I've had several opportunities to talk to Jehovah's Witnesses lately. To help you in working with these folks, I'm going to list below a number of questions that you could pose to them. The idea of the questions is two-fold: first, that you would reflect on how you would answer them yourself; and second, to demonstrate that many of their beliefs are highly questionable and should raise doubts in their own minds about their teaching.
Credit belongs to two of our church members, Vincent Brattin and Dwayne Reid, for assisting me in compiling this list of questions.
Recently an anonymous person accused our church of being full of Bible-worshippers, by which I think they meant people who worship the Bible instead of the God of the Bible. But how they mean this is not very clear, since God's word and God Himself are so closely connected (Psalm 138:2).
Regarding the definition of Bibliolatry, I found that gotquestions.org has a helpful definition. Let me quote a couple of key parts of it here:
“Typically, the accusation of bibliolatry is used as an attack on those who hold to the inerrancy, infallibility, and supremacy of Scripture. It is often employed as an inflammatory and derogatory attack on believers who hold to ‘sola scriptura’ and/or a literal interpretation of the Bible.
“It is important to note that the charge of bibliolatry does not claim some Christians literally bow down before a Bible and worship it, as if it were an idol. While there may be some strange cult out there that literally worships the Bible, that is not what bibliolatry is referring to. The accusation of bibliolatry is that some Christians elevate the Bible to the point that it is equal with God, or to the point that studying the Bible is more important than developing a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”
For those who make the accusation of bibliolatry against another, might I suggest some cautions? In my experience, I have found people who make such an accusation are frequently those who do not participate fully in the church's meetings and activities. That is unfortunate, because they do not see or understand the full range of what I will call godly devotion that is exhibited by the church members, and so cannot make an accurate evaluation of their spiritual character (Proverbs 18:13 comes to mind here). For instance, if the accuser only comes for the weekly meeting that is heavy on preaching and teaching, they will miss the earnest prayers of the saints in the mid-week prayer meeting. They do not have an accurate picture of the church's devotion as a whole.
Another caution for the accuser is to ensure that they are not expecting all believers to have the same kind of pietistic or emotional display of devotion that they themselves exhibit. Some believers may be more withdrawn or reserved, but be just as fervent in spirit as others who are more outgoing.
But what about the person who receives the accusation? It is easy to dismiss such a charge out of hand as blatantly false or to consider the source as a wacky believer. Both may be true, but it is profitable to stop and examine ourselves to make sure we are not pridefully exalting intellectual knowledge of doctrines (1 Corinthians 8:1) at the expense of a real personal relationship with Christ. I happened to be reading Gordon Fee earlier today and he expressed a similar thought this way from Philippians 3: “For [Paul] Christian life is not simply a matter of 'salvation' and 'ethics'; it is ultimately a matter of knowing Christ. So too with resurrection; Paul's focus is not on 'everlasting life' or anything else such. The goal of the resurrection, the 'prize' for which Paul strains every effort in the present, is Christ himself” (Paul's Letter to the Philipppians, NICNT, p. 337).
At the same time, this kind of self-examination has to be balanced with the understanding that eternal life is to know God and His Son Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Knowing God is only done through faith, and faith only comes by hearing the word of God delivered by a herald (Romans 10:13-17). Further, the word of the gospel, which the Bible is, is instrumental in our regeneration (James 1:18).
I guess what I'm saying is: Don't make the charge lightly, and don't take the charge lightly.
For some time I have been receiving a magazine called Present Truth from Life Research International. It took me some time to figure out exactly who these people were (I recall not being able to find them online some time ago). While I don't have all the details down pat, they seem to believe in the Trinity, six-day creation, the free will of man, the resurrection of Christ, and His second coming. They have an odd view of the the church, as they believe it is composed of true believers and hypocrites. They also have a strange view (almost post-millennial) of the condition of man just prior to the second coming.
My questions about this group were answered when, in Volume 10 , Number 2, the magazine published an article that promoted soul sleep, annihilation, and a repudiation of eternal Hell for unbelievers. Then in Number 3, a letter to the editor included this: "You know what I liked about your publication this time? It never did jive with me that GOD would extend hell's suffering of damnation & gnashing of teeth forever. I always ignored that type of statement. If the wrath of God upon the unrepentant causes immense pain but culminates in destruction or annihilation of the person, body and soul, that makes more sense to me & better fits the God I know."
So...beware. Here is a serious warning to stay away from these folks (Philippians 3:2, beware). They sound good in some respects, but this error is way off the charts. When people promote a self-autonomous, Bible-denying philosophy such as "it never did jive with me" and "better fits the God I know," there is a clear problem. Man has become the authority instead of the clear revelation of God.
Thanks for reading. I'm just doing my job (Romans 16:17-18, 2 Thess. 3:14, 1 Timothy 1:3, Titus 1:13).
Yes, it most definitely does. In conducting evangelism around Ann Arbor, my wife and I have heard numerous times the Mormons say "We are saved by Jesus Christ after all that we can do." This is a clever statement, but it belies the fact that the Mormons believe in a doctrine of salvation by works. They must do good works ("all that we can do"). Then, the atonement of Christ is added to that ("after").
In great contrast, we believe and teach that salvation comes to one through true faith alone, without works. In other words, "We are saved by Jesus Christ apart from all that we can do." We believe this because the Bible teaches it. Consider Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Also, Titus 3:5, which says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." Furthermore, Galatians 2:16 teaches, "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ."
Invariably, a conversation with a Mormon will turn to the verses in James 2:14-26 that speak of the relationship of works and faith. A Mormon will use these verses to attempt to justify that works must be done in order to be saved. But those verses simply teach that true faith issues forth in works, not as a basis of salvation, but as an evidence and fruit of salvation. The theological reason for this is that Jesus Christ was the perfect once-for-all sacrifice for sin; no more "work" can be done to earn merit before God. Our works issue from a saved life because we are thankful for what Christ has worked for us.
I was in the parking lot of a store this afternoon and was approached by a young man who asked me if I would take some literature about God's love and Jesus. I looked at it--a full color brochure of several pages--and asked him what it was about. He said he was a missionary from "The Family." When I questioned him about his belief in Christ and salvation by faith alone, he seemed to say some true things. When said that I was a pastor and I indicated that I would look at their website and find out more information, he wanted me to give them a donation (even a small one, he said) to offset the cost of printing the brochure. I declined, and he wanted the brochure back, and instead gave me a little piece of paper with a message supposedly from God on it. The message emphasized God's love but says nothing about sin or Jesus' death or repentance. Jesus is simply the "key" to eternal life that one needs to receive to get in at the end of one's road.
I looked them up on the Internet at www.thefamily.org. They are known officially as The Family International and call themselves a Fellowship of Independent Missionary Communities. Their doctrinal statement looks fairly evangelical upon a first glance. However, they have a number of peculiar beliefs which the reader can find here. The beliefs of note are:
One can see by perusing our website that we do not hold to these beliefs. We believe all true saints are indwelt and baptized by the Holy Spirit upon conversion; that revelatory and other miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased in this age; that physical healing is something we may request from God but cannot expect it simply on the basis of our faith nor on the basis of Jesus' immutability and that he healed many in his earthly sojourn. We do not believe that departed spirits come back to bring us messages. Those cases in the Scripture where this occurred are extremely rare and out of the ordinary. We believe in water baptism for born-again believers; and in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church.
Today in the mail, I received a glossy trifold in the mail from the Christadelphians. I had to review what these folks believe (too many cults out there to keep track of.) But these folks are definitely a cult. Like the Jehovah's Witnesses, they do not believe God exists in three persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are strictly monotheists who believe that Christ is a man, and that the Holy Spirit is the emanation of God's power. They also believe baptism is necessary in order to be saved, that souls sleep at death until (some) are resurrected, and that there is no real Hell. Clearly, these people are opposed to many of the fundamentals of the true Christian faith.
Don't be tricked by them. They claim that they can help you read the Bible more effectively. They cannot.