I was a Jehovah¹s Witness for 15 years
I was a Jehovah's Witness for 15 years. My wife Vivian was a Witness
all of her life before we were disfellowshipped (excommunicated) in 1988.
We were very happy in our Watchtower world for most of the time. We might
still be there but for the grace of God and the witness of Christians who
died long before either Vivian or I were born.
Before I explain the last statement, let me fill in some background.
I became a Witness in 1971. Christians I meet ask me why a bright guy like
myself would get involved in a cult. The answer I give them is that Jehovah¹s
Witnesses answered the questions I had; about God, about death, about the
purpose of life, and mostly about the future. You might be thinking I could
have received better answers from any informed Christian.
That is true, but Jehovah¹s Witnesses came to my door and Christians
did not. They gave me answers instantly that I had never heard in Sunday
School or church. The answers were usually wrong, but they were always
using the Bible, and I had no reason to think they were using it dishonestly.
Nor could I suspect their motives. They were obviously such nice people,
and the most zealous "Christians" I had ever met, with sincerity,
zeal and answers from the Bible for every question. Within a few months
I was convinced.
The Watchtower was God's voice to the 20th century. I was also convinced
I must act on that knowledge. The year 1975 was only a handful of years
away, and from 1966 onward the Watchtower publicized that year as the "appropriate"
time for the millennium to begin and for Armageddon to take care of the
world's problems. For me, a casualty of the tumultuous 1960's, the certainty
of this "soon to be solution to all of life's tragedies and mysteries"
was good news, much better than the gospel I remembered from church.
By 1974 I was a full time "pioneer" (missionary) for the Watchtower
in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto. That is where I met Vivian and her family.
They were part of the warm Witness community that I fell into. It was easy
to "catch the fire" among that very active and committed bunch.
We were like one big family. It seemed like Jesus' promise to reward hundredfold,
those who sacrifice family for "the truth" (as the Witnesses
refer to their religion), was definitely true in my case. Jehovah had even
blessed me by using me to bring many of my "worldly" friends
into the Watchtower
I had become a very competent "prooftexter" by this time,
so that Witness friends often took me along to handle "born-againers"
they bumped into. Some of these people seemed very nice, but all they seemed
to talk about was Jesus, the Trinity and hell. They obviously knew little
else. Some of the better informed among them, including a few ministers,
occasionally made claims about false prophecies in the Watchtower's past,
but they never substantiated what they said, nor did they show much interest
following up on our conversations. These experiences only served to confirm
the Watchtower's contention that people in "Babylon the Great"
(all other religions) were spiritually starving and did not care enough
about God (or neighbor) to try to convert unbelievers.
It was not until the early 1980's, by which time I was an elder and
Vivian and I were married, that my confidence suffered its first good shake.
A fellow Witness handed me a copy of Josh McDowell's excellent work on
Christian apologetics, "Evidence That Demands A Verdict". A quick
scan sufficed to show me that this book was superior to anything the Watchtower
had produced as a witnessing tool. Two chapters that really impressed me
were on the value of prophecy in demonstrating the Bibles' inspiration.
started to hunt down some of the books in the bibliographies. It didn't
take long to find a few in Toronto's used book stores. Generally, the older
they were, the better they were. A marvelous example is John Urquhart's
"The Wonders of Prophecy" (from around 1905). These forgotten
old books seemed to breathe deep devotion to Christ and the Bible, a lively
contrast to the monotonous style and content of Watchtower publications.
Yet at the same time as my respect for "dead" Christians was
increasing, my view of the living species remained unchanged. The Watchtower
did not have a monopoly on monotony. Almost all "born-againers"
used the same approach. Perhaps reproach would be a better word, for most
seemed to take offense to the point of scolding us because J.W.'s did not
teach the truth about Jesus. I know now that they were trying to defend
their Lord, but discussing doctrine with Witnesses is futile (for the reason,
check 1 Corinthians 2:14). Very, very few Christians seemed to realize
that those who are trained by the Watchtower speak a language all their
own. Even when the words are the same , the meaning is different.
In 1984 I finally met a Christian who took a missionary approach to
the Witnesses. Raymond was not a minister nor a divinity student. He was
a soft spoken young man who somehow knew that preparation and persistence
were essential in witnessing to Witnesses. Missionaries usually need to
learn a new language and Raymond took the time to investigate Watchtower
publications in order to find ways to approach Witnesses. He saw that the
Watchtower's pet subject was prophecy and addressed his questions primarily
to that subject. He had also come to realize that Witnesses have a
long range approach to witnessing, and therefore did not depend on the
one shot method of evangelizing them. He was willing to devote a whole
series of his Sunday afternoons to cultivating a familiarity, and even
a friendship with me, before we finally discontinued the arrangement amicably,
agreeing to disagree.
What Raymond did not know, and still does not know, is that his habit
of preparation, his persistent and even dogged spirit, had planted seeds
that were to produce a crop two years later. By 1986 I had reached a crossroads.
Through Raymond's perseverance in seed planting and through my discovery
of "dead" Christians' living testimony, God had led me to a more
complete trust in the authority of the Bible and of Christ. At the same
time, my faith in the Watchtower was crumbling. In attempting to convert
sincere Christians, I had also discovered several skeletons in the Watchtower's
Since 1931, the year Jehovah's Witnesses received their name, the powerful
propaganda machine of the Watchtower has waged continual warfare against
the 'pagan' teachings of the Christian church. Before that year, the Watchtower
saw nothing wrong with the age-long symbol of Christianity, the cross.
In fact, the 'Cross and Crown' symbol was emblazoned on the front page
of every issue of the magazine.
But now, in view of the 'progressive enlightenment' of Watchtower President
J. F. Rutherford, not only was the cross NOT a fitting symbol for Christianity,
it was a pagan phallic (sexual) symbol. Ever since, Jehovah's Witnesses
have tirelessly passed on to the (often outraged) public this discovery
of their 'advancing light'.
And modern Witnesses do not stop at insisting that the cross is pagan.
That information, even if accurate, would not of itself decide against
its appropriation as a Christian symbol --- unless it could be demonstrated
that the method of execution of Jesus was NOT the cross.
Therefore the Watchtower attack on the cross takes both these tacks.
For example, the first point made under the heading "cross" in
the Witness door-to-door manual, Reasoning From The Scriptures, is that
the original meaning of the Greek word rendered "cross" in most
Bibles is "upright stake". It is then admitted that this Greek
word stauros later came to refer to "an execution stake having a crosspiece".
Yet immediately, Watchtower writers resume their attempt to demonstrate
that "the weight of the evidence indicates that Jesus died on an upright
stake and not on a traditional
cross" (Reasoning, p. 90).
The potency of Watchtower propaganda came home to me with newly-personal
meaning shortly after I ceased attending JW meetings in 1986. I had decided
to investigate Watchtower teachings and history closely, and was reading
widely outside the Society's publications already. The difference now,
though, was that whereas before I had read outside materials to disprove
other religions from their own tools, by now I had enough doubts that I
was reading for the first time with a relatively open mind.
One day I happened across a passage on Ezekiel 9 in Jack Finegan's The
Archeology of the New Testament. Now Finegan was a name I knew from Society
publications. He was usually cited as an authority to back up Watchtower
claims as to the reliability of Scripture. But in Finegan I ran across
an interesting fact I didn't recall from the Society's most recent 'commentary'
on Ezekiel, "The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah" - How?
Finegan pointed out:
"In [Ezekiel] 9:4 the man clothed in linen is instructed to go
through the city of Jerusalem and put a mark (taw) upon the foreheads of
the men who sigh and groan over the abominations that are committed in
the city ... In Hebrew, the word Taw both signified a "mark"
and was also the name of the last letter of the alphabet, a letter which,
in the old Hebrew script, was still written in the elemental form of a
cross down at least to the eve of the NT period, or even into that period.
[The Archeology of the New Testament pp. 223, 224].
This raised several questions in my mind. Why hadn't the Watchtower
mentioned this uncomfortable fact in their discussion of the 'mark'? What
were the implications for the claimed 'pagan' origin of the cross? Why
are Jehovah's Witnesses 'enemies of the cross of Christ' (Phil. 3:18)?
Is it that the cross is a pagan symbol, a phallic symbol --- or is it that
it symbolizes something essential in the apostolic witness, something that
missing from ALL false gospels?
For finally, opposition to the cross is opposition to THE gospel. The
Apostle Paul finds in the Crucified One the symbol of both our helplessness
and God's power:
"For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God ... we preach Christ
crucified... may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of
our Lord Jesus Christ..."[1 Cor. 1:18, 23; Gal. 6:14, 17].
The cross for Paul, symbolizes also the vanity of ALL man's aspirations
--- that is, aspirations which ignore the only God-given means of salvation,
the blood of Christ. Everything that man ADDS to Christ's sacrifice, Paul
asserts, effectively DENIES it. Therefore it is no accident that the Watchtower's
salvation system, like all false gospels, denies the efficacy--- the meaning
--- of the cross, even while denying the historicity of it.
Even though the NWT (New World Translation) substitutes the words 'torture
stake' in every text where 'cross' appears in most Bibles, the 'torture
stake' has little to do with the JW's 'gospel'. Indeed, it is rarely mentioned
except when the 'paganism' of the church is the issue. No, the 'boasting'
of JW's, the crux, as it were, of their message,
is not the cross, but the necessity of loyalty to God's 'earthly organization'
if one is to have a hope of entering the kingdom. Even before the Watchtower
denied the historicity of the cross, it denied the truth of it.
For the Watchtower, like all man-made religions, must give man some
Reprinted from the Apologia Journal
for his own salvation.