Responses to Jehovah's Witnesses

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

Watchtower Society interchange: Recently a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses and I exchanged a lot of e-mail messages about beliefs and doctrines. Here are questions he asked and responses I gave. In essene, this is a blog of our conversations. There will be some overlapping of material since the email conversation occasionally circled back similar themes.

One of the sad things about our email exchanges is that my Jehovah's Witness friend rarely asked me a follow-up question. So we had very few real "conversations" in which we discussed anything in-depth.

Jehovah's Witness question: I've been browsing your site and notice that although you talk a lot about God, you never mention His name? Why?
My answer: Your question puzzled me. So, I did some searches on my site. I found the word "God" used on more than 500 pages. The word "Lord" appears on 225 of them. That word is "kurios" in the Greek New Testament and "Adonai" in the Old Testament. The Eternal One is mentioned on one page. Yahweh/Jehovah appears on 26 pages of my site while Almighty is used on a dozen of them. Creator is used on about 30 pages with "Lord God" as a phrase appearing on 7 pages.

I'm married to a woman named Barbara. Sometimes I call her Barbara and sometimes Barbi. Sometimes I call her "my wife." Occasionally I'll say "honey" or "sweetheart" or other endearing terms. She recognizes any and all of those.

So, it's puzzling to have you say I never mention God's name. It seems to me that the pages of my site use lots of Biblical terms including Yahweh and Jehovah that refer unmistakably to Him.
Jehovah's Witness question: Where in Scripture does it say God is triune?
My answer: My favorite passage in terms of understanding God as triune is the baptismal celebration phrasing in Matthew 28:19-20 (the Great Commission as it is sometimes called). The invocation "in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" uses the singular word "name" — onoma in Greek — rather than the plural word "names." While some will argue that onoma should be translated as "by the authority of," the primary meaning which credible Greek lexicons say this word had in New Testament times is "proper name" or "the name by which a person or thing is called."

Being baptized in the "name" of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is a way of affirming the oneness that was in Peter's mind as he spoke of Jesus in Acts 4:12 and said: "There is no other name" by which we "must be saved."

You are right in thinking that the word "triune" or even Trinity is not in the Bible. Those words are, however, useful in drawing together what the First Century church understood about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit without falling into a tritheism (a belief in three gods). The words Triune or Trinity conveniently wrap up into one word all the Biblical data that point to Jesus as Yahweh incarnate and to the Holy Spirit as God himself. While the word "trinity" is not actually in the Bible, the concept certainly is!

Does it seem rational to say that Yahweh expresses Himself in three separate persons, yet exists as one single entity? No, it doesn't seem rational to us human beings . . . but then the creation of an entire universe from nothing doesn't seem rational to human beings either. [More on Trinity]
Jehovah's Witness question: Doesn't Matthew 28 prove that Jehovah and Jesus are totally separate beings since it lists them separately?
My answer: Don't read into Matthew 28:19-20 things that aren't there. First of all, Jehovah or Yahweh isn't even mentioned in Matthew 28:19-20. Then, secondly, I do not see the the clear distinction you say it makes. It does not say "in the name of the Father and in the name of the Son and in the name of the Holy Spirit." Doesn't it say: "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?" There's only one "name" mentioned. Isn't the word "name" singular?

Actually Jehovah is not the best way to render the four Hebrew consonants that scholars call the Tetragrammaton. Jehovah is an outmoded attempt to render the sounds of the Hebrew word we should render as Yahweh [More in Trinity].
Jehovah's Witness question: Where in the Bible does it say that we are going to heaven?
My answer: What about the great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language in Revelation 7 that are standing before the throne in God's temple? Put that alongside verse 5 of chapter 15 where it says "I looked and in heaven the temple." Clearly, the temple of Revelation is in heaven. There's a similar statement in 14:17: "Another angel came out of the temple in heaven."

There's some of the same phrasing in chapter 19 where John talks about a "great multitude in heaven" and mentions again the elders and living creatures he alluded to in chapter 7.

What about the passage in chapter 2 that says "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God"? In the two other passages in scripture where Paradise is mentioned (Luke 23:43 and 2 Corinthians 12:4), the reference is clearly to heaven. What about the message to the church in Laodicea, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne"? That throne is obviously in heaven because that's where it is described as being in Revelation 19:1, 4 and 5: "After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven . . . The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne . . .Then a voice came from the throne."
Jehovah's Witness question: Why would God want to take a Great Multitude from the earth to heaven when he already has those millions and millions of angels there? Does that make any kind of sense to you? For the Great Multitude to be in heaven, wouldn't that mean that Jehovah God have to kill them in order for him to have them in heaven with him?
My answer: It does not sense to ask why God would want a Great Multitude from earth in heaven. Doesn't God wants to be with us because He loves us? It seems to me that His love is enough of an answer for the "why." The Bible is clear in saying that God loves us. Does it ever say that He "loves" angels? Since it clearly says He loves us, wouldn't He want us to be where He is? I love my children, so I want them to be where I am as often as they can.

That's why I paid for plane tickets for them to come home for the holidays when they lived far away. That's why I've encouraged them to look for employment in Oklahoma. Sure, there are lots of people who live in Oklahoma, but I love my children more than any of them. Isn't God like this? Doesn't He love us and want us to be with Him even though he has a few angels around?

After all, didn't Jesus say, "I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3)? The position that God doesn't want a Great Multitude in Heaven would imply Jesus didn't mean what He said in John 14.

As to the second part of your response, have you read Revelation 9? It answers that question. Does it say God killed them? No, it says that this great multitude who are before the throne and serving God day and night came out of great tribulation. That great multitude from all people groups — which undoubtedly includes Christian friends of mine from Italy, Haiti, Bulgaria, Croatia and Venezuela — is also referred to in Revelation 5.

Revelation 9 specifically talks of a great multitude composed of people from all nations who will serve God in His temple and before His throne. Do I understand you correctly to say you think the Bible doesn't really mean that?
Jehovah's Witness question: Do you truly believe all the things the Bible promised are going to come to pass?
My answer: I do believe all the promises in Scripture will be fulfilled.

However, I am also aware that through the years people have misinterpreted promises from the Bible. For instance, early in their history the Jehovah's Witnesses preached that the Bible said that the Second Coming of Jesus was going to happen in 1914 and that current human history would end at that point. That didn't happen, of course. Then they began preaching that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were going to be resurrected from the dead in 1925 and start ruling over the earth. That did not happen. Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s the Jehovah's Witnesses began saying that end times would begin in 1974. I clearly remember reading Jehovah's Witness literature in those days and listening to some of them. There was this deep conviction that they knew exactly what the Bible was saying. They were wrong, of course. Then, in the May 1, 1985 issue of the Watchtower, it was predicted that before the generation that was alive in 1914 died out, God's judgment would be executed on the earth. Well, quite frankly the very few people alive now who were alive in 1914 were extremely young children back then.

Thus, you can see why I am a bit skeptical when anyone connected with the Watchtower Society begins telling me how specific Bible promises are going to play out.
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