Doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses

From Academic Kids

The beliefs and doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses are based on the studies conducted by its founders and members, infused with a Biblical moral code and a strong commitment to evangelizing.

Charles Taze Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, acknowledged his indebtedness to others, stating: "Our work . . . has been to bring together these long scattered fragments of truth and present them to the Lord’s people—not as new, not as our own, but as the Lord’s. . . . We must disclaim any credit even for the finding and rearrangement of the jewels of truth." He further stated: "The work in which the Lord has been pleased to use our humble talents has been less a work of origination than of reconstruction, adjustment, harmonization." Many of the Witnesses' doctrines differ greatly from those of most other Christian groups.

Contents

Beliefs about God

Witnesses emphasize the importance of God's name, Jehovah, which is an English form of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. The Tretragrammaton is used extensively throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, or "Old Testament"), appearing some 7,000 times in the original text.

Citing Christ's words in the Lord's Prayer, "hallowed be thy name", as well as other biblical passages, they believe that "our salvation is closely linked with a proper appreciation of God's name." [1] (http://www.watchtower.org/library/na/article_06.htm). The Witnesses' New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures reflects this emphasis by using the name Jehovah in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures ("New Testament").

Jehovah's Witnesses teach that the Tetragrammaton originally appeared in some places in the autographs of the New Testament, but was subsequently removed by scribes. There is currently no proof that this claim is true. What they use to support this claim is that some ancient fragments of the Septuagint Greek Old Testament contain the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew letters. They do not explain how the Tetragrammaton being in the Septuagint is related to it possibly being in the autographs of the New Testament. They do acknowledge, however, that no extant NT manuscript contains the Tetragrammaton.

They further note that certain church fathers discuss the Tetragrammaton. For instance, Origen discussed the use of the Tetragrammaton in his Hexapla stating that "in the most accurate LXX (Septuagint) manuscripts THE NAME occurs in Hebrew characters." Again, the relationship between the Septuagint and New Testament autographs that the Jehovah's Witnesses are trying to make is unclear.

According to them, the Bible teaches that God has four cardinal attributes: love, justice, wisdom, and power.

Unlike most other Christian churches, the Witnesses reject the doctrine of the Trinity, holding it to be of pagan origin and out of accord with the Scriptures. They believe that Jehovah God (the Father) and Jesus (the Son) are distinct spirit persons; that Jesus is a separate spirit being created by God and is in no sense God's equal; and that the holy spirit is not a person, but God's spirit or God's active force.

Should You Believe in the Trinity? (http://www.watchtower.org/library/ti/)

The Bible

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible is God's main current communication to mankind (Proverbs 4:18), and that it contains vital information about God, his purposes and his requirements (Romans 11:33).

Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Bible to be harmonious in content and teach that its central theme is: The sanctification of Jehovahs name and the vindication of his sovereignty by means of the Messianic kingdom, with Jesus Christ as King.

Witnesses favor a literal interpretation of most historical Bible passages, except when the text obviously is a prophecy, or a parable (e.g. the Book of Revelation, or the parables of Jesus). Thus, they accept the literalness of the Genesis account of the Flood, and the historicity of Bible personages such as Noah, Samson and Jonah. (Hebrews 11:7, 32; Matthew 12:40, 41) For a discussion of Jehovah's Witnesses views regarding the Genesis creation account see the "Creation and the Flood" section below.

Although the group has used a variety of translations over the decades, and continues to do so, they generally use a translation of the Bible that they commissioned in the mid-twentieth century, known as the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT).

The Witnesses' attitude to other Bible translations is expressed in the foreword to The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, a version of the New Testament that includes the Greek text with a literal, word-for-word English translation underneath. It states: "From the time of the Roman Catholic clergyman John Wycliffe, of the 14th century, until the final decades of this 20th century, many English translations of the inspired writings of Christ's disciples have been made. All of these have had their own commendable features. They have considerably met the needs of the day for a rendering of God's Word into the common language of the people. Much good has been accomplished by them and yet will be. However, it is to be noted that, while each of them has its points of merit, they have fallen victim to the power of religious traditions in varying degrees."

Bible study is actively encouraged by the group. A portion of the Bible (usually 4-5 chapters) is selected for discussion at their weekly Theocratic Ministry School Meeting. Witnesses are also encouraged to read the Bible daily.

Creation and the Flood

According to Jehovah's Witnesses, the biblical view of creation encompasses all things living and non-living and extends to the very creation of the Universe itself. They believe that Jehovah is the First Cause of creation, bringing all things into existence.

They believe that Jesus (in his pre-human existence as a spirit creature) was the first direct creation of God and that, after that, Jesus was actively involved in the creation of all other things. (Colossians 1:16; see also Christology below)

  • "[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." - Colossians 1:15 (compare also verses 16-17)

Witnesses' understanding of the Bible's account of creation differs from many "creationist" groups in two important ways. First, they do not believe in a "young earth", created only a few thousand years ago; they acknowledge that the universe has existed for billions of years, believing the creative days took place after the creation of heaven and earth described in Genesis 1:1.

Second, they do not believe that the "days" referred to in the Bible book of Genesis, chapter 1, were literal 24-hour days, but are periods of time. In the 1940s this was set at 7,000 years, as time passed, they understood that this time could encompass a much longer time. The Hebrew word yohm, "day", in Genesis chapter 1, is used in two senses. First, 1:4, 5 is talking about the difference between light and darkness, and God is calling the light Day, but the darkness Night. Hereafter, however, the word is used for units of time of varying length. It could even mean a measure of distance as in Numbers 11:31; or a time period contemporaneous with a particular person as in "the days of Uzziah." (Isaiah 1:1) Back to days of creation! All days are said to have a beginning and an end, except for the last day. According to Paul, this 7th day was still continuing when he lived. (Hebrews 4:1-10) and could therefore not have been a 24 hour day. In Genesis 2:4 talks about "the day when Jehovah God made earth and heaven." (NWT) Also, God is not affected by our solar orbits and cycles. Therefore, thousands of years can be as one long continuing day to God. (Psalm 90:2, 4; 2 Peter 3:8)

Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept the modern theory of evolution of species based upon Darwin's theory of natural selection. They do not believe that life on Earth arose as a result of purely naturalistic processes, but instead hold that the first human, Adam, and indeed all things, were created by God.

Witnesses acknowledge the existence of microevolution, or progressive developments and adaptation within the limits of a 'kind' (a word used in the Genesis account). They say Noah took a limited number of kinds aboard the ark, and that these diverged after the flood - for example, a 'big cat' 'kind' would have diverged into lions and tigers. They do not accept that one 'kind' may evolve to the extent it is no longer fertile with the original animal, and thus reject macroevolution or speciation.

As Witnesses believe that the chronology contained in the Bible is accurate, they date Adams creation as occurring 4026 Before Common Era and the flood as taking place in 2370 Before Common Era.

Beliefs About Christ

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is the perfect reflection of Jehovah's very being (Hebrews 1:3); God's only begotten Son. They believe He was born of the virgin Mary as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy; to bring the means of salvation to the whole world, for the first time ever, not just to the Israelites. After his ministry on Earth, his crucifixion on the stauros, subsequent resurrection, and exaltation to the "right hand of God" (Acts 2:33-36), He was given authority over all things (1 Cor. 15:27, 28). They believe Jesus is 'a god', even a 'Mighty God', and the Prince of Peace (a title applied to him from Isaiah 9:6). They hold that Jesus did not rise from the dead in his physical body, but was raised "not a human creature, but a spirit." They believe that the Greek term theos, applied to Jesus at John 1:1 is correctly interpreted to mean: "divine", or of a "divine nature" that exactly mirrors the Fathers' (Note that John 1:1 ontologically differentiates between the Word, and the One whom the Word is with). Jehovah's Witnesses reject the Trinity doctrine as well as the notion that Jesus is Jehovah (Oneness). As a result, many mistakenly conclude that Jehovah's Witnesses deny the divine nature of the Christ Jesus. Witnesses teach that He is "the firstborn of all creation" (Proverbs 8:22; Colossians 1:15; Revelations 3:14) in a literal sense as opposed to the orthodox notion of His being "Eternally Begotten." They also believe that he is Michael the Archangel (literally "The Preeminent Angel") in his pre-human form spoken of at Jude 9.

Religious Symbols

The group categorically rejects the use of images or icons in worship as they believe this violates Biblical prohibitions against idolatry:

Exodus 20:4, 5: "You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them." (Jerusalem Bible) - from the Ten Commandments
1 Corinthians 10:14: "My beloved ones, flee from idolatry." (NWT)
Note: Jehovah's Witnesses believe that an idol is any image or symbol that is an object of intense devotion, veneration, or worship.

Regarding the cross as a religious symbol, there are three additional reasons why Jehovah's Witnesses do not use it:

1 - They consider that the instrument of Christ's suffering and death should not be viewed with reverence, even as most people would not love or venerate a knife or a revolver that had been used to murder a loved one.
2 - They believe that Christ was executed on a stake, rather than a cross. Accordingly, the New World Translation renders the Greek word σταυρός (staurs) as "torture stake" rather than the customary translation of "cross". They maintain that stauros has the same basic meaning, of a single piece of timber or pole, as it did in other ancient Greek texts such as the writings of Homer and other classics. They frequently refer to other sources, such as W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary, to support their claims.
3 - They reject the cross because of its pagan origins and its use in ancient Egypt and Babylon.

Kingdom of God

Jehovah's Witnesses believe God's Kingdom is a real heavenly government, established in 1914 and headed by Jesus Christ, along with a group of 144,000 faithful Christians (Dan. 7:13, 27; Lu 22:28; Rev. 14:1-4). They refer to their witnessing activity as "preaching 'this Good News of the Kingdom'" (Matthew 24:14). This Kingdom or government will rule over the earth and restore the earth to its previous Edenic condition (Ps. 37:29; Mt 6:9, 10; Rev. 5:9, 10). At Armageddon, Jehovah God will remove wicked persons from the Earth once and for all and God's Kingdom will replace all human kingdoms, or governments. (Ps 37:9-11, 29; Dan. 2:44; Rev. 12:7-12)

Baptism

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that "Christian water baptism is an outward symbol that the one being baptized has made a complete, unreserved, and unconditional dedication through Jesus Christ to do the will of Jehovah God." (Reasoning From the Scriptures, page 54.) This is viewed in connection with their understanding of Jesus command to his followers at Matthew 28:19: "Go therefore and make disciples . . . baptizing them."

  • They believe that baptism involves complete immersion in water.
  • Because infants are incapable of making a personal dedication to God, Infant baptism is not practiced among Jehovah's Witnesses.
  • They do not recognize baptisms from any other church and so converts from all other churches must be baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
NOTE: This is true even concerning baptisms of churches that practice Believers Baptism (e.g. Baptists, Pentecostals, Adventists). Although these churches have a similar understanding of the meaning of the term "baptism", Jehovah's Witnesses consider that other doctrinal differences are so great that baptisms performed in these churches do not represent a "complete, unreserved, and unconditional dedication ... to Jehovah God" made in accurate knowledge. This would be so whether the baptism was of an infant or a "Believer."

Salvation

Jehovah's Witnesses reject the doctrine of universal salvation. They teach that salvation requires faith in Jesus Christ. They believe that salvation is a free gift from God, and that Christian works are evidence of their genuine faithindeed, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:24). They reject the concept "once saved, always saved," believing that salvation will be granted to those who endure faithfully until the end. (Matthew 10:22) Jehovah's Witnesses believe that people currently alive must be actively associated with their religion alone, and become one of them as an essential requirement for salvation. Their literature states: "A third requirement is that we be associated with God's channel, his organization. . . Jehovah is using only one organization today to accomplish his will. To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it." (Watchtower 15 Feb 1983 p. 12) They also believe faithful Christians and worshippers of God in the past will also gain salvation via a resurrection, along with the non-Christian resurrected who then choose to serve God.

The group rejects the doctrine of predestination or fate, believing that all intelligent creatures are endowed with free will.

Witnesses believe and teach that only 144,000 Christians who are of the "anointed" class will go to heaven, and when there will take part in a heavenly government with Jesus Christ as King. This is based on their literal interpratation of the texts at Revelation 7:4; 14:1-3:

"I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . And they are singing as if a new song . . . and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth." - (NWT) (See also Rev. 7:4-8)

Only those in the anointed class partake of the unleavened bread and wine at the yearly commemoration of Christ's death, commonly referred to as the Memorial. (Compare with the Eucharist.)

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the hope for mankind is to live forever on a paradise earth. The hope for the dead is the resurrection to life on the restored earth.

Eschatology: the Condition of the Dead and Judgment Day

Christ's presence (Greek: parousia) is considered to be his invisible rule from heaven and is believed to have begun in 1914. Witnesses believe that Jesus' prophecy recorded in Matthew 24 have been being fulfilled since that time. They identify the same period with the 'last days' referred to by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

The group teaches that the dead are unconscious, citing Ecclesiastes 9:5, "the dead know not any thing." They view death as the end of the existence of a "soul" or person. Right from their movement's inception, they have rejected the concept of a literal hell fire as repugnant and incompatible with God's qualities, and interpret the references to fire in connection with the fire that destroyed garbage outside Jerusalem, ie., a synonym of destruction, not punishment. Their doctrine has no equivalent of the Catholic concept of purgatory.

Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in an immortal soul that is separate from the body, but rather understand the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psyche - both often translated as soul - to mean the person as one indivisible whole. Similarly, they make a sharp distinction between the soul and the spirit (Hebrew: ruach, Greek: pneuma), considering the latter to be the impersonal life-force in every human, sustained by breathing.

This has clear consequences for their beliefs about the afterlife. They believe that people who die merely cease to exist, except it be in God's memory. They therefore consider the resurrection to be a re-creation of the person.

A seemingly distinctive feature of Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine is their belief that the earth will continue to exist and be inhabited forever. The word "seemingly" is used because most people do not realize that this belief is also taught by some other Protestant denominations and by the Roman Catholic church (with some slight variations). In their view, God's intention is for faithful humans to eventually live forever in a state of robust and perfect physical health on earth, which will have been restored to a state of splendor similar to the Garden of Eden. They believe that literally 144,000 faithful Christians will be taken to heaven to be Governors with Christ for 1,000 years. - Revelation 14:1-3; Revelation 20:6.

The Devil will be sealed for 1,000 years in the 'Pit' and the Just shall learn of God's ways along side those humans whom God judges deemable to be resurrected to a new life in Paradise. After the 1,000 year period, all humans living within this paradise shall achieve perfection as was intended from the start, and the Devil shall be released for one last attempt to tempt those perfect humans on Earth with the temptations that once lured them when they were imperfect.

The group teaches that all other human beings, except for those deemed by God to be incorrigibly wicked, will be restored to life (resurrected) in the thousand-year period directly after Armageddon, known as Judgement Day. During Judgement Day, the dead will be resurrected, "righteous and unrighteousness" (Acts 24:14), and that people will have the opportunity to learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9, 10). God will provide a new communication to humankind to augment the Bible, and gradually restore all humans to a state of physical perfection. At the end of judgment day, there will be a final test when Satan the Devil will be let out of his prison (Rev. 20:3). Those rebelling against God at that time, or even earlier during judgment day, will be destroyed, along with the Devil (Revelation 20:7-10). Those who fall to their old ways shall be eternally eliminated, given the 'second and final death from which there is not escape', the Devil shall be eliminated for good at the hands of Jehovah and the just, good, and perfect humans shall inherit everlasting life on Paradise Earth to worship Jehovah and to learn fully of the His Purposes for them as 'new Scrolls shall be opened' and many new things shall be learned.

Problem of Evil

Central to the Witnesses' basic theodicy or premise for explaining the existence of evil is the existence of a literal Satan, the Devil, who has made certain accusations (implied in the serpent's words to Eve in Genesis 3), casting aspersions on God's sovereignty (or right to rule) over humans. It is therefore considered that God is allowing time to pass to make it evident whose way of doing things is superior and that man shall choose of his own free will to follow Jehovah. A second issue brought up explicitly in the book of Job, is whether humans will be faithful to God even in difficult circumstances.

Moral Standards

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible strictly forbid all sexual relations outside of marriage and they oppose all homosexual activities. (See Homosexuality and Christianity) Only when one's spouse has commited adultery can one of Jehovah's Witnesses divorce and remarry. Other circumstances where divorce is allowed but remarriage is not an option include such situations as a violent marriage. They are against polygamy in any case. In countries where polygamy is common, men are required to separate from all wives but their first before being eligible for baptism.

Moderate use of alcohol is viewed as acceptable, but drunkenness is forbidden, along with all recreational use of drugs, including tobacco.

All forms of gambling are prohibited.

Witnesses view dating, or courtship, not simply as a recreational activity, but as a means of getting to know a prospective marriage partner. Courtship is therefore not taken lightly. Courting couples are encouraged to avoid potentially compromising situations that could lead to fornication.

Parties and other festivities are usually supervised by elders (overseers of the congregation), ministerial servants (assistants of elders), or any other experienced and/or well-respected congregational member.

Members are expected to dress modestly.

A major focus of Witness publications and meetings is the development of Christlike personality traits. Physical or verbal aggression and the use of threats or obscenities are strongly discouraged.

Strict honesty is expected in all aspects of life. They are strictly expected to obey the government, as long as it is not against their beliefs. Witnesses are expected to pay taxes conscientiously, avoid lying and stealing, even in relatively minor matters and give their employers an honest day's work.

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Question of Blood

Based on their understanding of the Bible admonition to "keep abstaining from blood" (Acts 15:28, 29), Jehovah's Witnesses refrain from accepting any blood transfusion or whole blood products. 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. - see also Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:10. This has been a controversial issue as Witnesses refuse blood transfusions, for themselves but also for their minor children. As organ transplants are not specifically mentioned in this prohibition, JW's believe that is a matter that is up to an individual's conscience.

See Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses: Medicine and Health for additional information on this subject.

Development of Doctrine

A comparative study of New Testament texts shows that many doctrinal points became established as Christian teaching very gradually. The official dogma and policies of most religious organizations, the Catholic Church and many Protestant groups included, have developed and been modified over time. Similarly, Witness teachings and practices have evolved over the past century to reach their present form. This has generated considerable controversy among critics, who maintain that Jehovah's Witnesses have made many significant changes to their teachings over the past century.

Since Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrines have been openly published for over 120 years in The Watchtower magazine, all changes in teaching are a matter of record. Rather than concealing these doctrinal developments, the organization often presents them in a positive light, as evidence of the fact that God is blessing their efforts to understand the Bible better. A Bible verse frequently quoted in this context is Proverbs 4:18: "The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established."

The book Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, published by the group in 1993, discusses the history of their religion including changes in doctrinal issues, acknowledging that doctrinal changes have been necessary and outlining many of the former beliefs and expectations held by the group. It states (page 709) that their understanding of the Bible gets progressively clearer at the proper time and that because of human error or misguided zeal, it has been necessary for them to adjust their viewpoint from time to time. It also includes photographic material showing that Witnesses at the beginning of the century celebrated Christmas and accepted the use of the cross as a symbol of Christianity. Additionally, The Watchtower of 15 May 1995 listed over 20 doctrinal changes that had been made over the years.

Progressive Development of Witness Teachings - A Timeline

Doctrines in place since the movement's inception (1870's):

  • Inerrancy of the Bible.
  • God's name is Jehovah.
  • Rejection of the Trinity doctrine.
  • Jesus a created being.
  • Holy spirit not a person
  • Soul not immortal
  • No hell fire
  • Ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ; belief in Jesus necessary for salvation.
  • Spiritism rejected
  • Fornication, adultery, homosexual activity viewed as sinful
  • Clergy-laity distinction viewed as unscriptural

Changes in viewpoint that took place up to 1939:

  • 1921 - Vaccines banned.
  • 1927 - Celebration of Christmas and birthdays abandoned
  • 1928 - Great pyramid has nothing to do with God's purpose
  • 1930 - Moved Christ's enthronement as King from 1874 to 1914
  • 1931 - Adoption of the name 'Jehovah's Witnesses'
  • 1932 - Application of restoration prophecies to Christian congregation, rather than to the literal Jews
  • 1935 - Identity of "great crowd" of Revelation chapter 7 .
  • 1936 - Use of the cross as a religious symbol abandoned.
  • 1939 - Complete neutrality in worldly affairs

Significant Changes in Doctrine 1940 - present.

  • 1944 - disfellowshipping (although this had already been practised in some form earlier)
  • 1945 - Blood transfusion forbidden (clarification of existing stance on blood and specific application to transfusions)
  • 1952 - Vaccines allowed. It was clarified that the Witnesses' position on blood does not apply to vaccination (some Witnesses were already accepting vaccinations at least as early as World War II.)
  • 1962 - Identity of the "superior authorities" of Romans 13:1.
  • 1967 - Organ transplants classed as "cannibalism" (Watchtower 15 Nov 1967)
  • 1973 - Tobacco use viewed as incompatible with membership (it had been strongly discouraged throughout the prior history of the organization).
  • 1980 - Organ transplants acceptable
  • 1995 - Meaning of the term "this generation" referred to at Matthew 24:34 changed
  • 1995 - Time of fulfillment of Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats.

Significance of Doctrinal Changes

If there is little doubt that Jehovah's Witnesses have changed some of their doctrines over the past century, there is considerable controversy over the significance of the changes.

Critics feel that the nature and extent of the changes is such that the organization's claim to be uniquely guided by God's spirit is disproved and seriously problematic in view of the degree to which adherents are urged to rely on the Watchtower organization's guidance in the interpretation of Scripture.

Watch Tower literature recognizes that doctrinal changes have taken place but states: "Matters on which corrections of viewpoint have been needed have been relatively minor when compared with the vital Bible truths that they have discerned and publicized." (Reasoning from the Scriptures, page 136-137)

Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses' publications, while recognizing that adjustments have been made, emphasize that the core elements of their belief are constant. They maintain that their understanding of the Bible gets clearer at the proper time, just as the understanding of doctrine among Christ's first-century disciples was also clarified gradually. Witnesses see these changes as evidence of divine blessing on their efforts to understand the Bible.

In general, Witnesses take a positive view of such adjustments. A new explanation of some verse or topic in The Watchtower magazine is likely to generate enthusiasm and interest, as well as considerable discussion. It is expected that further study of the Bible will result in an improved understanding, which of course necessitates alteration in viewpoints.

Some alleged 'doctrinal changes' are simply differences in the interpretation of a particular verse, with few practical implications. For instance, in 1962, The Watchtower identified the 'superior authorities' of Romans 13:1 as the worldly governments, rather than God and Christ as had previously been stated. However, this had little practical effect, as the Witnesses both before and after this change always considered it necessary to obey the laws of the land, unless these conflict with God's laws. Similarly, in 1988, The Watchtower reevaluated the Bible texts referring to Sodom and Gomorrah, and concluded that the inhabitants of those cities would not be resurrected. This position differed from what had previously been published. Most Witnesses would not however feel that adjustments of this type make a substantial difference to their lives or to their relationship with God.

Other 'doctrinal changes' are really clarifications, in response to developments in the world in general. For instance, as early as 1927, The Watchtower discussed the sacredness of blood. It did not discuss blood transfusions specifically, as the practice was still in its infancy. As transfusions became commonplace during World War II, the organization confirmed that its stance on the sacred nature of blood applied to transfusions too.

Importance of Doctrine

Most Jehovah's Witnesses are well-grounded in the doctrines of their religion and are able to explain what they believe and what they consider to be the basis for these beliefs in the Bible. Before baptism, they go through a period of weekly study of doctrinal matters, and doctrines are discussed frequently at their congregational meetings.

Jehovah's Witnesses and other Religions

Witnesses believe that there is only one true religion - that taught by Jesus Christ in the Bible. They consider that their faith is a restoration of this first-century Christianity. They believe that the existence of absolute truth precludes the possibility that different religions, confessing a multitude of conflicting doctrines, are equally acceptable. Hence, they do not participate in interfaith initiatives or the ecumenical movement.

While considering the teachings of other religious organizations to be in error, Jehovah's Witnesses recognize that there are sincere people in all religious traditions and respect the right of each person to choose his religion. Young persons who are Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged to respect their parents, even if one or both does not share their convictions.

Reference & Research Materials

Past editions of The Watchtower and Awake! are available to Witnesses in book form (bound volumes). These remain unchanged and are therefore a historical resource on the precise details of what the Witnesses taught at the time of their publication and has a large collection of articles on various subjects. Additionally, a host of books have been published by the Watch Tower Society over the decades. To find any given subject, you can use the "Watch Tower Publications Index". Most Kingdom Halls have a library of these publications. Much of the material has been published as a CD ROM known as the Watchtower Library (which is available only to baptized congregation publishers).

ja:エホバの証人の教義

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