruit of deliberate deception and disregard for accurate and responsible handling of the Word of truth. This is especially alarming considering the context of the passage above, “Beware of false prophets,” Jesus says, explaining these false prophets will on the final day “say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:15-23).
What fruit should we look for then? The fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:13). We wish we could say we have seen Jehovah’s Witnesses bearing this fruit. We have not.
This is of utmost importance for you. Scripture has some very strong warnings for false teachers and those who bring a false gospel. “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).
What is the gospel we received?
Yahweh created by His Word a beautiful, perfect, good world (Genesis 1:10, 18, 25, 31; John 1:1-2). In this world, He placed His image-bearers, Adam and Eve, and breathed His very own Spirit into them to give them life (Genesis 1:27; 2:7).
They rebelled. They directly disobeyed God’s instruction and offended Him deeply, bringing upon themselves the curse of death (Genesis 3:16-19) and subjecting all of creation to the curse brought by their sin (Romans 8:20-21). In the sin of Adam, we all sinned (Romans 2:12; 3:23; especially 5:12-14), and because of Adam’s sin, we all – as sinners – are objects of God’s holy and good and righteous and just wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 5:9; 9:22; Ephesians 2:3; Revelation 14:19). Yes, wrath. The Scriptures speak not only of the “grave” (Sheol and Hades), but also of “hell” (Gehenna/The Valley of Hinnom and the “lake of fire” – cf. Revelation 20:14-15; Jeremiah 19:2-6; Luke 12:5). Those who refuse to repent not only die but also experience the “second death” (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8) in which God rightly and justly punishes them for the depth and profundity of their crimes against Him. This is not cruel or unjust of God and in no way compromises His grace and love and mercy. This displays His holiness and righteousness and justice (Romans 3:5; 9:22-24) as well as demonstrating the seriousness of our sin against Him (Genesis 3:3; Numbers 18:22; 32:23; Ezekiel 3:19). We all deserve this (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:12, 23; 6:23; Revelation 21:8), and God would be completely justified if He saved none of us from this.
This is the bad news of the gospel. God has displayed this truth through His creation, leaving all men “without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).
The good news is that this is not the end of the gospel. God in His grace and love chose to deal with our sin. He could not just turn a blind eye and pardon it without compromising His holiness and purity and righteousness. In His love and grace, He decided to dole out the full measure of His wrath for our sin on Jesus, the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). So who is this Jesus? He is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3); He is the Word of God, through whom all was created (John 1:1); He is the Son of God, exalted by the Father and given the Name that is above all Names (Matthew 14:33; 27:54; John 1:34; 10:36; 19:7); He is worthy to receive our worship (Matthew 14:33; 28:9-10; Luke 24:50-53; John 9:38; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:13-14); He is Yahweh God (John 1:1; 5:18; 8:58; 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 1:17-18; cf. Isaiah 44:6). Being fully and equally God, He emptied Himself of His claim to heavenly rights and became fully human like us (Philippians 2:5-11), our perfect representative and the second Adam (Romans 5:15). He never once sinned but lived a life in perfect submission to the entire law of God – an accomplishment that we sinful humans could never hope to attain (Hebrews 4:14-15). And despite His blemish-free perfection, He submitted to death and the pouring out of God’s wrath against our sin, satisfying the demands of divine justice on our behalf and bearing the curse of the Fall (Deuteronomy 21:23; John 19:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).
And then Jesus was physically raised from the dead (Matthew 28:5-10; Mark 16:6; especially Luke 24:39-43; John 20:27-29; 21:13-14; Acts 1:3). His death was bodily (Matthew 27:50, 59; Mark 15:37, 45; Luke 23:46; John 19:32-37). If He did not rise in body, then He did not rise. If Christ was not raised, our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17) and we are most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). In His physical resurrection, Jesus conquered death for us, removing its power and sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) and promised our own bodily resurrection when He returns (1 Corinthians 15:49; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
He removed our sins from us, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12; Colossians 2:14), so there is no more wrath or judgment left for those who are in Christ (Romans 5:6-9; 8:1). But even more than this. We are not simply declared “sin free,” we are declared “justified” and “righteous.” The perfect righteousness of Christ was given to us (Romans 3:26; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Philippians 3:9). Christ’s blood covers us (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:11-14). This means God sees that our sin has been paid for in His blood and that we wear the perfect righteousness of Jesus (Hebrews 10:14). This is so much more than mere “unmerited kindness.” This is grace. We have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) – the completely and profoundly undeserved gift of love and favor from the God we deeply offended who chose to pour out His just punishment on His own perfectly innocent Son instead of on us. We cannot add anything at all to this, and if we try to add our own merit to the finished work of Christ (John 19:30), we nullify His sacrifice and bring ourselves back under the curse of the broken law (Galatians 2:20-21; 3:10; 5:2-4).
It is God who calls us to repentance (Revelation 2:5, 16). It is God who justifies us in Christ (Romans 3:26, 30; Galatians 3:8). It is the righteousness of Jesus that we place our hope in (Titus 3:4-7; 1 Peter 1:13). It is God who makes us alive (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 2:5). Our good works add nothing to this, they are merely evidence of this (John 14:15; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14; James 2:26).
This is the reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). We look forward with confident hope for the return of Christ, at which every knee will bow and tongue proclaim Him as Lord to the glory of the Father (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). We look forward to the day when all the saints in the New Heavens and the New Earth will worship the Lamb and proclaim His glory (Revelation 5:12-14; 7:10).
Dear friends, we long for the day you bow before Jesus with us. We pray for the salvation of your souls. With Jesus and John we urge you to repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17), a Kingdom that does not consist in talk but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20)!
As always, I welcome comments, responses, considerations, challenges, and questions. One again, however, I remind you that I reserve the right to delete and moderate distasteful remarks. Please season your responses with grace, truth, and love. If you believe I am in error, I welcome biblical correction with open arms.