Each Jehovah's Witness you will talk to has a bottom line that proves
him right and you wrong. No matter how good your arguments -- on the Trinity,
salvation, hell or whatever subject you have chosen to dialogue -- the
fact that he's at your door, and you're not at his, when
all is said and done decides whether he's the Christian or you are.
That is the bottom line whatever subject you discuss, however much
time you give him he and his fellow Jehovah's Witnesses (and ONLY
Jehovah's Witnesses) are Christians because: 1/ they and they ONLY
use the true name of God, Jehovah; 2/ they and they ONLY know the
truth about the kingdom of God, which, they will assert, was the emphasis
of Jesus and his apostles; and 3/ they and they ONLY not only know
these truths, but preach them door-to-door, again in imitation of Jesus
and his earliest followers.
Until you strip away these unique 'badges' which the Witness wears, you
will probably flail away in futility trying to dislodge one brick at a
time from the Watchtower's complex belief system. How much simpler to remove
the foundation stones. For the Jehovah's Witnesses, the foundation of his
faith is the Watchtower 'organization' the "faithful and discreet
slave class" which he believes is predicted by Jesus in Matthew 24:45-51.
But if you attack his 'mother' (for that is how the Watchtower trains him
to think of the 'organization' as the wife of Jehovah) you run the
risk of losing his ear. Far better to chip away at the second tier of the
foundation, the 3 'badges' listed above which, as far as the Witness is
concerned, prove that Jehovah's Witnesses (and 'mother') have "the
truth", as Witnesses habitually refer to their religion.
We might even reduce the fundamentals of Witness belief to a simple sentence:
Jehovah's Witnesses have 'The Truth' because they are the only religion
that goes door-to-door. No Witness, of course, will admit that this
is the only 'proof' of the true religion. Nevertheless, when you survey
the history of the Watchtower you quickly realize this form of evangelism
is the constant -- the "mark" which separates Witnesses from
other groups espousing similar beliefs. Others challenge the Trinity, others
'turn the hose on hell', many evangelicals and many cultists emphasize
the Second Coming but no other group organizes systematic visitation
of every home to spread its beliefs. A Jehovah's Witness, if asked which
is the most important of all Bible teachings, will probably answer "the
vindication of Jehovah's name" or the "preaching of Jehovah's
name and kingdom", or something similar. But the Watchtower did not
promote the name "Jehovah" widely till the 1930s (they officially
became "Jehovah's Witnesses" in 1931), nor did they publically
promote the earthly kingdom that is now their 'good news' until 1935. If,
then, the Watchtower did not promote these peculiar beliefs which 'mark'
them as "God's people" till over 5 decades into their history,
why did God deign to use them at all before that?
The Witness conviction is that God saw in them, despite their imperfect
understanding, a willingness to 'preach the good news' in
the face of opposition. This is why Watchtower literature is so fixated
on the years 1914-20 a 7 year period which, to outsiders, is one
unbroken, embarrassing sequence of Watchtower false prophecies but
which in modern Watchtower mythology has somehow been turned into the era
of their greatest triumph and vindication. God did not cast
them off for their fundamentally unsound beliefs (by modern Watchtower
standards), or judge them unfaithful because of their perfect prophetic
record (100% failure). Rather, according to Witness understanding of Malachi
3, the Lord (Jesus) "came to his temple" suddenly (in 1919) and
pronounced the Watchtower leaders as "faithful and discreet",
sealing them as his unique 'slave', the only organization he would henceforth
recognize and use. What was the basis of the Lord's judgment?
Perhaps we gain a clue from the book Revelation Its Grand Climax at
Hand! (1988). This commentary on the last book of the Bible has been
studied several times in Witness congregations in the 1990s. Obviously
Watchtower leaders continue to hope that its revisionist interpretation
of the place of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 20th century will convince the
present generation of their divinely ordained destiny predestined
collectively, that is, not, individually! Like all other
interpretations of Revelation published by the Watchtower Society, Climax
details how the 1914 to 1925 activities of the Watchtower 'fulfilled'
Bible prophecy. Here, the imagination of the writers seems to know no bounds.
Following the interpretative method used by the Society ever since its
second president's own commentary on Revelation (Light, 2 volumes,
1931), Climax repaints this period in an orgy of self-congratulation.
The Watchtower's principal publication of the period, The Finished Mystery
(1917), is described (p. 165) as "a powerful commentary on Revelation
and Ezekiel". The only 'power' this book retains today is the power
to remove Witnesses from the Watchtower. So embarrassing are its wild claims
that the Society has not reprinted The Finished Mystery in 7 decades
(Rutherford's work Light was the official replacement for it). Nevertheless,
the leaders of the Society continue to insist that the publication and
distribution of The Finished Mystery were among their greatest accomplishments
before God. Why? Climax sees it this way:
In the United States, the irate clergy used the war hysteria as an excuse
to get the book banned. In other countries the book was censored. Nevertheless,
God's servants kept fighting back with fiery issues of the four-page tract
entitled Kingdom News. As the Lord's day proceeded, other publications
would make clear Christendom's spiritually defunct condition ...
between 1914 and 1918, the anointed remnant boldly drew attention to
the spiritual drought in Christendom and warned of fiery judgment at "the
coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah ... " (Climax,
pp. 165-66, emphasis added)
Forgotten are The Finished Mystery's date-setting false prophecies
and worshipful treatment of "the Laodicean messenger" Charles
Taze Russell. What counts to the Watchtower leaders today and what
they obviously think counts to God too is the Society's "fiery"
pronouncements during this period, their "boldly" denouncing
Christendom. In summary, what really counts in the Society's view is not
the content of these publications if it did, they would be reprinted
today! - but the guts demonstrated in circulating them. The Watchtower
Society, finally, is God's modern Elijah and Moses (these quotes from Climax
occur in a section tracing the career of the 'two witnesses' of Revelation
11). And God is WITH the modern Elijah and Moses because they 'prophesy'
(however inaccurately) against Christendom.
It is no coincidence that the scandal of The Finished Mystery was
immediately forgotten by Rutherford and his headquarters cohorts. Instead
of retreating into the wilderness for some soul-searching and honest self-evaluation
as the real Elijah did after his contest with the
Baal prophets - Rutherford and his colleagues just got busier with
their publishing projects. Millions Now Living Will Never Die! (1920)
replaced The Finished Mystery as the calling card of the Watchtower
door-to-door colporteurs. This new campaign, focussing the Bible Students
on a new date (1925), was an extremely effective way of moving Russell's
followers away from the prior failed dates (1914, 1915, 1918 and 1920).
Rutherford's most brilliant move, though, was to mobilize ALL the Bible
Students in the new campaign. By 1927, even the failure of the 1925 prediction
in Millions hardly caused a blip in the 'Advertise Advertise Advertise'
hysteria which now consumed the 'faithful'. Now, however, they were no
longer carrying founder Russell's books door-to-door. The seven volumes
of Studies in the Scriptures had been replaced by 'new light'
Rutherford's books The Harp of God (1921) Comfort for the Jews
(1925) and Deliverance (1926) being the official substitutes. In
this way, Rutherford deflected attention away from the failed
predictions and interpretations (even his own The Harp of God
had undergone extensive revision by 1928), and switched attention from
the message to the method of its delivery. All Bible Students
were by now expected to go door-to-door. This was the 'test' by which God
now evaluated who was faithful and who was not, who was Christian and who
was hypocrite. Of course, historical retrospect allows us to see that in
reality it was Rutherford's test, not God's. By 1931, the Watchtower's
second president had determined who really was the 'faithful and discreet
slave' and it wasn't any longer C.T. Russell! When, in that year,
Rutherford renamed the Bible Students Jehovah's witnesses (with
a small "w" Russell had insisted that 'denominational'
names were of the Devil) cynics could be heard to remark on the TRUE significance
of the J in JW: all the books, booklets and phonograph records
which 'witnesses' now carried with them house to house were creations of
one man Joseph F. Rutherford. The 'faithful' ones were definitely
no longer Russellites, as the public had always called them, but were now
Were the Apostles Really 'Jehovah's Witnesses'?
As outlandish as that question may seem, Jehovah's Witnesses
take pride in the claim that they -- and they only are imitators
of the method of evangelism practised by the early church. But did 1st
century believers -- even the apostles -- go door-to-door, or does the
book of Acts present a different picture of preaching work of the early