On Jehovah’s Witnesses

800px-Kingdom_Hall_of_Jehovah's_Witnesses,_Burgess_Hill_Public_Domain
A Typical Worship Center for Jehovah’s Witnesses

Who are those nice folks coming to your door witnessing for Jehovah? Well, I could go into a long story about their origin, peculiar practices, problematic “prophecies,” and methods of psychological coercion, but that would just make for a long post. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, better known as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” is actually a very old religion, given a 19th-century, American, modern twist. It’s Arianism.

What is Arianism? Well, I wrote about it extensively here. Arianism was condemned by Christianity in the early 4th century as a heretical religion that was no longer Christian in nature. It’s named after a rogue, 4th-century priest name Arius, who taught that Jesus Christ is not divine, and that there is no Trinity. Arius taught that God the Father, alone, is God, and that Jesus Christ was a demigod, a separate divine-like figure who was not fully God at all. Likewise, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a belief system that is almost identical. They teach that there is no Trinity, and that God the Father (alone) is God, and that Jesus Christ is a demigod-like creature, known in heaven as the Archangel Michael. The one major difference between classical Arianism and modern Jehovah’s Witnesses is this. Classical Arians taught that it was okay to worship Jesus Christ, just like Christianity teaches, but modern Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. Instead, Jehovah’s Witnesses (modern-day Arians) insist that only God the Father (whom they call “Jehovah”) is to be worshiped (hence the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses”), and that worship of Jesus Christ is misplaced and idolatrous. At this point, I recommend reading my essay on Arianism if you already haven’t. Arianism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are almost identical, with the exception of the worship of Jesus. Arians said it was okay. Jehovah’s Witnesses say it’s not.

The identity of a religion is defined by it’s definition of deity. In other words, how a religion defines God (or gods) determines that religion’s identity. For example; Hindus worship many gods, in a complex pantheon, which is based on their regional and ethnic experience. Thus Hinduism is polytheist (worship of many gods) and is a distinctively different religion — entirely — from monotheist religions. Likewise, Islam and Judaism are two completely different religions, even though they both claim the existence and exclusive worship of only one God. Judaism considers the identity of God to be exclusively revealed in their Law (Torah) and Prophets, a revelation that ended (in their view) more than 2,000 years ago. This God of the Jews (Yahweh or יהוה) has very specific characteristics and demands, which are very different from the God of Islam (Allah) who has very different characteristics and demands, and is based on the revelations of their own prophet who lived just 1,388 years ago. While both religions are absolutely monotheist (worship of one God), nobody in their right mind would say that Judaism and Islam are the same religion. Everybody knows the two separate religions have two very different understandings of God.

So likewise, when it comes to Christianity, that religion also has a very distinct understanding of God that is not shared by any other religion in the world. Christianity is a Trinitarian religion. The Christian understanding of God is Trinity (Tri-Unity), which means simply this…

  • There is only ONE God (Yahweh or יהוה).
  • This ONE God is eternally existing in three divine Persons who all share the same divine substance (Yahweh or יהוה).
  • The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is a Person and he too is God. Yet there is only ONE God (Yahweh or יהוה).
1174px-Shield_of_Trinity_in_hexagon_English.svg
The Trinity Illustrated

All three major branches of Christianity accept this teaching about God (Yahweh or יהוה). These include…

  1. Catholic
  2. Orthodox
  3. Protestant (which includes Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Evangelical, Baptist, Assemblies of God, Nondenominational, etc.)

Basically, every “normal” Christian church, denomination, affiliation or sect teaches the Trinitarian understanding of God. Here’s a good rule of thumb. If it’s not Trinitarian, then it’s not really “Christian,” even if it says it is. This is a very ancient precedent set in Christianity, as I outlined in my essay on Arianism.

Now, I understand that there are a few groups out there that like to call themselves “Christian” even though they aren’t technically. This would include the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons for example. (Another group would be Christian Science, which is neither Christian nor scientific, but that’s another story.) We could say these groups have some Christian-like characteristics, but that doesn’t mean they are part of Christianity. Muslims, for example, believe in Jesus Christ, but they don’t call themselves “Christian.” Practitioners of Bahá’í Faith also believe in Jesus Christ, but they don’t call themselves “Christian.” In this respect, both Islam and Bahá’í have accepted their unique religion status. I think it would be in the best interest of Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtowerism) to do the same. It eliminates confusion, and gets rid of that nasty “cult” epithet frequently used against them. I personally think the word “cult” is a little extreme, but I have to admit that Jehovah’s Witnesses really bring it upon themselves by trying to pawn off their organization as “Christian” when Christianity-at-large rejected their entire theology as heretical some one-thousand-six-hundred-and-ninety-five (1,695) years ago! I mean, Christians have been reciting the Nicene Creed every Sunday for equally as long, in direct repudiation of Arianism, which the Jehovah’s Witnesses now preach as their own creed. Come on! It’s a totally different religion! Even a history novice can see that! In truth, theologically speaking, Jehovah’s Witness (The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) is closer to Islam than it is to Christianity…

Christianity Jehovah’s Witness Islam
God is Trinity

Jesus is God

Jesus is Worshiped

Jesus was God the Son (Eternal) before birth

The Holy Spirit is a Person and he is God

The Holy Spirit is worshiped

God is One: No Trinity

Jesus is not God

Jesus is not Worshiped

Jesus was the Archangel Michael before birth

The Holy Spirit is not a Person but a Force of God

The Holy Spirit is not worshiped

God is One: No Trinity

Jesus is not God

Jesus is not Worshiped

Jesus was just a man and a prophet: no pre-existence

The Holy Spirit is an Angel and not part of God

The Holy Spirit is not worshiped

When you line up the theological tenets of these religions, side-by-side, you can clearly see which has more in common. Jehovah’s Witnesses are more closely aligned to Islam than to Christianity. In fact, of the six theological tenets above, Jehovah’s Witnesses agree with Islam on four, and Christianity on zero. The two tenets Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islam disagree on are highlighted in italics. So for Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islam, the agreement ratio is 4:6. Whereas, with Jehovah’s Witnesses to Christianity the agreement ratio is 0:6. Which has more in common? My only question is why do Jehovah’s Witnesses even want to call themselves Christians? They agree with Christianity on virtually nothing, but with Islam on so much more.

Now don’t misunderstand. I’m not calling Jehovah’s Witnesses “Muslims,” nor am I suggesting they have any religious or cultural connection to Islam. They don’t. Rather, they are their own unique American religion, created here in America, by an American (Charles Taze Russell, 1852-1916), who put his own American spin on a very ancient religion (Arianism). It is, in every sense, an “All American Religion” based on American thought and culture, but it is not Christianity.

In order to accept the tenets and claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses, one must simultaneously reject the tenets and claims of Christianity, particularly the Trinity and Incarnation of Jesus Christ, as well as the divinity of the Holy Spirit. That’s a pretty big chunk of Christianity right there, but one will quickly discover that the Jehovah’s Witnesses also require their adherents to dump a lot of other Christian beliefs and practices as well, including but not limited to: The Cross, Holy Communion, Religious Pictures & Statues, Christmas, Easter, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, All Hallows Eve, etc.

The point here is I believe people should know what they’re getting into. One reason why I started this blog is to help people understand Catholic Christianity as it really is. I believe in cutting to the chase and getting right down to the heart of the matter. People deserve to know the truth, before they dive into things. Anybody reading through this blog will know what Catholicism really is (and what it isn’t) rather quickly. I think that should be true for all religions — even the Jehovah’s Witnesses. So if you’re thinking about joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or you’re just confused about what it is they stand for, you’ve now been educated. It’s Arianism, specifically a modern-American version of Arianism. I think you should know that. Now you do.

17 thoughts on “On Jehovah’s Witnesses

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  1. There is nothing specifically Christian about celebrating the New Year. As far as I’m aware there is nobody in the world (except JWs) who does NOT celebrate it. It’s celebrated mist fervently of all in atheist communist China.

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    1. The Christian New Year (January 1st) is part of the Twelve Days of Christmastide, and concludes the Octave of Christmas. It is very much a part of the Christmas celebration. It is celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in the Roman calendar, and is marked as a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, meaning you’ve got to go to Mass. It’s usually preceded by New Year’s Eve parties the night before, which non-religious people celebrate along side Christians. It’s typical for this to happen, as non-religious people celebrate Christmas Eve, All Hallows Eve, and Mardi Gras too. All of these are Christian celebrations that are echoed in the non-religious world as secular celebrations too. Jehovah’s Witnesses forbid all of these celebrations outright.

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      1. No, the 12 month year January to December with the New Year on 1st January was invented by the ancient pagan Romans. It happens to coincide with the Octave day of Christmas / Mary Mother of God solemnity (formerly Feast of the Circumcision) but this is nothing to do with it being the first day of the civil year. The Christian year begins on the first Sunday of Advent.

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        1. Actually, that’s not entirely right, though it is partly right. Christianity appropriate the Julian calendar under the principle of inculturation. However, the Feast if the Mother of God is purely Christian. As for New Years Day, the ancient Pagans had different times for that. Some celebrated it at the end of January. Christians originally celebrated it on Christmas Day (December 25). The Alexandrian calendar celebrated it in August. New Years Day was a flexible thing in the Pagan world. Some celebrated it on Jan 1. Who cares? It’s a Christian thing now, and Secularists don’t even know why.

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  2. I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually closer to the Ebionites, insofar as they worship on Saturdays.

    Also, Arian baptism was judged to be valid.

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    1. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a specific day of worship and do not consider Saturday anymore special than Sunday. They worship on both days. Due to logistics, they may be running worship services on many days of the week, including Saturdays.

      Catholic teaching only recognizes Trinitarian baptisms.

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  3. Thank you for making this article! I am a former JW, and you basically summed up the whole religion. It’s not Christianity. I converted because I wanted the truth. Thank you again Shane!

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  4. Interestingly, after being referred to in a slang sense as JW’s, they call themselves JW now. Secondly referring to them as a cult is not extreme. In the past century they were technically considered a cult and mormonism a sect. I cannot recall the difference but if a Catholic social scientist is reading your blog they can explain it.

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    1. Yes. As I said above. While I don’t like using the word “cult,” I have to admit that the JW’s kind of bring it upon themselves by insisting that they’re Christian, when their creed was universally condemned by Christianity nearly 17 centuries ago.

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  5. If we take the first three verses of the first chapter of the Gospel of St John, we can know that the truth is that Jesus Christ is God. Then verse 14 of the same chapter says clearly that Jesus Christ is man too.

    “In the beginning was the Word,
    and the Word was with God
    and the Word was God.

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses carry the Gospel of St John with them. So they carry the truth that the Word, i.e. Jesus Christ, is God.

    Verse 14 then reads: And the Word was made (or became) flesh.

    It’s as clear as crystal, of course for those who sincerely want to discover the truth: the Word is God, the same Word is flesh.

    St John wanted to convey this truth about Jesus with whom he had lived for about three years: that Jesus Christ is both God and man.

    Some Bible commentators are of the opinion that even at the time of St John there were some who denied the divinity of Jesus, others denied his humanity, that’s why St John wrote that the Word became ‘flesh’, in Greek it is ‘sarks’.

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    1. Right. But the problem for JW’s is they’re only allowed to use the approved JW translation, the “New World Translation” or NWT, which mistranslates the word “God” to “a god” in John 1 and that changes the meaning of the whole text.

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      1. You are right. That’s why we need to go to the original Greek text. Through the original texts of the Bible, Hebrew and Greek, the discrepancies of the Bible used by the Jehovah Witnesses come to light.

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  6. Thank you for that informative article. I was raised a JW, but as a teenager I started studying Christianity & was surprised to learn that nearly everything CT Russell taught consisted of either warmed-over heresies (like Arianism) or the idiosyncratic opinions of earlier Christian thinkers (he got the ‘conditional immortality’ idea from Martin Luther). In this way, the JW’s religion is a lot like the Frankenstein monster of pseudo-Christian sects: a hodge-podge of dead dogmas stitched together without any respect for their historical origins. Not being a Christian myself, I don’t see anything particularly wrong with that; but it does undermine the claim that their doctrines are unique & divinely inspired.

    And yes, I wish the JWs would stop calling themselves Christians – it just further muddies the distinction between Christianity & other Abrahamic faiths. But in this age of syncretism & new religious movements, JWs are just a little ahead of the curve in that respect.

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