Some say the Witnesses have altered their creed. If they have, they stand condemned for having misled all their followers for many years. If they have not, they still merit the universal condemnation of the works of Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Rutherford by all orthodox Christians. But there is no evidence that they have altered their essential beliefs. Their strategy has changed. Their aim now is to manipulate mankind’s natural feelings and fears. They play on such things as the destructive force of nuclear weapons, the scare of overpopulation, corruption in high places, the spread of pornography, and so forth. The Witnesses claim that they have “resigned from the world.” Its problems, wars, and politics are so complex, so pervasive, that they no longer concern the Witnesses. They claim to be “citizens of a better society, Jehovah’s New World Theocracy.”
In the orthodox sense the Witnesses are not Christians, for they deny that Christ is God. Their teaching is certainly new. But they themselves deny that it is a religion. They conceive it to be their first duty to denounce all other religious bodies. Rutherford declared that “religion was introduced into the world by the devil.” “For more than three years,” he declared, “Jesus continued to proclaim the truth and to wam the people against the practice of religion. . . . For religion dishonors and reproaches the name of Jehovah God.” According to him religion and Christianity are exactly opposite and opposed one to the other. That, of course, is ridiculous. Christianity is the one, true religion revealed by Jesus Christ who was God himself.
The Witnesses have no time for the Christian churches. Russell said that in 1878 God had rejected all existing churches and made the Russellites the only spokesmen thenceforward. Rutherford went further. He did not like to admit that the churches were all right till Russell came on the scene. After Christ’s Resurrection, he said, the devil built up a great empire, the papacy. Later, he inspired the creation of the Protestant churches. So, all Catholic priests and Protestant clergymen are of the devil, enemies of God, Antichrist. The Witnesses deny that they are a church or a denomination. There is no justification, they say, in the Bible for a church or a hierarchy. The Catholic Church, the Church of England, and the Free Churches are the constant butt of abuse in publications of the Witnesses, which deny most of the fundamental Christian doctrines.
As for civil authority, they say they owe their only loyalty to a “Theocratic Kingdom” and refuse the duties of earthly citizenship. There are two groups in the world, the “Theocratic Kingdom” and “Satan’s Organization.” This latter includes all churches and governments. Just as among the churches the papacy is the “Beast” par excellence, so amongst the nations are America and Britain.
Some people think the Witnesses are pacifists like the Quakers. They are not. The truth is that they worship a vengeful God who plans the bloodiest war in history, “Armageddon.” They would willingly take up arms for Jehovah in the forthcoming struggle. They seem to delight in realistic descriptions of the fate of the wicked who are slain for allying themselves with Satan’s armies. Witnesses have no scruples against shedding blood in such a war but they refuse to become involved in the petty squabbles of Satan’s nations.
The Witnesses maintain they are persecuted. In fact, they get themselves into trouble (often deliberately, for the sake of publicity) by attacking the cherished beliefs of their fellowmen on which our Christian civilization is based and by promoting disloyalty to lawful authority. “For conscientious cussedness on the grand scale, no other aggregation of Americans is a match for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Defiance of what others cherish is their daily meat. They hate all religions—and say so from the housetops. They hate all governments with an enthusiasm that is equally unconcealed . . . For being generally offensive they have been getting their heads cracked, their meetings broken up, their meetinghouses pillaged and themselves thrown into jail” (Saturday Evening Post, Sept. 14, 1940). It would be interesting to know how the Witnesses reconcile their contentions that they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs and that their preachers are ministers of religion (entitled to many privileges, like that of traveling at reduced fares in America) with their basic article of faith that religion is of the devil.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are not true Bible Christians. They reject the only authority there is in the world for the Bible, namely the Catholic Church. Russell and Rutherford have no means of knowing that the Bible is God’s word, apart from the Catholic Church. Rutherford actually wrote that Russell found “no Christian denomination teaching what the Bible contains.” So he had gone to work himself. Russell’s followers seem to have been convinced that he had been inspired by God. But when Russell died in 1916, Rutherford began to teach some very different doctrines. There was strife within the organization. Rutherford triumphed. The leadership said that Rutherford’s explanations of the Bible are not human opinions but are inspired by God. The pope’s claim to be infallible is mild compared with that.
The Witnesses contradict almost every basic Christian teaching. And those they don’t contradict they usually ignore. They are fundamentally unitarians. A leaflet published from the London Office called What do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe? tells us: “Since there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ the true God has a personal name to distinguish him from all other gods.” The name is Jehovah. The truth is that there is only one God, and he certainly has not got a name to distinguish him from other “gods.” Even the word “Jehovah” is not really biblical. The original writers of Holy Writ did not know it. In Hebrew they wrote “Yahweh” which means “He who is.” It is an alternative name for God. The Witnesses claim that Jehovah is a personal name for God. It is very hard to decide exactly what the Witnesses mean by all this, but it seems that for them “Jehovah” is to “god” as “oak” is to “tree”—one among many but the best of the lot. The expression “Jehovah God” so commonly used by the Witnesses is nowhere found in the Bible.
The Witnesses do not believe that God is everywhere, nor do they believe in the Holy Trinity. In his book Reconciliation, Rutherford says that, “The constellation of the seven stars forming the Pleiades is the place of the eternal throne of God—the dwelling place of Jehovah.” Witnesses constantly ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity. Rutherford wrote: “Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advanced than that of the Trinity. It could have originated only in one mind and that the mind of Satan, the devil.”
The Witnesses do not believe that Christ is the Eternal Son of God, equal to the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is the third equal divine Person. Although Christ revealed clearly the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and spoke of the Holy Spirit as personal (John 14:26), Rutherford says the Holy Spirit is any power or influence exercised by God.
Christ, according to the Witnesses, was Jehovah’s first creation.” He is not equal with the Father. Russell taught that Christ was “Michael, the Archangel.” “In obedience to God, he gave up his spiritbeing and was born of Mary as a wholly human teeing.” The Witnesses still teach that Jehovah God created a spiritson, Christ Jesus, who, before becoming man, was also known as Michael the Archangel. This spiritson, not God but more like a favorite angel, took on human flesh as a perfect man. To make it fit in with their strange beliefs, the Witnesses do not scruple to manipulate the words of the Bible. For example, where John wrote at the beginning of his Gospel: “the Word was God,” the Witnesses’ version is “the Word was a god.”
For our Christian teaching about Christ’s death, Resurrection, and Ascension, the Witnesses substitute a series of contradictions supported neither by Scripture nor Tradition. “Jesus had to be wholly human. This mighty spirit had to become human in every way, and, incredible though this may seem, why should it be doubted? . . . Jesus did rise from the dead . . . He was restored to spirit life . . . He does not return again and take up his humanity . . .The right to it is transferred to Adam’s offspring, who were born without the liferight.” Such fantastic nonsense is certainly not Christianity, whatever else it is. Although they use the words “Jesus did rise from the dead,” the Witnesses do not, in fact, believe in the Resurrection of Christ in the orthodox Christian way. The man Christ is dead for ever. “The person who died,” Russell tells us, “remained dead, and he will never be seen again in his human nature.” No one knows what became of his body. Russell suggested that it might have been dissolved into gases. Similarly, the Witnesses reject the true scriptural and traditional teaching on the Ascension of Christ and substitute for it some utter nonsense they have invented themselves.
According to the Witnesses, man does not have a soul. He is a soul. “Adam was a soul . . . The lower animals also are souls . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the doctrines of eternal torment and immortality of the human soul.” Thus in a few sentences do they debunk several basic Christian doctrines which are clearly taught in Scripture and by all the Fathers of the Church. No man can remain a Christian and believe such rubbish.
Although few things are so clearly taught in Scripture as the existence of an eternal hell, where the wicked will be punished, the Witnesses reject it. “Once the devil has invented immortal souls, he had to invent a place somewhere outside heaven or earth for wicked immortal souls to go to. What else could he do but fall back on eternal conscious torment as the explanation?” That quotation is extremely mild in comparison with many of the b.asphemies of Russell and Rutherford. The Witnesses do not believe God will punish sinners. “The Bible does not teach that man possesses an ‘immortal soul’ that can endure endless roasting in torment.” The world already belongs to the devil. “God never punishes either in this life nor in the next,” declared Russell. It does not, therefore, matter how badly people behave in this life, according to the Witnesses, for our moral choices now have no effect whatever upon our eternal future. We might just as well sin with impunity. There is no hell. Russell says that all are to be raised again and given a second chance. So everything depends on how we behave then, not on how we behave now. The more wicked a man has been in this life, the more likely he is to make good in the next. Even if he doesn’t make good and continues to defy God with contempt, he will simply be put painlessly out of existence and experience no future evil consequences whatever.
A system that contradicts all our basic Christian ideals must be a danger. Particularly in countries like those of South America, where there is such a serious shortage of priests, great ignorance of religion, and much material distress, Jehovah’s Witnesses represent a real menace. Their system is based on the destruction of Christianity, of all organized religion, and of all lawful civil authority. It is hard to imagine anything more false or more dangerous than that.
The Witnesses claim that the Bible forbids blood transfusion. This is a highly dangerous doctrine. It is also quite wrong. Typical texts quoted by Witnesses are Leviticus 17:10, 14, and Acts 15:29. Insofar as these texts refer to abstaining from blood they are simply dietary rules which were obeyed by the Jewish people until the time of Christ. The apostles made a temporary rule that new Christians should abstain from blood, but it is clear that this was done as a compromise to pacify the Jewish Christians and to avoid giving scandal to them. It is stretching the meaning of these texts beyond all sense to make them forbid blood transfusions. It is one thing to drink the blood of an animal or to eat meat that has blood in it and quite a different thing to receive a blood transfusion.
If a Witness calls at your home, be charitable. Say quite frankly and definitely that you have your own fixed beliefs and you are quite satisfied with them. Generally speaking it is a waste of time to argue with the Witness on the doorstep. There can be little common ground between Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses. For the latter such fundamental terms as God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, religion, and salvation have a meaning quite different from that which they have had for nearly twenty centuries for the Church and all her Fathers, Doctors, saints, and scholars. Remember too that your Witness visitor is almost certainly unreasonably prejudiced. Only those Catholics who are sufficiently qualified might hope to gain anything by discussion. They should always retain the initiative by talking about the Church as they see it and not about the errors of the Witnesses. Remember that the poor Witness knows nothing of the beauties and treasures of the Church. The only hope in a discussion with him is to be positive, refuse to be drawn, and concentrate on passing on the picture of the faith that is in the true Catholic mind.
Never under any circumstances accept or buy literature from the Witnesses. Never give them money. Never lose your temper or use insulting language. Remember that these Witnesses do not always reveal themselves for what they are. If anyone comes to your house and asks, for example, if you are interested in the Bible, ask at once if he is a representative of the Witnesses of Jehovah. Then act accordingly.