I received a phone call last week which began, “I am not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but …” This is nearly always a tip off that the caller is a Jehovah’s Witness who is currently disfellowshipped, or for some other reason not meeting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the local Kingdom Hall, but still believes the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. He called after seeing the YouTube video Young Jehovah’s Witness Dies Over the Weekend. When these calls come in, I have to make assessments. Is the caller asking real questions or just taking up time? I wrote on this last year in Only Real Questions Deserve Real Answers – Pt.1,Part 2 and Part 3.
Being a missionary, like being an evangelist, pastor or teacher, requires that we are good stewards with our time as well as our finances and talents. One of the more frequently asked questions I receive is, “How much time or energy should I put in to someone who seems to be unreachable?” The answer is not simple or clean. Different settings dictate different responses on a case by case basis.
Years ago, when Joy and I regularly posted on AOL boards, we debated JWs who would never leave the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. We did so with full knowledge this was the case because there was a larger group we called the “lurkers.” They were JWs who had questions and were regularly reading and thinking about what we wrote, our responses to the JWs who posted trying to defend their positions or challenge our positions. The “lurkers” had the luxury of reading and thinking about what both sides wrote because they were not on the “hot seat” to respond. This afforded us the opportunity to proclaim the gospel, layout essential Christianity and demonstrate the bankruptcy of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s history and theology. It was a worthwhile endeavor and we saw and have since met those who have become Christians due to that effort. Bill Cwik and Brian have been in the midst of the next generation of Internet evangelism by creating and posting YouTube videos which generate debate in a similar way that we were able to do on AOL 15-20 years ago which reach a broader audience.
Phone calls, like the one I had last week, only include the caller and myself. This is not a long term relationship, like a family member, work mate or neighbor so the answer is a bit easier. There is no one else listening or observing. Long term relationships move slower with information, usually questions are better than assertions and giving time for them to process is helpful. For these settings I would recommend David A Reed’s How to Rescue Your Loved One From the Watchtower in paperback or How to Rescue Your Loved One From the Watchtower ebook. Although this is written about the JWs, the principles translate to most every group and worldview.
If individuals are asking real questions in an attempt to understand the issues, we take as much time as necessary to answer. Figuring this out takes a few minutes. This call may be instructive for our readers who have found themselves in similar situations.
As I mentioned, the phone call began with assurances from the caller that they were not “one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The reason I said this was a tipoff is that this is not a phrase that non-Jehovah’s Witnesses use. The two words, “one of” is very much an insider phrase. The caller went on to say they had just seen the YouTube on blood and could I talk about that. They asked what “authoritative study” we had which would prove that the JW position on blood medically wrong. The caller insisted they have spent time talking with physicians they came to believe that having transfusions are more dangerous than not having them and bloodless surgery has been developed which is superior to surgery requiring blood. This is nearly verbatim from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. I let them know that works like David Reed’s Worse That Waco have done a good job of addressing these questions but that our concerns are primarily biblical and not medical. This is important. In the process of deciding how far to go, stay focused on the actual issues and the areas you are prepared to defend. Although I can generally address the medical issues, medicine is not the be all end all. Modern medicine is mostly good but there are side effects and dangers to any and all medical procedures. I pointed out that the Watchtower’s position is very odd in the sense that they allow blood fractions (components of blood) but not whole blood. It is like saying, “You can eat ham and you can eat cheese and you can eat rye bread but you can’t have a ham and cheese sandwich on rye bread.” You can take nearly all of the parts of blood except water but you cannot take whole blood.
As interesting as that might be, what is most important is, what does the Bible teach and does the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society misuse the Bible in order to validate their teaching? In this case they do. When the Bible talks about not eating or drinking blood, that is what it means. It has nothing to do with blood transfusions. What it is addressing was part of pagan worship which included eating or drinking blood. In fact, before going to battle some soldiers would cut the throat of an animal and drink its blood with the belief that they would be getting its spirit and strength. As we began to look at this the caller let me know that he is currently disfellowshipped due to sin he is presently involved with (which I will not make public). So, although he is disfellowshipped, he still believes the Watchtower teaching and wants to defend it. Considering that they may be wrong was not an option for him. This is not unusual. In some ways, a disfellowhipped JW is more difficult to debate the issues with because there is a sense that if they work hard enough at holding on to their beliefs they will be reinstated and rewarded with a place in the kingdom.
As we address the blood issue I pointed out that each of the practices in Acts 15 which the Jerusalem council agreed that Gentiles refrain from were all related to pagan worship. Before we finalized that he asked if I believed in the Trinity. This is a fairly common tact. When losing ground in one area they will deflect into another topic which they believe will be stronger. I said that I did and asked if they had a JW Bible. Of course, he did. In order to be on the same page I asked, when we read a phrase such as, “Jehovah of Armies has said,” whose words will follow? He was befuddled and so I asked, if we read an article that says, “President Obama said,” whose words would follow. We agreed that the next words would be President Obama’s words. In the same way, the words following a phrase like “Jehovah of Armies has said,” those would be God words. We then began reading Zechariah 2:7 and following. We find out within a couple of verses that Jehovah of armies was sent and that Jehovah of Armies sent him (for a fuller treatment of this see our article Questions and Reflections from Cyberspace which begins on page 2). We spent about 20 minutes on this and in the end he said, neither he nor I can read Hebrew and therefore we can’t really know what the passage means. This lead to the big question. “If I can show you that the Watchtower is not a trustworthy teacher of the Bible and that they have been regularly dishonest, would you repudiate them and consider evidence that Jesus Christ, Lord (YHWH), God and Savior?” The response was, “No, the Watchtower is God’s organization.” It was then time to thank them for their call and move on to the next thing. This isn’t to say we won’t talk again or that I don’t care if they come to the faith, I do. It does mean they are not really asking honest or real questions and being a limited human being I need to make choices about where I invest my time. This is not unlike the words of our Lord to the disciples when He sent them out to preach to Israel in Mark 6:11:
Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.
God is not dependant on our abilities to reach someone and we can’t argue anyone into the kingdom. The Holy Spirit does the convicting and convincing, we are simply Ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) to a lost and condemned world.