Responses to Jehovah's Witnesses

Excerpts from e-mail interchange with a Jehovah's Witness

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Watchtower Society interchange: Recently a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses and I exchanged a lot of e-mail messages about their beliefs and doctrines. Here are questions he asked and responses I gave. This is almost like a blog of our conversations.

Jehovah's Witness question: Would you like to know the truth about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?
My answer: I'm not sure what you mean by "the truth about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." There is a question I'd like to ask in return: Why don't you accept what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit? For instance, It's my understanding that Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Holy Spirit is not a person.
     That contrasts starkly with what Christian believers have said through the centuries. They have affirmed that the Holy Spirit is Yahweh Himself as the third person of a triune God. Why do they say that?
     Well, time and again, the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as having characteristics or qualities which a real person has. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit doing things which real persons do. How the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture goes far beyond a mere influence or a "force." That's even emphasized by the pronoun which English Bible translations use for the Holy Spirit. It's always the personal "he" rather than the impersonal "it."
     Look at how the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture:
  1. The Holy Spirit speaks.
         "The Spirit clearly says . . ." -- 1 Timothy 4:1
         "The Spirit told Philip, 'Go to that chariot . . . .'" -- Acts 8:29
         "While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Simon, three men . . .'" Acts 10:19
         "The Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart . . . " -- Acts 13:2
  2. The Holy Spirit actively teaches.
         "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things" -- John 14:26
  3. The Holy Spirit gives testimony.
         "The Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me" -- John 14:26
  4. The Holy Spirit guides, hears, speaks and tells.
         "When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you. . . He will speak only what He hears and He will tell you what is yet to come" -- John 16:13 (look at all those personal persons in that passage; there's no "it" among them)
  5. The Holy Spirit forbids.
         "Having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the Word . . . the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them" -- Acts 16:6-7
  6. The Holy Spirit intercedes or prays.
         "The Spirit Himself intercedes for us . . . The Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" -- Romans 8:26-27

     All six of these characteristics point to the Holy Spirit being a person. Wind or influence or a force doesn't do these things, does it?
     That's not all. There are more characteristics of the Holy Spirit that demonstrate His personhood.

  1. The Holy Spirit has a mind.
         "He knows the mind of the Spirit" -- Romans 8:27
  2. The Holy Spirit has active knowledge.
         "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God" -- 1 Corinthians 1:10. Would an "active force" be said to search all things?
  3. The Holy Spirit possesses affection.
         "by the love of the Spirit" -- Romans 15:30. Would an "active force" be said to love?
  4. The Holy Spirit has a will.
         "He gives them to each one, just as He determines" 1 Corinthians 12:11. Could an "active force" or influence make decisions like this Scripture describes?

     Don't these last four characteristics imply the Holy Spirit possesses intelligence and personality? For instance, have you ever known an impersonal force that "loved" something or someone?
     Then, there is the fact that Scripture says the Holy Spirit can suffer personal slights and injuries. Can an impersonal force can be offended in that way?

  1. The Holy Spirit can be grieved.
         "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" -- Ephesians 4:30
  2. The Holy Spirit can be blasphemed.
         "The blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven" -- Matthew 12:31-32
  3. The Holy Spirit can be insulted.
         "who has insulted the Spirit of grace" -- Hebrews 10:29
  4. The Holy Spirit can be lied to.
         "You have lied to the Holy Spirit" -- Acts 5:3
  5. The Holy Spirit can be resisted.
         "You always resist the Holy Spirit" -- Acts 7:51
     You may say that one or two of these do not constitute "proof" of the personality of the Holy Spirit. But when you look at all of them together, that long list of 15 items becomes evidence that could be admitted in a court of law. Look again at all the ways the Bible describes the Holy Spirit. In the light of this list, doesn't it seem ludicrous to say the Holy Spirit is simply an impersonal influence or force?
Jehovah's Witness question: If Jesus was God, don't you think we would be able to pray directly to Jesus?
My answer: Good question. The answer is simple. We can. In practice, here's how I explain prayer: We pray to the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. However, since Yahweh is one God manifested in three persons, it is perfectly acceptable to pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit.
     It's been often said that there are three ways to determine whether we have Biblical authority to do something:
  1. Scriptures give a direct command
  2. Scripture gives examples we can emulate or follow
  3. By inference or deduction
     As regards whether prayers can be addresses to Jesus, the Scriptures provide us with authority through all three of these ways: commands, examples and inferences. Again, I'm not saying that believers must address prayers to Jesus, but I'm trying to respond to your point that if Jesus was God, we could pray directly to Him.
     In Acts 8:22 Peter tells Simon the sorcerer to pray to the Lord (a word used over and over again in the New Testament to refer to Jesus). Paul in Ephesians 5:19 exhorts believers to "sing and make music in your heart to the Lord." Isn't singing a type of prayer?
     The Bible gives examples of prayers said to Jesus. A very clear one is Stephen's dying prayer in Acts 7:59. There's also the request from Simon the Sorcerer to Peter in Acts 8:24. Acts 1:24 records a prayer addressed to "Lord." I believe that the Jehovah's Witnesses will agree that Lord is a title for Jesus. So, isn't that prayer being addressed to Jesus?
     In Romans 1:8, Paul says "I thank my God through Jesus Christ." If he's thanking God "through" Jesus Christ, doesn't that mean he's praying to Jesus? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:8, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord." The Bible even closes with a prayer to Jesus: "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).
     Then, there are various places in Scripture where one can infer that prayers are being said to Jesus. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul addresses those "who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." When we read "on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," isn't it natural to infer that prayer is being addressed to Jesus? Hebrews 7:25 says, "because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood." If Jesus is the permanent priest, wouldn't it be proper for us to infer that it is through Him (and thus praying to Him) that we must therefore approach God's throne?
     In John 14:6, Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Isn't there an inference in those words that we must come into the Father's presence through Jesus, the Way?
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Copyright © 2002 - Last Updated: January 10, 2015 | URL: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/jehovahh.htm

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