We will use some arguments often raised about Jehovah’s Witnesses as our text case. J. Warner Wallace is a leading Evangelical Christian apologist today. On his blog, he has the article titles, “10 Important Questions for the Jehovah’s Witness Worldview.” Therein he writes,
One way to examine the Jehovah’s Witness perspective is simply to see how well it answers a few important philosophical and theological questions as we examine what the Jehovah’s Witness religion teaches. The following questions are designed to challenge the Jehovah’s Witness claims about reality and help you to initiate a discussion with your friends or family who may hold this worldview:
Let’s begin with some questions springing from basic philosophical concerns:
A primary concern in asking questions that undermine another’s faith is to never ask any question that also applies to your side of the fence as well. Before we look at the 10 question, let us consider some basics.
The Greek Term Apologia
Apologetics: (Gr. apologia) The term literally means “to defend” and is used in the biblical sense to refer to ones who defend the Christian faith, the Bible, and God in speech or in written form. The Christian apologist attempts to prove that the Christian faith, the Bible, and God are reasonable, logical, necessary and right. – Ac 25:16; 2 Cor. 7:11; Phil. 1:7, 16; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 3:15
Two Kinds of Apologetics
There are two basic kinds of apologetics. There is negative apologetics and positive apologetics.
In negative apologetics, the Christian apologist is playing defense. We can use sports as an analogy. Whether it be baseball, football, or basketball, when we are playing defense, we cannot score any points. The only task we have while playing defense is to prevent the other team from scoring any points. Therefore, the atheist, agnostic, or Bible critic that has some kind of problem with the Christian faith, the Bible, or God raises issues that they believe undermine the Christian beliefs. They are on the offense, trying to score points. In playing defense, the Christian apologist only needs to show that this objection that was raised is not valid, it is unreasonable, illogical. There is no real substance to it. In this scenario, the burden of proof is on the unbeliever who is raising the issues. Negative apologetics is always easier than positive apologetics.
Burden of Proof
The burden of Proof: The burden of proof in a criminal trial is on the prosecution. The defense attorney only needs to undermine the argument(s) for guilt by the prosecution are not valid. The burden of proof in a trial of the Christian faith is on the unbeliever bringing the case. Either their arguments are valid, or they are not. The Christian apologist need not prove his innocence so to speak, just that the case against him has no merit. The burden of proof falls on the one making the claims. If the Christian is witnessing to another, he has the burden to prove what he says is so if asked for proof. However, if the critic is challenging the Christian, the burden of disproving lies with the critic. The closer the claim is to socially accepted knowledge, less proof is needed, while the further one moves from conventional knowledge, the more evidence is required. I believe that the legal burden of proof offers the best answers to the witnessing of others. It has been refined over the last 200 years to the point of evaluating a life that is held in its balance, just as everlasting life is held in the balance. Below we will list the levels of legal proof and some percentage and wording to indicate the degree of certainty needed. We have used different Bible objects for each one, but any criticism could be plugged into that particular burden of proof.
Problem of Evil
Without a doubt, the problem of evil is the most difficult Bible difficulty to answer. The problem of evil refers to the question of how to reconcile the existence of wickedness and suffering when there is an all knowing, all powerful loving God. The problem of evil is so serious that we can say, if a Christian is going to have doubts, this is the only issue it should take place because all other Bible difficulties is easily resolved in comparison. Under the burden of proof, the unbeliever who brings up the problem of evil is responsible for showing that this is a sufficient enough reason for not believing in God. The Christian apologist only needs to show that that the problem of evil is not sufficient enough for not believing in God and need not provide an answer to the issue. Nevertheless, in APOLOGIST 3, we answer the problem of evil. We just need to show that there is a morally sufficient reason for God temporarily allowing evil to exist.
Returning to our sports analogy, here in positive apologetics, the Christian is now playing offense, trying to score points, while the unbeliever is on defense, trying to prevent us from scoring points. Under positive apologetics, the Christian now has to own the fact that he or she is under the burden of proof. In other words, we are offering arguments, information, explanations, or evidence that will help the receptive person to accept biblical truths, with the eventuality of their accepting the Christian faith. We are trying to prove the existence of God, as well as that the Bible is the inspired, fully inerrant Word of God and that it is authentic and true. The unbeliever is trying to show that our arguments are not the valid or not that effective.
We must understand that not all Christian apologetic augments are equal. Some arguments have liabilities when they are used. Now, understand, this author has written a book undermining the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, so this exercise below is only to demonstrate that some Christian apologetic questions are not effective and will backfire.
Wallace’s 10 Questions
If I am to accept the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witness religion, I am first going to have to trust the source of this teaching. But how can I trust someone who claims to speak for God when they have been wrong about prior predictions?
RESPONSE: The Witness will only say that under your logic, we would also reject Protestantism and all of their denominations because many Protestant leaders have predicted dates and were clearly wrong. They would also point out that the founding fathers of these denominations committed atrocious acts like killing or having killed other Christians who dared to believe differently.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be the only religious organization speaking for God, but don’t the Roman Catholic and Mormon religions make very similar claims? Why should I trust the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
RESPONSE: The Witness will only say that all Christian denominations believe that they are the truth and the way. There are 41,000 different denominations, all believing different from the others. Certainly, they can not all be right. This includes the so-called salvation doctrines as well.
The Jehovah’s Witness translation of the Bible condemns false prophecy and says unfulfilled prophecy is an indicator God is not speaking thorough that Prophet and we should not, therefore, pay attention to what that prophet is saying. So shouldn’t this also apply to the teaching of the Watchtower?
RESPONSE: The Witness will only say this question is similar to the first one above. There have been many Protestant church leaders set false dates, predict false things. Thus, this argument like the other will only cause a self-inflicted wound.
Jehovah’s Witnesses often talk about John 1:1 and argue the original Greek wording is more correctly translated “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was ¬a god”, rather than the orthodox rendering, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But if this is true why do so many translators agree with the orthodox view?
RESPONSE: The Witness will only say I am not going to argue the Greek grammar because the Witnesses reason for translating John 1:1 as such is by following the Protestant religions grammar books, which all do not agree by the way. What I will point out Mr. Wallace is your last point. You asked, “if this is true why do so many translators agree with the orthodox view?” The majority of something does not in and of itself make something correct; otherwise, we would all be Catholic.
Jehovah’s Witnesses often argue God’s true name is “Jehovah”. But if this is true, why doesn’t the word, “Jehovah” appear in the New Testament?
RESPONSE: Wallace, Jehovah was used by Bible scholars up unto the 20th century. Look at the names in your Bible. Many Hebrew kings and others used by God personally in Bible times used part of the Father’s personal name in their name, like Jehoash, Jehoram, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Jehoram, Jehohanan, Jehonadab, Jehoahaz, and even the wife of High Priest Jehoiada; daughter of King Jehoram of Judah, Jehosheba, among many more. We notice that the beginning of the Father’s personal name is used in every one of these cases. Does anyone find it a bit troubling that the Bibles (JB, LEB, HCSB), which choose to use the so-called scholarly “Yahweh” rendering still spell the above names with Jeho? Why do these same translations not spell Jehoash “Yahash”? Moreover, the 1901 American Standard Version uses Jehovah. Lastly, we do not have the original New Testament manuscripts so we can not say with certainty that the name Jehovah was not in there.
Jehovah’s Witnesses say 144,000 people will be part of the “anointed Class’ who will live with God in Heaven and will reign over the ‘Great Crowd’. But doesn’t the Bible describe this group in contradiction to what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?
RESPONSE: All I can say here is the Bible makes it clear that not all good people are going to heaven. If the Witnesses are false over this misinterpretation, all Protestant religions have misinterpreted the Bible since the Reformation.
Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses feel the need to make obvious changes to certain passages of Scripture?
RESPONSE: Your reference to the square brackets in the 1984 edition of the New World Translation is a mistaken notion. The square brackets [ ] enclose words inserted to complete the sense in the English text. This is done by all translations and in some these words are italicized. Moreover, again, it is your grammars that advocate for some of these additions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses obviously deny Jesus is God, but how can they do this when Scripture repeatedly describes Jesus as Divine?
RESPONSE: Divine does not equal God. The Greek terms simply mean a divine person.
How Can Jehovah’s Witnesses claim Jesus is a created being when Jesus created everything ever created?
RESPONSE: Jesus was the first divine person to be created and then he became the master worker of the Father and created all things.
1 Corinthians 15:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)
27 For “God [the Father] has put all things in subjection under his [Jesus’] feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he [God the Father] is excepted who put all things in subjection under him [Jesus, the Son]. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
If you are going to ask an apologetic question to undermine a belief or a translation be certain that your side is also not guilty of the same things or it is not your grammars that they are depending on for their translation renderings.