Jehovah’s Witnesses vs. Christianity
The emergency of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be traced back to 1870s from the Bible movement established by Charles Taze Russell (Franz, 2007). It is during Russell’s time that the development of organizational framework occurred. In 1879 publication of magazines started disputing some of the core beliefs of the main Christendom. Establishment of autonomous congregations, and thousands of full-time or part-time ministers known as colporteurs were organized. By 1910, the Watchtower grew tremendously with over 50,000 followers, and interestingly the organization’s magazines were the leading Christian publications in the US. Russell died in 1916, and Joseph F Rutherford was elected president – a position he held for 25 years. Rutherford initiated significant administrative and doctrinal changes. This changes resulted in defections during his first 15years in office. Growth resumed in the last half of Rutherford’s tenure, and by the time of his death in 1942 the membership was in excess of 113,624. At the 1931 convention in Ohio, the name Jehovah’s Witnesses having a Biblical base was adopted by resolution.
Nathan H Knorr was appointed the third president in 1942. More changes were experienced with large assemblies worldwide held and commissioning of theBible translation being among the significant ones. In 1976, major functional overhaul reduced the power of the president passing the majority of his powers to the governing body. Knorr died in 1977, and Fredrick Franz became president – a position he held up to 1992, followed by Milton Henschel and Don A. Adams since 2000.
Core Beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination, although some of their core beliefs differ by a varying degree to those of the mainstream Christendom. The main beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses are: Jehovah is the name of the only true and sovereign God to whom true worship should be directed. They believe that God is the creator and not part of the Trinity. The name is derived from Tetragrammaton in the Old Testament.
Being Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in Jesus Christ as the firstborn of all creation, and it is through him that all other creation came into being. Jesus is, therefore, the son of God, who paid with his life a ransom so that all those who believe in him would not perish but enjoy internal life. Jesus is the mighty appointed king of the God’s Kingdom and it is under his rulership that perfection and an earthly paradise will be restored.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that death is not a transition from the earthly to the spirit world, but into a state of no consciousness. It is only during resurrection that the dead will come back to life either for judgment or the reward of life. This is against the core belief of many Christian faiths that believe in the immortality of the soul, afterlife and hell.
There will be an earthly paradise restored by Gods kingdom under Jesus’s rulership in which majority of Armageddon survivors and those resurrected will enjoy perfect and everlasting life. A small group will get a heavenly reward in which they will be judges and kings over the earth. In this context Gods’ Kingdom is tangible in Heaven having government structures with Jesus being the King, the small multitude being co-rulers of Christ and the Earth being the territory with the inhabitants as the citizens of the kingdom.
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The first recorded use of the word “trinity” was by Theophilis of Antioch in the second century A.D. However, it is from the 4th century onwards that the term and the usage were developed mainly through the various early church councils and their resolutions. The word Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Bible. According to Harris (2000) in its simplest form Trinity brings the notion of “three Gods in one”, that is the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, but in one being, having a single divine nature. The three identities are inseparable from one another. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that there is only one God whose name is Jehovah, while Jesus although having Godly qualities is the son of God and the Holy Spirit is a form of energy that God uses in fulfilling his desire.
At this juncture, it is important to seek what the Bible actually says about the Trinity doctrine. The following Bible verses can shed light on the issue. Isaiah 44:6: “Thus saith the lord the king of Israel and his redeemer the lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, and beside me there is no God.” Mark 12:29: “the Lord our God is one.” The quoted verses clearly show that there is only one God objecting the fundamental notion of three Gods in one. Another key tenet of the Trinity doctrine is that the three deities are inseparable, but a keen study of the Bible proves this wrong. Acts 7:55, 56, “Stephen, filled with the holy spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘Look! I can see heaven thrown open,’ he said, ‘and the son of man standing at the right hand of God.’ In this case Stephen while on earth was filled with the holy spirit and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God indicating the two beings as separate from one another.
Immortality of the Soul
The belief holds that when humans die, the soul leaves the decomposing body and continues to exist after that. In this view, there are two component of humans’ body – the flesh and the soul (Garber, 2003). This belief has been used and continues to be used by the church in dictating righteous behavior so as to attain the gift of life after death. Another importance of the belief in the immortality of the soul is that it gives rise to other beliefs such as hell and purgatory. These beliefs are at the center of the majority of Christian belief systems. The notion of immortal soul originates from the Greek philosophy and not from the Hebrew thought. Greek philosophers such as Plato played a great role in the development of the teaching as we know it today. Jehovah Witnesses believe that human beings are “living souls” and when death occurs the soul dies together with the body. Ecclesiastes. 9: 5, 10 support this belief. “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 10 whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest”.
The term Paradise originates from the Garden of Eden in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s kingdom will restore paradise on Earth. In this Earthly paradise majority of Armageddon survivors and those resurrected will live (Watchtower, 2005). Death, illness, hunger, disabilities and all human misfortunes brought forth by sin will be no more making life enjoyable and perfect. This belief contradicts the majority of mainstream Christianity who do not believe in an earthly paradise. In contrast, Orthodox Christianity teaches that the righteous receive their inheritance in heaven and that the earth will be destroyed at the end of the last days.
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From the above analysis it is clear that Jehovah witnesses are true Christians since they believe in Jesus as the savior of mankind. There exist differences in key doctrines between Jehovah‘s Witnesses and the Orthodox Christianity. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs are not mere doctrines, on the contrary, the Biblical examples given above shows that they are founded on the Bible. It is only through a careful analysis of the Bible that the actual meaning of the Scripture can be reached upon so as to shed light on the contrasting belief systems.