Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah's Witness by Ron Rhodes

The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah's WitnessThe 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness by Ron Rhodes is a small and concise guide to understanding and engaging with the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This book is ten chapters, 128 pages, and helpfully structured in a way for the novice to quickly assimilate the information. This includes bulleted summaries, icons for key ideas and tips, and quick chapter-end reviews of the content.

When it comes to books dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ron Rhodes has written two: one is the lighter “beginner version” (this one) and the other is the in-depth book with a fuller treatment and analysis (Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah’s Witnesses). Both are helpful, but for those looking for the quick-reference intro, The 10 Most Important Things… is the book to start with. This review will simply outline the main ideas the author suggests are the most important.

Chapter one deals with the Watchtower Society, the main governing authority of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “According to the Watchtower Society, people are unable to ascertain the true meaning of Scripture without its vast literature,” writes Rhodes. “Even reading the Bible is considered insufficient in and of itself in learning the things of God.”(11)  The author explores this group's structure and how to address it. Chapter two looks at the New World Translation of the scriptures, which is the special translation used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They claim that this is the best translation available today, even in the face of almost universal rejection by biblical linguists. Rhodes gives quotes from experts about the inaccuracy of this translation, then shows numerous examples of this inaccuracy.

Chapter three explores the JW’s use of God’s name. In their view, the only way of referring to God is by using his true name of Jehovah. This is essential to salvation. The author describes why they believe this, then points out reasons why this is incorrect. He then shows the best way of communicating this in personal interaction. Chapter four discusses the identity of Jesus. In short, “Jehovah's Witnesses concede that Jesus is a ‘mighty god,’ but deny He is God Almighty.”(41)  Rhodes also explores and refutes other beliefs about Jesus, such as his identity as the Archangel Michael and his second coming in 1914.

Chapter five addresses the JW’s beliefs about the Holy Spirit. “In Watchtower Society (WS) theology, the Holy Spirit is neither a person nor God. Rather, the Holy Spirit is God's impersonal ‘active force’ for accomplishing His will in the world.”(55)  In this they deny the orthodox view of the trinity and see the Holy Spirit as a sort of energy used by God. The views of the trinity are further critiqued by Rhodes in chapter six, which focuses on this area specifically.

Chapter seven is about salvation. In particular, it deals with the JW belief that salvation is dependent upon works, and not through faith. “Though Jehovah's Witnesses often give lip service to the idea of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, in reality they believe in a works-oriented salvation.”(73)  In addition, Rhodes explains that JW’s cannot be sure if they have attained salvation in this life. The author goes on to set straight the true biblical view of salvation. Chapter eight explains the JW view of two peoples of God: “In Watchtower theology there are two classes of saved people with two very different destinies and sets of privileges: the privileged ‘Anointed Class’ and the lesser ‘other sheep.’”(85)  The anointed class is composed of 144,000 “who enjoy a spiritual existence in heaven and participate in ruling with Christ.”(87)  The “other sheep” are “all other Jehovah's Witnesses who live forever on a paradise Earth in subjection to Christ and the Anointed Class.”  Again, Rhodes explains why this is another faulty use of scripture.

Chapter nine explores the JW view of the afterlife. Rhodes explains, “Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe a person's soul or spirit is distinct from the physical body. In their thinking, the ‘soul’ refers not to an ‘immaterial’ part of a human that survives death, but to the very life a person has.”(99)  Following this, there is no conscious existence after death, and hell is not a real place. Instead, hell is simply the grave, common to all who die. The author then describes the biblical doctrine of the afterlife and hell. Finally, chapter ten discusses the importance of the use of personal testimony when sharing with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rhodes cites scriptural precedent for the sharing of one’s personal experience of Christ, explaining the usefulness and personal impact this can make during an interaction.

In sum, the little book The 10 Most Important Things Your Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness by Ron Rhodes is a great primer on the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It will serve as a good starting point for further study and is highly recommended.

Ron Rhodes, The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001)


pds said...

Thanks for the review Brian.

Does Ron discuss the final physical resurrection of believers in JW thought and their vision of Heaven and the New Creation?

It seems, "the ‘soul’ refers not to an ‘immaterial’ part of a human that survives death, but to the very life a person has.", is not far from what Christian Physicalists such as Glenn Peoples believe in - and picking up my Mounces' Biblical word dictionary - the word soul in the Old Testament also describes the very life a person has and not an immaterial part.

I'm just wondering how far JW's view of the afterlife is from varieties of Christian thought that we wouldn't consider out of the fold. I would want to stick to key issues and not get side tracked by discussions of human ontology - these are interesting and important, but not essential to the core Christian faith.

The Apologetic Front said...


I can't speak for everyone, but many evangelicals would consider physicalism and annihilationism to be within the realm of orthodoxy. But this position is very much a minority. However, you are on track when you ask about the similarities because JW's are most certainly physicalists. If you'd like to hear a very productive dialogue on this issue, check out Chris Date's interview with Glenn Peoples on the Theopologetics podcast. And if you're interested in reading something more in depth which defends the traditional dualist view, check out Robert Morey's book, "Death and the Afterlife."

pds said...

Thanks! Peoples was the first Physicalist and Annihilationist I have really come into contact with - i've listened to that interview - it is quite good.

What do JWs believe about the final resurrection of the dead?

The Apologetic Front said...


Basically, they believe that most people will be resurrected and given a second chance to follow Jehovah in the millennium. They say this because everyone has paid the price for their sins with death. And through the ransom sacrifice, these ones will have another opportunity.

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