Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah's Witnesses by Ron Rhodes

Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's WitnessesReasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah’s Witnesses by Ron Rhodes is an in-depth analysis and critique of the major beliefs and doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whereas the author’s other book, The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness (reviewed here), is designed to be a concise outline and quick critique of the JWs, this book is a very detailed work of 458 pages. This review will offer an outline of the topics covered.

 Rhodes explores JW teaching in fifteen chapters. Rhodes introduces the book by laying out the mindset of most Jehovah’s Witnesses, their indoctrination, training, and overall way of interaction. This introduction alone is extremely useful for the reader to gain perspective in how to approach witnessing encounters and discussions with a member of this group.  Conveniently, the author does this reviewer’s job in describing the layout of the book in the introduction as well:
Each chapter in this book begins with a short summary of what the Jehovah's Witnesses believe about a particular subject. Following this you will find individual discussions of the major passages the Jehovah's Witnesses cite in supporting their interpretation. Quotations from Watchtower books and magazines will be liberally sprinkled throughout. You will also find suggested "leading questions" that you can use in your witnessing encounters. For your convenience, these questions are highlighted. This makes it easy for you to quickly find the questions you need to make your point. (21)
Chapter one addresses the Watchtower Society, the governing organization of the JWs. This organization is God’s “special and discreet slave” that alone gives proper understanding of the scriptures. The organization publishes The Watchtower magazine, which propagates the organization’s teachings. “Submission to this faithful and discreet slave-including all Watchtower publications-is expected of every Jehovah's Witness.”(27) As Rhodes explains:
the Jehovah's Witnesses argue that Christ's words about the "faithful and discreet slave" do not refer to the Christian in general but to Christ's anointed followers viewed as a group or as an organization (made up of 144,000 individuals), headed by the governing body of the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn, New York. This organization alone has been appointed by God to watch over His affairs on earth. (31-32)
The author’s pattern in chapter one (and throughout the book) in addition to what was outlined above, is to describe the JW teaching, contrast it with biblical teaching, then provide questions that one can ask a Jehovah’s Witness about this particular teaching. This method makes this book not only very easy to follow along with, but also makes it an excellent reference book. It need not be read in a linear fashion.
Chapter two covers the JW teaching about the name of God; His proper name is Jehovah and must be referred to in this way. The basic outline that Rhodes follows in The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness is taken here, and – for the most part – throughout the whole of the book. However, the author goes much deeper in addressing the particulars of Watchtower teaching. In addition, Rhodes makes more positive cases in the biblical presentation as well. For example, he outlines the case that Jesus is Yahweh in a much fuller manner here, comparing Yahweh and Jesus point by point.

The book majors heavily on the identity of Jesus. About four chapters address the identity and person of Jesus specifically. The author shows just how many deviations there are in Watchtower teaching from sound biblical teaching. Two of these chapters deal with Christ’s relationship with the Father, answering the question of whether or not he is inferior to the Father. Jesus’ supposed identity as the Archangel Michael (as purported by JWs) is also addressed in a chapter.

Rhodes commits a chapter each to dealing with issues on the trinity as well as the person of the Holy Spirit. The former is denied by JW teaching; the latter is considered a mere “force.” Another two substantial chapters address the identity of the true church and also the way of salvation. Regarding the church, JWs teach a special “anointed class” alongside a group of “other sheep,” effectively creating a special ruling class of 144,000 eventually governing from heaven, while the lower class (other sheep) are simply resurrected to a paradise earth. When it comes to the way of salvation, JW teaching reaches far beyond salvation as a free gift; instead one’s tentative hope ultimately relies on one’s efforts and works which Jehovah may or may not find pleasing at judgment.

Rhodes digs further into the Jehovah’s Witness teaching on the afterlife, looking at the JW understanding of the soul and “soul sleep.” Other controversial issues are addressed later on, such as the JW view on blood transfusions, birthdays, holidays, etc. Finally, the author provides an excellent chapter on witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whether the reader finds the material in the book challenging to grasp or not, one thing is certain: Rhodes’ introduction and chapter on witnessing should be required reading. They both offer insights and wisdom that are sure to equip the Christian with clear strategies and proper expectations for a potential witnessing encounter.

In total, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah’s Witnesses by Ron Rhodes is a very thorough treatment of JW teaching. It is a very useful tool in the hands of Christians engaging with those in the group. It can be highly recommended as an intermediate level study resource and apologetics reference tool.

Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah’s Witnesses (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Pulishers, 2009)


Mike Felker said...

I found Rhodes to be helpful as well and was the first book I read as I was interacting with JW's. One weakness I see is what appears to be some denunciation of the JW's view of paradise earth. If one believes they are going to "heaven" for eternity as opposed to earth, then i'd see some problems with this. This seems to be what Rhodes and many others would advocate. However, we cannot deny the Bible speaks of a "new earth." And I think its perfectly valid for Christians to believe that they will reside forever on this earth, i.e. paradise restored.

It may seem like a minor point, but in dealing with the WT's "two class theology" in depth, its become very important to be consistent with this issue in being able to counteract their theology.

Great review though! Glad you're taking the time to learn more about the JW's and encouraging others to as well!

Janus said...

Other very helpful book of Rhodes is Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics.

winno said...

Well i am an unlearned person of the Bible. I think i have good faith in Jesus and our Blessed Mother to guide me but i have a brother who is in the JWs. Boy it does not matter what i say he blasphemes when i speak about Christ and our Loving Mother.
He proclaims that Archangel Michael is Christ and even though i have told him in the Old Testament God said that no Angels where to be worshipped, he says Michael was different because God mentions him as a Son.
How do i approach this situation because i want to save him from this very much Satan's Religion?. Any help would be so much grateful
Kind Rgds

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