Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Return of the JW's

Saturday night the neighborhood JW's came to visit as scheduled. They are a sweet and friendly couple. (Unlike the last JW's who came by years ago, but that is another story.) Because they are so obviously sincere in their desire to serve God, I have always been as kind to them as I know how. So Saturday night I had cookies waiting when they stopped by. (Chocolate chip. Yes, with milk.)

And as much as I was ready to talk to them about who Christ is, I had determined to let them choose which topics we discussed since they had scheduled the visit, and to make sure that they could see that they are actual real human beings to me, not just debate opponents.

They got off to a very slow start. First, they let me know that they expected the world to end very soon, and that the beginning of the end was the year 1914. We went back and forth on the prophecies, especially on the question of immediacy. I was skeptical that 1914 had been such a special year, and while I would not be surprised to see Christ return now I would also not be surprised to see him wait for millenia more to come.

Next they wanted to explain that in hell there is no eternal torment, but that the condemned are eventually annihilated. I don't give annihilationists a hard time on general principles, since that's the most straightforward reading of some (but not all) of the texts dealing with what happens to those who are condemned.

They wanted to set up some Bible studies with me. I figured I owed it to them as human beings to mention that I'm a poor prospect for conversion. (I haven't yet been able to gauge whether they are good prospects for conversion to Christianity.) They said they would still like to schedule some Bible studies, and I said I would be willing to study the Bible with them.

From a debate standpoint the visit was very anticlimactic. The night mostly served to put the conversation on a more human level, leaving us in more productive conversation mode rather than adversarial debate mode..

I expect that everyone's tips and advice will come in handy ... as soon as they are ready to discuss something meatier than whether we are in the final days.


Mike said...

I have welcomed into my home a couple of young LDS missionaries in the same way you describe, treating them as fellow human beings loved by God. They have visited several times in the last few months even though I told them forthrightly that I would not convert.

Perhaps because I listen to them politely and ask questions without preaching at them, they find visiting me a relief from the usual Bible Belt treatment to which they are no doubt accustomed.

I wish I could give you a clever technique to try on your friends, but loving them simply and directly is all I can think to do in my own case. I'll follow comments here because I am open to suggestions as well.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Far too many of us have been taught to basically slam the door in their faces!


Milton Stanley said...

With the JW's the emphasis probably ought to be on the divinity of Jesus. The texts to zero in on are not only John 1:1 and 8:58, but also 18:4-8 where Jesus answers, "I am" (not, as most English translations give, "I am he.") and the revelation of the divine name literally knocks the crowd flat. Dealing with Chapter 18 goes better if you can bring the Greek text into the discussion.

P.S. an after-thought said...

I'm catching up on blogs...Back from my trip, although I haven't posted about it yet.

I've been receiving visits from the JW's for about 30 years. I found, at first, that it was a good challenge for me because I "believed" what I had been told, as they do. I needed to find why I had been taught about the Trinity, for example.

I see them as a sort of mission field that comes right to my door. I don't preach or even try to argue the verses, but I do like to express what is going on in my faith life and in my church life, so that they can see that people in other groups aren't just door-in-the-face-slammers. I don't let them get on to their spiel.

There are websites and books relating stories about ex-JW's, if you are interested in details.

But I know that I don't have what it takes to argue details of scriptures. And we aren't saved by Bible knowledge anyway. Since JW's define many key words differently than we do, when you argue, you might not actually be communicating. For example, what does it mean to "be saved?"

I do argue if they tell me that what I believe "isn't logical." For one thing, I think that God's mind is greater than my mind, so I don't think I can grasp His Mind or His logic! And Jesus often turned "logic" upside down. There are verses that speak to that issue.

JW's have a very set social structure, so that they are kept in the group by the doctrine but also by the fear of being ostracized if they leave. They appear to be very generous and giving people, at least within their own group. However, the visits are on THEIR schedule, with their agenda, so not quite as open and generous as it seems at first.

A friend once pointed out to me that their tracts and statements consist of subtle hate literature. IE, they come into the home of a stranger and start pointing out what is wrong with that person's belief system and Christianity in general.

Treating JW's with love and respect is, I'm sure, not what they are used to when they come up to a door. One wonders if there are brownie points for rejection.

They used to come two at a time. Now they come with four people; two stay in the car and wait. I find this quite odd. It puts pressure on the two in the house to not talk too long and certainly my be a waste of time for those in the car.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thanks for the comments. At this point I plan to talk to them. Whether that's a good idea or not time will tell, but I trust that so long as I treat them with the love of Christ it won't be time wasted, no matter what else happens.

PS, welcome back. Looking forward to the pics and travelogue whenever you're rested. Your comment reminded me of is this: you can often see truth from several angles, and here's an angle to consider: They target Christians -- and specifically Christians -- for conversion. Why should that be? I think it's because their views only make sense against the backdrop of Christianity and cannot stand alone. My brother says the fastest way to get rid of a JW is to say "We're Jewish." Now, if the JW's are really who they think they are, the true witnesses to the God of Israel and a human Messiah, they ought to be especially glad to try for Jewish converts. But according to my brother (whose wife is Jewish), the line "We're Jewish" is 100% guaranteed JW-repellant. (Mormon repellant, too). If these people were the True Remnant with the Right Understanding that they think they are, if they were who they claim to be, they would be as happy to convert a Jew as a Christian. If they really have nothing to say to anyone except Christians -- that smacks of a predatory view that takes advantage of confusions inherent in a particular belief system (i.e. Trinity), but is not an independently viable belief in its own right. If Christianity ever ceased to exist, I suspect that the JW's and Mormons would die out as a movement as there would be no core belief to provide the background for the opportunistic fringes.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF