Identifying Jehovah’s Witnesses as the True Religion?
When asked to prove why Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves the only true religion, Watchtower outlines several identifiers. Are these reasons compelling?
The first thing to recognise is that every religion believes itself to be the true religion, but differ in their acceptance of other religious groups. Some Christian religions teach that being loving, God will accept all people, supported by Scripture that death pays for sin. Others teach that only people who accept Jesus will be saved. Watchtower teachings are even more fundamental, dismissing all other religions as false, and only Jehovah's Witnesses will survive Armageddon.
"Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that their religion is the only right one?
The Bible does not agree with the modern view that there are many acceptable ways to worship God. Ephesians 4:5 says there is “one Lord, one faith.” Jesus stated: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it. . . . Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”—Matt. 7:13, 14, 21; see also 1 Corinthians 1:10.
Repeatedly the Scriptures refer to the body of true Christian teachings as “the truth,” and Christianity is spoken of as “the way of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 John 1; 2 Pet. 2:2) Because Jehovah’s Witnesses base all of their beliefs, their standards for conduct, and organizational procedures on the Bible, their faith in the Bible itself as God’s Word gives them the conviction that what they have is indeed the truth. So their position is not egotistical but demonstrates their confidence that the Bible is the right standard against which to measure one’s religion. They are not self-centered but are eager to share their beliefs with others." Reasoning From the Scriptures pp.203
To justify that only Jehovah's Witnesses are the true religion, Watchtower has created a list of criteria to identify themselves as unique.
“(1) From most of their Bible translations they have removed the name of the true God thousands of times.
(2) The Trinity doctrine, their concept of God himself, is borrowed from pagan sources and was developed in its present form centuries after Bible writing was completed.
(3) Their belief in immortality of the human soul as the basis for continued life is not taken from the Bible; it has roots in ancient Babylon.
(4) The theme of Jesus’ preaching was the Kingdom of God, and he sent his disciples out to talk personally to others about it; but the churches today seldom mention that Kingdom and their members are not doing the work of preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matt. 24:14)
(5) Jesus said that his true followers could be readily identified by their self-sacrificing love for one another. Is that true of the religions of Christendom when the nations go to war?
(6) The Bible says that Christ’s disciples would be no part of the world, and it warns that whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God; but the churches of Christendom and their members are deeply involved in the political affairs of the nations.”
Reasoning From the Scriptures pp.203-204
In summary, these are:
- Using the word Jehovah
- Teaching God is not a Trinity
- Teaching the soul is mortal
- Love and not going to War
- Politically neutral by not voting
The Bible does not provide a bullet list to identify who is acceptable to God, and the lists other religions create to identify themselves as truth vary as to what is supposedly most important. It is difficult to refrain from being cynical when viewing such a modern approach. It is a basic sales and marketing tactic; promote the unique selling points of the product your organization sells. In sales terminology, such a 6-point list is referred to as the organization's power positions.
Let’s entertain the idea that God has a list by which to identify the only true religion. Are Watchtower's power positions compelling enough to prove Jehovah’s Witnesses are the Truth?
Watchtower teaches that God’s name is Jehovah, and using this word identifies Jehovah's Witnesses as God’s true followers. This is based on the appearance of the Tetragrammaton - YHWH - in the Old Testament. Not only is Jehovah is a poor rendition of YHWH, and Yahweh accepted as more accurate, more important is that the Tetragrammaton never appears in the New Testament, showing this word does not identify Christians. Watchtower corrupted their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures by deceptively including the word Jehovah in the New Testament.
See Is Jehovah God's Name? for a detailed discussion of the topic.
Watchtower teaches that other Christians follow a false god because they worship a Trinity. This extensive topic is undermined by two points.
- Not all Christian religions believe in a Triune God.
- The Trinity developed to align the Old Testament teaching of Monotheism in Deuteronomy 4:4 with the New Testament concept that Jesus is God.
See Trinity for a detailed discussion of the topic.
The Bible is not arranged like an encyclopaedia, with doctrine arranged alphabetically. It does not have a subheading on the mortality of the soul, or for that matter, the meaning of life, nature of God or condition of the dead.
One Bible book describes the dead as unconscious, another discusses a fiery hell. Christian sects evolved different teachings through disagreement on which Scripture's to take as figurative and which as literal. Watchtower says it is the true religion because it correctly says the soul is mortal, but another religion will make the same claim of being true because it accurately interprets the Bible as proving the soul is immortal.
Watchtower claims Jehovah’s Witnesses are alone in preaching. This is simply false, proven by there being thousands of other Christian religions, all of which are in existence because of their preaching efforts. Whilst Jehovah's Witnesses may reply that only they follow the example of early Christians, who preached door to door, but this was not the case, and is based on Watchtower misquoting Scripture.
Alternatively, they may reply to be the only one accurately preaching the message about "the good news of the Kingdom." However, their Kindgom message that only 144,000 go to heaven, with everyone else living forever on planet earth does not have Scriptural support. The New Testament consistently describes the Christian hope as heavenly, and Watchtower doctrine of an eternal paradise on earth is based on a few poetic texts from the Old Testament.
For a more detailed discussion of the topics see Are Jehovah's Witnesses the only ones that Preach? and Living on Earth Forever.
Love Not War
Jesus said love would identify his followers; love amongst themselves and love for neighbours - (Matthew 22:39, John 13:35). These statements are so clear that not only Jehovah's Witnesses, but all Christian religions, claim they show love in an exemplary manner.
Whilst Jehovah's Witnesses show love amongst themselves, they are not known for love of neighbour, running no hospitals, schools or charities.
Watchtower counteracts this by claiming they show love to neighbour through the preaching work, providing people the opportunity to save their eternal lives if they convert to becoming Jehovah's Witnesses. I do not need to explain how ridiculous that sounds to anyone other than Jehovah's Witnesses.
Watchtower's other claim of uniquely displaying love is their refusal to go to war. War is barbaric and evil, and the neutrality of Jehovah’s Witness is compelling, but the topic is not that simple. War is inevitable, and neutrality is unsustainable without protection from others. The only reason Jehovah’s Witnesses exist it that Christians fought wars against other religious groups for centuries. It is also worth noting that Jehovah’s Witnesses are neutral, but not pacifists, with numerous Christian groups taking a stronger stance against war than that of Jehovah's Witnesses. See War for a detailed discussion of the topic.
Voting and Politics
Watchtower claims Jehovah’s Witnesses prove to be separate from the world by remaining politically neutral. This is far from accurate. Democracies commonly adhere to "trias politica" or "separation of power", under which governmental responsibiliies are divided into three branches.
- Executive - General administration of state bureaucracy
- Legislative - Create and maintain laws
- Judiciary - Court system for interpretation and application of the law
Whilst all three branches are critical to the governing of a country, Watchtower appears to be against the Executive arm of government more-so than the Judiciary and Legislative functions. Whilst refusing to support the Executive function by not voting or running for government, they are active in political lobbying and using the Judiciary function of government. This makes Watchtower's claims of being politically neutral hypocritical.
It is equally important to note that it is baseless to insist being no part of the world prevents a person from voting. The Bible contains examples of politicians who were noted as commendable followers of Jehovah.
See Politics for a detailed discussion of the topic.
Reasoning From the Scriptures recognises that other Christian religions follow the Bible.
"Do not other religions also follow the Bible? Many use it to some extent. But do they really teach and practice what it contains?" p.203
Watchtower's tries to use the combined strength of 6 reasons to prove Jehovah's Witnesses as unique and therefore the only acceptable religion. Some are based on doctrinal interpretation, others on the actions of followers, and of these points have been shown to have questionable merit. Jehovah's Witnesses are no more unique than a number of similar sects. Watchtower started in the 1800's as part of the Adventist movement in America, and there are many Similar Religions to Jehovah's Witnesses.
At John 13:35, Jesus said that love identifies his followers. In the parable of the good Samaritan at Luke 10:25-37, Jesus showed love should extend to all people, including Samaritans, whom the Jews looked down upon as apostates. The love of Jehovah’s Witnesses is insular, largely withdrawn from non-believers, who are labelled "worldly people." Worse still is that those who leave the religion and disfellowshipped are strictly shunned. Over a million former Jehovah's Witnesses are being shunned at this very time, many by their own parents and siblings, some for decades. The extent to which Jehovah's Witnesses are forced to adhere to this heartless and controlling practice is void of love or Scriptural support. (See Disfellowshipping and Shunning.)
Watchtower also relates love to their preaching work. Not only aren't Jehovah’s Witnesses unique in preaching, but their message is far from one of love. The New Testament teaches that Jesus’ ransom sacrifice cancelling a person's sin upon their death, a far cry from Watchtower’s message that “the good news of god’s kingdom” is that billions will die at Armageddon, with only Jehovah’s Witnesses surviving.
The six power positions Watchtower's uses as proof of being the only true religion fall apart under scrutiny. Additional research goes further in proving that Watchtower cannot possibly be considered the Truth. One test is to check whether Watchtower's predictions have come true. Over the last century, Watchtower has prophesied numerous dates for the arrival of Armageddon and other events, and been proven wrong 100% of the time, as presented in detail at Failed Predictions. Watchtower doctrine has changed dramatically and regularly, dismissed as the Light Gets Brighter. When Watchtower leaders use such reasoning, they are in effect claiming that God directed them to publish prior teachings that were wrong - they are accusing Jehovah of lying to his followers. Which is more shocking, coming to the realisation that Jehovah is not directing the Governing Body, or that they cover their mistakes by accusing Jehovah of lying?
Do not be swayed by Watchtower's clever marketing ploy of producing a biased list to identify themselves alone as true. As compelling as any slick marketing campaign may first appear, it is always important to examine other points of view for decisions with long term costs and repercussions.
Written August 2020, updated February 2021.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2021