Why Not be a Jehovah's Witness?
by Steve McRoberts (part 2 of 3)
Do the "core beliefs" of the organization make them the "one true religion"?
The Watchtower has likened the Society to a "mother" which feeds the rank and file Witnesses with "spiritual food". They have repeatedly reminded their followers that it was from this organization that they learned the "truth". So, if they doubt some "new truth" they are in effect rejecting their mother, and those core beliefs they had accepted at first.
In other words, it's a package deal. You can't just take the basic beliefs without committing to accepting any and all new beliefs which are dreamed up by the Governing Body.
But, of course, this is false. To this day there are a few things I learned from the Watchtower which I still believe. These things are not taught exclusively by the Watchtower, nor does my continuing to hold them obligate me in any way to accept any "new truths" the Watchtower cares to print.
For instance, I learned from the Watchtower of the pagan origins of Christmas and Easter. But the Watchtower doesn't hold a patent on these truths. They did not originate these truths, nor were they the first publishing company to have printed these truths. In fact, their evidence consisted largely of quoting other sources. So, while I continue to believe that Christmas and Easter had pagan origins, I feel no obligation whatsoever to the Watchtower. I'm glad they pointed out these facts to me, but if they hadn't I know that in time I would've discovered them for myself from other sources.
So, a person is perfectly entitled to accept what seems reasonable to them from a given source without thereby committing themselves to being forever in debt to that source, or to forever accepting whatever that source might come up with in the future.
It should also go without saying that an organization can tell the truth about some matters and lie about others. As we have proven in chapter one, the Society has lied. Once we appreciate the full implications of this fact, it behooves us to employ a cautious attitude when it comes to accepting anything else they might say or print.
With the above in mind, let us now examine the core "truths" of the Watchtower.
The Watchtower claims that God's name is Jehovah, and that the Jehovah's Witnesses are the only religion which makes his name known on earth. They continue to list this as one of the most important distinctions between themselves and other Christian religions, and they claim that use of the name Jehovah is required for true worship. So, they have laid a lot of importance on God's name.
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures richly enhances accurate Bible knowledge... the foremost feature of this translation is the restoration of the divine name to its rightful place in the English text. It has been done, using the commonly accepted English form "Jehovah" 6,973 times in the Hebrews Scriptures and 237 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
-- New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References, Revised 1984, p. 6
It's Not "Jehovah"!
Given that, it may surprise you to learn that the Watchtower has admitted that "Jehovah" is not God's name!
While inclining to view the pronunciation "Yah.weh" as the more correct way, we have retained the form "Jehovah" because of people's familiarity with it since the 14th century.
-- New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References, Revised 1984, p. 23
By combining the vowel signs of 'Adho.nay and 'Elo.him' with the four consonants of the Tetragrammaton the pronunciations Yeho.wah' and Yehowih' were formed. The first of these provided the basis for the Latinized form "Jehova(h)." The first recorded use of this form dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270. Hebrew scholars generally favor "Yahweh" as the most likely pronunciation.
--Aid to Bible Understanding, pp. 884, 885.
Does it make sense to stress the importance of using God's name, and then deliberately use an admittedly incorrect name (while stating that such usage "enhances accurate Bible knowledge")?
My name is Steve. If you were to tell me: "I think it's very important to always address people by their name, Jack," I would be offended. If you were to excuse yourself and say, "I don't know how to pronounce your name correctly, so I'll just call you Jack," I would still be offended. Just because you're not sure of the exact pronunciation, it doesn't give you the right to call me by any name you choose. You should at least attempt as close a pronunciation as possible. If it is offensive to intentionally mispronounce my name, how much greater must be the offense to intentionally mispronounce the name of God!
The use of the name "Jehovah" is completely erroneous. According to the Bible, God's name is not, and cannot be, "Jehovah." That name has no meaning or significance in English or in Hebrew. "Jehovah" is a grammatically impossible mistranslation of the Hebrew YHWH.
A Universe Named "Bob"
The Watchtower claims that it is vitally important that we address God by name. But is this really appropriate? When there is more than one of something, then we need to call it by name in order to distinguish it from the others. But when there is only one unique instance of something, a name is not necessary. For instance, households with many cars will commonly refer to "the Chevy" or "the Ford" to distinguish which car they're talking about. Households with one car will commonly refer to it simply as "the car". If Christians believe in one God, there seems little reason to distinguish him by name as if there were other Gods in the picture. It would be as if I insisted on calling the universe "Bob".
We know that the Jews did not speak God's name when reading the Torah, but would substitute the equivalent of "Lord" in its place. They felt the name was sacred, and should never be bandied about in the casual and ubiquitous manner of the Witnesses. Such usage, they would contend, would be taking God's name in vain.
Jesus instructed his follower to pray, not to "Jehovah" but to "our father". In most cultures it is considered disrespectful for a child to address his parents by name. So too, Jesus called his father "father," and never addressed him by name. This is the example Christ set. And on the Watchtower's official web page (under "What Do They Believe?") they state:
Christ set example that must be followed in serving God.
Not in the "New Testament"
Most importantly: the name "Jehovah" does not appear at all in the "New Testament"! The Watchtower took it upon themselves to mistranslate the Greek word for "Lord" (Kurios) into "Jehovah" 237 times in their New World Translation of the Bible. They did this arbitrarily and inconsistently. Wherever Kurios was obviously used in reference to Jesus, they translated Kurios as "Lord".
If the Watchtower had been consistent in their substituting "Jehovah" in place of "Kurios" then Philippians 2:9-11 would read in their translation:
"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those in heaven, and of those on earth and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, to the glory of God the Father."
Such a reading would contradict Watchtower theology which holds that Jesus is not Jehovah.
The fact that God's name does not appear even once in the "New Testament" would seem to indicate that its usage by Christians is not required, and probably not even appropriate.
Calling on the Wrong Name
Although the Watchtower emphasizes the need to call upon the name of Jehovah, the "New Testament" contends that there is only one name of importance for Christians, and it is not "Jehovah":
Acts:4:10: Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
Acts:4:11: This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Acts:4:12: Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
A "People for His Name"
Jehovah's Witnesses are proud of their name. They have taken this name from Isaiah 43:8 (which appeared for many years on the cover of every Watchtower magazine)
Isa:43:10: Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD ["Jehovah" NWT], and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
Isa:43:11: I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
The people God was addressing in these verses were not to be witnesses that his name was Jehovah. That was not the point. They were to be witnesses that "there was no God formed" before or after him, and that there was no saviour other than him.
Ironically, the Watchtower does not bear witness to these statements. Their theology holds that Jesus is "a god" (John 1:1 NWT) formed after Jehovah. They also hold that Jesus is a savior, although Jesus is not God. Therefore their theology completely contradicts what Jehovah's witnesses were supposed to be witnesses of, according to the very verses they quote to justify their name!
God's Purpose (the 144,000 and the Great Crowd)
The Watchtower claims that 144,000 people are going to heaven, and everyone else will either live forever on earth (the "great crowd"), or will be dead.
They base this idea on the following verses in Revelation:
Rv:7:4: And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
Rv:7:5: Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
Rv:7:6: Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
Rv:7:7: Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
Rv:7:8: Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
Rv:7:9: After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude ["great crowd" NWT], which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
Rv:7:10: And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
Rv:7:11: And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
Rv:7:12: Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
Rv:7:13: And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
Rv:7:14: And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Rv:7:15: Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
Rv:7:16: They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
Rv:7:17: For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
How did the Watchtower determine that the 144,000 would spend eternity in heaven, whereas the "great crowd" would spend eternity on the earth?
Here is a breakdown of their logic concerning the "great crowd":
- The "great crowd" is "before the throne."
- A footstool is placed in front of a throne.
- Isaiah 66:1 states that the earth is God's footstool.
- Therefore, the "great crowd" must be on the earth.
Here is a breakdown of their logic concerning the 144,000:
Rv:14:2: And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
Rv:14:3: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
Rv:14:4: These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
- The 144,000 follow the lamb wherever he goes.
- The lamb represents Jesus, who lives in heaven.
- Therefore the 144,000 are in heaven, and the number of people in heaven is limited to the 144,000 because they are the only ones who can learn the song, and because their number is "sealed".
As with all Bible passages, there are many possible ways these verses could be taken, and with the book of Revelation it is even more so. But there are significant flaws in the Watchtower logic.
Where is the "Great Crowd"?
First of all, if "being before the throne" proves that the "great crowd" is on earth, then it would also prove that the following groups were on the earth:
- The angels.
- The elders.
- The four beasts.
- The 144,000
All of these groups are also said to be "before the throne" in the verses already quoted above. Since the Watchtower teaches that these groups are in heaven, it cannot be true that "before the throne" means "on the earth".
Therefore, the term "before the throne" cannot be used as proof that the great crowd is an earthly class.
Instead of asking the Watchtower where the "great crowd" is, let's ask the Bible:
After these things I heard what was a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said, "Praise Jah, you people! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God." (Rev. 19:1 NWT)
Where does the Bible say the "great crowd" is? "In heaven." Where does the Watchtower say the "great crowd" is? On earth. Which source of information should a Witness go by?
The Watchtower also calls the "great crowd" the "other sheep," and contends that these two groups are prefigured by many examples in the Bible. But we can easily grant this distinction between two "saved" groups of believers without requiring that one group live forever on earth. The Watchtower taught for over 50 years that the "great crowd" or "other sheep" was also a heavenly group (with a slightly lower station).
The Watchtower claims that God's "original purpose" was to have humans live forever on earth. That purpose was thwarted by original sin, but God is now able to put his plan into effect thanks to the ransom sacrifice of his son.
But the Bible does not give any details of such a plan. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that people will someday live forever on earth. Jesus only spoke of preparing houses for his followers in heaven. Furthermore, nothing could ever thwart the plans of an Almighty God!
In the book of Revelation we read:
Rv:20:10: And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Since Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in a hell of fiery torment, they are quick to point out that the book of Revelation is a "book of symbols" and so is not to be taken literally. The fire and brimstone are symbolic: not literal.
Applying their rule, we may safely infer that the number 144,000 is also symbolic: not literal.
The Watchtower contends, however, that the number 144,000 is literal because it is a "sealed number." But, once again, they are not consistent; there are many other things in the book of Revelation which are "sealed" but are still held to be symbolic by the Watchtower. Each of the 7 plagues, for instance, were "sealed," and yet the Watchtower teaches that the plagues are symbolic. Therefore, the number being "sealed" is no proof that the number is literal.
The Bible goes to great lengths to detail how the number 144,000 is composed of 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The Watchtower teaches that these "tribes" are symbolic of "spirit-anointed Christians," not literal members of the tribes of Israel. Yet they teach that when you add up these symbolic numbers you come up with a literal number!
Let's look at this in table form so we can fully appreciate the wonder of their logic:
Of the tribe of Juda
Of the tribe of Reuben
Of the tribe of Gad
Of the tribe of Aser
Of the tribe of Nepthalim
Of the tribe of Manasses
Of the tribe of Simeon
Of the tribe of Levi
Of the tribe of Issachar
Of the tribe of Zabulon
Of the tribe of Joseph
Of the tribe of Benjamin
This is like taking 12 apples and adding them up to total a dozen oranges! No matter how many symbolic things you add together, you're never going to come up with a total of literal things.
Furthermore, the Watchtower has repeatedly stated that the number 12 is symbolic. They claim that it is used in the Bible to represent organization. Since the number 144,000 consists of 12 groups of 12,000, doesn't it appear to be somehow using the number 12 in a symbolic manner?
In Revelation 21:10-21 the "heavenly new Jerusalem" is described as having 12 gates with 12 angels and the 12 names of the tribes of Israel. The city is 12,000 furlongs in width, depth, and height. The wall is 144 cubits with 12 foundations. The Watchtower teaches that this city is symbolic, and that its obvious and repetitive use of the number 12 (and 144, which is 12 squared) is symbolic of organization. Wouldn't it be consistent, then, to teach that the same numbers used in describing the 144,000 are also symbolic?
The Time of the End
For over a hundred years, the Watchtower has proclaimed that we are living in the "last days," and that the "battle of Armageddon" is imminent. Their many false predictions, naming certain years for this event, are too well known to dwell on here.
Their current stance is that the "last days" began in 1914 and that Armageddon will come within a "generation" of that year. They have recently changed the meaning of a "generation" to allow for the fact that Armageddon hasn't come yet, and so no longer fits in with their previous definition. They now teach that the "generation" simply refers to unbelievers. This waters down the message to simply mean that there will still be unbelievers living when the "end of the world" arrives.
However, they used to teach something quite different concerning the "generation," and in fact (as of this writing) the "old light" is still being served as "spiritual food" on their official website:
Some, at least, of the generation that saw the "beginning of pangs of distress" in 1914 will live to see Paradise restored on earth.
They must've realized that they could only tell this lie for another few years before even their most trusting members would have to cry foul. So, thinking ahead, they have drastically changed their teaching to allow for the fact that Armageddon is late in arriving (and they have lost many adherents as a result).
What is important to note here is that every generation of Christians from the time when the "Gospels" were first written until now has felt sure that they were living in the "last days." There have always been "wars and rumors of wars" with "nation rising up against nation". There have always been earthquakes, famines, pestilence, hatred, and false prophets.
All of the "signs" used to prove that the time of the end began in 1914 are the same ones Russell used to prove that the time of the end started in 1799. He used incidents in the papers of the time and gave just as convincing an argument for his dates as the Watchtower does today for the new dates. This proves that, following these methods, you can persuade a person in any time period that he or she is living in the "last days". And, if you are as unscrupulous as the writers of the Watchtower, you can even twist the facts to make them fit your time period. For instance, the Watchtower of May 1, 1970, page 270, reported:
The severity and deadliness of earthquakes have increased markedly since "the time of the end" commenced for this old system in 1914. In fact, over 900,000 persons have died from earthquakes in this century, including close to 1,250 in the United States.
-- Watchtower, May 1, 1970, page 270.
But you will notice that this figure dates from the beginning of the 20th century rather than from 1914. The fact is that more than half that number died prior to 1914! To be precise, if you were to look the matter up in the Collierís Encyclopedia, Volume 8, page 254, you'd find that between the years 1905 and 1908, 520,000 people lost their lives in earthquakes. That's well over half the number the Watchtower cited to prove that the number has gone up since 1914! So, if the straight facts were given, they would disprove the notion that 1914 marked the beginning of the "last days" due to increased deaths from earthquakes.
Deaths From Earthquakes, 1900-1970
In 1970, the Watchtower claimed that the numbers shown on this chart increased between 1914-1970!
As you can see, the number of earthquakes actually decreased during that time period.
Interestingly, the Watchtower finally admitted the true facts in 1993:
The earth and its dynamic forces have more or less remained the same throughout the ages.
-- Watchtower, December 1, 1993, p. 6
Typically, however, they did not bother to mention that this fact contradicted what they had been preaching for over 50 years. They also failed to mention that this retraction removed one of their principal pieces of "evidence" for their "last days" argument.
Delighting in Death
The Watchtower has not been shy about showing its delight over the prospect of watching non-believers die horrible deaths in the "great tribulation" of "Armageddon". A popular children's book published by the Society graphically depicts people being killed en masse by being pelted with boulders from the sky, drowning, burning to death, being beaten to death, falling from collapsing buildings, and falling into chasms in the earth. It also depicts children being swallowed by the earth and falling to their deaths.
"Every kind of terror" will be used to destroy this evil world
-- cloudbursts, lashing rains, overflowing floods, earthquakes,
giant hailstones and a rain of fire. There will be terror on the
land, terror in the sea and terror in the air...
With shocking surprise Armageddon will catch all those persons
outside the New World society...
Soul-chilling terror will spread through the masses of people
so that they will lose control of themselves; they will begin
killing one another... Those who escape being killed by their
neighbors will be destroyed by God's heavenly armies.
Christ's angels will smite all the opposers of God's kingdom and
his kingdom witnesses with a terrible destruction. A flesh-eating
plague will destroy many... Eaten up will be the tongues of those
who scoffed and laughed at the warning of Armageddon! Eaten up
will be the eyes of those who refused to see the sign of the "time
of the end"! Eaten up will be the flesh of those who would not
learn that the living and true God is named Jehovah! Eaten up
while they stand on their feet!
Dead bodies will be everywhere--from end to end of the earth...
Ungathered, unburied, unwept for, the bodies will be like so much
fertilizer on the ground...
--From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, p. 207-210
How can anyone but a sadist possibly call this "kingdom message" of theirs "good news"? The wholesale slaughter of innocent children as well as adults? The virtuous along with the wicked? Where is justice in this? Where is common sense? Where is compassion or love?
It is human nature for Witnesses to have their feelings hurt when people slam doors in their faces and reject their message. Our baser natures cry out for revenge in such cases. It is painfully obvious in the above quotes that the Watchtower has sought to appeal to their members' baser instincts by promising that those who reject them will "get theirs". But what they describe is certainly overkill. In the Watchtower's vision of the future "paradise", the wolf may lie down with the lamb, but they will be laying atop the blood-soaked shreds of flesh and shattered bones of innocent men, women, and children.
Not being part of this "old world"
The Watchtower claims that all earthly governments are run by Satan and will soon be utterly destroyed in "the Great Tribulation". Therefore, Witnesses must remain separate from all governments (and from the "wicked world" in general). This is why Witnesses refuse to vote, or (thank goodness!) run for office.
But let's think about what governments really are. They are institutions designed to create and enforce laws, and to provide services for the common good of the people. Governments are good in so far as they provide useful services and uphold laws which benefit the common people. When governments fail in these respects and begin to be harmful, people usually revolt and set up a new government.
Where is the evil in this?
The alternative to government is anarchy. Would the Witnesses prefer that there were no laws, no public services, no representatives working for their interests? Since the Witnesses themselves admit that God and Jesus aren't ready to take over yet, someone down here on earth has to do it.
Has any Witness in need ever refused government aid in the form or welfare or food-stamps? Would it be better to let one's children starve than to accept charity from "Satan's government"?
There are many services provided by the government which I'm sure Witnesses benefit from on a daily basis. Government is simply people working for people and trying to make the world a better place. Yes, there are bad governments and there are bad politicians, and there will always be some disagreement on what the best thing to do is, or what goals we should strive for. But to say that "government" itself is wicked and all of it is under the control of Satan is to live in la-la land.
In sharp contrast to the Witness notion of Satan controlling all governments on earth, the Bible states:
Rom:13:1: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
The Watchtower states that governments are under the power of Satan. The Bible states that governments are under the power of God and that they are "ordained of God". Which statement should a Jehovah's Witness believe: the Watchtower's statement, or the Bible's statement?
Witnesses pray for the coming day of destruction when all governments (and the people who make up the governments) will be utterly destroyed. In contrast, the Bible states that one should give prayers of thanks for government leaders:
1Tm:2:1: I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
1Tm:2:2: For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
Which prayer should a Witness pray: the one the Watchtower recommends, or the one the Bible recommends?
Finally, if we compare "worldly" governments with the government of the Jehovah's Witnesses, we find the latter to be sorely inferior. The Witnesses are governed by an aristocracy with absolute power. The rank and file cannot vote on any issue, nor can they elect representatives. They are totally at the mercy of the dictates of a few old men in Brooklyn who lay down the laws. Since they believe this is "God's organization" they cannot revolt no matter how bad things may get. So we see that the government of Jehovah's Witnesses is worse than any "worldly" government. It is, in effect, slavery, pure and simple. No wonder Jehovah's Witnesses hate government! They probably project their feelings about their government onto "worldly" governments!
Note: Christians and Bible believers who are not Jehovah's Witnesses may wish to stop reading here, as the following chapter criticizes Christianity along with Jehovah's Witnesses. Those who are sincere seekers of truth, however, should continue.