Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian?

I have recently been studying the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) blood taboo as part of my work on the cultural history of death and the body. I have been grateful for the vistas opened for me by certain Witnesses into the intellectual and spiritual life of this remarkably complex community, however much it does not represent the religion I would choose for myself and my family. Just today it struck me to wonder whether outsiders consider them Christian. What’s the verdict from the Mormon Blogdom? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian? Please explain your thinking rather than simply stating yes or no. If they are as Christians as Mormons, what does that say about how Christian Mormonism is? Does it matter?

Comments

  1. I say yes, they are Christians but in the same way that Mormons absolutely believe in Christ but a Christ of a different context than mainstream Christianity.

    I’ve had a few JW friends and they were wholly converted to Christ as their redeemer.

  2. Latter-day guy says:

    No, of course not. If they don’t believe in Christ exactly the same way we do… wait a minute… I seem to be channeling the spirit of Ed Decker, sorry.

  3. I asked Daniel Peterson at an SMPT meeting if someone should be called a Christian if they believed in the historical person of Jesus Christ (including his death, burial, and resurrection), but believed that the Father was a big pumpkin in the sky.

    He affirmed.

  4. Mike Parker says:

    Answering this question heavily depends on how one defines “Christian”.

    We LDSaints use it in the loosest way possible — “someone who believes Jesus is the Son of God” — and by that definition, yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians.

    Many of our Catholic and Protestant brethren, however, see the word “Christian” as being bound up in a complex set of beliefs, many of which come from post-New Testament creeds. Despite the differences between them, Catholics and Protestants agree on the creeds (at least the early ones), and by that definition, neither Mormons nor Jehovah’s Witneses are Christians.

    So they — and we — are Christians, but only in a nonorthodox, heretical sense.

  5. It seems to me we should ask them. Do they consider themselves Christian? Because as a Mormon Christian, it really gets my goat when people tell me what I do or don’t believe. I would never presume to decide if someone is or not Christian without asking–and I’d take them at their word.

  6. Are they Christians? Yes, just like the rest of them. Are they modern saints, of the house of Israel? No, not unless they repent and receive baptism.

  7. Rob Van Dam says:

    I agree with the foregoing comments. However, exactly for the reason that Mike mentions, most Mormons are probably much more open to saying yes than I imagine you would get if you polled an equal number of “mainstream” Christians.

    Unfortunately, I’ve never had any close friends that were Jehovah’s Witnesses, only casual acquaintances plus the occasional missionaries. But those few interactions have certainly left me with a positive impression and a certainty that Jehovah’s Witnesses would qualify under my personal definition as Christians.

    My personal definition: if you believe you are a Christian and your fruits (generally) bear that out, I can’t and won’t argue.

  8. Aaron Brown says:

    It is not wholly unreasonable to define “Christian” in such a way as to exclude groups that flatly deny the divinity of Jesus. Isn’t this what JWs do? So I can understand how some might want to exclude them from the Christian camp.

    Of course, some find the plurality of Gods, the rejection of the Trinity or various other LDS deviations from orthodoxy as equally anathema, but Mormonism does admit to the divinity of Christ. I would think it would be easier to exclude JDubs than Mormons.

    That said, I don’t concern myself with the boundaries of the term, and so I would say that JWs are Christian.

    Aaron B

  9. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 8 Actually, Mormonism deviates from Protestant and Catholic Christianity more than JW theology does. I think that most other Christians view both equally heretical, though, and you can throw in the Christian Scientists to boot. The Evangelicals in particular are quite concerned with who is and isn’t a “real” Christian.

    Bbell, can you poll your Evangelical colleagues down there and let us know who they consider less Christian, the LDS or the JWs?

  10. sigh. another “Is x a christian” post? If we spent more time trying to act christian instead of defining it we’d all be better off.

  11. Latter-day guy says:

    But ronito, how can we behave like Christians if we don’t know how to define it.

  12. This will be a very useful discussion when we face the final judgment and it’s 144,000 question multiple choice test on theology. Just think what would happen if you got one answer wrong. Obviously, only those who can answer every question correctly are Christians.

  13. Latter Day dude.

    One must kill to dissect.

  14. This is the best answer, by far:

    #5

    It seems to me we should ask them. Do they consider themselves Christian? Because as a Mormon Christian, it really gets my goat when people tell me what I do or don’t believe. I would never presume to decide if someone is or not Christian without asking–and I’d take them at their word.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    I agree with Mike; it depends on how you define the word. Since I believe the public definition of the word is the loose one, then yes, JWs are Christians. Their theology is Arian, but Arius was a Christian, too.

    I remember teaching a group of kids at a Youth Conference once, and one of the young people made the assertion that JWs weren’t Christian. I think she was a little bit taken aback that I would defend the opposing view.

  16. Latter-day guy says:

    ronito, I prefer to look at it as a biopsy, or exploratory surgery. ;-)

  17. Costanza says:

    If they say they are Christians, they are Christians as far as I’m concerned.

  18. The techies out there will hearken back to the days when various people would look at an operating system and say, “That’s not really UNIX!” and the vendor would say, “but it meets all the certifications and looks like UNIX” and the techies would continually try to come up with new requirements all designed to show that said OS wasn’t really UNIX.

    In particular, the technies would say things like, “but I don’t care what it LOOKS and FEELS like, you don’t install manage it like other UNIX-like operating systems.” “And oh my, your hardware isn’t like our hardware — it’s closer to (gasp) a mainframe! Heretic! You’re destroying UNIX.”

    I am naturally suspicious of any organization, who in the course of self-definition, creates new categories that didn’t exist before, in order to exclude new members who matched the old description. And with that, I include Church members who say things like, “well, a *real* Mormon loves canned plums and whatnot”.

  19. In another sense of the word the only Christians are those who Christ claims. In this sense there will be Mormons who are NOT claimed by Christ and there will be JW’s who ARE claimed by Christ.

  20. Mike Parker: We LDSaints use it in the loosest way possible — “someone who believes Jesus is the Son of God”

    That is hardly the “loosest way possible” Mike. How about those theologically liberal Christians who believe Jesus was a great prophet, but a man nonetheless? By your definition here they aren’t Christians at all.

  21. It all depends on how you want to define Christian.

    Do you mean:

    Christian*1 – affirms that Jesus is the 2nd person in the Trinity and is of one substance with the other persons.

    Christian*2 – affirms the divinity of Jesus

    Christian*3 – affirms that Jesus is the Son of God

    Christian*4 – affirms to be a follower of Jesus

    These are all legit and commonly used definition. JW’s seem to fit definitions 3&4, while LDS fit 2,3&4. Evangelicals will claim 1-4; the pumpkin God people will probably accept 2-4; an agnostic Christian perhaps just 4.

  22. So, historically WBTS has maintained that Jehovah is the only God and have tried to disentangle Jesus and Trinity from that notion of Jehovah God, so one could argue that they are not Christian. However, at least the American Witnesses that I have met, while they work hard to disentangle themselves from fallen Christianity, do revere Jesus in a particular way. So if you were to ask many Witnesses (they’re called “publishers” internally, if they are active proselytizers, something like “active” LDS) whether they were Christian, they might say, We are Jehovah’s Witnesses, just like Christ was, but Christianity was fallen.

    So what would it mean to call them Christian (forget about evangelical “name calling” for a moment, what does this taxonomic urge mean?)? The WBTS (under Charles Taze Russell) clearly arose out of postbellum American millennialism, which is Christian “sectarianism,” but they hoped to move beyond it. You will not (generally, i’m sure there are exceptions) hear a Witness talking about their personal relationship with Jesus. Jehovah is their God.

  23. @17 – The only problem with that stance is when you have people who don’t meet the minimal requirements of an established group, yet call themselves members of that group.

    It’s fairly cut-and-dried who gets to call themselves a member of the Church, is it not? And it’s a binary classification to determine who is and who is permitted to enter the temple.

    The trouble with defining a Christian is that no one can agree on who gets to make the standards and what those standards are. So in sthat sense, you’re right — in the absence of any formal definition we should partly rely on self-definition. But where a formal definition exists for a substrain of Christianity, someone’s right to call themselves whatever they want disappears.

    I may call myself a Catholic. I may attend mass. But the moment they find out I’m a baptized Mormon, they have the right to say, “you’re no Catholic”.

    Then again, Elder Marlin Jensen did make reference to our Jewish Church members … so who knows what the definitions means anymore.

  24. ElGuapo says:

    Agree with #5, they are if they say they are. The whole thing about defining the borders of Christianity is just weird. Even two people within the same faith may have very different concepts of who Christ is, yet clearly they’re both “Christian.” Am I not a Christian if I always picture Jesus in a cowboy hat since reading The Backslider?

    There was a reverend in Michigan this week who wrote an editorial piece (http://www.livingstondaily.com) saying Mormons aren’t Christian. The responses in general were very supportive of the notion that Mormons are Christian if they say they are. It’s a dumb argument really, right up there with saying the BofM is false because it uses the word “adieu.”

  25. What about polygamists who call themselves Mormons? Who decides that one?

  26. StillConfused says:

    Ummm… aren’t they “Jehovah”s Witnesses?

  27. We might think of how Jesus defined his followers, or how his apostles defined them.

    Who would have been considered a Christian in Peter’s day?

  28. Krister Stendall, former Dean of Religion at Harvard University and Episcopal bishop of Stockholm, Sweden, has stated 3 rules which guide his participation on interfaith discussion and exploration of other religions. The first two are: 1) “If you’re going to ask the question as to what others believe, ask them – not their critics, not their enemies because what one tradition says of another is usually a breach of the 9th commandment – “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” It is important that we do not picture the other person’s faith in a manner they do not recognize as true; 2) “If you’re going to compare, don’t compare your bests with their worsts. Most think of their own tradition as it is at its best and they use caricatures of the others.”

  29. As with # 26, I doubt that Jehova’s Witnesses would want to be called Christians, since they call themselves Jehova’s Witnesses and not Christians.

    I personally have nothing against calling them Christians if they actually want that; after all, from my observation and from the materials I have read, they believe in Christ although they view key doctrines much differently than creedal Christians.

    Re # 9, MikeinWeHo, Latter-day Saints actually more closely resemble creedal Christians in some of the key doctrines such as the Resurrection and the Godhood of Jesus.

  30. MikeInWeho says:

    Look! The Jehovah’s Witnesses have stolen Moroni and painted him grey!

    http://www.watchtower.org/

    re: 29 I respectfully disagree with your point that the LDS more closely resemble creedal Christians than the JWs (which is a good thing, imo), but there are others in here far more qualified than me who can comment on that. They clearly refer to themselves as Christian and their faith as “True Christianity” all over their web site.

  31. Elijah Pruett says:

    Yes. WE Belive in Christ as savior but not a god or equal to Him. We belive that only 144,000 go to Heven. All good people will be saved to life on a new and improved earth.Mourning nor outcry will be no more. We are christan.

  32. I agree with smb (#22) – I grew up as a JW and the emphasis to me seemed to be on the Father, or the God of the Old Testament. On the other hand, they do pray in Jesus’s name, just like we do. It would be easy to label them Christians (whether they would accept that or not) because they believe in the Bible and in following Christ’s teachings. What more does it really take?

  33. WhosChristian? says:

    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often misunderstood . . Some accuse the Church of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion . . This article helps to clarify such misconceptions

    · Baptism: .

    Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. http://www.imj.org.il/eng/exhibitions/2000/christianity/ancientchurch/structure/index.html
    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. . Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and not allowing non-Christians to witness them

    · The Trinity: .

    A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration?

    The Nicene Creed”s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. . The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. . The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: “There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one.”

    Scribes later added “the Father, the Word and the Spirit,” and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. . . .He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. .

    Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. . Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. . The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts.

    · The Cross: .

    The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe the proper Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming.

    · Christ’s Atonement: .

    But Mormons don”t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. . They believe Christ’s atonement in Gethsemane and on the Cross applies to all mankind. . The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: . All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer.

    It”s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology , they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

    * * *

    · Christ-Like Lives: . . .The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . LDS Evangelical
    Attend Religious Services weekly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71% . . . . 55%
    Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life –
    extremely important .. 52. . . . . . . 28
    Believes in life after death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 . . . . . . 62
    Believes in psychics or fortune-tellers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 . . . . . . 5
    Has taught religious education classes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 . . . . . . 28
    Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 . . . . . . 22
    Sabbath Observance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 . . . . . . 40
    Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 . . . . . . 56
    Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 . . . . . . 19
    Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen
    (very supportive) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .65 . . . . . . 26
    Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping
    Teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality . . . . . 84 . . . . . . 35

  34. i believe that Jehovahs Witnesses are christian. They believe in jesus christ as the son of God. they believe that jesus is now ruling in the heavens with his father. jehovahs witnesses teach what the bible teaches, and may be strange to others of different faiths. the beliefs that jehovahs witnesses have do not contradict the bible.many people may think that they are a cult, however this is not true. personally i do not believe all religions are false and i dont believe that jehovahs witnesses are a false religion either.they may be the true one. who knows.

  35. Jordan F. says:

    Note that there are now two “jordans” around. Comment 34 was not me, though, fwiw. Though I do agree that JWs are Christians, and I admire their devotion. My secretary is a JW who uses her days off for missionary work. She is very dedicated.

  36. So many people commenting on the theology of the WatchTower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses who should be listening instead of talking.

    First, JWs DO NOT believe that Jesus Christ is the “only begotten Son of GOD”, as that statement of belief is understood by Christians in mainstream denominations.

    JWs believe that the “Logos” (John 1:1) was actually the “created” arch-angel named Michael, who supposedly was GOD’s first and only “creation”.

    JWs believe that all angels are “sons of GOD” –given that the Bible does on occasion refer to angels and even humans as “sons of GOD”.

    First, when JWs state that they believe that Jesus Christ is the “only begotten son of GOD”, they are really saying that Jesus Christ is a “son of GOD” in the exact same sense that every ANGEL is a “son of GOD”. [JWs fail to understand that angels and humans are occasionally spoken of as "sons of God" in an "adoptive" sense. Jesus Christ was NOT "adopted" by GOD. Jesus is the one and only actual "Son of GOD".]

    Second, when JWs state that they believe that Jesus Christ is the “only begotten” son of GOD, they are really saying that Jesus Christ was GOD’s first and only “creation”. [JWs are correct that the Logos did the "creating" of the universe, but they fail to understand that Jesus himself was "begotten" by GOD -- not "created". Humans "begat" other humans. Humans "creat" art, machinery, houses, etc.]

    In fact, JWs believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a 100% created human when he walked the earth. The only difference between the nature of Jesus and his disciples was that Jesus was a “perfect” man.

    Since JWs do not believe humans possess a separate soul, JWs believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a human created by God, who at his baptism was given the “memory”, personality, etc. of the Logos (Michael the ArchAngel). [The WatchTower Society has never explained this absurdity, but either Jesus and the Logos (Michael the ArchAngel) existed at the same time (for 30 years), or the Logos ceased to exist for the 30 years from the birth of Jesus until his baptism.]

    Since JWs do not believe humans possess a separate soul, JWs believe that when Jesus died that God “re-created” Michael the ArchAngel, and that Michael’s memory, personality, etc. (now enhanced by the human Jesus’s earthly experience) were re-installed. This “re-created” ArchAngel was then for the first time granted “divinity”, which JWs define simply to mean “immortality”.

    Thus, JWs believe that the human named Jesus totally ceased to exist at his death — except for his memories, etc. that were re-installed into the newer, better version of Michael the ArchAngel. [That WatchTower belief kinda makes one wonder why the Bible continued to refer to Michael as "Jesus" in the books of ACTS through REVELATION.]

    People who want to comment on the beliefs of JWs and the WatchTower Society need to bear in mind that using the English language as presented in the Webster’s Dictionary is useless. You actually need a WatchTower Dictionary, because JWs place a significantly different definition on nearly every theological term — if not common language:

    — “son of GOD” actually means every angel and every human, in an “adoptive” sense.

    — “only begotten” actually means “only created”.

    — “resurrected” actually means “re-created” with some other dead creature’s memory, personality, etc.

    This same semantical malarky occurs in nearly every theological topic. That is why:

    JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES ARE NOT CHRISTIANS!!!

  37. Aldo Guillault says:

    How can anybody possibly consider Jehovahs Witnesses christians if they openly deny the divinity of Jesus Christ? After all they believe that both LDS & Protestant christians are part of the catholic church harlot and are headed to hell if they dont become JW, and besides they happen to be the best magazine salesmen coming out of Brooklyn, New York!

    “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”
    1st John 2:22

  38. lovelymae says:

    JW’s do believe they are christian. they do not believe in a trinity, instead believeing that God and Jesus are seperate and not equal. this does not mean that they do not believe in jesus, or that they do not accept that his sacrafical death is what purchased them from sin. so I dont see how you could discount them as christians. and really, who are ANY of us to say who is a christian or not?

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