Why Rational Arguments Don’t Usually Work with JW’s (a helpful video)

Tags: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Rational, logic, undercoverjw

I’m taking a little bit of a risk posting the following video, because its creator mentions the current presidential administration. That topic can easily become a can of worms. So please, take away from this video its main purpose, to explain why we often hit a wall when talking rationally with JW’s, and please try to overlook any of your political buttons that might get pushed. In other words, please limit your comments to the subject mentioned in the title of this post. The principles that Alex discusses are directly applicable to our efforts to understand and influence JW’s. He explains our challenge clearly, and offers helpful advice that we can use.

Anyway, here’s the video:

Why Facts Don’t Convince People (and what you can do about it)

 

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Why I Love the JW Literature Carts

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If you have been to a train station, bus station, or another high-pedestrian-traffic area in your city, you have likely seen the JW Literature carts. I find it amazing that this is considered an acceptable form of field service, given their adamant argument that house-to-house preaching is the proper form of ministry. (I know that JW’s standing on street corners holding out their literature is nothing new. They have been doing so for a long time. But my understanding is that in the past, individuals used that as an unofficial way to fill their service time when they hadn’t done so by going door-to-door. Now the cart ministry is a fully sanctioned and resourced form of field service.)

Whatever the reasons the governing bully is now endorsing the cart ministry, I consider it to be a blessing. I love the cart ministry! Why? Because of the opportunities it affords to us in ministry to JW’s. Take my recent experience as an example.

I took at day trip into my nearest metropolitan downtown area (i.e. I went into the Big City), with the purpose of hopefully encountering the JW’s that station themselves and their carts in the commuter train station. I expected I would be able to talk briefly with perhaps two couples of JW’s. But because of the cart ministry I was able to talk with 10-12 JW’s that day. They had two carts, each with two or three people, inside the underground train station. Then another cart up on the surface streets, right at the cable car turnaround. (Oops, I just gave away what city I’m near.) So I talked with each of those groups of JW’s. Then, thinking I had exhausted my opportunities, I took a walk up the street to another city square, where, aha! I discovered two more “cart couples.” After talking with them, I poked around in some shops, then walked back to the train station. There I discovered that the cart people had rotated, so that there were some of the same people, but also some that were new to me. More people to talk with!

It turns out that the JW’s cart ministry strategy results in a witnessing opportunity bonanza for me (maybe you?). Their practice of multiple locations in close proximity to each other, together with their periodic rotation of staff, provides me with ongoing “divine appointments.” I kept it up for most of the afternoon!

My talking points were (1) Jesus as our mediator, (2) assurance of eternal life, and (3) being adopted as Jehovah’s sons. (See my past posts for those topics.) It was a fun, and I believe profitable day in the work of sharing with my JW friends.

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Opportunity Knocks, Then Runs Away

Have you noticed that one of my blog posts has a very long string of comments attached? See My JW Friend and I Share a Laugh to see what I’m talking about. The comment string represents an ongoing conversation between myself and a reader that went on for three months, almost to the date (12/15/16 through 3/15/17). Any reader patient enough to read through it (if you do, you’re a Bible nerd like me), would likely only see a debate between two disagreeing Bible students. And that’s certainly true. But for me the comment string represents more than just a conversation or debate. It represents a relationship; at least, that’s how I feel about it. I don’t know how my reader/comment-er thinks, but that’s my perspective. For three short months, the reader and I interacted, respectfully disagreed, debated, and discussed a number of topics. We debated about whether God’s name should be specified as Jehovah, Yahweh, or something else. We discussed the issue of Calvinism, predestination, and free will. We discussed the nature of God as ontologically stable or changeable, including whether the divine name is more properly translated “I am” or “I will be what I will be.” All those potentially volatile subjects were discussed with respect and even friendliness. At one point my reader said:

BTW, a sincere ‘thank you’ for the open discussion and allowing me to express my view on your blog. It’s refreshing!

Every day I looked forward to finding out what my reader would say in response to what I had written. I was challenged and stretched by the interaction. I was hoping that our friendship would become one lasting years.

Then suddenly, nothing. No response to my post on 3/15. Cue the sound of crickets.

I’m not angry with my reader. I’m not offended. I’m just concerned. In my mind I have considered all the possibilities I can imagine. They include:

  1. He became sick or otherwise incapacitated, or died, and so can no longer interact.
  2. His computer or internet connection gave out, and he has no access to another one any time soon.
  3. His elders found out that he was interacting with “opposers” online, and forbade him from doing so any more (assuming that he is, in fact, a Jehovah’s Witness).
  4. He himself decided to not interact with “opposers” any longer, feeling convicted by the convention talks, the literature, or some other propaganda from the Governing Bully.
  5. He became frustrated with the fact that it was looking like he wasn’t going to change my views any, and moved on to interact with others that might be more pliable. (Aka he felt he was wasting his time and effort on me. The “pearls before swine” principle.)

I sure wish I knew what really happened. For the record, I have no sense of “having won” the argument. That’s not the point, and not why I was interacting with him. I was hoping a good friend was on his way to being set free from the organization, into new life in Jesus Christ. The silence breaks my heart.

But, at the same time, I know that God was at work, and still is. The fact that he would interact with an “opposer” for three months is miraculous, and indicates that God is at work on his heart. Jesus said that “No one comes to me unless the Father draws him.” I was privileged to have a 3-month window of opportunity with him. That window of time opened suddenly, and closed even more abruptly.

I’d like to ask all my readers: Whom are you trying to reach with the good news (gospel) of the free, unearned, undeserved gift of new life with Jehovah in Christ? Your window of opportunity could vanish in a blink, at any time. Make the most of the opportunity you have. Love and pray for that dear one(s).

And, dear 3-month friend, if you read this, please contact me again. I want to know how you’re doing, hoping that you have new life and freedom, and a relationship with Jehovah apart from the organization, but if not, I’m also willing (no, eager) to engage in further dialogue with you. Jesus loves you, and so do I.

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Read Any Good Books Lately, Chapter 2

In a previous post (See: Read Any Good Books Lately?) I told about a young man, George, a high schooler who shared with me a love of good literature. His favorite book is The Giver, by Lois Lowry, a story about independent thinking , a value we naturally cherish, but which is frowned upon by the Watchtower society. Since reading The Giver, I have been champing at the bit to talk with George about it. I got my opportunity during this last kingdom hall visit. Kind of.

George was with his dad, Darryl, when we talked. And mostly Darryl talked. But I didn’t mind; actually it worked out quite well. I told both of them about my book that I recently completed and published on Amazon, and Darryl questioned me about it a lot. I could tell he was grilling me (politely) to see whether or not it would be something that he would approve of his son reading. I had the pleasure of describing my purpose in writing, to draw atheists and agnostics toward the reasonableness and desirability of theism. And I delighted to tell him about my commitment to a faithfulness to scriptural truth. Darryl seemed satisfied with my answers. I’m pleased to have been able to recommend my book to George with dad’s approval, rather than George having to possibly sneak to read it.

The whole time that I was talking with Darryl, George was listening intently. I was finally able to ask George again what he liked about The Giver. His response was very different from when I had talked with him apart from his dad. This time, there was not any mention of independent thinking, but only an expression of appreciation for Lois Lowry’s creativity and compelling style. I don’t think I’m imagining that George had confided in me something that he didn’t want to express in the presence of his dad.

Oh, Lord Jesus, I know you love George even more than I do. Please set him free into a new, vibrant life in Jesus.

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Questioning My Motives

After the kingdom hall talks, I approached one of the speakers to ask a question about the scripture he lectured on. The passage was Galatians 4, which he gave as an example of a legitimate usage of type and anti-type in biblical interpretation. I agree with him (and with the Watchtower teaching he was parroting), because the typology of the passage is clearly spelled out in the very passage. Paul, the author, explains that Hagar symbolizes the Old Covenant, and Sarah symbolizes the New Covenant.

My question was about verse 27, where it says that the barren woman (Sarah) would rejoice, because “more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” My question would have been “Since this verse indicates that there would be more believers in the New Covenant than in the Old Covenant, doesn’t that indicate that there are more than just 144,000 in the New Covenant?”

I say that my question “would have been,” because I didn’t get a chance to ask it of the speaker. One of the elders (in past posts I called him Carl, see Donkey Incident), ushered me away from the speaker, and took me over to my other friend Aaron. Then he left us. I told the perplexed Aaron, “Carl brought me over to you, but I don’t know why.” Then Carl came back. (I assume he had gone back to Mr. Speaker to warn him of my ways.) I was then able to ask the question of Carl and Aaron.

Trouble was, Carl kept interrupting and wouldn’t even listen to the question. And he questioned my motives, saying things like, “It sounds like you already have your opinion about the matter,” and “What is your purpose in asking the question?” It was annoying, but I kept my cool, giving him my usual explanations when confronted this way, namely:

I’m seeking the truth.

I have been brought up in a different system, for a long time, and I have questions about your belief system.

I want to understand clearly what Watchtower teaches.

I’m like the little kid in the “Bible Teach” book, asking questions repeatedly until they receive a satisfactory answer.

These answers are all truthful. But obviously it’s not the full truth. I am trying to influence the ones I’m questioning.

So here’s the tough part. Carl’s challenges made me think deeply about my motives, even while I was talking with him and Aaron. Now, I know I’m not the demon Carl imagines me to be in his mind. He thinks I’m merely sowing seeds of doubt, leading people away from “the truth” and toward paganism, atheism, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Not so, Carl. Yes, I’m sowing seeds of doubt, and I want to lead people away from the Watchtower, but more than that, I want to lead people toward Jesus and The Truth of scripture. But Carl’s probing made me question my motives in my own mind.

Do I take pleasure in stumping my JW friends?

Am I addicted to the adrenaline rush that I get when I’m challenging my JW friends?

Am I in this for the fun of being a “secret agent” for Jesus?

Does outsmarting my JW friends make me feel proud and smug, and intellectually superior to them?

And finally: Is it right for me to be secretive about my agenda with my JW friends?

I have to admit that sometimes the first four are true. I am praying that Jehovah will work those flaws out of me.

That last question, though; I don’t yet know what to think about that. Do I need a more up front and honest approach? If I did that, would they not talk or listen to me at all?

Am I just overthinking all of this? Perhaps. But, I will continue to take this to the Lord. He’s having me think about this for a reason. (Unless it’s the enemy trying to attack me with doubts, but I don’t think so. There’s no condemnation attached to it.)

I do know for certain that I need to change my strategy with that particular congregation from this time forward. No more questioning of congregation members. I think I just need to be a friend to the people, and let them (hopefully) sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in me, and see what the Lord does with that. I will let you know what comes of it.

If you have experience or insight into these issues, please feel free to comment. Thank you!

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Read Any Good Books Lately?

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The last time I attended the meeting at the local kingdom hall (I think it was in March), I was chatting with one of the young men there, a high school student whom I will call George. I really like George. He reminds me of me when I was a highschooler. We’re both brainy, introverted, tall, klutzy; you know where I’m going with this–we’re nerds, ok? Anyway, we both like to read, and he was quite interested to hear me describe the book that I have written and will soon publish, a “dystopian” work of fiction. (If you don’t know what that is, think Hunger Games or any of the recent popular stories set in “ideal” but dysfunctional societies.)

So after hearing my description of my book, George said, “That reminds me of one of my favorite books.” When I asked him what that was, he said The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Being unfamiliar with that book or author, I asked him to describe it for me and tell me why he liked it. He said that it was about independence and thinking for oneself.

“Uh–”

Me, speechless.

George’s favorite work of literature has as its main theme a value that is explicitly denounced by the Watchtower Society. The literal phrase “independent thinking” is used as a negative buzzword in the literature and the kingdom hall talks. So when George said that, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

I immediately decided that I needed to read that book. Not many days later I downloaded it from Amazon and read it. I was shocked and delighted that George valued the story of a boy who ends up questioning everything that has ever been taught him by the overbearing organization under which he and his family live. The parallels in the story to someone living as a Jehovah’s Witness are obvious. But the question haunts me: are the parallels obvious to George?

Is George’s valuing of this story an indication of his own questioning of the Watchtower? Or does he merely think it a cool story, making no connection between the life of the main character and his own? I’m drowning in curiosity, and can’t wait to talk with George about it some more.

Whether George is already doubting and questioning the WT, or whether interest in this story can begin to spark that “independent thinking,” the evidence indicates that God is at work in either case. What an amazing opportunity I have before me to talk with a young man about the freedom he can have in Jesus. Please pray for George.

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Jehovah’s Witness Memorial 4/11/17

On Tuesday night I attended the annual Jehovah’s Witnesses “Memorial of Jesus’ Death.” (aka in evangelical Christian circles “Communion,” “Lord’s Supper,” or “Eucharist.”) This once-a-year meeting is a Big Deal to them, but visitors like me (i.e. non-JW’s) will find it both boring and bizarre at the same time. Why are they so excited about such a drab, lifeless service that produces indifference in the rest of us? I think it comes down to smugness. That was the vibe I got this time around (I have attended 4 memorials now). The speaker spent a lot of time discussing how pleasing it was to Jehovah that everyone who was there was there, and how many millions around the world were also pleasing Jehovah. The implication was that “we’ve got the date right, and the practice right, and the doctrine right, so this is the only observance of the ordinance in all the world that counts.” My thought was “stop bragging about your observance of the memorial, and start actually observing it!” Bleah! Frustrating.

Anyway, before the service began, I greeted all my JW friends, then sat with a couple of nice older ladies. I even enlarged the font on my JW app Bible, enabling one of the ladies to look on with me. When the elements were being passed, I felt like I could not take part in passing them, so I got up and stood on one side of the room and observed. I took my seat again for the final song and prayer.

My goal in talking with people afterward was to engage each person for as long as I could. Several times I was asked if I liked or enjoyed the service, to which I used my standard reply, “I’m glad I came.” Most conversations were brief and trite (weather, jobs, etc.). When circumstances and the Spirit’s leading allowed, my gateway statement into deeper issues was this: “This is the fourth memorial I have attended, and I have yet to see anyone eat or drink. From the talks and my reading at JW.org, I think I know the answer why, but could you just explain to me again why Jesus says, “Do this,” and here we are, gathered to “do this,” but we don’t “do this”? I had two such longer and deeper conversations. The first was with “Debbie” (fictional name). She gave the standard explanation about the two classes of believers, that is, the anointed 144,000, and the remaining great crowd. I listened, then shared with her my concern about the great crowd not having the privilege of being adopted as Jehovah’s children, as so wonderfully discussed in Romans 8 and other scriptures. (If you’re not familiar with the passage, Read Romans 8:15-17. That’s a required reading, just like in the Watchtower publications.) Debbie referenced John 10:16, about the “other sheep,” applying the verse to the two classes of believers. My response was, “But isn’t that verse about the Jewish believers and Gentile believers at that time?” First she agreed, but then flipped and strongly disagreed (cognitive dissonance). I sensed her shutting down, so I shifted the conversation back to small talk. She immediately warmed to me again, and we left on good terms, even greeting each other later before we both left the building.

My second deeper conversation was with “Devin,” whom I knew both from the marketplace and from the kingdom hall. I used the same probing question that I had used with Debbie. He also gave the standard explanation about the two-class system of believers.

Side note: It’s interesting to me that WT has called the 144,000 the slave class, the anointed class, and other names with “class,” but the speaker on Tuesday night was adamant that we shouldn’t think of the great crowd as “second class.” Hmm.

So I expressed my concern to Devin that the great crowd misses out on so many benefits. I listed heavenly hope, being in the New Covenant, being sons of Abraham as well as kings and priests, being adopted as Jehovah’s sons (Romans 8 again; have you read it?), and having Jesus as our mediator. At that point Devin responded, “But Jesus is our mediator.” I assured him that WT teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed 144,000. Devin insisted that I was wrong, and he quized me about what I considered was included in Jesus being our mediator. I mentioned that public prayers at JW meetings are often concluded with “in the name of Jesus,” indicating that Jesus’ role in prayer is part of his mediatorial role. And I listed Jesus being not only our sacrifice, but also our high priest (according to the book of Hebrews), another aspect of being our mediator. And also that he is the mediator of the New Covenant, as mentioned in the talk, and as found in Hebrews. At that point I could see Devin’s mind bend, because of course WT teaches that only the 144,000 are in the New Covenant. He continued to insist that Jesus was mediator for all believers, while also arguing (at the same time) that only the 144,000 are in the New Covenant, of which Jesus is mediator (cognitive dissonance again).

I asked “If the anointed are in the New Covenant, what covenant are the great crowd in?” He answered correctly according to WT teaching that they are in no covenant. I then told him that it greatly concerns me, because a covenant is Jehovah’s arrangement with his people, and that Ephesians shows the severe implications of not being in the New Covenant. Devin’s response was “I’m not going to argue with you about it.” Oh-oh, signs of shutting down (alarms blaring). He then asked if I was studying with someone. I helped lighten the conversation by telling him about my studies with Aaron, explaining that we were on hiatus because of Aaron’s life changes, but that we were discussing picking up our meetings again soon. Devin gave his approval, and also invited me to contact him with any questions I might have. (Nice! That was a quick turnaround, and a good save; God must have been at work on that one.)

Before we finished talking, I told him that I was sure that WT teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed, and I told him where to find the info at JW.org. (Go to online library, publications, publications index, subject index, “mediator.” What comes up is the Insight book, vol. 2, the article about mediator.) We ended the conversation on very friendly terms.

As I honestly answered my JW friends, I am truly glad that I attended the 2017 Memorial. Seeing God at work in the hearts and minds of those who desperately need Jesus as their mediator is always (to use “theocratic language”) thrilling beyond words.

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