Look Who’s Knocking!

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Who’s That Knocking on the Door? Research Examines the Faith of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses

May 12, 2008


(Ventura, California) – Two religious groups, in particular, are known for knocking on people’s front door to discuss religious beliefs: Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. While both groups consider themselves to be Christian, many organizations have labeled each a cult in response to some of their unorthodox beliefs and practices. A new study from The Barna Group explores the religious and demographic background of these two groups and shows that they differ significantly from the born again Christian population in a variety of respects.

A Profile of Jehovah’s Witnesses

About the only perspective that Witnesses share with the larger body of born again Christians is a belief that their religious faith is very important in their life, a view held by nine out of ten people from both groups. After that point of concurrence, the gap widens.

It begins with the fact that only 7% of Jehovah’s Witnesses meet the criteria for being born again. Most Witnesses say they have made a personal commitment to Christ that is important in their life, but only one out of every ten of those adults base their hope of salvation on a confession of sins and acceptance of Christ as their savior. Interestingly, the issue is not that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in earning their way to an eternal reward: in fact, they are significantly more likely than born again adults to reject the notion of salvation earned through good works.

While more than nine out of ten born again adults believe that God is the omnipotent and all-knowing creator and ruler of the universe, just three-quarters of the Witnesses (76%) concur with that view.

Witnesses are almost 50% more likely than born again adults to strongly believe that Satan exists (61% versus 42%, respectively). They are more likely than born again adults to argue that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth (77%, compared to 63% among born agains). They are also much more likely to have a firm conviction that sharing their faith with other people is a personal responsibility (74% compared to 54% among all born agains). They also have widespread faith in the Bible, with a higher proportion (88%) contending that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches (71% among born again people).

In terms of their faith practices, Jehovah’s Witnesses are comparatively more likely to gather in small groups during the week (75% do so, double the incidence among born agains). They are also significantly more likely to read the Bible during the week (83% do so) but are also more than twice as likely to be unchurched at the moment (28%, roughly double the born again proportion).

Demographically, Jehovah’s Witnesses are substantially different from the born again community in that they are less likely to get married; much less likely to hold conservative political and social views; and are a decidedly downscale group (only one-third as likely to have graduated from college, and their household income levels are one-quarter below the born again average). The Jehovah’s Witnesses community is predominantly non-white (62%) and is shockingly removed from the political process: only 29% are registered to vote, compared to 87% among the born again constituency.

A Profile of Mormons it is all on barna’s site.



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4 responses to “Look Who’s Knocking!

  1. Rubens Oliveira

    We JW believe in the Bible!
    When it comes to teachings offered as Biblical truth, we strongly endorse the course followed by the Beroeans when they heard the apostle Paul preach: “They received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)We Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all religious teachings should be subjected to this test of agreement with the inspired Scriptures, whether the teaching is offered by them or by someone else. We invite you—urge you—to do this in our discussions with us.
    Why do many oppose Jehovah’s Witnesses and tell me not to study with us?
    There was opposition to Jesus’ preaching, and he said that his followers also would be opposed. When some were impressed with Jesus’ teaching, religious opposers retorted: “You have not been misled also, have you? Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he?” (John 7:46-48; 15:20) Many who advise you not to study with the Witnesses are either uninformed or prejudiced. Study with the Witnesses and see for yourself whether your Bible understanding increases or not.—Matthew 7:17-20.

    They believe the
    Bible is God’s WordFrom this it is apparent that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the Bible as the Word of God. They consider its 66 books to be inspired and historically accurate. What is commonly called the New Testament they refer to as the Christian Greek Scriptures, and the Old Testament they call the Hebrew Scriptures. They rely on both of these, the Greek and the Hebrew Scriptures, and take them literally except where the expressions or settings obviously indicate that they are figurative or symbolic. They understand that many of the prophecies of the Bible have been fulfilled, others are in the course of fulfillment, and still others await fulfillment.

  2. Rubens,

    There are a few key points: Below are the highlights of what JWs believe concerning their source of authority, the Godhead, Christ, sin, salvation, heaven and hell, etc.:

    1. Source of Authority. JWs claim the Bible as their final authority, but Russell’s writings, especially Studies in the Scriptures, are considered “the light of the Scriptures.” JWs have their own translation of the Scriptures (New World Translation, published in 1961), which reflects the binding interpretations of the group’s leaders. The JWs’ New World Translation greatly perverts the Scriptures to avoid placing themselves under the judgment of God (cf. Jn. 1:1; 8:58; I Tim. 2:6; Ac. 10:36; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9-10; etc.). Hence, the leader’s interpretation of the Bible, not the Bible itself, is the final authority of JWs. The Watchtower magazine is one of the JWs main sources of doctrine, and is considered authoritative by its members.

    2. Trinity. JWs believe that God is not a triune God, but only “Jehovah God” (Let God Be True, pp. 100-101); they teach that Trinitarianism is a belief in three gods, and thereby, Satan-inspired polytheism. Rutherford wrote: “… sincere persons who want to know the true God and serve him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three-headed God. The clergy who inject such ideas will contradict themselves in the very next breath by stating that God made man in his own image; for certainly no one has ever seen a three-headed human creature” (Let God Be True, 2nd ed., pp. 101-102).

    3. God the Father. Known as Jehovah, the Watchtower considers Him to be the only true eternal God, the Almighty. They write, “There was, therefore, a time when Jehovah was all alone in universal space” (Let God Be True, p. 25). Being alone, the first creative act of Jehovah was to create His Son.

    4. Jesus Christ. Since JWs do not believe in the Trinity, they also do not believe that Jesus is God in the flesh. They add the word “other” four times to Colossians 1:16,17, teaching that Christ was God’s first creation, i.e., the reincarnation of Michael the archangel created by Jehovah, rather than the Creator. [The “Watchtower” teaches that Jehovah God created Michael the Archangel before the foundation of the world; Michael was His only begotten son by virtue of the fact that he was the only creature directly created by Jehovah. It was this created Michael who became the JW Jesus (i.e., a denial of the eternality of Christ). JWs say that “Since actual conception took place, it appears that Jehovah God caused an ovum or egg in Mary’s womb to become fertile, accomplishing this by the transfer of the life of his first born son (Michael) from the spirit realm to the earth” (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 920). “Marvelously, Jehovah transferred the life-force and the personality pattern of his first born heavenly son (Michael) to the womb of Mary. God’s own active force, his holy spirit, safeguarded the development of the child in Mary’s womb so that what was born was a perfect human” (Reasoning, p. 255).] JWs also add an “a” in John 1:1, making the verse read, “the Word was a god” (which in essence, makes the JWs guilty of the same polytheism of which they accuse Trinitarians).

    5. Use of Name Jehovah. JWs use the name “Jehovah” only for God (in order to distinguish between God and Jesus Christ), while failing to recognize that Jesus is the fulfillment of “Jehovah” in Isaiah 40:3 and Matthew 3:3. [HJB]

    6. Resurrection of Christ . JWs deny the bodily resurrection of Christ through their teaching that the body of Christ was annihilated by God — not risen — but rather a new one was created three days after His death. This they call the “resurrection” of Christ. Thus, Jesus was “resurrected” as a “glorious spirit creature” and does not now have a glorified physical body. Instead, they claim Jesus arose spiritually and only “materialized” at various times after His resurrection so He could be seen alive. (Awake!, 7/22/73, p. 4)

    7. The Holy Spirit. JWs deny the deity of the third person of the Trinity, as either God or as a person; they claim that the Holy Spirit is only an impersonal “active force of Almighty God which moves His servants to do His will” (Reasoning From the Scriptures, pp. 406-407; The Watchtower, 6/1/54, p. 24). They have written, “But the holy spirit has no personal name. The reason for this is that the holy spirit is not an intelligent person. It is the impersonal, invisible active force that finds its source and reservoir in Jehovah God and that he uses to accomplish his will even at great distances, over light years of space” (Let Your Name Be Sanctified, p. 269).

    8. Sin. JWs believe that the first man, Adam, disobeyed Jehovah when tempted by the angel Lucifer, who was jealous of man. As a result of disobedience, Adam and all his descendants lost the right to life and so became liable to death. This liability is applied to temporal death only.

    9. Salvation . JWs claim everlasting life is a reward for doing the will of God and carrying out one’s dedication — in other words, salvation is a reward for good works. (JWs are expected to spend five hours per week in door-to-door visitation and witnessing, are responsible for selling twelve subscriptions to The Watchtower magazine each month, and are responsible for conducting a “Bible study” each month in the homes of their converts.) According to JW theology, a person has one of three possible destinies. The Anointed (144,000) will be in heaven to reign with Jehovah God. The rest of the faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses (not of the 144,000) will live forever on a paradise Earth. Both of these classifications are determined to a great extent on membership in the Watchtower organization as well as going door-to-door spreading the message of the Watchtower. Those people who are not members of the Watchtower organization will be destroyed by Jehovah God and cease to exist. There is no concept of eternal punishment or hell in Watchtower theology (Let God Be True, pp. 90-95, 289). They also believe that men will have a second chance, after death, to be saved.

    10. The Body of Christ. JWs believe that the members of the spiritual Body of Christ, or “Christian Congregation,” number only 144,000 (Rev. 7:4-8). Most of those members of Christ’s Body are now deceased and are reigning with Jesus in heaven since 1918. (Anybody born after 1936 cannot be in that number.) The remaining members still on earth, approximately 8,000 (out of whom are selected the “Governing Body”), are known as the “Remnant.” They are collectively known as Jehovah God’s “channel of communication” to men. They are the only ones “born again” and are the only ones who have a hope of going to Heaven. The rest of Jehovah’s faithful witnesses only hope to be worthy enough to inherit the Earth, and will never see “Jesus/Michael,” nor will they ever go to Heaven. All “so called Christendom” will be destroyed at Armageddon.

    11. Soul Sleep. JWs deny the immortality of the soul. They do not believe the soul can exist apart from the body, but that a corpse remains in an unconscious state in the grave waiting for the resurrection. [HJB]

    12. Annihilation of the Wicked. JWs teach that the “second death” is annihilation and extinction — the wicked will cease to exist and will not suffer everlasting torment. They claim that a “doctrine of a burning hell” is “wholly unscriptural,” “unreasonable,” “contrary to God’s love,” and “repugnant to justice.” [HJB] They claim that “hell” is the grave.

    13. Prophecy . The Bible lists six identifying marks of false prophets, any one of which is sufficient for identification: (1) through signs and wonders they lead astray after false gods (Dt. 13:1-4); (2) their prophecies don’t come to pass (Dt. 18:20-22); (3) they contradict God’s Word (Isa. 8:20); (4) they bear bad fruit (Mt. 7:18-20); (5) men speak well of them (Lk. 6:26); and (6) they deny that Jesus, the one and only Christ, has come once and for all in the flesh (1 Jn. 4:3), thereby denying His sufficiency in all matters of life and godliness (2 Pe. 1:3). Most cults are founded upon false prophecies, which, if pointed out, offer an effective way to open blind eyes and rescue cultists. Russell’s false prophecies formed the basis for what became The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Russell declared that the Second Coming had taken place invisibly in October 1874, and the Lord was truly present, and that in 1914 the faithful (the 144,000) would be translated to heaven and the wicked destroyed. Armageddon (which began in 1874) would culminate in 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s rulers and the end of the world. C.T. Russell, still on earth, died in 1916.

    In the early 1920s, JWs zealously distributed on the streets and from door to door a book titled Millions Now Living Will Never Die. It was prophesied, “The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914 … we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old … to the condition of human perfection” (“Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” The Watchtower, 7/15/24, p. 89). The JWs even built a house in San Diego where the patriarchs were to live and tried to deed it to King David. (The house was quietly sold in 1954.) In the early 1940s, JWs were declaring that Armageddon, only months away, would end World War II and the defeat of the Nazis would usher in God’s rule on earth (The Watchtower, 12/41). Their book, Children, suggested that plans to marry and have children be postponed until after Armageddon. It’s been a long wait! Not giving up, they later prophesied that God’s millennial kingdom would commence in 1975. Again JWs were told not to engage in any plans for this world, including marriage and having children. Many quit their jobs, sold their homes, and dedicated themselves to going door to door. (Source: 3/97, The Berean Call.) All in all, the Watchtower has predicted the end of the world for 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975, and 1989

  3. Stan

    Isn’t it interesting how many religions knock on your door trying to spread a spiritual message but many times in the end all they really want is money.

    “Many quit their jobs, sold their homes, and dedicated themselves to going door to door “(Source: 3/97, The Berean Call.) Is this a bad thing, because it’s not just Jehovah’s Witnesses who quit $50,000 a year jobs and sell their homes and move 1,200 miles to go door to door.

  4. Stan,

    Giving all you have to something you believe in isn’t “wrong”. Missionaries do it all of the time. The difference in the quote you left out the context…a false, date specific prophecy led them to do this…even after the obvious error the group didn’t stop throwing out dates and getting them wrong.

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