From Retired Pastor Joe Gwynn,
A project of mine this summer has been to type four out-of-print works by the late Dr. John H. Gerstner. They are critiques of four prominent cults that ensnare thousands of unwary people. They (the booklets) are carefully footnoted and therefore can be defended with confidence. In them you will learn things (especially about their founders and history) that many of their proponents who come knocking at your door either do not know or will not admit. My purpose was to make these booklets (25-30 pages each) available for free downloading and distribution.
· The Teachings of Mormonism
· The Teachings of Seventh-day Adventism
· The Teachings of Christian Science
· The Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses
John H. Gerstner (1914–1996), M.Div. and M.Th. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Dr. Gerstner was Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for thirty years. After retiring, Dr. Gerstner, the favorite teacher of Dr. R.C. Sproul, was a frequent speaker at Ligonier Conferences before his death in 1996. An excellent historian and Reformed theologian, Dr. Gerstner also wrote several excellent books, including my favorite “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth”, an excellent critique of Dispensationalism.
In the one true God and his Son, Jesus Christ,
If you want a copy in word format email me.
The Teachings of
John H. Gerstner
John H. Gerstner (1914–1996), M.Div. and M.Th. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Dr. Gerstner was Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for thirty years. After retiring, Dr. Gerstner, a favorite teacher of Dr. R.C. Sproul, was a frequent speaker at Ligonier Conferences before his death in 1996. An excellent Reformed theologian, scholar, and historian, Dr. Gerstner wrote many good books.
Introduction ……………………………………………..…….… Page 2
1. Description and History of the Jehovah’s Witnesses …… Page 3
2. Doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses …………..….……. Page 12
3. Terms Frequently Used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses ….. Page 16
4. For Further Reading ……………………………………….. Page 18
5. Summary of Traditional Christian Doctrines …….………. Page 21
6. Brief Definitions of the Sects …………….………….………Page 24
The abundance of literature on various “sects” shows that there is great interest in the subject. But what is a sect? We must make our definition clear, for there is wide difference of opinion on its meaning.
Evangelicals generally use sect when referring to those denominations which do not hold to fundamental biblical principles … especially the deity of Christ and His atonement. This booklet is written from the evangelical perspective.
The teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is designed as a ready reference booklet. It is meant to be a quick guide to the wealth of literature on this subject, and it includes a valuable table and glossary.
The general exposition in the first chapter gives an easily-grasped overview of the sect. The following chapter, “Doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses” provides the reference material which summarizes the first chapter and adds some more technical data. Chapter two contains the basic theological structure of the Jehovah’s Witnesses stated objectively and concisely. The text itself gives a fuller exposition of some of the cardinal points outlined in the first chapter.
Chapter three. “Terms Frequently Used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” gives some of the most common terms in the vocabulary of this sect. Sects often have their own precise definitions for common religious words, and the glossary makes this immediately evident.
Chapter four, “For Further Reading,” lists both primary and secondary sources for further study of the theology and practice of the sect.
A summary of the essential teachings of traditional Christianity appears in chapter five. This summary is included to provide a basis for comparison with the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This chapter is designed to be used as a frame of reference.
To make the theologies of different sects clearer, their teachings have been summarized in the “Chart of Comparative Doctrines” at the end of chapter six. This tabular outline classifies the doctrines of Seventh-Day Adventists, and continuing with the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Scientists, this chart allows the reader to see at a glance the position of each group on various Christian doctrines.
1. Description and History of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
It is quite clear that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventists. Jan Van Baalen remarks: “One wonders why Charles Taze Russell was so unwilling to acknowledge his sources when his system of errors reveals so plainly the traces of Mrs. Ellen G. White.”
Charles Taze Russell
The similarity of the Witness system to Adventism is corroborated by the conversion experience of Charles Taze Russell, the modern founder of the cult. The Allegheny, Pennsylvania boy had been reared in the Reformed faith of the Covenanters. At first he took their doctrines seriously, especially the doctrine of hell. As Charles Ferguson observes: “Evidently his youth was dominated by morbid pictures of a sizzling hell, for as a boy he used to go around the city of Pittsburgh every Saturday evening and write signs with chalk on the fences, warning people to attend Church on the following Sabbath that they might escape the ghastly torments of everlasting fire.” From this fiery orthodoxy, Russell, when he found himself unable to answer certain questions of a skeptic, passed over into a frigid unbelief. It was then that he met the Seventh-day Adventists, and his faith in Christianity, and especially in the Second Advent, was restored.
Before this encounter, which started Russell on his way to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, he had been a haberdasher on the North Side in Pittsburgh. This is a simple matter of fact, but for some reason, the Witnesses are defensive about it. Charles Ferguson speaks to this point: “His friends say he was sneeringly referred to as a haberdasher because in his early days he owned a chain of stores. Yet I can’t see that this damns the man; any one who calls his brother a haberdasher is either a technician or weak on epithets. The term isn’t complimentary, but I don’t see that it really crucifies one.” Of course, while there is nothing dishonorable in the calling of a haberdasher, it hardly fits one for being the greatest biblical expositor since the Apostle Paul, as is claimed for “Pastor” Russell.
A few years later Russell wrote his first significant book. Russell had worked out the modifications of Adventism, based on his own assiduous study of the Bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses, as they were later called, were born.
The next years were big ones in Russell’s life and work. He wrote voluminously. “It was claimed that Russell’s ‘explanatory writings on the Bible are far more extensive than the combined writings of St. Paul, St. John, Arius, Waldo, Wycliffe, and Martin Luther – the six messengers of the Church who preceded him’ and ‘that the place next to St. Paul in the gallery of fame as expounder of the Gospel of the Great Master will be occupied by Charles Taze Russell.’ ” He spoke incessantly – often six and eight hours a day – and travelled as much as Bishop Asbury and the apostle Paul combined, averaging, according to Braden, 30,000 miles per year. It was not inappropriate that this zealot, who compassed land and sea to make proselytes, should end his earthly life on an itinerary. While traveling in the vicinity of Waco, Texas, Russell’s companion summoned his fellow travelers so they could see how a great man should die. The porter was particularly impressed by his quiet expiration.
His earthly life, however, was not so tranquil as his death. Tried for shady dealings in wheat, and summoned to court for various fabrications, he was forced, on one occasion, to confess open falsehood:
On the witness stand, under oath, he answered, “Yes,” to the question, “Do you know Greek?”
He was handed a copy of the New Testament in Greek. When requested to identify the letters of the alphabet, he could not do so. At that point Russell’s attorney became agitated, apparently fearing that his client would be indicted for perjury. Thereupon, he pressed him, “Now, are you familiar with the Greek language?”
Always a prevaricator, Russell caught the hint and answered, brazenly and unblushingly, “No.”
Above all, as Ferguson puts it, “His domestic life was far from millennial.” In 1897 he was separated from his wife, and in 1913, Mrs. Russell brought suit for divorce on four grounds. The most serious charge was the charge of adultery. A certain Rose Ball was involved. Though at first Russell claimed innocence, “he was finally cornered and confessed to be an adulterer.” But it seems that he afterward still maintained his innocency and vowed that he never again would so much as enter a room in which a member of the opposite sex, not actually a member of his own family, was present. This vow did not prevent him from trying to defraud his former wife of her alimony. His wife continued her relentless opposition to the pastor whose heavenly mission she seemed to doubt. The scandal of the whole affair threatened to destroy the movement. Russell’s successor, J. F. Rutherford, followed his leader in matrimonial infelicity also, but he kept his problems private, remembering, no doubt, the serious consequences of publicity for the captain of Jehovah’s hosts.
J. F. Rutherford
It was in 1916 that Judge J. F. Rutherford was elected president of the organization. Little is known of his contacts with the Witnesses prior to this elevation. He relates the circumstances of his conversion:
Long before I knew Pastor Russell he had done much for me. While I was engaged in the law practice in the Middle West, there came into my office one day a lady bearing some books in her arms. She was modest, gentle, and kind. I thought she was poor, and that it was my privilege and duty to help her. I found that she was rich in faith in God. I bought the books and afterwards read them. Up to that time I knew nothing about the Bible; I had never heard of Pastor Russell. I did not even know that he was the author of the books at the time I read them; but I know that the wonderfully sweet, harmonious explanation of the plan of God thrilled my heart and changed the course of my life from doubt to joy.
His election to succeed “the greatest expositor since the apostle Paul” did not meet with universal approval as the break-off of a half-dozen small sects from the larger sect shows quite clearly. Rutherford assured them that they would suffer destruction for their recalcitrancy.
Rutherford was strikingly similar to Russell in one respect and strikingly different in another. Like his predecessor, the judge was a voluminous and utterly confident expositor of the system. His doctrinal differences from Russell were very slight, and the mass of his literary output was even greater. And the same colossal circulation, which he Witnesses give to all their publications, was afforded the new leader. “The catalogue states that from 1921 through 1940 a total of 337,000,000 copies of his books and pamphlets were distributed, an average of almost 20,000,000 per year.” It is interesting to note that his works actually supplanted Russell’s, even as his own writings have been supplanted.
But he conspicuously differed from his predecessor in his public ministry – or, perhaps we should say, in his lack of a public ministry. While Russell was always with people and became a popular idol, Rutherford was most secretive and unavailable. At the Detroit convention and other conventions he appeared mysteriously and disappeared again as soon as he had spoken. Charles Braden testified: “He refused the writer a personal interview, as he had consistently done to others who sought to make firsthand contact with him.” Dan Gilbert reminisces: “In San Diego, for a period of some five years, the late ‘Judge’ Rutherford, chief mobilizer of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was my next-door, or, more precisely, across-the-canyon neighbor. I cannot recall that he ever manifested ‘neighborliness,’ despite the proximity of our dwelling-places and the well-known Rutherfordite penchant for ringing doorbells!” Very little was actually known about Rutherford during his life, and his death was as mysterious as his life. When he passed on in January, 1942, at seventy-two years of age, few people knew that he had even been ill, and the cause of his death was not disclosed. It was known that that his last few years were spent at Beth-Sarim, the House of Princes, which the Witnesses have since enlarged to palatial dimensions as a dwelling for David and the other Old Testament leaders when they return to rule the earth for Christ. That this estate was actually deeded to Jesus Christ was denied by Rutherford, who pointed out that Christ had already returned but was and would remain invisible.
N. H. Knorr
In 1942 N. H. Knorr, who actually had been running the Brooklyn office for the last few years of Rutherford’s reign, was elected his successor. Knorr was definitely less conspicuous than Russell and Rutherford, both as a speaker and a writer. We do, however, get some insight into the drift of things from the article he submitted to Vergilius Ferm’s Religion in the Twentieth Century. Knorr apparently regarded his distinctive emphasis to be educational. “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he said, “are trained for ministerial work. Not that they attend seminaries – neither did Jesus or the apostles. But intensive private and group study in the Bible and Bible helps equips them. Such training has been stressed particularly since J. F. Rutherford has been succeeded in the Society’s presidency by N. H. Knorr …” It also appears highly significant and indicative of the future of the Witnesses that Knorr made only a slight reference to Russell and Rutherford, listing only the recent books in his article and bibliography. It would seem that Knorr intended to ignore Rutherford as Rutherford ignored Russell before him. Indeed, many modern Witnesses do not even recognize the names of these pillars of their faith.
We may refer to the cult of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as Russellism. For, though the master’s writings are no longer printed and his works and even his name little known among the followers, his brand of theology still prevails with only slight modifications. Others have written at great length, but this is mostly repetition and elaboration.
The Theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
Coming right to the heart of this theology, we find two fundamental principles. To use scholastic language, one is the formal, and the other the material principle. The formal principle is the authority of the Bible; the material principle is the vindication of Jehovah. All the rest of the myriad details of this complicated system of doctrine (with its particularly vivid eschatology) may be viewed as a deduction from this latter principle.
The Authority of the Bible
First let us examine the formal principle, the authority of the Bible. There is no reasonable doubt that the Witnesses accept the Bible as the Word of God and profess to ground all their doctrines on its authority. Russell announced in his journal: “The Watch Tower does not assume a dogmatic attitude, but confidently invites a careful examination of its utterances in the light of God’s infallible word.” They accept the Bible in its entirety and claim to be the only group which has done justice to all its teachings. “ ‘Be it known,’ wrote Russell, ‘that no other system of theology even claims, or ever has attempted, to harmonize in itself EVERY statement of the Bible; yet nothing short of this we claim for these views.’ ” Russell claimed no inherent authority and on occasion specifically denied having it. “I claim nothing of superiority or supernatural power!” This position has been continued to the present day.
Nevertheless, the Witness movement has developed the role of the infallible interpreter of the infallible Word. And, as with Romanism and all other groups which have yielded to this temptation, the infallible interpreter has tended to replace the infallible Word in the thinking and faith of the believer. According to The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, May, 1925, Russell was the angel referred to in Ezekiel 9:11, or the seventh messenger of the church. This clearly put him in the position of infallible teacher. It is apparent that Russell thought of himself in such a way, although he disclaimed “superiority or supernatural power.” How else can one explain his statement in Studies in the Scriptures, “that it would be better to leave the Bible unread and read his Studies than to read the Bible and ignore his Studies”?
Rutherford continued the same unofficial doctrine of the infallible interpreter. “These speeches do not contain my message, but do contain the expression of Jehovah’s purpose which he commands must now be told to the people.’ ” Since this sure word of prophecy was vouchsafed to Rutherford, he could quite naturally warn his followers that “ ‘It is entirely unsafe for the people to rely upon the words and doctrines of imperfect men.’ ”
It is clear from the notion of the infallible interpreter is a real one and firmly established in practice. The organization of the Witnesses is utterly authoritarian. Differences of opinion are simply not tolerated; defectors from the party line are liquidated from the membership. We have already noted that Rutherford did not dare deviate much from Russell’s teachings; when he did, he caused trouble in the ranks. While Russell was living, Rutherford would never have dared to deviate from him. Stroup gives a detailed description of the meetings if the Witnesses and points out that they consist of questions asked by the leader. The people attempt to give answers and are finally told by recitation of the Watch Tower the correct answers. To these “answers” they unquestioningly submit.
So then, the Witnesses’ nominal acceptance of the principle of an authoritative Scripture is vitiated by their practical acceptance of an infallible interpreter. The right of private judgment is, for all practical purposes, done away with, as the Witness bows to the hierarchy, or rather, the one at the head of the hierarchy. Nevertheless, the nominal or official acceptance of any human authority, makes this the most vulnerable point at which to question the theology of the Witness. His actual interpretation of the Bible is so palpably capricious that the traditional theologian should not have too much trouble carrying conviction if he can be sure to have the Witness first acknowledge his willingness to abide by the verdict of the Bible, regardless of the teachings of any or all Witnesses.
The Vindication of Jehovah’s Name
The vindication of the name of Jehovah is the basic material principle of the system. This is not obvious on the surface but becomes apparent with a little scrutiny. It is stated in the earlier and more definitive authorities, Russell and Rutherford, and later N. H. Knorr made as clear an affirmation as any:
Rebellion in Eden called into question Jehovah’s position as supreme Sovereign and challenged his power to put men on earth who would maintain integrity toward God under test. (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-5). It raised an issue requiring time to settle, and made necessary the vindication of God’s name. The Scriptures abound with evidence that the primary issue before creation is the vindication of Jehovah’s name and word … In due time God will establish his new world of righteousness and completely vindicate his name … (italics mine).
It is to be noted what kind of vindication is in view here. It was Jehovah’s “power to put men on earth who would maintain integrity toward God under test” that was challenged and must be vindicated. Compare this theodicy with Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo to get some idea of the jejune character of Russellism. According to Anselm, God’s honor suffered by sin, and nothing would adequately satisfy His offended majesty but the suffering and death of one of equal honor and dignity with His own great self. Hence God had to become man to satisfy the honor of God. But according to the Witnesses, God has merely to put men on the earth who would maintain integrity under test. For the Almighty this would be child’s play. So at the outset we see the shallow view of the attributes of God and the superficial estimate of human sin which lies at the base of the Witnesses’ thought.
Consistent with this is an exceedingly low view of Christ. For if God’s honor is so meager and man’s sin so slight, what need could there be of a great salvation or great Savior? The virgin birth is denied; the incarnation becomes a mere change of natures; the atonement merely satisfies for Adam’s sin and incidentally provides a ransom (which does not ransom anyone but simply gives everyone another chance or second probation). The Witnesses believe that at death the human Jesus “dissolved into gas” and remains extinct forever. It was the spirit Jesus who rose from the dead; materializations of a body were effected to give the apostles the impression of a resurrected body. All of this is in perfect keeping with Rutherford’s belief that in comparison with testifying to the honor of Jehovah human salvation occupies a secondary place. Needless to say, although the Witnesses regard Christ as the first-born of the creation, the ransomer who provides a second chance for all who need it, the leader of Jehovah’s people in their witnessing to Him, He is far short of being “very God of very God.” The churches’ creeds which use such language to describe Jesus are dubbed “gibberish” by Russell. And as for the Trinity, “There are” says H. E. Pennock, “some clergymen, no doubt, who are really sincere in thinking that Jesus was his own father, and the Almighty is the son of Himself; and that each one of these is a third person who is the same as the other two, and yet different from them!”
The Practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Without question this principle makes them witness by word of mouth and from door to door, with an endless stream of books, booklets, pamphlets, and magazines, and with an what Willard Sperry calls their “omnipresent victrola.” In their fervent pursuit of millennial happiness they display zeal that tar and feathers, bullets, imprisonment, concentration camps, and death have been impotent to diminish. But Gilbert sets this matter in its realistic light:
While religious denominations may talk of salvation by faith or by character, Russell and Rutherford hammer into the thickest skull of the simplest minded devotee that there is a mansion in heaven for no one who does not devote his days and nights unto the hour of death itself – to the high calling of door-to-door canvassing and propagandizing. There is no other test of “faithfulness.” It matters not what one believes or what one does, he is doomed to extinction unless he incessantly witnesses in the prescribed manner. Rutherford says: “While on the earth those who receive God’s approval must be witnesses to the name and kingdom of Jehovah. In no other way can they be faithful and perform their commission” (Riches). “If Jehovah’s witnesses should fail or refuse to deliver the message, they would be unfaithful to God and would suffer destruction” (His Vengeance).
Some of the Russellites’ practices may be noted. In their meetings the Witnesses pray, but, Stroup says, they pray only for themselves: “Seldom does family strife lead to divorce, however, because the movement is strictly opposed to it. Although no exact figures can be obtained as yet, I have the impression that the number of separations among the Witnesses is unusually high compared to those of other religious groups.” Marcus Bach asked a Witness, “Do you have children?” and received this typical kind of answer: “No, we haven’t. We think it is better to wait until after Armageddon.”
The no-hell doctrine makes it very difficult for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to counteract antinomianism. Ferguson said of Russell: “I am told that while lecturing in Waco, Texas, on the existence of hell, a sot rose to his feet in the back of the audience and shouted, ‘Stay with ‘em, Pastor! We’re dependin’ on you.’” But, after all, if sin required nothing more for its expiation than a few men to stand up and testify for Jehovah, hell would certainly be unnecessary.
Nothing is more characteristic of Russellism than its unmitigated hostility to religion. But it saves its greatest vindictiveness for the church of Christ. The church is not witnessing to the truth but professes to be doing so. What could be worse? Even Paul was a corrupting influence. But the church since his time has become increasingly more wicked.
A pious Witness wrote to r. Russell: “Will you kindly advise me in regard to severing my connection with the church of which I am a member? I feel as though I should not attend because I would be consenting to their teaching which I do not now believe.” In reply, Russell roundly criticized the churches as apostates from the Word of God. He declared that they profess one sort of morality and practice another. He likened them to the “anti-Christ” of the book of Revelation, and declared that because they were so evil, the true believer must “come out from among them and be clean.”
But Rutherford, who regarded all religion as of the devil, outdid his master in his hatred of the Christian church: “The greatest racket ever invented and practiced is that of religion … There are numerous systems of religion, but the most subtle, fraudulent, and injurious to humankind is that which is generally labeled the “Christian religion” … (Enemies) ”
The Eschatology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
The clearest working out of the divine vindication is seen in the realm of eschatology. For it is in the end of the age that the real vindication will come. One gets the impression that it is in the vindication of the Witnesses which looms more significant than the vindication of their God. While Abel was the first Jehovah’s Witness and many outstanding Old Testament saints testified to the truth also, the Christian era is unique. Since Pentecost, God has been calling out the 144,000 who were destined actually to attain immortality and rule with Christ during the millennium and forever. The beginning of the end, however, was in 1874 when Christ returned to the “upper air” where, a few years later, the apostles and other dead Witnesses were caught up with him.
Then in 1914 another stage was reached. “That year ‘nation rose against nation’ in history’s first engulfing world war. It was the first of a series of physical evidences Jesus foretold in his outstanding prophecy in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew concerning his second coming and the end of the world. The witnesses as a whole understood that this second coming and end did not mean a fiery end of the literal earth, but meant the end of Satan’s uninterrupted rule over “this present evil world’ and the time for Christ’s enthronement in heaven as King.”
In 1918 Christ came to the temple of Jehovah for the temple judgment. He gathered His followers and began the judgment of the nations mentioned in Matthew 25. Gilbert is caustic but correct when he says, “Christ came to the temple in 1918,’ means that He returned to indwell and lead them in refusing to salute the flag of their country, in walking the paths of treason, and in abusing every busy housewife who will not neglect her domestic duties and betray her Saviour to hear and heed a Rutherford recording as ‘her Master’s Voice’ ”
The Witnesses are not waiting for the return of Christ; that has already happened. They are eagerly anticipating, with apparent relish, the imminent coming of the Battle of Armageddon. Christ will lead the forces of Jehovah (which may or may not include Jehovah’s Witnesses) against all the forces of this evil world, slaughtering all in the most terrible carnage of history. “By the side of this great fall,” says Ferguson, “the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. will seem like a snow-ball fight between boys …”
The vast host of the dead will then be raised as the millennium begins on the earth. Those who had previously been annihilated are not recreated in order to be given another chance to believe and follow Jehovah. The Witnesses think that there will be probations lasting about one hundred years for the individual, after which, if he does not believe, he will be destroyed. During this time of probation, there may be a great problem of standing room on the earth for the billions of persons then present. Ephraim Eaton has calculated that they could not all be accommodated: But Russell had it all figured out that “ ‘there is sufficient standing room at ten square feet for 660 trillion bodies of men on the earth.’ ”At the end of the millennium Satan, who will be bound during it, will be released and then will stage one final rebellion. Jehovah will be vindicated in Satan’s final destruction.
2. Doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Doctrine of the Bible
The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible is the inspired Word (Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, I, 348). The creeds of the church (the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian). He labeled “gibberish manufactured by Satan” (SS, VII, 53). Ostensibly Russell, Rutherford, and other Jehovah’s Witness writers are not infallible: “I claim nothing of superiority or supernatural power” (Watch Tower, July, 1906). “The Watch Tower does not assume a dogmatic attitude, but confidently invites a careful examination of its utterances in the light of God’s infallible word” (Charles W. Ferguson, The Confusion of Tongues, p. 72). At the same time, Russell is ranked with the apostle Paul as one of the two greatest Bible interpreters (Watch Tower, 1918, no. 1, p. 2). Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Russell himself was the seventh messenger to the church predicted in Ezekiel 9:1-11. Judge Rutherford identified his interpretation with the Word of God, saying: “These speeches do not contain my message, but do contain the expression of Jehovah’s purpose which he commands must now be told to the people” (Why Serve Jehovah, p. 62). “It is,” he says, exempting himself from the category, “entirely unsafe for the people to rely upon the words and doctrines of imperfect men” (Prophets Foretell Redemption, p. 35). And still today, in spite of much neglect, the teaching of these two men remains the standard of truth, as Dr. W. R. Martin observes (The Christian and Cults, p. 65).
Doctrine of God
There is one God and His proper name is Jehovah (used 6,823 times in the Old Testament). Such names as “God” and “Lord” were introduced into the Greek translations of the Old Testament and thereby into the New Testament to provide a basis for the “gibberish” about the Trinity. There is no authority for the Trinitarian doctrine in the Bible (Russell, SS, V, 54); its originator is Satan (J. F. Rutherford, Let God Be True, p. 82). Persistently, the Jehovah’s Witness writers represent the Trinity as three gods in one person rather than one God in the three persons (cf. Schleurlen, Die Sekten der Gegenwart, p. 37). The deity of Christ is denied. Not only the deity but the personality of the Holy Spirit is denied as even the New World Translation of 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 14:15; 16:8, etc., illustrates (Mayer, The Religious Bodies of America, p. 462; J. F. Rutherford, Deliverance, p. 150; J. F. Rutherford, The Harp of God, p. 198). The Holy Spirit “is the invisible force of the Almighty God that moves his servants to do his will” (LGBT, pp. 81, 89) and not a person in the Godhead (SS, V, 169, 210). The vindication of Jehovah is the whole theodicy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the essence of their whole theology. (N. H. Knorr, “Jehovah’s Witnesses of Modern Times” in Ferm [ed.], Religion in the Twentieth Century, pp. 381ff.).
Doctrine of Man
A Jehovah’s Witness tract commenting on the Genesis account of creation says: “Man did not receive an immortal soul, he became, he then was, a living soul.” He is a combination of the dust of the earth and the breath of life (LGBT, p. 59) and does not differ from beasts who are also living souls (Gen. 1:30, margin; Eccles. 3:19). So the soul is not really distinct from a living body and dies with it. “Nowhere is it stated [in the Bible] that he [Adam] was given an immortal soul” (LGBT, p. 60). When a man dies, he is as dead as a dog (Russell, SS, V, 406). However, through the redemption of Christ man is kept from eternal death and is preserved in a consciousless state in Sheol until the resurrection when he will be reawakened and will remember himself (Schleurlen, SG, p. 35).
Doctrine of Sin
The first man Adam disobeyed Jehovah when tempted by the angel Lucifer, who was jealous of man. As a result of this disobedience, Adam and all his descendants lost the right to life and so became liable to death (Rutherford, Harp of God, pp. 38f.). This liability is applied to temporal death only.
Doctrine of Christ
Christ was the “only-begotten,” which means He was the highest of all creatures (SS, V, 84). He “did have a beginning” (LGBT, p. 88). In John 1:1 logos without the article is taken to mean “a god” and indicates that Christ is not the God. Philippians 2:6 is rendered: “Christ Jesus, who although he was in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure …” and is said to teach that Christ never even aspired to be God. Colossians 1:15 is said to teach that “Jehovah’s first creation was his Son.” John 5:30, 14:28, etc., are believed to teach that Christ was not divine. So, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christ was not eternal but was the first born. He had a brother, Lucifer, the only other son of Jehovah, who rebelled while Christ, then called Michael, the Captain of Jehovah’s host, remained obedient. In the incarnation “ ‘the Word’ in heaven was transferred from heaven to the ovum or egg-cell in the womb of the unmarried Mary, and thereby she was blessed with the privilege of supplying Jesus’ human body” (J. F. Rutherford, The Kingdom Is at Hand, p. 49). Thus Michael was changed into the form of a man: “the life of the Son of God was transferred from his glorious position with God his Father in heaven to the embryo of a human” (J. F. Rutherford, Let God Be True, p. 39). He was born a perfect child “and grew up to be a perfect man, absolutely sinless, holy, harmless, undefiled” (ibid., p. 41f.). After He laid “aside his humanity forever as a sacrifice, God begat him by his spirit to become again a spirit Son of God” (ibid., p. 42). His body was preserved in the grave and then dissolved into gas or preserved somewhere (Russell, SS, II, 129; Rutherford, Harp of God, p. 170). So his “resurrection” was a transformation from His human state to a spirit state. Jehovah created another body after the death of Christ for Thomas to touch and the disciples to see, but this was also later dissolved. Recapitulating: Christ has been in three states: 1. The pre-existent state, as Michael, the Son of God; 2. The earthly state, as a bodily human being; 3. The post-resurrection state, again an invisible spirit.
Doctrine of Redemption
Man lost the right to life because Adam disobeyed God. Christ paid a ransom to cancel death and give an opportunity to earn life again. Rutherford uses the following illustration: John (representing the sinner) is in prison because he cannot pay his debt of one hundred dollars. Charles, his brother (Jesus), works, earns this money (by sacrifice), and pays it to the judge (Jehovah). (HG, pp. 139-141). Thus Christ’s sacrifice did two things: 1. It canceled Adam’s sin and its consequence, death; 2. It made a second chance to earn merit possible (SS, I, 150). This sacrifice had value because Christ, by His holy life, had deserved to live and not die. But He chose to die or rather exchange His human existence for the spirit existence (Rutherford, Deliverance, p. 159), and by relinquishing His right to live, He gave man an opportunity to live. Christ Jesus’ receiving life as a spirit creature and paying over His right as a human creature made Him by right of purchase the owner of every of every son of Adam who would comply with God’s requirement (Rutherford, Salvation, pp. 228 f.). This is the ransom and puts a person in the position to earn his redemption by faith and good works. This at-one-ment process began and will continue till the millennial age. “In this ransom work Jesus was assisted by the 144,000. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that according to Ephesians 5:32 the mystical body of Christ consists of Jesus as the head and of the 144,000 as the body. Like Jesus these 144,000 sacrificed their right to live in this world, earned through their perfect obedience to Jehovah’s theocracy, and like Jesus these – and these alone – will receive immortality of the soul” (Mayer, RBA, pp. 465 f.).
Jehovah’s Witnesses profess allegiance to the usual Christian ethical code but have some peculiarities, such as a tendency to antinomianism at points, a disinclination to benevolences outside their group, refusal to salute the flag, etc. “The writer was counseled not to repay more of the money he had taken in earlier life, because since his conversion his ‘old self’ had ‘died,’ and he was now living as though you actually were dead” (Stroup, The Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 112). Another former Witness wrote: “As a boy and man I served them for thirty years and have yet to find practiced by that organization any real charity that could be called spontaneous and proper” (W. J. Schnell, Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave, p. 81). The refusal to salute the flag is based on the belief that “the saluter impliedly declares that his salvation comes from the thing for which the flag stands; namely, the nation symbolized by the flag” (LGBT, pp. 242 f.).
Doctrine of the Church
“The greatest racket ever invented and practiced is that of religion … (especially) the ‘Christian religion.’ ” This judgment of Rutherford (Enemies, p. 9) is constantly reiterated by him and others (cf. Russell’s comparing churches to the Antichrist, Watch Tower, 1882; Stroup, JW’s, pp. 102 f. Luke 11:52 shows Christ coming in judgment upon the clergy (Schleurlen, SG, p. 29). Rejecting professing Christendom, Jehovah’s Witnesses regard the 144,000 as members of the body of Christ. This poses a problem about the status of present-day Witnesses. “So, the Society conveniently declared its position to be that of the Remnant of Christ on earth, or the last ones; and the problem of all now coming in to be that of ‘the Great Multitude,’ who no longer could be of such a spirit-begotten class” (Schnell, TYWS, p. 46). Those now coming into the fast-growing movement are “Jonadabs” whose purpose is to escape the imminent destruction of Armageddon. The group shows a high degree of organization; indeed, it is one of the most effective organizations in existence.
The company or Kingdom Hall meetings open with prayer and are occupied mainly with a discussion of current Watchtower teaching. W. J. Schnell describes their seven step program of reaching others: (1) Sell book; (2) Call back; (3) “Publisher” studies with new person privately; (4) Area book study; (5) Watch Tower study on Sunday at Kingdom Hall; (6) Attend service meeting and begin dispensing literature; (7) Receive baptism (TYWS, pp. 131 ff.). Baptism is my immersion, often in mass public ceremony; about 3500 in Detroit in 1940, for example. The Lord’s Supper is held on the fourteenth of Nisan (date of ancient passover). N. H. Knorr wrote that emphasis on training of Witnesses was the feature of his presidency (JW’s in Ferm, p. 387). He also wrote: “Some 6,700 full-time field workers (pioneers) are aided financially by the Society.” The intensity and persistence of their witnessing is known to all. When they cannot get in the doors, they come through the windows by means of messages broadcasted from sound trucks – this, they claim, in fulfillment of Joel who predicted that the locusts would climb in through the windows (Mayer, RBA, pp. 459 f.).
Doctrine of the Future
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have an intricate calendar of future events. The general orientation of temporal events, according to Russell (SS, I, “The Plan of the Ages”), is in three dispensations: “the world that was” (creation to flood); “the present evil world” (flood to millennium beginning in 1914-18); “the world to come” (with its two divisions, the millennium and the ages beyond). The more detailed eschatological calendar is as follows: (1) 1874: Christ returned to the upper air and was invisible Lord over the earth from 1874 to 1914 (New Heavens and New Earth; cf. Royston Pike, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 66; Schleurlen, SG, p. 43). (2) The apostles and dead members of the “little flock” were raised (first resurrection) to be with Christ in the air (E. T. Clark, The Small Sects in America, p. 47). This was the “parousia” or “presence” of Christ during the forty-year harvest (Russell). (3) 1914 (later, 1918): Russell and others had taught that Christ had returned to His temple (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses) and became King of this world, ruling through His people in 1914 (Watch Tower, 1920). Rutherford and others said it was 1918 (Theocracy, pp. 32f.; Protection). Knorr simply identified this event with World War I, which fulfilled Matthew 24, and he added: “The Witnesses as a whole understood that this second coming and end did not mean a fiery end of the literal earth, but meant the end of Satan’s uninterrupted rule over ‘this present evil world’ and the time for Christ’s enthronement in heaven as King” (JW’s, p. 384). (4) Armageddon: In the indefinite but near future Christ will lead His hosts, the Jehovah’s Witnesses apparently joining them, in the slaughter of all His enemies (Religion). (5) Millennium: “Armageddon survivors will multiply and populate the earth. Unnumbered multitudes will be raised to life by a resurrection from the dead during the time of Christ’s thousand-year reign (John 5:28, 29, American Standard Version), (Knorr, JW’s, p. 390). This re-creation is the second resurrection, and the subsequent millennium is a probationary period affording a chance which every person must have to acknowledge Jehovah, according to Isaiah 65:20 (Van Baalen, The Chaos of Cults, p. 218). (6) Annihilation: the impenitent are not punished, for “a Creator that would torture His creatures eternally would be a fiend, not a God of love” (Rutherford, World Distress, p. 40). So they are annihilated again, this time never to be re-created. (7) Immortality: Jehovah’s Witnesses deduce from 1 Timothy 4:10, Luke 2:10, and Matthew 1:21 a twofold immortality: heavenly and earthly. The little flock is sustained by Christ’s heavenly presence and the millennial believers live forever on the food of the new earth.
3. Terms Frequently Used by Jehovah’s Witnesses
Annihilation: The doctrine that unbelievers will not be eternally punished; they will instead be annihilated. This will occur after the probation of the millennium.
Arius: Early Christian heretic who affirmed that there was a time when the Son of God was not. Though he was repudiated by the Council of Nicaea in 325, he was regarded by Pastor Russell as one of the six great Christian teachers.
Armageddon: Impending battle in Palestine between the hosts of Christ and Antichrist, which will issue in the destruction of the latter.
Awake: Widely circulated periodical of the Witnesses.
Beth Sarim: This “house of princes” was, until 1948, maintained by the Witnesses as a residence for David and other saints who had been expected to return. They are still expected to return, but they will apparently have to find their own accommodations now because of their belated arrival.
Consolation: A popular periodical of the Russellites.
Day of Our Lord Jesus Christ: The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that this time period began when Christ returned to His temple, probably in 1918. It continues, apparently, until Armageddon.
Gehenna: New Testament Greek word, derived from the Hebrew, indicating place of endless punishment; but according to Jehovah’ Witnesses, annihilation.
Hades: A word sometimes used in the Bible to refer to death as the separation from the world, and to Jehovah’s Witnesses see in it a denial of hell.
The Harp of God: Judge Rutherford’s basic and comprehensive elucidation of Jehovah’s Witness’ theology.
Immortality: The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach an earthly and heavenly immortality.
Jonadab: Members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who come into the Organization to escape the approaching storm of Armageddon. They are not considered Christians or “begotten of the Spirit.” They are carefully taught that if they stay close within the confines of the Organization, follow all its instructions religiously, listen regular to Watch Tower’sindoctrination, go out as Publishers regularly, and rigidly report the time they spend in doing so, then maybe they will be saved in Armageddon (from Schnell, Thirty Years a Watch Tower Slave, p. 164).
Little Flock: Another name for the 144,000 Witnesses who inherit eternal life in heaven.
Lucifer: The seondborn creature of God (after the firstborn, Jesus), who rebelled and has become the chief adversary of Jehovah; he will be destroyed at the Battle of Armageddon.
Messenger of the Covenant: Another name for Christ.
Michael: The archangel, firstborn creature, who is the leader of Jehovah’s hosts and at one time became the man, Jesus.
Millennium: The coming visible reign of Christ on earth during which an effective enforced peace will prevail and evangelization will be accelerated.
New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures: The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official translation of the Bible, which gives to controversial passages a Russellite interpretation.
Ransom: Christ’s death, which, although not necessary, purchased an opportunity for every human creature to be saved if he will believe and obey. The doctrine of the “ransom” formally resembles orthodoxy. However, Christ is not regarded as an eternal being of infinite worth, nor as the One who endured the wrath of God in the sinner’s stead.
Russellite: A follower of Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Soul-Sleep: The state of unconsciousness into which the soul of the Christian passes at death (until the return of Christ). The unbelievers are annihilated, but the believers will be recreated at Christ’s return.
Temple: The Witnesses are the “temple” of Christ, to which He returned in 1918.
Watch Tower: The official periodical publication of the Witnesses.
144,000: Those referred to in Revelation 7 as the true witnesses who live in heaven after their death. Apparently the number has been reached by now but there seems to be no official statistics.
4. For Further Reading
American Civil Liberties Union. Jehovah’s Witnesses and the War. New York: American Civil Liberties Union, 1943.
_______. The Persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. New York: American Civil Liberties Union, 1941.
Axup, Edward J. The Jehovah’s Witnesses Unmasked. New York: Greenwich, 1959.
Cole, Marley. Jehovah’s Witnesses: The New World Society. New York: Vantage Press, 1955.
_______. Triumphant Kingdom. New York: Criterion Books, 1957.
Czatt, Milton Stacey. The International Bible Students: Jehovah’s Witnesses. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1933.
Dencher, Ted. The Watchtower Heresy Versus the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1961.
_______. Why I Left Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1966.
Duncan, Homer. Heart to Heart Talks with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Lubbock, TX: Missionary Crusader, n.d.
Grigg, David H. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Bible Agree? New York: Vantage Press, 1958.
Gruss, Edmond C. Apostles of Denial. Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1970.
_______. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Prophetic Speculation. Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1972.
Hoekema, Anthony A. Jehovah’s Witnesses. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974.
Knorr, N. H., “Jehovah’s Witnesses of Modern Times.” In Religion in the Twentieth Century, edited by Vergilius T. Ferm, 1948. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, Inc., n.d.
Lewis, Gordon. The Christian and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 1966.
McKinney, George D. The Theology of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.
Martin, Walter R. Jehovah’s Witnesses. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1967.
Martin, Walter R. and Klann, Norman H. Jehovah of the Watchtower. Rev. ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974.
Mayer, Frederick E. Jehovah’s Witnesses. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1957.
Pike, Royston. Jehovah’s Witnesses: Who They Are, What They Teach, What They Do. New York: Philosophical Library, 1954.
Quidam, Roger D. The Doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses. New York: Philosophical Library, 1959.
Russell, Charles T. The Divine Plan of the Ages. Brooklyn: Dawn Publishers, 1937.
_______. Photo-Drama of Creation, and Religious Speeches. Brooklyn: Dawn Publishers, 1917.
_______. Sermons: A Choice Collection of His Most Important Discourses on All Phases of Christian Doctrine and Practice. Brooklyn: Dawn Publishers, n.d.
_______. Studies in the Scriptures: A Helping Hand for Bible Students. 7 vols. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1886-1917.
Rutherford, Joseph F. Rutherford wrote the following books, all published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society: Children (1941); Creation (1927); Deliverance (1926);Enemies (1937); Government (1928); The Harp of God (1921); Jehovah (1934); Life (1929); Light, 2-vols. (1930); Preparation (1933); Preservation (1932); Prophecy (1929);Reconciliation (1928); Religion (1940); Riches (1936); Salvation (1939); Vindication, 3-vols. (1931-1932).
Schnell, Wm. J. How to Witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses. New York (former title: Christians Awake!). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961.
________. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Errors Exposed (former title: Into the Light of Christianity). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959.
________. Thirty Years a Watch Tower Slave. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1957.
Stevenson, W. C. The Inside Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses. New York: Hart Publishing Co., 1968.
Stroup, Herbert H. The Jehovah’s Witnesses. 1945. Reprint. New York: Russell and Russell, 1967.
Stuermann, Walter E. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Bible. Tulsa: Tulsa University Press, 1955.
Thomas, F. W. Masters of Deception. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972.
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The following books give no indication of authorship. They were published in the year indicated:
All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial (1963).
Babylon the Great Has Fallen! God’s Kingdom Rules (1963).
Blood, Medicine, and the Law of God (1961).
Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation? (1967).
Equipped for Every Good Work (1946).
From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained (1958).
Is the Bible Really the Word of God? (1969).
Kingdom Is at Hand, The (1944).
Let God Be True (1946; revised 1952).
Let Your Name Be Sanctified (1961).
Life Everlasting – in Freedom of the Sons of God (1966).
Make Sure of All Things (1957).
Make Sure of All Things: Hold Fast to What Is Fine (1965; revised ed. of Make Sure of All Things).
Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah – How?, The (1971)
New Heavens and a New Earth (1953).
New World, The (1942).
Qualified to Be Ministers (1955; revised and expanded 1967).
Then Is Finished the Mystery of God (1969).
Theocratic Aid to Kingdom Publishers (1945).
Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie (1965).
This Means Everlasting Life (1950).
Truth Shall Make You Free, The (1943).
Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, The (1968).
What Do The Scriptures Say About “Survival After Death”? (1955).
What Has Religion Done for Mankind? (1951).
“Word, The” – Who Is He? According to John (1962).
Your Will Be Done on Earth (1958).
Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet (1967).
Whalen, Wm. J. Armageddon Around the Corner. New York: John Day Co., 1962.
5. Summary of Traditional Christian Doctrines.
In the following chapter we present views which are held by the church without exception (unless so indicated). There are three main branches of the catholic (universal) church: Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic. These have differences among them, but there is a remarkable consensus of viewpoint on the basic structure of Christian doctrine. This fact is justification for use of the term “the catholic church.” We have chosen quotations from official creeds of these branches to illustrate the various doctrines.
Doctrine of the Bible
The catholic church believes the sixty-six books of the Old Testament and New Testament to be the plenarily inspired Word of God. The Roman Church adds to this number some of the apocrypha. The Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches seem to give ecclesiastical tradition virtually equal authority with Scripture. The Protestant churches, however, hold tosola scriptura. Thus, the Lutheran Formula of Concord affirms: “We believe, confess, and teach that the only rule and norm, according to which all dogmas and all doctors ought to be esteemed and judged, is no other whatever than the prophetic and apostolic writings both of the Old and of the New Testament.” The French Confession of Faith says of the Bible that “inasmuch as it is the rule of all truth, containing all that necessary for the service of God and for our salvation, it is not lawful for men, nor even for angels, to add to it, to take away from it, or to change it.” The American Revision of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England states: “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
Doctrine of God
The Athanasian Creed, accepted as an ecumenical creed by all branches of the church, reads: “ … we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance (Essence). For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father incomprehensible (unlimited or infinite), the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal … so the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God … the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches: “There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”
Doctrine of Man
Again we may use the Westminster Shorter Catechism, for it expresses what all catholic churches believe about man. “God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”
Doctrine of Sin
The Roman Catholic statement made at the Council of Trent contains a catholic affirmation: “ … Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and … he incurred, through the offense of that prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam, through the offense of prevarication, was changed , in body, and soul, for the worse … this sin of Adam … [is] transfused into all by propagation, not by imitation … “ All catholic churches say at least this much; some, such as the Reformed, make more of the consequences of the Fall.
Doctrine of Christ
We may use the historic confession of the Council of Chalcedon (A. D. 451), for this has been recognized through the ages by all branches of orthodox Christendom as a true statement concerning the person of Jesus Christ. “ … our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one. Person and Substance, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ …”
We note that the expression, “Mary, the Mother of God,” is a genuinely catholic expression. It does not mean that Mary was the genetrix of God, but that the human nature which was begotten in her womb was united with the eternal Son of God. So Mary was the mother of the child who was God; i.e., the mother of God.
Doctrine of Redemption
The satisfaction view of the atonement is the truly classic view of the catholic church. This could be shown from Protestant, Roman, or Eastern Orthodox creeds. We will show it by a citation from “The Longer Catechism” of the Eastern Orthodox Church: “Therefore as in Adam we had all fallen under sin, the curse, and death, so we are delivered from sin, the curse, and death in Jesus Christ. His voluntary suffering and death on the cross for us, being of infinite value and merit, as the death of one sinless, God and man in one person, is both a perfect satisfaction to the justice of God, which had condemned us for sin to death, and a fund of infinite merit, which has obtained him the right, without prejudice to justice, to give us sinners pardon of our sins, and grace to have the victory over sin and death.”
There is a great difference among the three divisions of Christendom concerning the appropriation of this redemption achieved by Christ. The Protestant churches teach that it is by faith alone; the other branches incline to the view that it is by faith and works, or by faith considered as the beginning of works.
All branches of the church teach that the Christian has an obligation to endeavor to keep the moral law of God and that a person who does not do so is a reprobate. There is a doctrine in the Roman Church which is inconsistent with this, but nevertheless she teaches the above explicitly.
Doctrine of the Church
The Westminster Confession of Faith contains a definition of the church shared by all bodies of Christendom which accept the notion of the invisibility of the church. “The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, and of their children, and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”
Doctrine of the Future
While there has been less defining of the doctrine of the future by the catholic church than has been true of other doctrines, what has been stated is unanimously affirmed. All branches of Christendom are agreed that there is a place of eternal felicity, called heaven, where redeemed men and unfallen angels dwell in the gracious presence of God. It is also taught that there is a place of eternal misery, called hell, where all unredeemed men and fallen angels dwell in the wrathful presence of God. The Roman Catholic Church maintains, in addition, the existence of purgatory, the limbus patrum, and the limbus infantum. Universal salvation has been taught by various individuals, but no church recognized by catholic Christianity has affirmed it.
6. Brief Definitions of the Sects
Seventh-day Adventism teaches that salvation is attained by faith in the atonement made by Christ in 1844. This faith must be expressed in obedience to the ethical teachings of the Bible (including the Saturday Sabbath) and in acceptance of the doctrinal teachings of the Bible (including the imminent premillennial return of Christ).
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be the only consistent Bible students. They find the vindication of Jehovah to be the fundamental aim of history. This vindication of Jehovah is accomplished by the atonement of the first-born creature, Jesus, and expressed by the witnessing to an impending Armageddon. At this battle Jehovah and His witnesses will be vindicated and the final consummation of things will begin.
Mormonism is built on a revelation subsequent to the Bible, called the Book of Mormon. According to this book, the church is to be recognized on the basis of a creed which teaches a plurality of created gods, repudiates justification by faith, and teaches a salvation achieved by the merit of obeying divine laws.
Christian Science is a formula for health and wealth by right thinking, but its thinking denies the reality of poverty and sickness.
|Doctrines||Traditional Christian||Mormonism||Seventh-day Adventism||Jehovah’s Witnesses||Christian Science|
|Bible||Verbally inspired||Inspired Bible and Book of Mormon||Reluctant to affirm verbal inspiration; vague about status of Mrs. White||Verbally inspired||Bible inspired andScience and Health is its inspired interpretation|
|God||Three Persons in one essence||Polytheism||Approximately traditional Christian view||Uni-personal||Impersonal and pantheistic|
|Man||Body & soul created good||Pre-existent soul takes body at birth in this world||Body-soul creature; created neutral or with inclination to evil||Body; soul not distinguishable from body||Soul only; body is an illusion|
|Sin||Result of Adam’s disobedience; corruption of nature and action||It was necessary for Adam to sin. This brought mortality without guilt||No clear doctrine of imputation of Adam’s sin; man now polluted||Adam’s sin brought liability to temporal death||“There is no sin” – it is an illusion|
|Christ||One divine person in two distinct natures (divine-human)||Called creator but only pre-existent spirit who took body at incarnation||Like traditional view but represents human nature as having tendency to sin||First born creature; changed into man at birth in this world||Christ is a divine idea; Jesus is mere human|
|Redemption||Faith in atonement as expressed by holy life||Atonement gives man chance to earn salvation||Believing in atonement made in heaven plus holy living including observance of the Saturday Sabbath||Christ’s ransom gives man chance to earn salvation||Salvation is casting out idea of sin|
|Church||Mystical union of all true believers; visible union of all professed believers||Other churches apostate; efficient hierarchical organization||Seems to regard itself as true remnant church||Traditional church rejected; 144,000 witnesses make up Church||A denomination like Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish|
|Future||Eternal heaven, eternal hell, temporary purgatory (R.C.)||Pre-millennial reign at Independence, MO; tends toward universal salvation||Annihilation of the wicked; millennium in heaven and eternity on new earth||Earthly millennium during which final probation leading to annihilation or eternal life||Universal salvation in future when idea of sin gradually dies|
 Jan Van Baalen, The Chaos of Cults, 1938 edition, p. 190.
 Charkes W. Ferguson, The Confusion of Tongues, p. 66.
 See The Watch Tower, July, 1906.
 Confusion of Tongues, p. 87.
 Elmer T. Clark, The Small Sects in America, revised edition, pp. 45f.
 Ferguson, Confusion of Tongues, p. 65.
 Charles Samuel Braden, These Also Believe, p. 361.
 Dan Gilbert, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 16.
 Confusion of Tongues, p. 67.
 Herbert H. Stroup, The Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 9.
 Gilbert, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 16.
 Stroup, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p 16.
 Van Baalen, Chaos of Cults, 1956 edition, p. 233.
 Watch Tower, Dec. 1917, cited by Stroup, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 13.
 Stroup, Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 14f.
 Charles Samuel Braden, These Also Believe, p. 363.
 Ibid., p. 363.
 Gilbert, Jehovah’s Witnesses, preface.
 Stroup, Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 19f.
 Gilbert, Jehovah’s Witnesses, preface.
 N. H. Knorr, “Jehovah’s Witnesses of Modern Times,” in Vergilius Ferm’s Religion in the Twentieth Century, pp. 386f.
 Cited in Ferguson, Confusion of Tongues, p. 72.
 Cited in Stroup, Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 76f.
 The Watch Tower, June, 1906.
 Rutherford. Why Serve Jehovah, p. 62, cited by Stroup, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 52.
 Cited by Stroup, Ibid. p. 125.
 N. H. Knorr, “Jehovah’s Witnesses of Modern Times,” quoted in Vergilius Ferm’s Religion in the Twentieth Century, p. 388.
 Cf. J. F. Rutherfords’s Harp of God.
 Van Baalen, Chaos of Cults, 1956 edition, p. 240.
 Gilbert, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 35, footnote.
 Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 33.
 Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 33.
 Ibid., p. 116.
 Marcus Bach, They Have Found a Faith, p. 44/
 Confusion of Tongues, p. 73.
 Stroup, Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 102f.
 Gilbert, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 50.
 Knorr in Ferm, Religion in the Twentieth Century, p. 384.
 Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 12.
 Confusion of Tongues, p. 82.
 Ephraim Llewellyn Eaton, Millennium Dawn Heresy.
 Julius Bodensieck, Isms New and Old, p. 67.