Today’s question deals with a common situation for a lot of us. Jehovah’s Witnesses ring our doorbell and you answer, what will you say?
I have developed an approach that might not be for everybody. It depends on whether you have time to talk deeply and extensively. If you feel like this is not the time to get into an argument, here is what I have done.
Offer to Pray
I say as gently and graciously as I can, “I know your theology enough to know that we have deep differences. I know that you believe Jesus is the highest created being — a created angel, Michael. You do not believe that he is God or of one essence with Jehovah. You think he is an angel. I believe he is co-eternal with Jehovah, God; therefore, I think your religion is a serious dishonoring of the Lord Jesus and leads people astray from a true relationship with God. So, what I would like to do with you right now,” — and I am saying this right here on the porch — “is pray.”
“Justification by faith alone falls apart for Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Then I say, “I am willing to let you pray, and then I will pray. We will both ask that God would show us what is true in his word, the true way to understand the Bible, and the true way to honor Jesus.” Then I ask, “Would you want to pray with me?” They have never agreed to pray with me. They have just left at that point. I am not sure why they don’t stay, but that is my approach. I set up the disagreement, explain it clearly, and offer to pray. They have never accepted.
Jesus is Fully God
I would say one other thing. That approach doesn’t enter you into a dialogue very well, and I think there is a place for serious witnessing and extended time with Jehovah’s Witnesses. If it goes to that, — and I have sat in my living room for hours with folks from the Jehovah’s Witnesses — then the direction I go is twofold.
One, I show them from the Scriptures that I believe Jesus Christ is vastly and infinitely more than a created being. I go to John 1:1 which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I know what they are going to do at that point. They are going to get out their New World Translation and say, “No, no, it doesn’t really say that.” And I would say, “But look at the next two verses which say, ‘He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made’ (John 1:2–3).”
I think John 1:2–3 is worded explicitly to exclude the fact that he was made. He is the maker, not the made. But they believe he was made. Even with their New World Translation, I don’t think their theology works. And at the end of the gospel Thomas says, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). All through the gospel of John, Jesus is presented as the divine one who existed before Abraham.
“You get a type of works based religion with the Jehovah’s Witnesses that I think undermines the gospel.”
Then I go to the gospel of Luke where you have the virgin birth and Elizabeth saying to Mary when she shows up with Jesus in her womb, “Why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). And in the very next two verses, she refers to God as her Lord. So, you have Luke testifying this way. Then you have Paul who says, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19), or when he says, “And for in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, Colossians 2:9.
Jesus’s Divinity Matters
That is my first take. Go to the trinity and argue from the Bible for the deity of Jesus. Then the second thing I do is explain the consequence of denying the deity of Christ. When you diminish who it was that died on the cross, you almost inevitably change the doctrine of the atonement — and they do. Justification by faith alone falls apart for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Law begins to creep in, and works begin to take their place alongside faith as the ground. I think it is because their view of the atonement just isn’t great enough. Their Christ, who died for us, isn’t great enough. So, you are going to get a kind of works religion with the Jehovah’s Witnesses that I think undermines the gospel.