26 Clarify Positions (2)As a part of Student Role Teaching, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to clear up misconceptions about what it is that you believe. Don’t assume that Jehovah’s Witnesses already understand your beliefs.

In fact, often they misunderstand what you believe because they are relying on the Watchtower instead of checking things out for themselves.

The only way to know is to ask them. Then you can clear up misconceptions before continuing your discussions.

Here are two examples.

Example #1: Justification by faith

A friend of mine once explained to a Jehovah’s Witness the doctrine of justification by faith. He asked the man to restate what he had just said in order to make sure he understood.

He was shocked when the Witness replied, “Sure. You believe that everyone will be saved.”

Fortunately, he was able to correct the misunderstanding, although it took several tries before the Witness actually comprehended the Christian teaching. Had my friend not asked for this feedback, he would have had no idea that there had been a serious miscommunication.


Example #2: The Trinity

Watchtower literature fosters a number of misconceptions about what Trinitarians believe. So when Jehovah’s Witnesses denounce the doctrine of the Trinity, ask them to give you their understanding of what the doctrine is.


Misconception #1: “Three Gods in one person”

The Watchtower has stated, “Our readers are aware that while we believe in Jehovah God and Jesus, and the holy Spirit, we reject as totally unscriptural, the teaching that these are three Gods in one person, or as some put it, one God in three persons.”[1]

 If Witnesses say something like that to you, you can say, “I don’t understand that at all. How can the Watchtower consider that “one God in three persons” means the same thing as “three Gods in one person”?

Then you can clarify what you believe—that within the nature of the one true God there are three distinct persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Misconception #2: “One person in three roles”

The Watchtower has posed this question: “If Jesus and his Father were really one person, why did Jesus pray to God and humbly admit to not knowing things that only his Father knew?” [2]

If this is the way Witnesses describe the Trinity doctrine to you, you can explain to them that this is a heresy called modalism.

Trinitarians do not believe that Jesus and the Father are the same person. Jesus didn’t pray to himself. He didn’t speak to himself at his baptism.


Misconception #3: “Jesus is the entirety of God”

The Watchtower asks, “If Jesus is God, how could he live on earth and be killed by humans?” [3]

This question shows that they do not understand that Jesus is fully human as well as fully God. Nor do they understand that Christians believe that the Father and the Holy Spirit are also God.

So we aren’t saying that God somehow went out of existence when Jesus died.


Overcoming these misconceptions

When you try to explain to Jehovah’s Witnesses what you believe about Jesus, make sure you are aware of these misconceptions and that you explicitly eliminate them.

For example, if you tell Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Jesus is Jehovah,” most likely you will trigger one or more of the above misconceptions.

In order to prevent that confusion, it’s better to say, “It’s my understanding from what you have said that the Watchtower believes that the name ‘Jehovah’ only applies to the Father. What I believe is that the name ‘Jehovah’ applies to the Father but that it also applies to the Son and the Holy Spirit as well.”

Then ask them to restate what you just told them in order to make sure that you have communicated your belief accurately.

You may have to explain further in order to eliminate some of the other misconceptions.

After you make sure they have understood you, then you can let them launch into arguments and proof texts trying to refute it.

If you find them lapsing into straw man arguments—refuting something you don’t believe yourself—go back and clear up the misunderstanding.


Mutual clarification

In order to make this a fair process, you can also take the time to clarify what the Witnesses have told you until they are satisfied that you have understood them.

In this way, you do them the honor of showing that you are listening and avoid having a fruitless discussion in which no one truly understands the points the other person is making.

Making it clear that you are seeking to understand them will increase the likelihood that they will listen to you and begin to think for themselves about something you have said.


[1] The Watchtower, 3/15/1989, p. 18

[2] The Watchtower, 9/1/2009, p. 28

[3] The Watchtower, 1/1/2015, p. 9