Jehovah Witness: The Historical Background
Jehovah Witness doctrine was founded by Charles Taze Russell. He was only 18-year-old when he began a Bible study that focused on the second coming of Jesus, as well as the chronology of the Bible. As a result of his study, which took place around 1870, he published numerous books. During that decade, he also presented several formal lectures. In 1879, Russell founded Herald of Christ's Presence and Zion's Watch Tower, which became monthly publications. In 1884, the Zion's Watch Tower and Tract Society were officially formed. Russell served as the president until he died in 1916. Russell also authored a series of books called "Studies in the Scriptures," which became the basis of the Jehovah Witness theology. Today, several men lead the Jehovah's Witness "theocratic" organization, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS). The organization is based in Brooklyn, New York.
Jehovah Witness: The Basic Theology
Jehovah Witness theology has many subtle (and not-so-subtle) nuances. Here are the basics of Watchtower doctrine: God is a single being, not a Trinity. He is not all-knowing or present everywhere. First, God created Michael the Archangel, through whom God later created all "other things," such as the earth, the universe, and all mankind. This process took place over exactly 42,000 years. When it was time for the birth of a savior, Michael became a man, in the form of Jesus Christ. He was without sin and kept every law of God. According to Jehovah's Witness theology, Jesus was put to death on a "torture stake." It is here that He bore the sins of all mankind (except for Adam). Later, Jesus rose from death in spirit, but did not rise in physical form. Jehovah's Witnesses who faithfully abide by God's organization on earth (the WBTS) will be spared from eternal annihilation. They will live forever on Paradise Earth. Heaven is a special place that is reserved for a distinct group of 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, who have been deemed "born again" by the WBTS and are allowed to take annual communion. Generally, Jehovah's Witnesses agree to attend five meetings a week where they are taught from WBTS literature. After studying the material for at least six months, they answer a series of questions before a panel of elders, and upon approval, are baptized into the organization. Followers are then asked to maintain a modest appearance and demeanor, refusing to vote in government elections, salute the American flag, join the U.S. armed forces, or celebrate birthdays and Christmas. Each member is required to fulfill a schedule of public canvassing in order to distribute WBTS literature and collect donations for WBTS headquarters in New York. If a Jehovah's Witness leaves the organization, he is shunned in all ways. Outside the WBTS organization, "Christendom" is considered "demonic." Christianity is deemed "apostate," filled with pastors who are antichrists, in churches run by Satan, who support the earthly governments.
Jehovah Witness: Watchtower Doctrine vs. Christian Doctrine
Jehovah Witness and Christian theology actually have some basic similarities. Generally, they both teach that God is the Creator of everything, as opposed to naturalistic evolution, and they both share the belief that Jesus Christ will ultimately return to earth to destroy Satan and establish God's eternal kingdom. However, this is where the general similarities cease. There are many important differences in doctrine between the Jehovah's Witnesses and evangelical Christianity, most important of which is the person and nature of Jesus Christ. The deity of Christ is the central point of the entire Bible. Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God. The Jehovah Witness teachings concerning Jesus Christ clearly contradict the teachings of the Bible. Multiple passages tell us that Jesus Christ, who existed as God, took the bodily form of a humble servant so that He could die on the cross in our place.
Jehovah Witness doctrine considers the 66 books of The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) as the only true and divinely inspired Word of God. The NWT is produced and published by an "anonymous" translation committee of the WBTS. The NWT is regarded as the best and only translation of the Bible, because "the translators held so closely to what is in the original Bible languages." In addition, the "governing body" of the WBTS is regarded as God's only true channel of accurate biblical interpretation. As such, Jehovah Witness doctrine requires that we be "associated with God's channel, his organization" in order to be true followers of God. This means that there is no salvation apart from the WBTS. Christian doctrine holds that the Bible is indeed composed of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, and is indeed the inspired and infallible Word of God. However, the NWT is not a legitimate translation, and merely reflects Jehovah Witness theology, especially its bias against the deity of Jesus Christ and the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. For example, John 1:1 in the NWT reads, "and the Word [Jesus] was a god." All other legitimate Bible translations say, "and the Word [Jesus] was God."
Jehovah Witness: The Basic Christian Response
As far as the Jehovah's Witness claim that the NWT is the only true interpretation of the Bible, the Christian response is that no religious leader or religious organization can claim exclusive control or possession of the true interpretation of the Bible. Through the Holy Spirit, all Christians are capable of interpreting and understanding the Holy Bible. As far as the Jehovah's Witness claim that the WBTS is the only way to God and salvation, the Christian response is that all people who have accepted the free gift of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are saved. Salvation is "by grace through faith" in Jesus Christ alone. No amount of works or membership in any religious group is required for eternal life with God.