Saturday, April 14, 2007

Christology and Jehovah Witnesses

Two Jehovah Witnesses knocked on my door yesterday and we spent an hour in heated debate. I wanted to focus on what I consider to be the most problematic element of their teaching, their unorthodox Christology. I argued that the NT has elements of both a subordinationist and a divine Christology, that the Watchtower only accepts the subordinationist and then applies a logical-wringer across the scriptures to suppress the divine and maintain a one sided view. When I got the usual speech of Jesus' subordination to the Father but I simply replied with an 'amen'! However, and lining themselves up for real trouble, they maintained that Jesus was never worshiped or prayed to in the NT, as part of their suppression strategy. I pointed out, among other passages, Stephen's prayer to Jesus as he was stoned ('While they were stoning Stephen, he called upon and prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"' Acts 7:59), the worship of the Lamb on the throne in Rev ('"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen", and the elders fell down and worshipped' Rev 5:13-14), the Maranatha of 1 Cor 16:22 etc., and time and time again I sought to show how they immediately attempted to apply this logical wringer to suppress the obvious. For Stephen, for example, the talkative one suggested that this is no different than if he were drowning and called out to me for help, no different than talking to me in this room. 'But Jesus is in heaven' I cried! 'If I were in heaven and you called to me for help or talked to me then that would be prayer too'!

But it all, of course, fell on deaf ears which was a lesson in itself. I find it hard to resist speaking about Jesus and Christology with those who want to, but with those such as JWs, and other such sects along with many Fundamentalists, there is simply no exchange or dialogue. I said to them as they left - they asked if we wanted to meet again - that I honestly want to convert them to orthodox Christian faith, so I leave it up to them. Please do pray for these two and that my (sometimes blunt) words may have good effect.

Theoretically I think we should be willing and ready to speak to all about our faith, but I have quite a bit of experience with JWs and the discussions, while they may have sown the odd seed of doubt in their hearts, didn't do much more than that. Is it a waste of time? Next time they come should I send them off? What do you do?




At 4/14/2007 1:25 PM, Blogger Volker said...

What you did sounds good to me. I wouldn't turn them away if they come a second time. But depending on how that conversation goes, I would perhaps leave it there. I'd try to really nail them to explain the difficult passages. Those should really make them think. If not, praying may be more effective than discussing with them.

At 4/14/2007 4:33 PM, Anonymous Phil said...

I don't know if this is right, but I am usually so annoyed by their method of evangelism that I'm not interested in starting the conversation. I know that they come to me with an agenda and that I am just an object. Unless they come in humility wanting to treat me like a person then I'm not sure I would want to talk to them. Maybe I'm being to harsh ... I'm preaching to myself as during an earlier phase in my life I also approached people like this.

At 4/14/2007 4:39 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

This post has been removed by the author.

At 4/14/2007 4:47 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Chris, I haven't had much interaction with JWs, but I have been involved with Mormons over the last 6 years and experience similar situations. Here's my opinion out of many opinions out there: keep meeting with them (simple, I know). I have heard many testimonies from ex-Mormons who said that they met with people over and over again, while some it only took one meeting. Nevertheless, after each meeting, even if they seemed cold to whatever was said, they went home and thought about almost everything that was thrown their way. And I think that's the hardest part - trusting that God will do his work even after we're done speaking with them (at least for me, that is). Who knows if those two guys are thinking hard and re-reading passages right now. I wouldn't be surprised. Lastly, I imagine you're discerning enough at the same time to recognize a conversation that is just pure argumentation, no love, etc. and I would say those are probably ones to avoid. Thanks for your post. I love hearing stories like this.

At 4/14/2007 5:13 PM, Blogger Pastor Beisel said...

It sounds all too familiar! The same has happened to me. They came back a second time, and I told them that they probably shouldn't come back after that. But like you I argued with them till I was blue in the face. It reminds me of the Arians, who as Irenaeus describes, rearranged the mosaic of the Christian Scriptures and turned one thing into another. They begin looking at the Scriptures with the wrong hypothesis of faith (the wrong plot, if you will) and that distorts their whole view. Knowing the plot before you read the Scriptures is very important for proper interpretation.

At 4/14/2007 5:31 PM, Blogger Patrick George McCullough said...

I think what you did is good. I always remember that I was once a fundamentalist and didn't listen to the things that people told me. But if I had someone like yourself pointing things out from Scripture, it would have made a difference. Ultimately, it was my college Bible courses that did me in (which won't happen for these JWs), but there were many "seeds sown" that fundamentalism is not the only way. Seeds are good, even if all you see are "deaf ears" at the moment.

That said, I generally don't have time to get into regular debates with door-knockers, so I probably wouldn't meet with them again just because I'm too busy. Maybe that makes me a bad Christian, I don't know. Oh well.

At 4/14/2007 6:35 PM, Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Hmmm. This is the same problem I ran into and posted about it at my blog about three month or so ago. The JW's are well versed in arguing against others when it comes to biblical interpretation - 'cause they are so boxed in, so to speak, and have their canned answers prepared.

I always focus on the Watchtower with JW's - the actual oranization - which they call the "faithful and discreet slave", usually if I can get them to doubt the Watchtower, I have a better chance of getting them to doubt their reading (or interpretation) of the Bible - and their poor theological stance on who Jesus is. Hope all that made sense - hard to narrow down the JW's in one simple comment.

At 4/14/2007 8:03 PM, Blogger Michael Barber said...

I LOVED your responses--these are great! I think making the point up front that there are both subordinationist AND divine Christological texts is very important.

The passage I go to is John 20:28: "Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!'"

Their response will be that Thomas was speaking to Jehovah--however, note the use of the dative.

Here are some of my thoughts on the matter from a previous post:

I would do a few things differently now (I would definitely steal some of your arguments!), but most of it, I think, holds up.

God bless,


At 4/14/2007 10:39 PM, Blogger David Sky said...

JW's came round to my place once. They denied the deity of Christ, then said I wouldn't be part of the 144,000 and then said that blood transfusions were wrong. At that point I set the dog on them. They haven't returned.

At 4/14/2007 11:11 PM, Blogger One of Freedom said...

I enjoy talking with the JWs, but I think they have my house pegged as a drop and run house. They don't want to engage me anymore. :-( I always take great pains to be polite courteous and look for points of agreement to build on. I have a couple good friends who have been on the losing end of JW shunning, there is a lot to dispise in their brand of fundamentalism. I gave up heated debates with folks like that though, it only got me worked up. Now I do my heated debating with some fundie friends on MySpace, at least when I am home reading their response I can say what I really want (which usually isn't good church talk), then write something a lot more polite in response.

At 4/15/2007 12:46 AM, Anonymous Martin Shields said...

The JWs I've had conversations with hold to substitutionary atonement (as do I). I have argued that their christology renders God unjust if you hold to substitutionary atonement, and this has often given them pause.

At 4/15/2007 6:44 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thank you all for your comments, encouragements and wisdom – very helpful. I think we have all experienced the frustration these sorts of conversations bring. I’ll meet up with them again I guess and continue to push the Christology issue for now.

Michael, thanks for that helpful post on your blog. For my readers who missed it, click here.

At 4/15/2007 10:16 PM, Blogger Exiled Preacher said...

I find talking to JW's a bit frustrating, but I always try to find time to chat to them. Last time they were surprised that I believed in the renewal of creation as most of Christians they had met just talked about dying and going to heaven.

An experiential angle is sometimes effective, as they have no real assurace of salvation and no experience of the reality of Christ in their lives.

I tell them that I will only accept their literature if they will accept a Christian tract or booklet. They almost always refuse this exchange. I then press them on how the cult controls their thinking and tell them not to accept uncritically all that they are told by the Watchtower.

When I posted something on JW's on the blog, one left some comments and then Steve Carr turned up, which was interesting!

Who is that David Sky? Is he for real?

At 4/15/2007 11:45 PM, Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Blunt words? Chris, you didn't swear at the Witnesses, did you/

What did you do with their very flawed New World Translation (one which even 1st year Greek students can find errors in)/

At 4/16/2007 12:53 AM, Blogger Vynette said...

Chris and commenters,

By being so convinced of your christological position by means of proof-texting, are you not falling into the same trap as the JW's?

For instance, just to take one of Chris' arguments -

"I pointed out, among other passages, Stephen's prayer to Jesus as he was stoned ('While they were stoning Stephen, he called upon and prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"' Acts 7:59"

To use this verse as a proof of the divinity of Jesus is to ignore the context in which it was written. Stephen demonstrated to the Council that they were rejecting Jesus, who had been sent by God, just as their fathers had rejected Moses, who had also been sent by God. In the same manner, their fathers had rejected the prophets who had been sent by God.

Stephen actually quotes Moses' prophecy of Deut. 18:15 "A prophet shall God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me" and applies this prophecy to Jesus!

The entire passage links Jesus with Moses and the prophets and speaks of his humanity, not his divinity.

As there is no such thing as the separation of body and spirit in Hebrew thought, when Stephen said "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" should it not be interpreted to mean that he was sacrificing his life (breath, spirit) in pursuit of truth, just as Jesus had done?

At 4/16/2007 1:42 PM, Blogger DonCordiner said...

I agree with the comments left on the board, I had a similiar experience a few years ago with some Jws. One of them kept coming back, but each time with a new, more higher up elder. Quite fortunately I had just finished reading Bauckham's God Crucified and Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ had just come out as well.

You might however want to check out the work of Greg Stafford if you haven't already. He is a Jw who has a book addressed primarily to scholars, and in particular he tries to deal with arguments used to show the deity of Christ.

He has a website at

He is one the few who do try to engage seriously.

At 4/16/2007 9:02 PM, Blogger jps said...


Personally, since JWs like Revelation so well, I think you should take them there.
I posted about it sometime last year:


At 4/16/2007 10:36 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

JPS, thanks for that link and the helpful post.

Don, thanks for the Greg Stafford hat-tip. I think I've seen some of his work relating to the qeos title, but I'll look for his material with interest. Thanks.

Vynette, I shall probably post a response to your points in my main blog page soon. Thanks.

Guy, I would LOVE to have a look at that. Can you send me the link?

Michael, :-)
I actually put up a NA of the Greek I was using, but most of the points I made weren't based on passages they translate differently. I think it best to avoid that as they will think: "we have our experts, and they assure us this is the best translation" line.

At 4/16/2007 11:35 PM, Blogger Exiled Preacher said...


My links in comments always seem to break so here's the url:


At 4/18/2007 1:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lord, I just pray that those two JWs that Chris met would come to know you as God, Lord. Lord, would you just touch them, Lord...

At 4/18/2007 3:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get hassled by botheJWs and Mormons - and I live in Australia. I also have an aunt and cousin who are JWs - and despite being family, if they don't can't use every moment to beat you over the head into submission they tend to stay away.

So here is what I do with the strangers at least.

If they come to the door, visit, etc and I am in a good relaxed mood with time to talk (no point otherwise), I tell them up front I am a Christian, and that I am aware of what they teach and that they have prepared answers for any objections I might raise and I don't want to get into any doctrinal arguments.

If they persist in hanging around (meaning they don't have a bag limit) I steer the converstation to them. Usually if they are in pairs there is one junior/new convert and one senior. I figure out junior with a few questions (I just go with the flow) and I start asking them to tell me their story. How it was they became a JW/Mormon, if they were born into it did they go through teenage rebellion etc.

I tend to focus on junior. In the process you can politely shut up senior when they try to answer for junior (easy because they can't speak for their experience and can't really interrupt without seeming like a bully) and that's when you get the real points of interest and contact.

For example one of the last JWs who graced my door was a former elder in a local mainstream church. I could then speak to what it was that was bugging them (usually the Trinity of course) etc etc - so we end up having a real and personal conversation. And it is occasionally in those instances that I am aware that I can connect and at least get them to think about something. But I emphasize occasionally.

I did have one interesting reaction once with a group of three Mormons - two from the States, one local. In the process of my questioning I also shared a bit of my own testimony of how God found me, I rebelled and then he dragged me back. I said to them that my faith in God was not not negotiable, not because I found God but because I know God found me and I can't think of any more secure place to be. The one I had identified as a junior (raised Mormon but probably late teens early twenties and whom I figured had not quite finished with his phase of questioning his parent's faith) was visibily moved. Tears in eyes. Swallowing.

I still pray for him and ask that God find him too. That's about all one can do.

As for JW rellies. Different tactics. Especially since half the time they think I am of the Devil.


At 4/18/2007 10:47 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for the link, Guy.

JS, thank you so much for this very helpful comment. I think you are really onto something and I love the fact that it seemed to have some effect.

At 4/19/2007 6:17 PM, Blogger Phil Walker said...

Chris, I'd like to back up js' comments with an experience of my own. I had a couple of JWs round at my shared student digs a few times, and we found that there was definitely a junior/senior thing going on. We were fortunate, in that JW, Jr. asked us a question which presented an unmissable opportunity to share the gospel with him. He seemed genuinely intrigued at the prospect of grace, but he'd asked his question on the way out, and it was inappropriate to keep him. However, neither they, nor anyone else from the local JW meeting house, has appeared at the door of that address since. So if you're looking for a way to get rid of JWs, try to get one of them (but only one!) interested in grace!

On the other hand, the only thing which seemed to stop JW, Sr. and make him think was coming across beliefs he'd not been briefed about. JWs, as you may know, are staunchly premillennialist and cannot conceive of people believing anything else. So we, as good amillennialists all, were able to outflank them quite effectively and gain a hearing. JWs are aware that their Christology is considered heretical by mainstream Christians, and expend considerable time and effort in trying to indoctrinate their members in their own defence.

But if you were to talk with them about personal experiences as js recommends, or use the Old Testament sacrifices, or again, the sort of argument Martin Shields mentions, or manage to beat them on their own turf (like Revelation), then you may, in God's providence, find an opening to share the gospel with them.

At 4/19/2007 11:38 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for these comments, Phil. I chose Christology also as it is my speciality. It was a beeting them on their own turf approach, but certainly I should think more about other lines of approach too. I have not yet managed to win a JW to Christ, sadly.

At 4/26/2007 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


When you say, "I have not yet managed to win a JW to Christ...," I imagine that you would agree that it is the Holy Spirit working faith in people's hearts through the power of the Word.

It is wise in not focusing on adiaphora (such as celebrating Christmas, etc.). Questions of christology, soteriology, and grace are certainly more vital.

However, because of the indoctrination and rigidity of the cult, such discussions can be extremely frustrating.

What may be helpful might be sharing about what Jesus Christ has done for you and what He means in your life.

An attitude of graciousness and caring may be useful.

If it can be done in a way that is not obnoxious, you could volunteer to pray for them. ("Lord, just..." Just kidding.)


At 5/07/2007 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The following website summarizes 300 U.S. court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witness Parents, including dozens of cases where the JWParents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions:


This website summarizes 160 United States court cases and lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against Employers:


At 7/13/2007 12:32 AM, Anonymous Danny Haszard said...

The Watchtower is the 'love slaved stepford cult'.The 'religion' of Jehovah's Witnesses is a dangerous cult that controls every aspect of its members' lives.

Debunking the Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs

A) They are at your door to recruit you for enslavement to their watchtower corporation,they will say that "were just here to share a message from the Bible" this is deception right off.

B) The 'message' is their false Gospel that Jesus is ruling in heaven already since 1914.The problem with this is it's not just a cute fairy tale,Jesus warned of the false prophets who would claim "..look he is here in the wilderness,or see here he is at the temple"

C) Their anti-blood transfusion ban has killed hundreds if not thousands

D) once they recruit you they will "love bomb" you in cult fashion to also recruit your family & friends or cut them off.
There are many more dangers,Jehovah's Witnesses got a bad rap for good and valid reasons.


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