In my neighborhood you can always tell when summer starts, it begins as soon as the Jehovah Witnesses start showing up on street corners with their magazine racks. In my neighborhood, which is mostly apartment blocks and a high foot-traffic area, they are on every other block all summer long, which gives me about six different chances to tell them the truth about Jesus Christ within a 15 minute walk.
Jehovah Witnesses (JWs) have been taught by the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society that Jesus is really the archangel, Michael, a created being, which means they deny the deity of Christ, the personhood of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. The are, however, monotheists which means they believe in only one God-Jehovah–which is the way they say YHWH or Yahweh, which is the divine name in the Old Testament, often rendered as LORD by translators.
I have come across in my apologetics studies however (courtesy of apologist Dr. James White and his book The Forgotten Trinity, a book I highly recommend you read), a strategy that gets them thinking about what they believe about Jesus. Using this strategy I am able to plant the seeds of truth in them, which will hopefully grow into a true saving faith in the real Jesus Christ.
The JWs use a version of the Bible called the New World Translation (NWT), it is almost universally agreed upon by Bible scholars that it has been mistranslated in many key sections, which backs up the unorthodox theology the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society teaches.
The way I approach them is I first ask if they believe scripture is the sole inerrant rule of faith, that scripture alone determines doctrine. When they agree that they do, I then ask them why they teach that Jesus is the archangel Michael when scripture clearly says Jesus is Jehovah.
Naturally they don’t believe me, so I ask if they have a Bible and if I can show them something. I have them use their own Bible (the NWT) since that is where they get most of their theology. I ask them to first go to Psalm 102 and establish the context of the passage–it is directed to and applies only to Jehovah and no other being. That is very important, context matters as you will see.
The New World Translation reads: 102:25-27 “Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth, And the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; Just like a garment they will all wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will pass away. But you are the same, and your years will never end.”
What that passage teaches, is that Jehovah alone is eternal and unchanging, those characteristics can be applied to no created being and the JW will agree with this interpretation. I take a few minutes to discuss these characteristics, which both orthodox Christians and JW’s can agree belong to God and God alone.
Next I take them to Hebrews 1:8-12, “But about the Son, he says: ‘God is your throne forever and ever, and the scepter of your Kingdom is the scepter of uprightness. You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness. That is why God, your God, anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your companions.’ And: ‘At the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; and just like a garment, they will all wear out, and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as a garment, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never come to an end.’ ” [emphasis mine]
Notice anything? The writer of Hebrews is applying to the Son characteristics that can only apply to Jehovah. Their own scriptures are declaring that Jesus is God, something their theology has taught them is not possible.
I ask if they had ever seen that before. Most say they never have and need to study it more before commenting on it, which is fine; we can’t expect an entire worldview to be changed within a few minuets. The conversation then either ends or I’m questioned about some other section of scripture, usually to poke holes in the doctrine of the deity of Christ and confirm their own ideas about it.
Remember, if you choose to engage them, this is not a theological sword fight, don’t just start throwing verses at them and putting them on the defensive, which I have seen many Christians do (I’ve done it too in the past and it accomplishes nothing). Telling them the truth concerning Jesus is about the salvation of their souls, not taking heads or winning an argument. Have a conversation with them and explain to them the truth about what God has revealed to us and let God do the rest, that is all we are called to do.
And before you leave the conversation, ask if they need prayer for anything, it shows you actually care about them and were not just looking to win an argument and then walk away.
Do you feel confident enough in your understanding of the gospel to be able to share it with friends, family or strangers? What can you do to make yourself ready to do so?