Many of you who visit this site have no doubt dialogued with Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). In many cases, you have probably engaged in what I like to call “Bible Ping-Pong”. Your JW friend shares a verse from the Bible and then you share a verse from the Bible. By the end of the Bible ping-pong match, you are usually feeling rather frustrated because you have this feeling that you never ever did quite make the point to your JW friend that you were trying to make. One of the main reasons for this is because of what I like to call the Fundamental Doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Fundamental Doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
The Fundamental Doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is very simply to state. Briefly, it is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the leaders of the Watchtower Society speak for God. In the eyes of your JW friend or relative, only the leaders of the Watchtower have any legitimate religious authority for determining what is true when it comes to issues of faith and morals.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently taught that in the year 1914 A.D., Jesus returned invisibly and inspected the leadership of all the world’s religions. They believe that when Jesus inspected the JWs in 1914 that he chose their religious leaders to be his official spokesperson on earth. This appointment as God's official channel is said to have occurred in the year 1919 A.D. The Jehovah’s Witnesses often refer to their religious leaders as the collective “Israel of God”, the “anointed remnant”, “anointed Christians”, the “anointed ones” , or the “faithful and discreet slave class" because they believe that the leaders of the JWs fulfill the scripture in Matthew 24:45-47 which says:
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to YOU, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”-New World Translation
Here is how the Watchtower magazine explains it:
“Thus, God has not given to Christendom’s clergy, whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or nondenominational, the commission to preach the good news. They have not proved to be the foretold “faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 23:27, 28; 24:45-47.-August 15th 1994 Watchtower page 12
“True to Jesus’ prophecy, in 1914 there was “a beginning of pangs of distress” as mankind entered “the conclusion of the system of things.” Sorrows, catastrophic events, and lawlessness have multiplied down to this day. (Matthew 24:3-8, 12) At the same time, Jehovah has commissioned the anointed faithful and discreet slave class to provide spiritual “food at the proper time” for the household of their Master, Christ. (Matthew 24:45-47) From his throne in the heavens, this Messianic King is now directing a marvelous spiritual feeding program throughout the earth.”-January 1st 1997 Watchtower page 13
“The Israel of God learned to obey Jehovah’s law rather than follow their own ideas. They learned to do God’s will without fear of man. Thus, they stood out as different from the imitation Christians of Christendom. They were Jehovah’s people. As such, Jehovah was ready to use them as his messenger, his “faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45-47.-May 1st 1997 Watchtower page 20.
”While Christendom was found wanting, the anointed remnant was recognized as “the faithful and discreet slave” and was appointed over all Jesus’ earthly belongings.” -May 15th 1997 Watchtower page 13
These individuals that make up the “anointed remnant” or the “faithful and discreet slave class” are those among the Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe they have the heavenly calling and will rule with Jesus for eternity in heaven. The total number of these individuals is 144,000 according to their beliefs. However, it is estimated by the JWs that only about 8,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses out of approximately 6 million actually claim to be members of the “anointed remnant” or the “faithful and discreet slave class” at this time. This is because the JWs believe that most of the members of the 144,000 were chosen already prior to the year 1935 A.D.
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses
From among the members of the “anointed remnant” or the “faithful and discreet slave class” a Governing Body is formed. Members of the Governing Body are men and have usually served as traveling overseers, missionaries, and in other prominent positions in the Watchtower Organization for many years. Here is how the Watchtower magazine explains it:
In this time of the end, Christ has appointed the collective “faithful and discreet slave” over “all his belongings,” or Kingdom interests on earth. (Matthew 24:45-47) As in the first century, this slave is represented by a governing body of anointed Christian men to whom Christ has given the authority to make decisions and appoint other overseers.-July 1, 1994 page 22
For example, the Governing Body represents “the faithful and discreet slave” and has special responsibility to oversee the teaching of the worldwide congregation. (Matthew 24:45)-September 15th 1995 Watchtower page 30
“Today, anointed Christians continue to serve as such, making up a faithful and discreet slave class that through its Governing Body provides spiritual food at the proper time. (Matthew 24:45-47) –June 1st 1997 Watchtower page 10.
“For us today, it means having confidence in “the faithful and discreet slave” appointed to give us our spiritual “food at the proper time,” as well as in those from among them who form the Governing Body.”—Matthew 24:45.-August 15th 1998 page 12
In short, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is looked upon by the average JW as the group of men who make the final decisions for them when it comes to issues of faith and morals. The average Jehovah’s Witness is expected to be loyal to this body of men which represents for them the official channel through which God speaks. Furthermore, one is not considered to be a true Christian by a Jehovah’s Witness unless they are taught by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and accept their doctrinal and moral pronouncements. Here is how the Watchtower explains it:
“Those of spiritual Israel still remaining on earth make up “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Only in association with them can acceptable sacred service be rendered to God.”- February 1st 1998 Watchtower page 17
Therefore, because of the authority that the average JW gives the leadership of their religious organization, it is very difficult for someone who is not a JW to dialogue with them. In the mind of the JW, any person who is not associated with the JW is not connected to God’s channel and, therefore, is in need of becoming a JW in order to worship God correctly. So, any information you may share with the JWs will always be suspect because you are not part of the Watchtower organization and therefore you are not a true Christian believer in the eyes of your JW friend or relative.
Dealing with the Fundamental Doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
One of the best ways to deal with the Fundamental Doctrine is to demonstrate to your JW friend or relative that the leaders of the Watchtower Society are dishonest particularly in the way in which they present their teachings. In most cases, the publications of the Watchtower are filled with instances where other scholars are misquoted in order to appear to agree with the position of the Watchtower leaders when in reality they usually do not. The examples occur so often that entire publications have been published just to demonstrate this. One good example of the academic dishonesty of the Watchtower leaders is the booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” which is actually published in its entirety on the Watchtower Society website. This booklet is filled with misquotes of mostly Trinitarian scholars. An entire booklet has been published by Angel Arellano entitled “Exposing Should You Believe in the Trinity?”. This booklet is available from http://www.freeminds.org/sales/menuframes.htm.
Another example has to do with the doctrine of blood transfusions. As most of you probably know the Jehovah’s Witness leadership forbids JWs from taking blood transfusions under the penalty of shunning and possible excommunication even if blood is needed to save that person’s life. It is unknown exactly how many JWs have died due to this prohibition which was enacted around 1961. One of the ways in which the JWs have rationalized this prohibition is to equate receiving a blood transfusion to that of eating blood. They believe that since the following scripture forbids Christians to eat blood that this prohibition would also include blood transfusions:
For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If YOU carefully keep yourselves from these things, YOU will prosper. Good health to YOU!”-Acts 15:28, 29 New World Translation
The Watchtower magazine explains things in the following way:
It is of no consequence that the blood is taken into the body through the veins instead of the mouth. Nor does the claim by some that it is not the same as intravenous feeding carry weight. The fact is that it nourishes or sustains the life of the body. In harmony with this is a statement in the book Hemorrhage and Transfusion, by George W. Crile, A.M., M.D., who quotes a letter from Denys, French physician and early researcher in the field of transfusions. It says: “In performing transfusion it is nothing else than nourishing by a shorter road than ordinary—that is to say, placing in the veins blood all made in place of taking food which only turns to blood after several changes.”-September 15th 1961 Watchtower page 558
Note that the Watchtower author quotes from two physicians as authorities who supposedly believe that even from a medical perspective eating human blood and transfusing human blood are considered the same thing. For the unsuspecting JW who believes that the Watchtower leadership is speaking for God it would never occur to them to look and see if these two doctors are really saying this or if they are even legitimate authorities on the subject of blood and blood transfusions.
According to the article The Evolution of the Watchtower Blood Policy by Zack Daniels the Watchtower author does not tell the unsuspecting JW the following:
“What the Society didn't bother to tell anyone in either of these quotes however was that the book Hemorrhage and Transfusion: An Experimental and Clinical Research had been published in 1909 and could not by any stretch of the imagination have been considered an authoritative medical text 52 years later. Further, the Society did not inform anyone that Jean Babtiste Denys had done his research in the 1600's and had been dead for 257 years by 1961. Much more disturbing than these two lapses however is the way in which this quote deliberately gives the incorrect impression that the viewpoint being promoted was one which had the support of a semi-modern medical authority, George W. Crile himself.” http://www.ajwrb.org/history/index.shtml#evolution
One of the most powerful ways to break the hold of the Watchtower Leaders on the average JW is to demonstrate these examples of academic dishonesty. However, one must be careful how you go about sharing this information. Usually, when I have coached others to do this in the past what works most effectively is to show the JW the quote from the Watchtower and then have them read the original quote. Once this is done, I usually ask them if there is anything about this that seems strange to them. In some cases, the JW will not see the problem. Or, at least, they will not tell you that they see the problem. Also, the JW may say that he needs to show this to an elder in his congregation. If this happens it is not unusual for the JW never to return to speak to you. However, this is okay because you have planted a seed that over time can take root.
Understanding the Fundamental Doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses