Jehovah s Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) are a nontrinitarian Christian group. They believe that some time after the death of the last apostle the Church departed from the original faith in major points (Great Apostasy). This non-acceptance is mutual; quite a number of non-Jehovah's Witness Christians believe that it is the Jehovah's Witnesses who have departed from the original faith.
Based on Jesus' command to teach and make disciples (see Matthew 28:19,20) their mission is to spread what they believe to be the original faith in Jehovah God, which started with Abel, who died as the first martyr (see Hebrews 11:4). Although their organization was formally founded in the late 1800s, they believe this faith was held by Jesus and has continued throughout history (see Hebrews and 12:1), with some elements of truth being preserved throughout the period of the Great Apostasy as well. They are known worldwide for their zealous proselytizing work.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that true Christianity was for the most part lost after the death of the first apostles, but began to be rediscovered in the 1870s by a group led by Charles Taze Russel and that in 1919 Jesus chose this group to exclusively represent his government; thus all (other) Christian groups have rejected Jehovah God.
In the 1870s, the group started out as a Bible study group in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. One individual in particular, Charles Taze Russell, was an important person. Born a Presbyterian, Russell had gained an appreciation for the importance of Bible study from his earlier involvement with the Millerites and related groups. They formed Watch Tower Society in 1881, and in 1884 it was incorporated with Russell as president. In 1914 they founded International Bible Students Association in the United Kingdom. Members of this religious group were in the beginning known as International Bible Students. In 1931, when Joseph Franklin Rutherford was president of the society, they adopted the name "Jehovah's Witnesses", , based on the passage at Isaiah 43:10, which reads, "'You are my witnesses,' is the utterance of Jehovah ..." (New World Translation) ("Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD . . ." - Authorized Version) ). This name differentiates them from other Christian denominations.
Main article: Organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses
The group's members are noted for their diverse but close-knit brotherhood, and their markedly different teachings and practice. They have often been the subject of religious and political controversy. As of August 2003, Jehovah's Witnesses has a worldwide practicing membership of more than 6.4 million active individuals. (http://www.jw-media.org/people/statistics.htm)The membership figures refer only to the number of registered 'publishers' or door-to-door evangelists who are active in their evangelizing work. Therefore, it can be said that their statistics are rather conservative.
Well over 16 million people attend annual the Lord's Supper (Memorial). They are among the top ten international religious bodies in the world (http://adherents.com/adh_rb.html#International).
Jehovah's Witnesses generally exhibit a high degree of commitment to their religion, attending meetings three times a week in their local Kingdom Halls and in private homes. Larger gatherings, called assemblies or conventions, are held, usually three times a year, in assembly halls that are owned or maintained by the Watchtower Society or rented public facilities, such as sports stadiums or auditoriums. The offices of the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses are located in Brooklyn, New York. There are over 100 Branch Offices (http://www.watchtower.org/how_to_contact_us.htm) in various countries and lands around the world. - See also Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Beliefs and Doctrines
Main article: Doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses
The beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses are markedly different from most other religions. Some noteworthy differences include the use of the name Jehovah, door-to-door evangelizing, free home Bible study, conviction that the present system of things will soon come to an end, not celebrating any national or religious holidays, refusing to accept blood transfusions, not participating in politics or military service, and separation from all other religions, including all other Christian faiths.
The teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses differ from most Christian groups, in that they reject the doctrines of the Trinity, immortality of the soul and eternal conscious punishment of the wicked in hell.
Jehovah's Witnesses and other Religions
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah is the only true God and the Bible is His inspired Word. As support, they cite Jesus’ statement, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus instructed his followers to “worship with spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
It follows then that they maintain that any religious teachings that are in direct contradiction with their understanding of the “truth” revealed in the Bible are lies. They maintain that religions that teach such doctrines do not represent Jehovah and are false religions. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all “false religions” form a worldwide conglomerate embracing all religions whose teachings and practices do not conform to the true worship of Jehovah, the only true God. It is their belief that it is this world empire of false religion that is referred to at Revelation 17:5 and 18:2 as “Babylon the Great.” Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not involve themselves in interfaith movements.
Other Christian groups' attitude towards Jehovah's Witnesses
Most adherents of the great number of other Christian denominations agree with Jehovah's Witnesses that they differ in a number of central doctrines. They too usually come to the conclusion that the differences in doctrine are too grave to consider each other as "brothers and sisters in Christ". So Jehovah's Witnesses and non-JW Christians (who believe in the same Bible) frequently come to the same conclusion that both these faiths are not mutually compatible and both sides believe that they are right in their interpretation of the Bible and the other one is not, that they are true Christians and the other one is not. A middle ground cannot be found.
Jehovah's Witnesses make vigorous efforts to spread their beliefs throughout the world in a variety of ways, with particular emphasis on the written word. The Bible is their prime source of doctrine:
Their teachings are presented through a wide variety of books, magazines and other publications. Their publications make extensive use of references and quotations from the Bible. They are perhaps best known for their use of a particular pair of monthly journals:
Both The Watchtower and Awake! are published simultaneously in dozens of languages. At their yearly conventions, new books, brochures, and other items pertaining to the religion's current doctrine are usually released. Additionally, a number of audio- and videocassettes have been produced featuring various aspects of the group's beliefs and practices. Recent years have seen a proliferation of material available on their website (http://www.watchtower.org/current_topics.htm).
Opposition to Jehovah's Witnesses
Throughout their history, their beliefs, doctrines and practices have met controversy and opposition among other religions including Christian groups. Political and religious animosity against them has at times led to mob action and government oppression, including the targeting of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Holocaust and widespread criticism from those of other faiths.
Other court cases involving the Jehovah's Witnesses had less favorable outcomes.
Controversy has also arisen over the Witnesses' refusal of blood transfusions and organ transplants, even for children. All active, baptized Jehovah's Witnesses carry personal identification cards with advance medical directives explaining their position regarding blood transfusions, as well as their wishes regarding alternative treatment (i.e., use of blood fillers or substitutes, etc.) should major loss of blood occur.
Many criticise the organization's practice of excommunicating - termed "disfellowshipping" - members. Jehovah's Witnesses whose family members have been disfellowshipped are discouraged to have contact with the disfellowshipped family member except on extreme occasions, such as the passing of a family member. This does not apply to disfellowshipped children living in the same house as Witness parents.
Many also view door-to-door evangelizing as an invasion of privacy; some people even pretend to not be at home when the Witnesses stop by. Although uncommon, hate crimes have occurred against Jehovah's Witnesses because of their beliefs and practices. In spite of this, many people are cordial to the Witnesses and admire their commitment to their faith.
Hostility from traditional, fundamentalist and evangelical Christians has been common, primarily because of this group's rejection of many of the doctrines of mainstream Christian groups. For example, they teach that Jesus Christ is God's first creation and that the Holy Spirit is not a person but God's active force. Many have been critical of publicized, but unfulfilled predictions of the "end times".
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