Suggested Strategy In Talking With Jehovah's Witnesses

Preliminary Points

In discussions with J.W.'s a familiar pattern can be observed. What begins as a Biblical discussion on a point of doctrine, soon results in the J.W. sorting through his book bag for the appropriate Watchtower publication, which then serves as a prop throughout the remainder of the discussion. The pattern is indicative of the reliance placed on the Watchtower organization by the lay J.W. (in many respects comparable to the regard a Roman Catholic has for the hierarchy of his church.) The following factors contribute to the trust a lay J.W. has in the Watchtower organization (and also suggest ways in which the organization is able to maintain its totalitarian-like control) :

  1. The organizational structure in Brooklyn, New York, is headed by those who claim to be among the 144,000 destined to reign in heaven at the instant of death.1 These "anointed sheep" of the "remnant class" are said to be led by "Jehovah's spirit" to new "revealed" truths. These new truths are indoctrinated into J.W.'s throughout the world by mid-week classes in Kingdom Halls. Watchtower articles are studied in repetitious question and answer sessions similar to those conducted so effectively by the Jesuits of the Roman Church.2
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  2. Prophecies especially in Revelation are interpreted by the Watchtower as being fulfilled in the development of the organization. These interpretations are "revealed" to lay J.W.'s through the Watchtower magazine and other books. For example, the seven vials of Revelation 16 are related to seven Watchtower proclamations issued (1922-1928)3, and the "times, times, and a half" (Dan. 12:7) is applied to the disruption of Watchtower activities with the sentencing of the president and other members of the Watchtower organization to eighty years imprisonment.4 Prophecy, therefore, gives sanction to the organization and serves to legitimize its activities.
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  3. To the lay J.W. the Watchtower organization is the scholarship centre. The library in the Gilead ministry training school, the numerous books released at past conventions, and the issuing of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, provide guarantees to the lay J.W. that Watchtower materials have the backing of sound research.
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  4. Watchtower publications give prominence to persecutions suffered by J.W.'s in the war years. Although J.W.'s have fought many legal cases in the courts, persecutions are interpreted by Watchtower writers to indicate the self-sacrificing character of J.W. preaching and the divine nature of the work. Did not Jesus say that his followers would be persecuted?5 Stress is also placed on the numbers attending conventions, number of books printed, and number of lands in which J.W.'s are working. The effect of which is to confirm to the J.W. that the Watchtower must be a theocracy.6


  1. Judge Rutherford's removal as vice-president in 1945 is stated in a J. W. publication to be for this reason: "{His} resignation was not an evasion of responsibilities, but was rather an effort to comply with what appeared to be the Lord's will, namely, that all the members of the directorate and the officers be of the anointed remnant (144,000). His hope was to be one of the 'other sheep'." Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, (Brooklyn, N. Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1959), p. 197. As of Jan. 1, 1969, 10,619 J.W.'s now living claim to be among the 144,000. The Watchtower, (Jan. 1969), No. 1, Vol. XC, p. 25.
  2. In the "Plan of Studies" of the Jesuits, "every main issue was settled, every procedure was already outlined . . . The Jesuit teachers depended in no small measure for their effectiveness upon constant repetition." Luela Cole, A History of Education, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961), pp. 317, 322.
  3. "Babylon The Great Has Fallen!" God's Kingdom Rules! (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of N.Y., Inc., 1963), pp. 530-557. Another example further illustrates this point: Dan. 8:14 - (the cleansing of the sanctuary) is interpreted to refer to the cleansing of the Watchtower organization when it changed from democratic election of officials to selection and confirmation by the society's executive or manager. A Watchtower publication comments as follows: "The announcement in the Watch Tower magazine of October 15, 1932, at the exact end of the time period mentioned in Daniel's prophecy, was the official notification made by Jehovah through his visible channel of communication that his sanctuary [i.e., the Watchtower organization] had been cleansed and had been restored to its rightful state as regards the elimination of this democratic procedure in electing elders." Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1959), p. 127.
  4. "Your Will Be Done On Earth", (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of N.Y., Inc., 1958), pp. 330, 331.
  5. See for example, "Babylon The Great Has Fallen! God's Kingdom Rules, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1963), p. 550; Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1959), pp. 166-174, 186, 192.
  6. This point is illustrated in the following J.W. publication: "In the thirty-three years from 1919 to 1952 inclusive, Jehovah's witnesses distributed more than half a billion bound books and booklets, hundreds of millions of oral testimonies, in over 90 languages. Only by God's spirit and power could this witness have been given in the face of world-wide opposition and persecution; and the witness still continues." "Let God Be True", (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1952), pp. 200-201.

Suggested Strategy
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  1. In view of the influence of the Watchtower organization, how can one expect to make a convert of the J.W. who calls at the door? It would seem that a "psychological battle" must first be won. The J.W. at the door, or in the home study, considers himself to "have the truth" and, therefore, assumes the teacher role and the householder - the student. At some point the J.W. must appreciate that with you the role is not that of a teacher-pupil relationship. The J.W. must also become the listener - the learner (which is not a relationship for which J.W.'s are particularly well-known).
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  2. How is this to be done? Discussion of  the Jew in the divine purpose affords an advantageous position from which a Bible student can assume the offensive. This topic has the following advantages:n
    1. It affords a topic of mutual interest. J.W.'s have challenged Christadelphian teaching on this subject in their Watchtower magazine, August, 1962, "Christadelphianism - Of God or Men?" 1   In this article, the Christadelphian teaching concerning the Jew in the divine purpose is misunderstood. Correction of the Watchtower mistakes is a useful way to chip away at the scholarship image the J.W. has of Brooklyn publications.
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    2. The J.W. approach to Biblical interpretation can also be challenged. J.W.'s "spiritualize" passages in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel concerning the Jew to make them refer to the Watchtower organization. It requires plain stating that a passage should be read literally, unless convincing evidence to the contrary can be produced. Otherwise, a passage can be read to suit nearly any presupposition. Little can be achieved until this groundwork is established.
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    3. Not being infallible, a Bible student may change his mind regarding an interpretation of an obscure verse or a highly symbolic prophecy, but when change of mind involves hundreds of passages, as it does with the Jew, (J.W.'s once taught the literal restoration of the Jew to Palestine)2 how can one claim to be Jehovah's witness? Can one witness contradict the statements of later witnesses on such a basic biblical theme, and yet both be Jehovah's witnesses?
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    4. A discussion of the Jew leads readily into a discussion of the return of Christ. The Jewish return to Palestine, then becomes evidence for the future visible return of Christ (implying, of course, that he did not return invisibly in 1914, as J.W.'s assert).
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  3. The Bible student can set a worthy example by knowing his Bible. The ability to flip to the desired passage on the spot (without taking recourse to other books) is cultivated by frequent use of the Word. This has impressed many J.W.'s, some of whom have responded to subsequent instruction. Nothing imparts confidence in discussion like knowing where one intends to go, and knowing not only the strength of one's evidence, but that it can be produced when needed.
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  4. Once the initial "psychological battle" has been won, topics can be selected for subsequent discussion. The fruitfulness of these discussions is often related to the extent to which only one area at a time is discussed. Discipline is required not to be led off the issue by subsidiary error drawn in by the J.W. in support of the proposition under consideration. This appears to be especially true of the "pre-existence" of Christ and the devil.

Ron Abel