How to talk creation with a Jehovah’s witness
A survey of members of conservative churches in 10 states across America found that almost 90 per cent of those polled had met a Jehovah’s Witness. Yet almost none of these people knew what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, or how to talk to them properly. But the best place to start is at the beginning—at creation.
You’ve got to give credit to Jehovah’s Witnesses for one thing. Their zeal and persistence is probably unparalleled among religious groups. And even if they do always seem to knock on your door when you’re either sleeping in, sitting down to Sunday dinner, or trying to feed the baby, if you talk to them long enough you’ll find they are as anti-evolution as you are. Their headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, produces millions of copies of books which expose the errors of evolution and give evidence for creation.1
The problem is that the Watchtower society, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization, is notorious for overlooking details that prove their ideas wrong. Like many other cults, their zeal is ‘not according to knowledge’, as Paul lamented of Israel (Romans 10:2). Unfortunately, their ideas on creation suffer from this malady also. So creationists who talk to them at the door should know where the ‘Watchtower creation’ differs from God’s creation as revealed in Genesis and other parts of the Bible.
The purpose of this article is not to provoke you to argue with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Your argument is not with the Witness on your doorstep, but with the leaders of his or her organization. They have led the Witness to think that the distorted doctrines they have taught him or her are in fact God’s truth. Your purpose in discussing creation with Jehovah’s Witnesses—and you will find you have a common interest in this subject—is to urge them to see that their leaders are not providing them with reliable information. They rely on the doctrines of men who have made Scripture fit their own ideas. If the Witness can see this, he or she may be more open to the truths of the Gospel.
Begin your discussion by admitting that you have a strong interest in creation. Say you have heard that the Watchtower society produces a lot of material exposing the errors of evolution, for which they are to be commended. Then add that you have also heard strong criticism of their doctrines. Ask if you could go over a few passages of the Bible with them about creation. They won’t refuse. If you have difficulty remembering all the points listed below, ask if they would take this article away and read it, then let you know their response to each point.
How long is a Genesis day?
Start by discussing the length of the days in the first chapter of Genesis.
The Watchtower publication ‘Life—How Did It Get Here?’ rightly points out that the Hebrew word yom, translated ‘day’, can mean different lengths of time.2 Because yom sometimes allows periods much longer than 24 hours, the Watchtower organization has decided that this is what ‘day’ must mean throughout the first chapter of Genesis.
However, good exegesis requires that a secondary meaning of any Biblical text should only be sought if a literal reading doesn’t make sense. But the literal 24-hour day, with evening and morning each day, makes very good sense in the early verses of Genesis. In the overwhelming number of its occurrences, the word yom means an ordinary, literal day—either an entire solar day, or the daylight part of an ordinary solar day. Whenever the word is used in Scripture with specific beginning and end points (‘evening’ and ‘morning’) or is described as ‘the first day’, ‘the sixth day’, etc., it always refers to a literal solar day.3 This should be pointed out to the Jehovah’s Witness.
A well-known scholar in New Testament Greek, Dr Robert H. Countess, has critically analysed the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament. He found that the translators of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation have adopted—as well as invented—certain principles whereby they have chosen a reading not found in their basic Greek text or in any Greek text.4 This tendency seems at times to inhibit the Watchtower’s literal acceptance of the Old Testament text as well.
In most translations John 1:1 shows that Jesus the Creator (‘the Word’) ‘was God’. But the New World translation has added to Scripture by saying ‘the Word was a god’, making Jesus to be a false god like Baal or Satan.
Ask the Jehovah’s Witness this: ‘If the writer of Genesis wanted to describe the six days of creation as six ordinary 24-hour days, how should he have done it?’ Each day in Genesis 1 has an evening and a morning, and is described as the ‘first day’, the ‘second day’, etc. Ask the Jehovah’s Witness how it could have been made clearer.
The Watchtower organization teaches that Genesis 1:3-31 is not discussing the original creation of matter of the heavenly bodies. It describes the preparation of the already existing earth for human habitation. "Therefore the Watchtower society allows the possibility of millions of years before verse 3.6 But they seem to ignore the main verse that refutes this. In Exodus 20:11, God Himself wrote on tablets of stone, ‘In six days, the Lord made heaven and earth [Genesis 1 :1], the sea, and all that in them is [Genesis 1:2 onwards].’ There is no room in any of these verses for millions of years, or even any years.
God’s six days of work and one day of rest are given as a reason why we should have a day of rest following six days of labour. We do not work thousands of years then have thousands of years of rest. There is no break in the creation between verses 1, 2 and 3 as the Watchtower society implies. In any case, as linguist Dr Charles Taylor pointed out in reply to a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim that each ‘day’ is thousands of years long: ‘there’s no sense having a 1,000-year wait between the creation of the plants and the creation of the insects to fertilize them.’7
Is the Holy Spirit God’s ‘Active Force’?
In any discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness on the subject of creation, you are sure to come up against their conception of the Holy Spirit.
Most Bible translators render the final part of Genesis 1:2 somewhat like the King James Version: ‘… And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ But the Watchtower organization does not believe in the personality of the Holy Spirit, so they have altered this text in their Bible to read ‘… God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.’8
The Watchtower society denies the Trinity, so it teaches its followers that the Holy Spirit is simply Jehovah God’s invisible ‘active force’ (as rendered above in Genesis 1:2 of their own Bible). Their New World Translation usually renders this supposedly impersonal ‘active force’ as ‘holy spirit’, with no capital letters and no ‘the’ in front of the words.
Could the Watchtower translation of Genesis 1:2 be correct? Is the Holy Spirit really an ‘active force’ rather than a real personal part of the triune Godhead as Christians believe? Not at all. The Bible refers to the Holy Spirit in a personal way. He speaks (Acts 13:2, see the outcome in 13:4), bears witness (John 15:26), feels hurt (Isaiah 63:10), knows (1 Corinthians 2:10,11), wills (1 Corinthians 12:11), can be insulted (Hebrews 10:29), and so on. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as ‘He’, not ‘it’. In John 16:13 for example, Jesus says: ‘when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.’ Ask the Witness why Jesus Himself would have called the Holy Spirit ‘He’ if the Holy Spirit is only an ‘it’ as the Watchtower society teaches. And how can the Spirit speak, hear, bear witness, feel hurt, guide and show if He is only an ‘it’?
A passage that Jehovah’s Witnesses rarely encounter in their organized Bible studies is Romans 8:26,27. These verses simply do not fit their conception of the Holy Spirit. In these verses we are told the Spirit ‘makes intercession’ for us. Can a ‘force’ do this? We are told the Spirit has a mind. Does a ‘force’ have a mind? We are told the Spirit pleads for us. Can a ‘force’ plead for us? Of course not. The Holy Spirit is given personal attributes by Jesus and the other Bible writers because He is a person of the Godhead—a personal expression and form of the one true God.
The Watchtower’s booklet Reasoning from the Scriptures, which is chiefly designed to help the Witness refute the arguments of Christians, tells the Witness to answer the above argument by saying that it is not unusual for something to be personified in Scripture (wisdom, for example).9 But ask the Witness this: ‘If the Holy Spirit really were a person, how would the Bible writers express this?’ Remind them that Jesus called the Holy Spirit ‘He’, not ‘it’ (John 16:13).
Sometimes the Jehovah’s Witness may point to Acts 2:4, which says the disciples were all ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit. They ask, ‘How could the spirit be a person, when it filled about 120 disciples at the same time?’10 But Jesus Himself, obviously a person, fills all things (Ephesians 1:23). Does this then disprove Jesus’ personality?
Invite the Witness to read Acts 5:3,4. In these verses Ananias is accused of lying to the Holy Spirit. How and why would someone bother to lie to a ‘force’? In the very next verse the Holy Spirit is identified as God (‘You have not lied to men, but to God.’ Acts 5:4). Then invite the Witness to read 2 Corinthians 3:17 in his or her own New World Translation to show that God is the Spirit—not just the one who sends forth an ‘active force’. In this verse the New World Translation says, ‘Jehovah is the Spirit’.
There can be no doubt: The Watchtower translation of Genesis 1:2 is inaccurate. Unfortunately they have not taken other important parts of Scripture into account when formulating their doctrine. Instead of forming their doctrine from Scripture, they have made their translation of Genesis 1:2 fit their doctrine.
…And the Word was God
John 1:1, a great passage cherished by Christians down through the centuries, clearly shows in most translations that Jesus the Creator (‘the Word’) ‘was God’. But here again the New World Translation has added to Scripture. The Watchtower’s translation doesn’t say ‘the Word was God’ —it says ‘the Word was a god’. So Jesus is downgraded to just ‘a god’.
But look where this theology leads. If Jesus is not the true God, the Watchtower translators must be making Him out to be a false god— no better than Baal or Satan. Peter warns against this: ‘… there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction’ (2 Peter 2:1).
The fact is that Jesus is called God in the Bible, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Invite the Witness to look at John 20:28. In this verse the Apostle Thomas realizes who Jesus is and exclaims: ‘My Lord and my God’ (capital ‘G’ even in the New World Translation). Jesus’ reply leaves no doubt that Thomas was expressing the truth. Thomas was a believer in the true God, and he called Jesus ‘my God’. Thomas was referring to a specific true God, his God, namely Jesus. As Thomas could honestly call Jesus ‘God’, it was equivalent to calling Him Jehovah.
In the past some Witnesses answered this passage by saying Thomas was simply making an expression of surprise, equivalent to ‘Oh, my God!’ But few will admit these days that Thomas would have blasphemed in such a way, particularly considering Jesus’ reply.
Another passage which calls Jesus God is Isaiah 9:6. This verse is heard in churches world-wide every Christmas. It is a prophecy from Isaiah which says:
‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.’
Discussion of this passage with a Jehovah’s Witness usually goes like this:
‘Who is this child born unto us?’
‘It is Jesus Christ.’
‘What does the verse call Him?’
‘It calls Him Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God …’
‘The mighty who?’
‘Well, it calls Him the Mighty God, but He’s not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah, the Father.’
‘What does it call Him after the mighty God?’
Again we should point out to the Jehovah’s Witness where such theology leads. Jehovah’s Witnesses must believe from such passages that Jesus is either (a) a false God, or (b) a second true God. Either position will be confusing for a Jehovah’s Witness who has never thought out the argument himself.
While on Isaiah 9:6, ask the Witness the difference between the ‘Mighty God’ (whom he acknowledges to be Jesus) and the ‘Almighty God’ (who he says is Jehovah—God the Father). Perhaps he will say that the Almighty God Jehovah upholds all things by the word of His power. But Hebrews 1:3 says this of Jesus. Perhaps he will say that the Almighty God Jehovah has all power in Heaven and earth. But Matthew 28:18 says this of Jesus. By definition, ‘almighty’ means ‘all-powerful’.11 Therefore Jesus Christ is almighty.
Also show the Jehovah’s Witness that even though the Watchtower organization teaches that the Mighty God and the Almighty God are different, Scripture does not support this. Ask him to read Isaiah 10:20,21 in his New World Translation. Verse 21 says, ‘A mere remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.’ A former Jehovah’s Witness elder, David Reed, suggests you say to the Witness: ‘Since Isaiah was a Jew and therefore believed in only one God—Jehovah—whom did Isaiah understand the Mighty God to be?’ Certainly Isaiah would have understood the Mighty God to be Jehovah. So the inspired Word written through Isaiah the prophet calls Jehovah the ‘Mighty God’, even though the Jehovah’s Witness admits that Isaiah 9:6 says Jesus is the ‘Mighty God’.12
To reinforce the point, ask the Witness to read Jeremiah 32:18 in his own Bible. Remind him that the Watchtower society teaches that the Mighty God and the Almighty God are different. Jeremiah 32:18 gives the name of the Mighty God: ‘the true God, the great One, the mighty One, Jehovah of armies being his name.’ Then say to the Witness that as Jesus is the ‘Mighty God’, and Jehovah is the ‘Mighty God’, who must Jesus be? (Let him reach the conclusion himself that Jesus and Jehovah are one—as John 10:30 says.)
Final comments, summary, and conclusion
It can be seen that the Watchtower’s creation differs from Biblical creation in many important respects. Some of these are:
Their claim that a day is thousands of years long.
Their unwarranted insertion of countless years somewhere between verses 1 and 3 of the first chapter of Genesis.
Their alteration of Genesis 1:2 to substitute ‘God’s active force’ (impersonal) for ‘the Spirit of God’ (personal).
Their calling the Holy Spirit ‘it’ when Jesus Himself called the Holy Spirit ‘He’.
Their downgrading of Jesus to a creation of God instead of THE Creator (Colossians 1:16,17). (In fact they believe Jesus is simply a created angel.)
Their implication in John 1:1 that Jesus is a false god.
Their distinction between ‘a god’ called Jesus (whom they may reluctantly acknowledge as ‘mighty God’), and ‘the God’ called Jehovah (who they say is ‘almighty God’). This is contrary to Scripture, which calls both Jesus and Jehovah ‘mighty God’.
All these facts should be pointed out and discussed as long as necessary with the Jehovah’s Witness. Even though Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to sidetrack you, or throw in red herrings which are aimed to divert your attention to Armageddon or some other subject, resist the temptation until you have discussed all the creation aspects covered in this article.
Your aim is to show the Witnesses that their organization has let them down badly in their teaching of creation. This should help them realize that the Watchtower’s other teachings are possibly wrong too (which many are). If this is seen by the Jehovah’s witness he or she may then be ready to accept the true Gospel—salvation by grace through faith instead of salvation through the Watchtower society’s erroneous teachings (Ephesians 2:8,9).
- Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation?, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, 1967; also, Life—How Did it Get Here? By Evolution or Creation?, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, 1985.
- Life—How Did it Get Here? p. 26.
- Henry M. Morris and Martin Clark, The Bible Has the Answer (Revised and enlarged), Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, 1976, p. 94.
- Robert H. Countess, The Jehovah’s Witnesses New Testament, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Phillipsburg (New Jersey), second edition, 1987, p. 12.
- Reasoning from the Scriptures, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, 1985, p. 88.
- Reply to a Letter to the Editor, Creation 10(4), September-November 1988, pp. 46-47.
- New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, 1961 (Revised 1970), Genesis 1:2.
- Ref. 5, p. 380.
- You Can Live Forever on a Paradise on Earth, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, 1982, pp. 40-41.
- Oxford Reference Dictionary Guild Publishing, London, 1986.
- David A. Reed, Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1986, p. 42.