What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?/Program 4
|By: Joan Cetnar, Brian Garcia, Bob Gray, Keith Walker, and Don Veinot; ©2011|
|Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t just view God slightly different from Christians — they redefine who God is. Why? The Watchtower claims that the Trinity is a “demonic doctrine” and that only Jehovah is God. In this session of The John Ankerberg Show, we’ll learn more about what the Watchtower teaches its followers on these issues along with the biblical verses that inform our beliefs in these areas.|
Today, one out of every 282 Americans is a Jehovah’s Witness. Across the world, 7.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 236 countries go door to door preaching the Watchtower message. Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what do they believe? Their headquarters, called the Watchtower, are in Brooklyn, New York. In their publications, the Watchtower claims to be Jehovah’s only channel of communication on earth today; God’s prophet; speaking for God; the only right religion on earth. Yet the Watchtower holds vastly different beliefs than historic Christianity. It has its own Bible, the New World Translation; holds false views of Jesus, Scripture, salvation, and the afterlife; and forbids all Jehovah’s Witnesses from having blood transfusions, celebrating Christmas or Easter, birthdays or holidays. Where did these false beliefs come from? How can you show a Jehovah’s Witness what the Bible really teaches? Today you will find out.
My guests are: Joan Cetnar a former fourth-generation Jehovah’s Witness who served at the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, where she observed first-hand the President and other leaders. Her husband Bill held the position of answering questions submitted to the Watchtower for one-third of the United States. You’ll hear the shocking story of the doctrinal and behavioral deceptions that caused them to leave, later becoming Christians, and founding a ministry that helps those raised with Watchtower beliefs.
Then, Brian Garcia. He was brought up in a Jehovah’s Witness family, and defended its beliefs in college and on the internet. You’ll hear how a Christian friend helped him understand the message of the true Jesus and the good news of the gospel—that everyone who puts their trust in Jesus, they will go to heaven.
Bob Gray was a Jehovah’s Witness for 24 years and served as an elder in his congregation. He went door to door 100 hours each month. But he came to realize he had no basis in Scripture for what he was teaching, and decided to leave.
And, finally, you will hear from two experts who minister to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Keith Walker, president of Evidence Ministries, and Don Veinot Jr., president of Midwest Christian Outreach. We hope today’s program will help you and others around the world to share the truth with those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg show.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program, we’ve got a great one for you today. We’re going to talk about, what do the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about Christians. They come to our door and they knock on our door. They want to give us information; they want to talk to us. What do they want to talk to us about? What do they believe? There are seven and a half million Jehovah’s Witnesses across the world that are basically being controlled by a group of men that are at the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. What are those men saying? What do they claim about themselves?
- And, Joan, I want to come to you, because you have the writings, and your parents, you’re a fourth generation Jehovah’s Witness, you’ve got the stuff that goes right back to Charles Taze Russell; goes right on through Judge Rutherford and all the way up to the present Jehovah’s Witnesses. And you also were at the Watchtower headquarters, and your husband answered questions for aa third of the United States for the Watchtower. So you know what you’re talking about. And one of the things that people just have a hard time getting their minds around are these facts: the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the guys in Brooklyn, claim that they are God’s prophets speaking to man today; they’re the only right religion; they are God’s channel of communication on earth today. And when people make these claims, it’s just astounding. But you folks, you believed that, and you lived your life then according to that. But when you came across some of the statements that you had in your own home: For example, that in 1925, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were supposed to come back to earth, and you guys built them a house in San Diego for them to live, which your husband went and slept in.
- Cetnar: Right.
- Ankerberg: I mean, when 1925 came and went and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and a whole bunch of others didn’t show up, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed that they would, talk about that, first of all, what was said?
- Cetnar: Well, in the book Millions Now Living Will Never Die, that was Rutherford’s prediction of 1925. But in 1918 when he wrote that book, he said this, “Therefore we may confidently expect,” not we think it might happen, we can confidently expect, “that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named in Hebrews 11, to a condition of human perfection.” Well, even after they didn’t return, they were still looking for this, because that would be an indication that the new earth was being set-up. So, they built the house they called Beth Sarim in San Diego, and they deeded it to David. But David never came back, so Rutherford moved in and it became…
- Ankerberg: Judge Rutherford, the president, second president.
- Cetnar: Yeah, J.F. Rutherford. He moved in and made that his summer home. So, it was a prophecy that was never fulfilled. And what’s interesting, at the end of 1925, in September 1925, they come back with, “It is expected that Satan will try to inject into the minds of the consecrated the thought that 1925 would see an end to the work.” They did the same thing in 1975, when it didn’t…. “You took too much out of what we said about 1975, and you ran with it.” Well, where did it come from? It came from them. And it was as sure in 1925 as Noah was of the flood, and he got that from God.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. I mean…
- Cetnar: So, it’s…
- Ankerberg: I’ve seen it. I’ve got some copies of the posters of “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.”
- Cetnar: Um-hum.
- Ankerberg: Okay. And these were handed out by the thousands here in America. And it was a big deal. But the fact is, if they have said the end of the world is going to come eight different times, put it in print—millions of copies of print—how many Jehovah’s Witnesses, after those events transpired and nothing happened, how many went out the back door? How many left?
- Cetnar: Thousands. They said after 1975, at least 250,000 people left the organization. They saw a difference after that.
- Ankerberg: They should.
- Cetnar: They should’ve, yes.
- Ankerberg: I mean, Deuteronomy 18:21 says that you shouldn’t follow somebody that says something in the name of God,… it doesn’t take place, forget them.
- Cetnar: But our concern, John, where did they go?
- Ankerberg: Where do most of them turn? You’ve guys have all left. Talk about that. When you were in the process of leaving, what was your mindset?
- Cetnar: Well, you were afraid. We were afraid, because we thought we were the only ones who had ever left, had ever questioned them. And that’s one of the reasons, when we moved back to Pennsylvania, we started a convention for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1979, because we wanted them to know that we were there for them. We’re here to listen to your story and, if you’re hurt, we want to help you to get healed. And so we have people giving their testimonies, we have good teaching from qualified brothers in the Lord, to help these people come to know the Lord. And Bob did.
- Ankerberg: Now, the Watchtower claims to be speaking for God, they come up with doctrines, as well. And one of those has to do with who God is, the Trinity. Now, first of all, Brian, what does the Watchtower say about Christianity and Christendom? And then, what does the Watchtower tell you about the doctrine of God being triune, God as Trinity.
- Garcia: They believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is a demonic teaching; that it represents everything that’s wrong in Christendom; that it’s been adopted from pagan religions; and they say that their God is the one true God, Jehovah, and that God is only one person, that he’s the person of the Father. They teach that Jesus Christ is a god; he is like God, but he is not God in nature, nor is he in complete divine quality. So, they have a big difference between what the Scripture says about God and what they teach about God.
- Ankerberg: Alright. How do you unscramble it for them? How was it that you came to find out, by reading even your New World Translation, as a Jehovah’s Witness, that God was triune; he was one in nature, but he was three in person. How did you come to that conclusion?
- Garcia: Well, if there are any Jehovah’s Witnesses watching this program right now, I want you to pause and think for a second: What is a Trinity? What have you been taught that a Trinity is by the Watchtower? And let that settle in for a second. Now, what the Scriptures actually teach, and what Christianity has been teaching for 2,000 years about the Trinity is this, that there is one eternal God: Yahweh, Jehovah. Within this eternal being of God, there are three persons who share in the divine nature of God. There’s a person in Scripture called the Father—in 1 Corinthians 8, he is called God. There’s a person called the Son in John 20:28—and he is called Lord and God. There’s a person called the Holy Spirit—in Acts 5, he’s called God. And in 2 Corinthians 3, it says, in the New World Translation, “that the Holy Spirit is indeed Jehovah God.” And so we have three persons who are called Jehovah God. Yet Deuteronomy 6:4 says that “Yahweh our God is one Yahweh.” And so there is not three Gods, there is one God. And also, we want to make clear that the Trinity is not modalism, which is a teaching that there is one person in the Godhead who is Jesus, then sometimes he’s the Father, he takes off that mask, and he puts on the mask of the Son, now he’s the Son, then he takes off that mask, and puts on the mask of the Holy Spirit. That is not what we teach. When we say that Jesus is Jehovah, we are not saying that Jesus is the Father; rather, they’re distinct persons within the Godhead, who are equally sharing in that one essence and nature of God.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. I think we also need to come back after you get to, the fact is, that the Father’s called God, the Son is called God, and the Holy Spirit is called God in Scripture independently, and there’s only one God. The fact is, then you have Jesus in the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel, in the name [singular] of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” So, in the nature of the one true God, we must conclude there exist three distinct persons. And Russell, from the beginning and other presidents, have said it is not reasonable, okay. How do you answer that?
- Veinot: Well, one of the questions that I like to ask is, if God wanted to exist as a Trinity, could he? And that’s usually the answer that they give is, “No, he couldn’t, because it’s unreasonable.” The only problem with that is the Reasoning book, on page 148, asks the question, “Did God have a beginning?” And then it quotes Psalm 90:2, “From time indefinite to time indefinite, you are God.” And then they ask this question, “Is that reasonable?” And they say, “Our minds cannot fully comprehend it, but that’s not a sound reason for rejecting it.” So, I use that very passage to explain to Jehovah’s Witnesses that just because you don’t completely understand something doesn’t mean that it’s not true. I don’t understand how these lights work on this set, other than the fact that you flip the switch and they come on.
- Walker: Or even biblical things. I mean, do you believe that God created everything from nothing? And they almost say, “Yes.” I go, “Well, how did he do that?” “I don’t know.” “Well, is it reasonable?” Obviously God can do things that we can’t do. When he parted the Red Sea, it says, “the water set up on edge.” Does water set up on edge? No. How did he do that? I don’t know. I don’t know either, but it says he did that. So, we have to go back to Scripture and say, “What does Scripture say about who God is?”
- Gray: It was so liberating when I finally realized that I didn’t have to worship God in a box; that the God that I had worshiped was way too small. And when you just begin to not even comprehend, apprehend, how big he is, you go, Wow! What I used to think was so profound, so deep, was really so shallow, once I really got to know who God was.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. It’s switching from you telling God what he can do…
- Gray: Exactly
- Ankerberg: …to allowing God, even though you don’t know how he’s doing it, for him to speak and give revelation to you. Now, we’re going to take a break. And when we come back, we’re going to talk about this some more. So stick with us, we’ll be right there with you.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with three former Jehovah’s Witnesses about what they used to live, and what they were told to believe, and all that they did, and then what caused them to leave. We also have two experts on the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And one of the biggest stumbling blocks to Jehovah’s Witnesses in coming to Christ as being God, is the whole doctrine of the Trinity. And again, Brian, start us off here. Give us some more help. As you were debating this topic as a Jehovah’s Witness yourself, again, what are some of the other verses that starting turning you around in your thinking?
- Garcia: Here in my hand I hold a 1961 edition of the New World Translation. In Hebrews 1:6, it translates it, “but when he again brings his firstborn to inhabit the earth, he says,” and that’s Jesus, the firstborn, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” In the new versions they change it and say, “Let them do obeisance to him.” However, you read the rest of chapter 1 of Hebrews, you see the true context of that. It says in verse 3 that he is “the radiance of his glory, the exact expression [or representation] of his being.” It says in verse 8 that the Father testifies this to the Son, “But your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” The Jehovah’s Witness’ Bible says, “God is your throne.” But I’d encourage them to look into their Kingdom Interlinear and to see what it actually says in the Greek text.
- It says also in verse 10, this is important, it says, the Father referring to the Son, it says, “You, in the beginning, O Lord, established the earth and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you remain.” It says that, “You are the same and your years will never end.” This is a quotation from Psalm 102:25-27, where the psalmist was applying this to the one true God, Jehovah; yet we have the Father saying, “This is to the Son.”
- And when we read Scripture, and we talk about who Jesus is, we’ve got to take it all in context. You can’t isolate just one verse and say, well, Jesus isn’t or is God. We’ve got to look at the whole picture. And the Bible says that Jesus called himself the Lord of the Sabbath. Who was the Lord of the Sabbath in the Old Testament? Yahweh himself was the one who established the Sabbath, who rested on the Sabbath. He was the Lord of the Sabbath. We also see Jesus making statements like this: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Can you imagine Moses saying that to the Israelites? He wouldn’t have made it even halfway to the Promised Land if he said something like that. Only the God-Man can make these statements. Because Jesus is the God-Man, he is the way to the Father.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. Let me take it easier here. Back in the Old Testament, in Exodus, okay, Moses is walking in the desert, and all of the sudden, God starts talking to him out of the burning bush. And he says, “I’ve got a job for you to do, Moses. I want to send you to Pharaoh. I want to send you to Israel, and I want you to tell Israel you’re leaving. And I want you to tell Pharaoh, my people are out of here.” Okay? Moses thinks that over and he says, “They’re going to ask me a question—who sent you, Moses? What am I going to tell them? They’re going to want to know, what’s your name?” And God said in Exodus 3, “My name is the ‘I AM,’ and my memorial name for all generations is the ‘I AM’.” In John 8, Jesus is standing with the religious leaders, and he says, “Before Abraham was, I’m the ‘I AM’.” And we know that they put those two together, because what do they do? They reach for the rocks. They wanted to stone him, okay? Now, however you put that out, Jesus was claiming to be the “I AM,” Yahweh, God, alright?
- Now, you have, again, the Father claiming to be God, or the Bible saying that the Father is God, the Son says he’s God, the Holy Spirit says he’s God. You’ve got to put that together. Now, let me just say this: this is not unusual, even in the physical world, that we put stuff together we don’t understand. Scientists tell us this thing called light that we have on stage is made up of particles and waves. Those are contradictory things. You don’t have a group of scientists saying, “Well, I don’t understand how, you know, it’s got to be this,” and walking off and leaving the other. They hold these things together, even though they seem to be contradictory. But they’re saying that’s what light is. And if we are bound like that in the physical world, you come back to God and you say, God has got to be so much greater than all of us. He can tell us who he is and we ought to just say, this is what he’s revealed to us. What did you have, Keith?
- Walker: Well, I was actually talking with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses about this whole idea of Jesus being equal to the Father. And in John 5:18, it says “For this cause, therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him. Because he not only was breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his Father, making himself equal with God.” I dropped down to verse 23 and I read “…in order that all may honor the Son, even as you honor the Father.” And the Jehovah’s Witness looked at me and said, “You’re trying to make that sound equal.” I said, “Well, how does your translation read?” He says, “Well, it reads, ‘Even now, only honor the Son, just as they honor the Father’.” I said, “‘Just as’, I like that better. Do you honor the Son, just as you honor the Father?” And he said this, he says, “You know, I’m not going to say that I honor Jesus any less, I just honor Jehovah more.”
- Ankerberg: Joan?
- Cetnar: Well, in John 8:58, in order to get away from Jesus actually saying that he was the “I AM”, they had to change the translation. I have the original 1950 translation of that, John 8:58, where they changed it to “I have been”: “Before Abraham was, I have been,” just making it a matter of him having a pre-human existence. And, in order to prove that was no connection with what you just quoted from Exodus, they said it was the right translation because it was rendered in the perfect indefinite tense. No Greek scholar that I talked to had ever heard of a perfect indefinite tense.
- Ankerberg: Even the Greeks didn’t know about that one.
- Cetnar: I don’t think so. And then, in the Kingdom Interlinear of 1969, they still kept the same rendition, “I have been”, but they called it the perfect tense.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. Heree. I’ve got one right here.
- Cetnar: Alright, you got it. Then in their New World Translation where they had footnotes, they changed the same explanation to a perfect indicative. And it’s like you said, it’s very obvious that he said he was the “I AM,” because they thought he was blaspheming. “You’re only a man, and you’re going to call yourself God? We’re going to stone you.” But I think when you go back to John 8:24, he made it very clear why that was important to know. He said, “If you do not believe that ’I AM’, you will die in your sins.” “You will die in your sins.” And he was talking to the religious leaders. And I can still hear my son say, “I went to go see Grandma and I told her about John 8:24, and he said, she didn’t make any difference.” So, you’ve got somebody,… somebody with such a mind control can’t see what Jesus is saying.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. Next week we’re going to talk about the fact of what the Jehovah’s Witnesses say about how you read your Bible, you can’t do it without them. But here’s the thing, is, you step back and you think about this, it is hard to believe. If I was one of the Pharisees standing there and Jesus says “I’m the ’I AM’,” you know, I would’ve thought, “This guy’s the ’I AM’!?” So, it is kind of hard to say. But, Jesus was saying that. But he demonstrated it by his resurrection from the dead, which is another contested point.
- Cetnar: Well, even when he was here on the earth, he was resurrecting people from the dead, he was healing, he was doing everything they expected the Messiah to do. And they would not recognize it. Talk about blindness.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. But here’s the thing. The Bible says God sent the Son into the world, okay? God sent the Son, God the Son, into the world, And Paul says about his coming into the world, “Although he Jesus existed in the form of God,…” and that word “exist” is a present participle, and it indicates this: Jesus was continuously existing in the form of God even before his incarnation, and indicates the continuance of his godhood at and after his birth. There never was a time when he wasn’t God, okay? And then, Paul, in Philippians, says, “Can you believe this? The God of the universe humbled himself so much he even went and died on the cross; and he did it for a reason—to die for our sins.” Every one of us are guilty before God and we need a Savior, somebody that’s going to rescue us. Jesus came and he’s the Savior, which is another thing we’ve got to go into, all of the verses that are in the Bible that say Jesus is the Savior. In Isaiah, there’s only one Savior and that’s God “Yahweh,” okay? So, the fact is, Jesus is the Savior, and God says, “Listen, don’t ignore the only one that I’ve sent into the world to rescue you from your sins, because there is no other escape.” That’s why Jesus said, “I’m the only way, nobody’s going to come to the Father except through me.”
- So, folks, we’re just throwing this out to you. You can investigate it; it’s in your Bible. It’s not just for Jehovah’s Witnesses, this is for all of us. You’ve got to recognize who Jesus is, and you have to stop and say, if he died and paid for your sins, then have you asked him to forgive you and put your trust in him only, because he’s the only Savior out there? If you don’t, I would recommend that you do that. The Bible says, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you want peace with God, if you want to be justified before God, it comes through Jesus Christ our Lord when you put your faith in him. Alright, next week we’ve got lots more to talk about, so I hope that you’ll join us then.