Tag Archives: jehovah’s witness

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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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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Random Observations From My Most Recent JW Convention Experience

The month of July saw a number of weekends at the Cow Palace (San Francisco) dedicated to the annual Jehovah’s Witness convention. These are 3-day conferences repeated identically, so as to accommodate a number of “circuits” or regions of JW congregations. My friend Mark and I attended this last Saturday only (not all three days). Here are some of my experiences and observations.IMG_1388

  1. The Watchtower Society is investing in some high-tech tools. There are now 2 large screens flanking the stage, rather than one as in the past. Several professionally produced videos were used to illustrate practical applications of the teachings, in contrast to the live dramas of the past. And one longer, rather well-produced video depicted a modern version of Job’s trials. (I was actually impressed with it–there was really not much to criticize.) The video was the newest “release” announced at the end of the day, another high-tech deviation from the usual book format.
  2. Despite these efforts to bring the presentations more in line with the current culture, the convention is still boring at best and annoying at worst. Simplistic and obvious lessons are presented in monotone by talking heads, and the only thing keeping me from nodding off were the occasional eye roll-prompting diatribes against apostates, “opposers,” and “christiandom.” Also, warnings against specific sins that stretch the limits of one’s suspension of disbelief. (e.g. gambling leads to greed, which was Judas’ downfall. You don’t want to become like Judas, do you? Yikes.)
  3. The music used for “worship” is exceedingly bad; dirge-like and with arrangements that just don’t work. Even I, a musical neanderthal, can recognize the awkwardness of the amateurish and clunky progressions of notes. I always think of the scene in Amadeus where Mozart improves on Salieri’s composition, saying “That doesn’t really work, does it? How about this?” (Salieri scowls like a governing body member would.)
  4. The last session was presented by (Surprise!) one of the members of the governing body, David Splane. I must acknowledge that his speaking style was good. Boring, but good. I should call it professional. Very good diction and control of his voice. I think he has had public speaking training that sets him apart from the other, more local speakers. The surprised audience gave him their undivided attention. To them I’m sure he had the very voice of Jehovah. To me, he was just a boring, out of touch guy who has the marketable still of giving a good, but less-than-dynamic presentation. Of course he announced the latest “release,” which was the video mentioned above. My friend Mark seemed disappointed that it wasn’t a book. I imagine other JW’s being relieved that it wasn’t another book that they were expected to add to their already full study schedule.
  5. Despite the numbingly boring content and presentation, I had a very enjoyable day. Not only did I have conversations with several individuals and/or couples, but I spent hours talking with my friend Mark, both in the car and at the restaurant where we stopped to eat on our way home. I must say that if I had attended a JW convention ten years ago, I would have just dismissed it as a colossal waste of time, vowing to never return. What has me so eager to return to the conventions and kingdom hall meetings are several things. First, the Holy Spirit at work in me. I have come to cherish my conversations with JW’s, whether strangers, acquaintances, or friends like Mark. I love those dear JW’s, even the grumpy ones. They’re like sheep without a loving shepherd, but with a bully pushing them around instead. Second, I love seeing God at work around me, making divine appointments happen, directing conversations, giving me words to say (or telling me when to shut up), and protecting our conversations from the bullies. And third, gaining an appreciation for the things we have in Christ that the JW’s are missing out on. A real relationship with God and Jesus. Freedom from fear, guilt, and shame. Holy Spirit guidance and power. And the realization that as flawed as your church’s services may be, they have to be light-years better than any JW meeting. Perhaps attendance at a JW meeting should be mandatory for every Christian believer, just to give them a new appreciation for their own church experiences. I highly encourage it. It’s for your own good.


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Two Very Different Circuit Overseers

Some time ago (perhaps 2 years now) I talked with a circuit overseer after the meeting, and asked him one of my favorite questions. “If the 144,000 anointed are in the New Covenant, what covenant are the “great crowd” believers in?” His answer: “I have never thought about that.” He was stumped, and even asked the local elders if they knew the answer to the question.

Fast forward to this last Tuesday, when I asked the same question of a different visiting circuit overseer. This time the CO was very clear on the subject. “They are not in any covenant,” he adamantly declared. He then explained that the great crowd “benefits” from the anointed being in the new covenant, and proceeded to give the party line illustration of working for a boss who enters into various contracts, and his employees benefit from those “covenants.” I then used my New World Translation app to show him (and another listening JW) Ephesians 2, which contrasts those within the New Covenant and those without. I also talked about the description of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31, expressing my excitement about it, and my concern about the Watchtower’s teaching that some would be excluded from it. All the while the CO remained firm, giving no indication of any doubt or questioning of the Watchtower doctrine on the subject.

I have several observations about the whole interaction.

First, regarding the tone of the conversation: We were both friendly throughout, and left as friends. Really! Me, an evangelical Christian, and thus part of “Babylon the Great, the Satanic system of world religions,” and him, part of “Jehovah’s only approved organization on earth.” As far as he knew, I was merely an “interested Bible student,” that is, a seeker of truth on his way to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, and not a “hostile opposer.” How did that happen? Two things: (1) My efforts to keep things on a friendly level rather than arguing, and (2) The Holy Spirit’s protection of His ministry through me, in spite of my efforts and/or failings.

Secondly, in the natural realm (on the surface of things), it would appear that both he and I were making our points, with neither of us having any effect on the other. However, here’s what I see happening in the spiritual realm. As a circuit overseer, he MUST maintain a stainless steel demeanor, especially in the presence of the congregants. Only Jehovah knows what was going on in his heart and mind. He may have been experiencing an inner turmoil at the Truth of God’s word, struggling with all his might to maintain his composure. Or he may have been hardening his heart further against the Truth in his loyalty to the Watchtower. But there had to be some kind of activity going on, because God’s Word does not return empty, but accomplishes its work. Always.

Thirdly, another congregant was listening in, pretty intently. I could not read him either, other than to note his piqued interest. I have to believe that God’s Word and Spirit was at work on him too.

All of this to affirm that the conversation two years ago with circuit overseer #1 was fascinating, exciting, and fun. And the same can be said of the conversation on Tuesday night with overseer #2. Even though the two conversations, and the two CO’s, were vastly different from one another. And God was at work by his Holy Spirit both times.

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Trinity, Tri-Unity or Bi-Unity

I was talking on the phone with my JW friend Mark recently, and he brought up the subject of the Trinity. (I never bring it up, because it usually proves to be too much of a back-and-forth argument to do any good.) He did not remember that we had discussed the subject several times, so I reminded him that I prefer the term “Tri-Unity” rather than “Trinity.” I explained that “Trinity” sounds too much like a belief in 3 gods, which I assured him that I don’t believe. (I could tell he was puzzled by my response, assuming that trinitarians actually believe in 3 gods.) I explained to him that I believe that God is three persons existing in one being, in a similar way that Watchtower teaches that Jesus and Michael are two persons existing in one being. That statement gets JW’s to think outside of the categories they’re used to, and I could tell that Mark was experiencing just that. (In other words, his mind was blown.) At this point it took all of my willpower to resist gloating, and instead I proceeded with the important task of helping Mark to make sense of what I had just said. We went on to discuss and clarify the Watchtower’s teaching about Michael’s “life force” being transferred to Jesus, and how unintelligible that is in light of the teaching that the life force is impersonal like electricity.

So rather than attempting to win an argument with Mark, I sought to help him clarify what the Watchtower is teaching, showing him that Watchtower arguments, while on the surface appearing to be logical and coherent, when more closely examined are shown to be inconsistent and/or illogical. Rather than attempting to prove my doctrine, I find it much more effective to show him the failure of the Watchtower doctrine.

With Mark I can be more direct in pointing out Watchtower doctrinal flaws. With other JW’s I’m more subtle, taking on the role of a student with questions. “Can you explain this to me? Please help me understand this Jesus and Michael thing. When the Watchtower says that the life force of Michael was transferred to Jesus, what does that mean? I thought the life force was impersonal power like electricity, so what part of Michael did Jesus get?”

And then I listen to their attempt at answering, continuing to prompt them for further clarification, allowing them to dig their own pit of irrationality, until they change the subject in frustration. Then I pray that the subject continues to bother them in the coming weeks. It’s the judo technique of debating, and I find it far more effective than the direct argument, and far safer when attempting to remain undercover.

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