I am curious as to the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Where did they begin? And what is it about their theology that many people hate so much?
I am not a JW. I don't agree with their theology, but I wonder what is it specifically that they believe that is so bad.
Hello, A.J. Thank you for writing.
Well, let me deal with the last part of your question first, if I may. You stated....
"And what is it about their theology that many people hate so much?
I am not a JW. I don't agree with their theology, but I wonder what is it specifically that they believe that is so bad"
Well, I certainly cannot speak for other people, but as a Christian, I do not hate anyone. Now, I know you didn't mention hating people, but rather, hating their theology. I simply want to make that point clear. There are many people who grew up in the JW religion as I did, and are left with bitterness. There are some horrible accounts of sexual abuse at the hands of a JW elder, or person of responsibility in the Congregation. Others are simply bitter at having not had the experience of a birthday celebration, or to be able to recognize a certain day of celebration if they so choose. Others are angry over the loss of a loved one, at the hands of the WT's unbiblical medical teachings on issues, such as organ transplants or blood transfusions.
Myself, I don't have a story of mistreatment to tell. I had a relatively good childhood, although of course, there were things that I didn't get, that other children did. I still get along with JWs that I meet or come in contact with, to this very day. I am on good terms with my family members who are JWs, as well. So, there certainly is nothing to "hate" about them, as people.
But their theology is quite dangerous, and something that needs to be spoken out against. ANY doctrine, no matter how good it sounds, should be tested by the Word of God. If it is not Scriptural, then it is not true. If it is Scriptural, then it IS true. There simply is not a middle ground there.
So, I guess you could say that we "hate" their theology, although that is not a term that I would normally use. I recognize the sincerity that most JWs have in regards to their beliefs, and I believe that a Christian and a JW SHOULD be able to sit down with open Bibles, and have a discussion that is both respectful, and polite. Some here seem to not be able to do that, and that is unfortunate.
If I had to answer what I believe "is so bad" about their theology, I would say that it mostly involves their teachings about Christ, and salvation. Let me outline for you, briefly, the main differences between JW doctrine, and Biblical Christianity.
1. The JW belief about God is that only the Father is God. They do not believe the Son is God, nor do they believe that the Holy Spirit is a living personality, but rather a force.
2. The Christian belief states that there is 1 God, whom the Bible has revealed in 3 separate and distinct persons, namely, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. These 3 persons are not 3 separate Gods, but 3 persons uniting as the one true God of creation. Just as 1 family may have many different members, each a separate person, but not a separate family. The many members would unite as 1 family, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit unite as one God.
B. Jesus Christ
1. The JW belief about Jesus Christ is that He was created by the Father in the beginning, is the same being in Scripture as Michael the Archangel, and came to earth and died on an upright pole (They do not believe He died on a cross). They believe He was not raised in a fleshly body, but rather as a spirit being. They believe that Jesus will never return to this earth in the flesh, but instead, has been ruling the earth invisibly from heaven since the year 1914.
2. The Christian view about Christ, is that He is fully God, and was always in existence in the beginning with God (John 1:1-3). He is not a creation, but rather the Creator. We do not believe He is Michael the Archangel, or any other angel. Instead, He is above the angels of heaven, and is to be worshipped by them (Hebrews 1:4, 6, 8). Christians believe that He died on the cross, rose again in the flesh (Luke 24:36-39; John 2:19-21), and will return to this earth in power and judgment (Rev. 1:7, 19:11-16). Christians also believe that putting one’s faith in the death of Jesus Christ as an atonement for sin, is the only way by which we can enter the kingdom of God. It is not by our good works, but by His work on the cross.
C. The Bible
1. The JW belief about the Bible is that it is the Word of God. It should be mentioned, however, that they have produced their own translation of the Bible, in which many verses have been changed to support their beliefs. It is called the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION, and it is the one that they believe in. They also believe that the Bible cannot be interpreted by the individual, but must be interpreted with the help of the publications of the Watchtower Society, which they view as the “faithful and wise servant” of Matthew 24:45-51 and Luke 12:42-48. This view has had the undesirable effect of often placing the individual JW in a place where they must choose whether to follow what they see in the Word of God, or to follow the current teaching of the Organization.
2. The Christian view of the Bible is that is the infallible, inerrant Word of God, and that it alone can “make us wise unto salvation” (1 Tim. 3:15-17). It should be read and studied diligently, and is meant to be understood. It is God’s will that all people be saved, and He will not hide the message of eternal life from anyone who desires to know Him (John 17:3, 2 Peter 3:9).
1. The JW belief concerning Heaven, is that it is reserved for only 144,000 select individuals, while the rest of saved mankind (faithful JWs) will live forever on a paradise Earth. These with an Earthly destiny are called the “Great Crowd” (Rev. 7:9), or the “other sheep” (John 10:16), and have no hope of ever going to Heaven or seeing God.
2. Christians believe that anyone who puts their faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, and lives for Him, can enter the Heavenly kingdom of God. We believe that Christians go to Heaven immediately at death, and those who live until the return of Christ, will be “caught up” (raptured) to Heaven to be with Him (1 Thess. 4:13-18). There will be a Tribulation period of 7 years on this Earth, and at the conclusion of this period, Christ will return and set up a kingdom here for the duration of 1,000 years. At the conclusion of this time, Satan will be allowed to tempt mankind one final time, after which himself and those who follow him, will be cast into everlasting punishment. There will then be a “new Heavens and a new Earth”, where righteousness will last for eternity. All Christians will be able to enjoy Heaven, and a paradise Earth (Rev. 19-22).
NOTE: Some Christians disagree as to the timing of the rapture, in regards to the Tribulation period. The group now known as JWs, once believed that they would be raptured in 1914. They have ow completely abandoned any rapture teaching.
1. JWs do not believe in a literal Hell, but that Hell only represents the grave.
2. Christians believe that there is a literal Hell, which was prepared for “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). It is not God’s will that any human go to Hell, and by accepting Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, we will escape Hell. Those who reject Jesus Christ as their personal Savior will have no atonement for their sins, and will be under the judgment of God (Rev. 14:9-11). But by making Jesus Christ the Lord of one’s life, he/she can live forever in God’s kingdom.
1. JWs forbid their members from celebrating almost every holiday, including the individual’s own birthday.
2. Christians believe the principle found in Romans 14:4-6, namely, that days of celebration are an issue for each person to decide for him/herself, provided that they use that day to honor God. Certainly days which have occultic connections, such as Halloween, would not be honored by those who are true servants of God. But when it comes to celebrating days which remind us of Christ’s birth or resurrection, each Christian has the freedom to do this if he wishes.
1. JWs, in the past, forbade their members from receiving vaccinations against diseases, or life-saving organ transplants. It was taught that these procedures were “against God’s law”, and many loyal JWs died as a result of their obedience to these teachings. Though these procedures are no longer forbidden by the Watchtower Society, they do forbid the practice of blood transfusions. Today, a loyal JW will allow himself, or even his child, to die rather than accept a blood transfusion. Just as JWs many years ago on the issue of vaccination and organ transplants, the loyal JW today is taught that blood transfusions are “against God’s law”. A JW believes that, to accept a blood transfusion, would be jeopardizing his chances of everlasting life.
2. Christians recognize the Old Testament prohibition against eating blood, which was given to the Jews. They do not, however, extend this command to the practice of blood transfusions.
This is by no means a list of EVERY difference, but this pretty much covers the major ones. But I believe you can see that these are not just minor differences. As a Christian, I love people and have concern for their salvation....even JWs. In fact, speaking for myself, I would say ESPECIALLY JWs, as this was the religion of my upbringing, and I have genuine concern for the people I knew and grew up around.
So yes, as a person who believes that it really MATTERS what the Bible teaches on the above topics, then I believe that any doctrine that is taught that is not in harmony with the Bible, is dangerous. Not to mention the many non-doctrinal reasons, such as the way that families have been torn apart by the WT's practice of "shunning" those who have been disfellowshipped. If you have read any of the comments here in this forum, you have seen that an "apostate" (in JW terminology, this is someone who was once a baptized JW, but has left the religion) is something that they view with great disdain. To a JW, an "apostate" is one of the lowest life forms on the planet. Yet, many have left this religion because they had to make a CHOICE....A choice between what is Biblical, or what is in line with the Organization's teachings.
Now, about their history....
Well, there is more to that than I can type here, but I will say a few things and then provide you some links to much more in depth information.
The JW religion was founded by a man named Charles T. Russell, who was raised in the Congregational Church, but was so worried about the Biblical doctrine of Hell, that he left the Congregational Church. In fact, at some point in his life, he even became a skeptic of the Bible and Christianity. He eventually became interested in, and came under the influence of several Adventist preachers, who were predicting the return of Jesus to occur in the late 1800s. Most notably, was N. H. Barbour, who had initially believed that Jesus would return in the flesh, in 1874. When 1874 came and went, unlike most Adventists who decided to abandon the notion that Jesus had come, Barbour came up with a way to salvage the failed prediction....Claim that Jesus DID return in 1874, but just not "visibly", as originally thought. So, he claimed that Jesus had returned after all....only "invisibly".
Well, Charles Russell latched onto this teaching, and promoted the idea that Jesus had returned in the year 1874. Initially, Russell partnered with Barbour and became a financial backer for Barbour's magazine, "HERALD OF THE MORNING"
. After a split with Barbour over some other doctrinal disagreements, Russell decided to no longer be associated with the Adventists, and published the first edition of the Watch Tower magazine in 1879, and founded the Watch Tower ORGANZATION in 1881.
The magazine's original title was "ZION'S WATCH TOWER AND HERALD OF CHRIST'S PRESENCE"
It is noteworthy that the date NOW taught as the "invisible" return/presence of Christ, is 1914. 1874 has been discarded altogether, even though it was taught as the "invisible" coming of Christ up until around 1930, when the date was changed to 1914.
JWs today like to point out that they were talking about 1914, even BEFORE the year came, as being prophetically significant. Yes, but what they predicted then to happen in 1914, is not even close to what DID happen. Nor is it what is currently taught today, about 1914.
In the days after the Watch Tower's inception, and up until the time of 1914, it was taught that:
1. They would be raptured to heaven
2. The religions and nations of this world would be destroyed
3. The Battle of Armageddon
Today, 1914 is simply regarded as the time of Christ's "invisible" presence. 1874 has been discarded altogether. But it wasn't actually until around the time of 1930, that the date was changed from 1874, to 1914.
The WT's first President, Charles T. Russell, died in 1916. In his lifetime, Russell had been a strong believer in Pyramidology, and believed that the measurements of certain passage ways in the Great Pyramid, should be used to determine Bible prophecy. In fact, if you go to Rosemont Cemetery in Pittsburg, PA, you will find near the grave of C. T. Russell, a giant stone pyramid, which stands as a testament to the belief that he held regarding the pyramids being a key to understanding Bible prophecy.
Also noteworthy, is that during his lifetime, C. T. Russell published a series of writings entitled "STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES"
. There were 6 volumes. What is significant about these writings, is that Russell claimed that a person would be better off reading THESE, than they would reading the Bible.
"“Not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the Scripture Studies aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.”
The WT's second President, was a man by the name of Joseph "Judge" Rutherford. In somewhat of a forced "take over" of the reigns of rulership of the Society, despite the fact that Russell never intended for Rutherford to succeed him, many of the "Bible Students" (as they were known at that time) who were loyal to Russell, broke away and formed various splinter groups.
Rutherford was known to be a man who loved his alcohol. It was during Rutherford's presidency, that the prediction of a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and many other Old Testament patriarchs, was to occur in 1925. Even after 1925 came and went, Rutherford continued to insist that their resurrection was imminent, and in 1929, built a mansion in San Diego for these Old Testament "worthies" to live in when they came back. It was even deeded to them. In addition, they were also given the use of 2, Sixteen cylinder Cadillacs, to get them around town. When they failed to arrive, it was Rutherford himself who got to use the mansion and the Cadillacs. The mansion was called "Beth Sarim", which means "House of the Princes".
There is so much more that could be said about this religion's history, but in the interest of time, I will enclose some links that give a very detailed account of this religion's inception.
But if there is anything consistent with this religion, it is change. It has undergone many doctrinal changes, on many different issues. Also, it has numerous failed predictions to its credit....1914, 1918 (church members were to be slaughtered in that year), 1925, 1975.
But in short, the reason that I believe it is dangerous, is that Jesus taught that "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"
. JWs teach that not only do you not need to be born again, but that you in fact, cannot be. Any religion that so openly denies something that Jesus said, and teaches a different way of salvation, is "dangerous", in that following its teachings will cost one eternal life.
Please see the following links, for much more in depth information regarding the history of this religion.....
I hope this has answered your question somewhat. If not, please feel free to follow up, if I may clarify anything further. Thank you for writing, and take care.