By asking the question,
"Are Jehovah's Witnesses the only true religion," we
are not asking whether Jehovah's Witnesses practice a religion
that is superior to others in many ways, or whether God looks
with particular favor and approval on the members of this
religion. We would not be Jehovah's Witnesses if we did not
think this religion was better in some way. Nor are we
inquiring whether there is no more truth in this religion than
in others. We believe there is. We ask merely whether this
religion (or religious organization) is the only one
that God accepts as valid and whether his spirit works only
through the Witness organization and not through others.
"It is only logical
that there would be one true religion. This is in harmony with
the fact that the true God is a God, 'not of disorder, but of
peace.' (1 Corinthians 14:33) The Bible says that actually
there is only 'one faith.' (Ephesians 4:5) Who, then, are the
ones who form the body of true worshipers today? We do not
hesitate to say that they are Jehovah’s Witnesses." (Live
Forever, p. 190)
is the ONLY
ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD THAT IS LOYAL
TO THE SOVEREIGN OF THE UNIVERSE."
(July 15, 2006 Watchtower, p. 23)
first thought, the claim of having exclusive divine approval
may appear to be harmless—a source of pride in a wonderful
faith and a means of encouragement and motivation to continue
doing what is right. However, if it is not true, then it
paints an inaccurate picture of Jehovah God. And this picture
might be insulting to him, because it would show him to be
more partial than he really is. So it is absolutely imperative
that we be sure that this teaching is true, or else we
might be defaming God by publishing it.
Witnesses may claim that they are the only religion favorable
to God if it can be established biblically that it is
impossible for more than one acceptable religion to exist,
yes, even more than one acceptable denomination of
Christianity to exist, and that no other religion presently
existing qualifies as acceptable in God's eyes apart from
theirs, and that God plans to punish those who are associated
with other religious groups, even Christian ones.
order to establish their claim as heading the only legitimate
religion, the leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses often appeal to
the scripture at Matthew 7:15-23, where Jesus asserts (in vs.
21) that not everyone calling him "Lord" will be
saved. The implication made by the Watchtower is that
when Jesus says, "not everyone," he means,
"only one group," interpreting the scripture not
merely on an individual level, but also on an organizational
one. However, the most we can say about this saying of
Jesus is that there will be certain individuals who claim to
follow him, but who are "workers of lawlessness."
The emphasis is clearly on deeds, rather than on beliefs. Even
if we were justified in interpreting this passage on an
organizational level, it still does not say that there is only
one true religious organization.
highlighted is the passage in vv. 15-20, where Jesus warns his
disciples to be careful of false prophets and tells them that
they will be able to identify false prophets by their
"fruit." (It is common in the Bible for a person's
deeds to be referred to as fruit.) The Watchtower
interprets this passage on an organizational level as well. In
other words, false prophets = false religious organizations.
From this assumed first principle it can then be argued that
true religion and false religions can be identified by their
"fruits." If a religion bears any bad fruit, then it
cannot be true and therefore is condemned by God. Even
if this interpretation is justified, it must be noted that the
scripture does not explicitly say that only one true religion
("prophet") can exist.
using Matthew 7:15-20 as a springboard, the Witness literature
often provides a list of identifying marks (fruits) of
acceptable religion and shows how Jehovah’s Witnesses
exhibit them all and other religions do not. The Bible, of
course, does not give such a list. Rather, the Jehovah’s
Witness leaders compiled the list themselves and then noted
how their religion fits it. Out of thousands of scriptures
that speak of proper attitude and behavior, a selection was
made of what to include as “marks” of the true religion
and what not. Sometimes the criteria are not explicitly stated
in scripture. Let us look at the list more closely:
to Identify the True Religion
Does the Bible Really Teach? , pp. 145-151)
base their teachings on the
Those who practice the true religion worship only Jehovah
and make his name known.
God's people show genuine, unselfish love for one another.
True Christians accept Jesus as God's means of salvation.
True worshippers are no part of the world.
Jesus true followers preach that God's kingdom is mankind's
brevity of the list indicates the selectivity of the Witness teachers.
Certainly the Bible speaks of many more matters that should be
important to Christians. So these simply are the items that
the Witness teachers feel are the most important. What is interesting
is that the scriptures offered to establish these
points do not say anything about their being
"marks" of true Christianity, nor are they scriptural commands
(with the possible exception of John 13:35 for #3), but
merely are statements of truth that we are to assume should be
taken as mandatory to Christianity.
interesting is that almost
any Christian denomination in the world would agree with all
of these claims. The
difference is in how they might interpret such statements. For
example, many Christian denominations feel strongly that they
follow the Bible. They merely interpret parts of it
differently than the Witness teachers do. They also believe
Christians in their group show genuine love for one another.
The debate is about whether they do this correctly or not.
They also believe strongly that Jesus is God's means of
salvation, and that God's kingdom is mankind's only hope. They
simply may believe something different about what that kingdom
actually is. Thus we see that it is not the simple fact that
other religions don't believe in following these stipulations,
but rather that the Witness teachers claim others are not
following them properly. So there would need to be
considerable research and discussion before one could actually
claim that no other Christian religions apart from Jehovah's
Witnesses follow these stipulations. Almost all Christians believe
us examine each of these items in turn to see how they are used
to differentiate the Witnesses from other religious groups.
base their teachings on the
Bible. The implication here is that only Jehovah's
Witnesses' teachings are based on the Bible. Other religious
groups may claim to follow the Bible, but they actually do not,
because they interpret it wrongly. It is interesting to
note that many other religious groups make the same sort of
claims, i.e., that they, and only they, interpret the Bible
correctly. Anyone who does not interpret the Bible correctly is
not basing their teachings on it. This is an unfair assessment,
since many who do interpret the Bible incorrectly are at least
making an effort to base their teachings on it. This mark would
more accurately be worded: God's servants have a proper
understanding of the Bible. However, Jehovah's Witnesses would
not measure up to such a standard, since they have had improper
understandings of the Bible in times past and acknowledge the
possibility that they may have improper understandings now.
Those who practice the true religion worship only Jehovah
and make his name known. This
may be the only one that immediately sets the
Witnesses apart from others. In support of this claim, scriptures like Matthew 6:9 (“let your name be
sanctified”) and Acts 15:14 (where the Christians were
called “a people for [God’s] name”) are cited.
Interestingly, most other Christians would accept that they believe in
these scriptures and that they, in fact, help to make God's name
known. But they realize that it
doesn’t simply mean that true religion has God’s name in
its title or that its members say “Jehovah” all the time.
In the Bible, “name” is associated with “reputation” (Insight
II, p. 468). It is God’s reputation that should be of
concern to Christians. Jehovah's Witnesses do indeed uphold
the reputation of God, but are they really the only ones in
the world who do? The compilers of the list don’t seem to remember what
sanctifying God’s name or carrying God’s name means and say that, if
religions don’t actually verbalize God’s name on a
regular basis, they can’t possibly be the true religion (and
this is how they narrow the field down quite a bit). It is
true that Jesus said to his Father, "I have made your name
manifest" (John 17:6), but considering that nowhere in any
extant Greek manuscript of the Christian Scriptures does Jesus
use God's actual name (nor do any of the apostles), preferring
instead to call God "Father," Jesus must have been using
the word "name" in a less literal sense, probably as
it is used in Eccl.
7:1, Proverbs 22:1, Heb. 1:4, etc.
God's people show genuine, unselfish love for one another. The
Witness teachers highlight the fact that Jesus told his
disciples to love one another, and use this as a standard to
judge religious organizations. In particular, they highlight the
fact that leaders of many other religions encourage
participation in war, in which people of the same religion on
opposite sides kill each other. We agree that this is a
violation of the principle of love, but wish to point out 1)
that there are several religious groups who are against war, and
that this principle is also manifested in other ways, in which the Witnesses
themselves do not adequately measure up (see below).
True Christians accept Jesus as God's means of salvation. We
know of no single Christian group who doesn't meet this
True worshippers are no part of the world. The
Witness teachers use John 18:36 to show that the true
Christian organization will maintain strict political
neutrality. The scripture doesn't say anything about political
neutrality, but even if there was a scripture that said as
are religions other than Jehovah's Witnesses who stay out of
politics. Considering that there are laws about the separation
of Church and State in this country, it is difficult in this
country for church organizations to involve themselves
directly in politics. To be sure, the leaders of Jehovah's
Witnesses insist on neutrality, not only for the organization,
but for each and every individual member as well. But the strict
neutrality they call for, which they claim is a
"fruit" of true religion, is not commanded in
Jesus' true followers preach that God's kingdom is mankind's
only hope. The purpose of this mark is to weed out any
religious groups who place any amount of hope in a human
government. In other words, if a religious denomination gives
words of support to any political authority, as if it can solve
the world's problems, this is an affront to God's kingdom. Other
religious groups do not believe this for two chief reasons: 1)
the Bible says that the superior authorities are God's ministers
(servants), and he uses them to accomplish good (Rom. 13:4), and
2) they see God's kingdom as something spiritual rather than as
a literal government.
difficulties associated both with the choice of, and the
interpretation of, these stipulations are apparent. However,
there is an even greater problem associated with this sort of
exercise: What makes the Witness teachers think that these are
criteria by which not simply to judge individual Christians, but
entire religious organizations? The Bible says that people will
be judged "individually according to their deeds"
(Rev. 20:13). Nowhere is there a scripture that says that
religious institutions will be judged according to their deeds
and that everyone in a condemned organization will also be
condemned. This, in fact, would not allow for individual
judgment according to one's deeds, since membership in a false
religious organization alone would be sufficient to merit the
It needs to be highlighted that the very idea of
separating religious organizations into true and false is not
borne out in the scripture in Matthew 7:15-20. Jesus was speaking
about false prophets, and a religion is not a prophet.
there to be a list of identifying marks of the true religion,
there has to be such a thing as THE true religion. And we
should find this idea in the Bible. This “one faith” (Eph.
4:5), as the Witnesses are taught, is not a whole religion per
se, so much as a single religious organization. Therefore,
“Christianity,” according to Witness teachers, cannot be considered
the “one faith.” The "one faith" can be only one
denomination of Christianity and no more. But from where do
they get this idea? Is it in the Bible?
evidence for such a position in the Bible is difficult,
because the Bible never really speaks of “denominations”
as we have them today. But it does occasionally speak of
various institutions or groups within Israelite society or within the early
Christian congregation that held different views about God
(although agreeing with the larger brotherhood in the major
issues). Ancient Israel was not homogeneous, nor was early
Christianity. Archaeology and history are also of help to us,
because it has been shown that early Christianity, even in the
first century, had a diverse belief-system, and that the
Israelites had a diverse belief-system too.
ancient Israel existed various organized groups, like the
various priestly houses and the Sons of the Prophets guild. And God
did not reveal himself through one group. In the Bible, we see
him sometimes working through the kings (usually
in the histories), sometimes through the priests (in the
priestly law codes), and sometimes through the prophets (in
the books of the prophets). These groups existed side by side
in ancient Israel and, if matters were anything similar to the
way they are described in the Dead Sea Scrolls, these groups didn’t always see eye to eye. Yet
Israelites who had a “wrong” view of Jehovah, although
criticized by some, are never condemned and shunned in the
Bible. Only Israelites who began to serve other gods
were condemned and punished with death, along with pagans who
attempted to sway Israelites into serving other gods (Deut.
4:23-24; 7:1-5). So it is important here to make a
differentiation between the Bible’s condemnation of
polytheism and the condemnation of groups within the same
religion who believed different things about their one God.
Jesus’ time, we are aware of the Jewish groups called the
Pharisees and Sadducees. There were many other groups as well,
all with varying beliefs (cf. Luke 20:27). They existed for
hundreds of years before the time of Jesus. If you lived in
those days, let’s say 100 years before Jesus, when the Jews
were still the chosen people, which group would you have
belonged to? Was only one of those groups “chosen”? Or did
God view the Jews all as one people?
Bible also alludes to different beliefs in the Christian
brotherhood. Paul talks about some in the congregation who had
a different view of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:13). Notice
that he is not speaking about them in the third person to the
elders, but he is addressing them directly as members of the
congregation. And when some were saying, “I belong to
Apollos” or “I belong to Paul” (1 Cor. 3:3-4), they
weren’t talking about apostles whose personality they liked
better, as if they were in a fan club. They were talking about
whose teachings they liked better. The idea of
“belonging” points to adherence. There would be no point
of differentiating between Apollos and Paul unless there were
differences in what these men were saying. And yet, the
apostles never say that only Paul’s people were the true
Christians, or only Apollos’ people. Paul never calls for
the disfellowshipping of the Apollos people, nor does he refer
to them as apostates. Instead he urges the various groups to
work together in unity as one body, despite their differences
(1 Cor. 3:8-9; Eph. 4:1-3). Only “unbelievers” were
condemned, i.e., those not believing in God and Christ.
is not to say that no Israelites or Christians were ever
condemned. But, if you take notice, they are condemned as
individuals for disobedience, immoral acts, or for
purposely deceiving people for dishonest gain. They are not
condemned simply for being part of a different group of
God-fearing Israelites or Christians. Can you find a single
scripture that says otherwise?
the leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses may insist that there are
certain actions that today’s religions have taken that disqualify
them as acceptable religions in God’s eyes. In fact, they
might say that no other religious group that calls itself
Christian is truly Christian anyway. They might point out the
bloodguilt of certain churches and crimes they may have
committed. They might also point out that these religious
groups teach false doctrines or that they mistreat their
members. Granted, the leaders of many religions, yes, even
Christian ones, have done some very bad things. After looking
at all the evidence, the Witness leaders say that every single
other religion has done something to disqualify itself, and
that, by a process of elimination, the Witnesses win!
they jumping the gun? First of all, they have not really
examined every single religion on the face of the earth,
especially the smaller ones. Second, can religious
organizations be condemned because of wrong interpretation of
Scripture? The Bible never says that every sort of false
teaching makes a religion automatically unacceptable. After
all, the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses themselves even
admit that in the past they have taught false doctrines. And,
no doubt, if “the light gets brighter” as time goes on,
some of the “truth” that they have today may end up being
the error of tomorrow. So having a false doctrine does not
make a church automatically false. What makes a teaching bad
is if it encourages bad behavior or of it dishonors God in
some way. Have not the Witness leaders also dishonored God in
the past with some of their own teachings? Do
they have the right to 'cast the first stone'?
are certainly correct in pointing out that a number of
religions do not honor Jesus' and his apostles' commands not
to have leaders who become masters over the faith of others.
Ironically, we feel that the leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses
have also violated these commands, even more so than some
other religions. (See "The
Current Power Structure of the Organization.")
scripture the Witnesses point to in order to show that God is
collecting true Christians out of a host of false Christians
is Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Indeed, if it can be established
that “wheat” (true Christians) are now being separated
from “weeds” (false Christians), a case could be made that
only one denomination of Christianity is favored by God.
specifically says that the “harvest” of these wheat and
weeds takes place at “the conclusion of the system of
things.” When is this? The leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses
teach that this period began when Jesus began ruling in 1914.
How do they know that the conclusion began then? It is only an assumption. They point
out that the word for “conclusion” in Greek signifies a
period of time rather than an instant of time, and so it could
last a long time. That’s a valid point, but it still doesn’t tell us when the period
begins. How long does the “conclusion” have to be?
clue is in Matthew 13:41-42 and 49-50. The conclusion of the
system is when the angels are sent out by Jesus to separate
the wicked from the righteous and then destroy the wicked.
This matches the scriptures at Matthew 24:31 and 25:31-32.
There is no doubt about it: the conclusion of the system of
things is the time when Jesus comes to judge the world after
the great tribulation. It is hard to figure out why the
brothers who lead the organization don’t see the connection between these
it is after the great tribulation that the separation of the
wheat and the weeds takes place. And that would mean that the
wheat and the weeds are still mixed together today and, as
yet, too difficult to tell apart. Notice that in Matt. 13:28,
the workers ask Jesus if they should do the separating then.
Jesus tell them “No; that by no chance, while collecting the
weeds, you uproot the wheat with them” (Matt. 13:29). It is
clear that before the tribulation, no harvesting (separation)
is permitted to take place. So we have to ask ourselves: Are
Jehovah’s Witnesses being taught to violate this command?
Or, at the very least, is the command being disrespected when
the Witnesses are encouraged to make a separation between true
and false Christians? (Keep in mind that, if Jesus and the
angels aren’t ready to separate them, then the Witnesses are
doing the separation without any divine help.)
one item on the Jehovah's Witnesses' list of identifying marks
is actually identified explicitly as a mark of discipleship in
the Bible. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are
my disciples, if you have love among yourselves” (John
13:35). Ironically, Jehovah's Witnesses are taught not to
follow this command in the way that Jesus meant it. Since the
leaders have rejected all other Christians on this earth,
calling them false Christians, the Witnesses think they only
have to show this love among their own group. Do you see how,
by redefining the word “Christian,” the Witness leaders
can get away with this? It isn’t right, and it’s in direct
disobedience of this command. It’s like a parent telling his
or her children to love one another, and then one child tells
another that he or she is not his “true” brother or
sister, so he doesn’t have to show love to that one.
nations and churches of Christendom were not, and are not,
Christian. They are not God’s servants. His inspired Word
says of them: 'They publicly declare they know God, but they
disown him by their works, because they are detestable and
disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.'—Titus
1:16." (pr, section 4, p. 19).
you might say that Jehovah’s Witnesses show love to everyone,
including those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. Do they? Do
they show love to other Christians when they deny their
Christian character? Do they show love to other Christians
when they withhold full and open friendship with them? Do they
show other Christians love when they tell them that their
heavenly Father rejects them and will not save them? Think
about it: are Jehovah’s Witnesses encouraged to treat other
Christians the same way as they treat fellow Witnesses? No.
The love is of a lesser degree. They are therefore partial in
like Jesus, the Christian manifests love toward mankind in
general, rightly he accords the kind of love that goes with
friendship only to those who are friends of God [i.e., Jehovah's
Witnesses]" (Insight, vol. 1, p. 872).
must also be on guard against extended association with worldly
people [non-JW's]. Perhaps it is a neighbor, a school friend, a
workmate, or a business associate. We may reason, ‘He respects
the Witnesses, he leads a clean life, and we do talk about the
truth occasionally.’ Yet, the experience of others proves that
in time we may even find ourselves preferring such worldly
company to that of a spiritual brother or sister."
(Watchtower, 2/15/94, p. 24).
person may appear friendly and agreeable. But if he does not
share your concern for Jehovah’s service or even believe in
the Bible’s promises, he is a bad associate."
(Watchtower, 7/15/91, p. 23)
is 'the burden of Jehovah' today? It is the weighty prophetic
message from God’s Word. It is heavy with doom, announcing
Christendom’s imminent destruction. As for Jehovah’s people,
we have the weighty responsibility to declare this 'burden of
Jehovah.' As the end draws near, we must tell all that
Christendom’s wayward people are a 'burden,' yes, 'O what a
burden!' to Jehovah God, and that he is soon going to rid
himself of this 'burden' by abandoning Christendom to
calamity" (Watchtower, 3/1/94, p. 12).
Ephesians 3, Paul talks about the division in the Ephesian
congregation and says that he prays to God that they all be
“rooted and established on the foundation” (Eph. 3:17) and
that they “know the love of the Christ which surpasses
knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). What follows shows that he is urging
members of the congregation, despite their differences of
opinion, to put up with one another and be united.
therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, entreat you to walk
worthily of the calling with which you were called, with
complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering,
putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to
observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of
peace. One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were
called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one
faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons, who is
over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:1-6).
is a crucial passage. Clearly, when Paul asks them to be
rooted on the foundation, and when he says that there is only
one Lord, one faith, one baptism, etc., he is trying to show
that they have a common bond, the belief in Jesus the Lord and
their faith in him. Maybe some of them were trying to make
distinctions and separations, saying that we shouldn’t view
everyone as being in the same faith or worshipping the same
Lord, or getting baptized with the same baptism, and that
their faith was better than that of the others (as Jehovah’s
Witnesses are taught). But Paul counsels them not to do this. When he
says that Christ’s love is more important than knowledge, he
is trying to get them to see that knowledge is secondary to
love, that unity among all Christians is vital. He says
something similar in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, part of which
reads as follows:
are a variety of ministries, and yet there is the same Lord;
and there are a variety of operations, and yet it is the same
God who performs all the operations in all persons” (1 Cor.
surely Paul was not speaking to only one specific denomination
or “ministry.” What great revelation would it be for Paul
to say that a group of people who all believed exactly the
same thing and worked together for the same exact purpose were
being helped by the same God? That would simply be a matter of
common sense. This needed to be said, because there
were differences of opinion and different “ministries” and
“operations” out there. He reminded them that despite
their diversity, they should regard themselves as all
working with and for the same God. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses truly
feel that way about other Christians? No, their teachers
push them to violate this counsel, and they do not recognize
that God is “over all and through all and in all.” By
making distinctions and a separation of Christians and
encouraging unity only among their own people, they are
causing and encouraging disunity among the larger Christian
brotherhood and are working against the spirit of God.
goes on to liken the brotherhood to a body and talk about how
the diverse members of Christ’s “body” all can work
together in unity (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor.12:12-31). What the
Witness leadership is doing is saying to other Christian groups, in
effect, “Because you are a foot, you are no part of the
body,” or “Because you are an eye, you are no part of the
body.” We have to remember that “God has set the members
in the body, each one of them, just as he pleased.”
is interesting that John 13:35 is the ONLY scripture that
starts out: “By this all will know you are my
disciples…,” and this is a scripture the Witnesses are
taught not to obey.
If an individual Witness decides to show love in a more
expansive way, they do this, not because of what they have been
taught, but in spite of it. It is a good thing that we will all
be judged individually according to our deeds.
exclusivism or sectarianism should no longer be practiced by
Jehovah's Witnesses. We should be one with our Christian
brothers worldwide. To be sure, when our brothers in other
denominations commit sins, we would be wise to counsel them
and criticize them in a loving way, as any family member
would. But we should not reject them simply for being in
another church, if we love God and neighbor.
may wonder whether Jehovah's Witnesses can continue to be
strong in their faith if they no longer believe they are the
only true religion. Well, of course they can! There is much to
be proud of in this religion. We are accomplishing much good
and will continue to do so. We are pleasing our God Jehovah
and helping people to turn their lives around for the better.
We are practicing a form of Christianity that we believe is
better in many ways than other forms. There is still much to
have faith in and much to love about this great group of