Evangelizing Jehovah’s WitnessesTRENT HORN
Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that all other Christian churches represent “apostate Christendom,” and only the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (which is the spiritual leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) can be trusted. In order to make headway with Witnesses, you must challenge this foundational belief.
Unlike Mormon missionaries, who receive very little theological training before they go out and knock on doors, Jehovah's Witnesses spend countless hours studying and practicing for conversations with potential converts. Most of their preparation focuses on answering arguments about the Bible and does not prepare them for questions like, "Why did you become a Jehovah's Witness?" If they mention that they are former Catholics, this can be a good opportunity to discuss any mistaken views of the Church they may still possess.
Due to the amount of study they engage in, the Witnesses are skilled at wielding dozens of memorized Bible verses to defend their beliefs. Even if you reply to these verses with sound biblical arguments of your own, the Witnesses can always dismiss your argument by saying, "That's just your (incorrect) interpretation."
Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that all other Christian churches represent "apostate Christendom," and only the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (which is the spiritual leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses) can be trusted. In order to make headway with Witnesses, you must challenge this foundational belief.
Ask the Witnesses to explain why you should believe (1) that the Catholic Church lost its God-given authority to interpret Scripture and proclaim doctrine and (2) that the Watchtower is God's official organization on Earth with his authority to interpret Scripture.
In regard to the first topic, the Witnesses might cite Scripture verses that describe those who fell away from the faith in the early Church (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 2 Timothy 1:15, and Galatians 1:6-7). But these verses show only that some members of the Church fell away from the Faith, not all of them. This happens in all religions, including the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose early disaffected members left to form other groups such as the Dawn Bible Students. These groups still exist and share JW theology, though they do not recognize the authority of the Watchtower. This shows that the defection of some Christians from the early Church is not proof that the Church lost its divine authority.
Along with the lack of evidence that a total apostasy took place, there is positive evidence that such an apostasy could never have taken place. Acts 1:20 describes how the apostles could pass on their authority to future bishops. In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus makes Peter "the rock" on which his Church would be built and gives him "the keys to the kingdom." In Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, "I am with you always until the end of the age"; and Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20-21, "To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen."
You can always ask the Witnesses, "Why should I believe that almighty God would allow his Church to perish from the face of the Earth and then wait 1,800 years to restore it? Didn't Jesus tell Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church?" (Matthew 16:18).
The Watchtower makes it clear that one's salvation depends on trusting and obeying "the faithful and discreet slave." This term used to refer to a class of people destined for heaven, but since 2012 it has referred to the Governing Body in Brooklyn, New York, composed of seven men who lead the Jehovah's Witnesses.
One Watchtower article says, "Without the assistance of 'the faithful and discreet slave' we would neither understand the full import of what we read in God's Word nor know how to apply it." Another says, "Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same?" Finally, one article goes so far as to say, "Just as Noah and his God-fearing family were preserved in the ark, survival of individuals today depends on their faith and their loyal association with the earthly part of Jehovah's universal organization."
Jehovah's Witnesses do not appeal to any miraculous intervention from God as proof that the Watchtower has God's authority. In fact, many of their publications don't present any arguments or evidence for this claim; it's simply assumed. In its 2005 book, Organized To Do Jehovah's Will, the Watchtower says, "There are many reasons to have complete trust in the slave class. First and foremost, Jesus has appointed them over all his precious 'belongings.' This is a clear indication that he has complete trust in them."
But notice that this is simply an assumption dressed up as evidence. In other words, "How do you know Jesus has given the Watchtower special authority? Because Jesus has given the Watchtower special authority!" Organized goes on to say, "Second, God's Word admonishes Christians to cooperate fully with those taking the lead. . . . Through much hardship and experience, the slave class has demonstrated that the spirit of God is with it." Once again, these reasons to could apply to any Church, including the Catholic Church, which has a better claim to having served God for 2,000 years "through much hardship and experience."
Only when the Witnesses begin to see that the Watchtower is untrustworthy can they be open to seeing which Church really does have God's authority. One way to do that is to ask them why they believe the Bible is God's word or why the Bible has its specific canon of books. You can show the Witnesses how the Catholic Church best explains why we can trust the inspiration and canon of Scripture we have today.
Instead of saying, "Jehovah's Witnesses believe X" or "You people believe X," always phrase your objections in the form of, "Why does the Watchtower teach X?" or "I have a hard time accepting that God leads the Watchtower in light of X." This will make the Witnesses less defensive or that you are attacking them personally.
Ask them to help you explain why the Watchtower:
Deuteronomy 18:22 states that a person is not a prophet if he makes a prediction that fails to come to pass. Jehovah's Witnesses will respond that the Watchtower is not acting as a prophet but is "still learning." However, not only does this contradict previous Watchtower claims to being "God's prophet," it also leads to a simple yet intractable problem: if the Watchtower is "still learning," why trust anything it teaches now? If God were really guiding the Watchtower, then why would he allow his "spirit-led" organization to lead so many people into error about the end of the world? The simplest answer to these questions is that men, not God, guide the Watchtower, and so it should not be trusted with our eternal salvation.
This should go without saying, but use only language that you would be comfortable with others using in reference to you. You shouldn't refer to the guests at your front door as being members of a "cult" that has "brainwashed" them. How would you respond to a Protestant who spoke of the Catholic Church in such a manner? You would probably be unreceptive to his message, no matter what he had to say.
Instead, you should always be mindful to follow the admonition of 1 Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence."
Trent Horn. "Evangelizing Jehovah's Witnesses." Catholic Answers.
Reprinted with permission from Catholic Answers.
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