Jehovah’s Witnesses are predictable in the points they make in support of the Watchtower’s ban on blood transfusions.
Let’s look at what they will tell you and come up with good soundbite responses.
You can set the tone for your discussion by beginning with a brief quotation from Jesus himself: “Nothing from outside a man that enters into him can defile him; but the things that come out of a man are the things that defile him.” (Mark 7:15)
What you are likely to get in response are standard Watchtower arguments justifying its blood transfusion ban. Here is what Witnesses will tell you and how I recommend you respond.
Watchtower Argument #1: The Bible specifically forbids eating blood.
The Watchtower cites several proof texts in support of its blood transfusion ban, primarily Genesis 9:3-4, Leviticus 7:26-27, Leviticus 17:10-12, and Acts 15:28-29.
You can comment, “I understand that the Old Testament prohibited the eating of animal blood, and that the New Testament advised believers to continue that prohibition in order not to offend Jews. But I’m confused as to why you think that that prohibition applies to the use of human blood for medical purposes.”
Also ask, “How could the Bible have been referring to the lifesaving medical procedure of blood transfusion, given that they didn’t even become possible until thousands of years after the Bible was written?”
You can follow up with this soundbite: “If it cost the donor his life in order to provide blood for transfusions, I might understand the Watchtower’s opposition. But it doesn’t. The donors aren’t killed. They aren’t even harmed.”
Most likely, Witnesses will simply reiterate their proof texts.
Watchtower Argument #2: A blood transfusion is the same as eating blood.
The Watchtower’s asks: “Is a transfusion really the same as eating blood? In a hospital, when a patient cannot eat through his mouth, he is fed intravenously. Now, would a person who never put blood into his mouth but who accepted blood by transfusion really be obeying the command to ‘keep abstaining from… blood’? (Acts 15:29) To use a comparison, consider a man who is told by the doctor that he must abstain from alcohol. Would he be obedient if he quit drinking alcohol but had it put directly into his veins?”[i]
You can respond with this soundbite: “The two aren’t comparable at all. Blood eaten by mouth is being used as food, but blood transfused intravenously is joining the existing bloodstream and is being used for the very purpose for which God designed it.”
Watchtower Argument #3: The transfusion ban respects the sanctity of life.
The Watchtower says, “Out of respect for the sanctity of life, godly people do not accept blood transfusions, even if others insist that such a procedure would be lifesaving.”[ii]
Believe it or not, Jehovah’s Witnesses see no irony in this claim.
In Matthew 23:17, Jesus upbraided the scribes and Pharisees with the following soundbite: “Fools and blind ones! Which, in fact, is greater, the gold or the temple that has sanctified the gold?”
You can make similar responses to the Watchtower’s “sanctity of life” argument:
- Which has a higher value to God—blood itself or the human life that blood provides and sustains?
- How is the sanctity of life respected by letting a person die for lack of a transfusion? Is the symbol of life more important than life itself?
Watchtower Argument #4: Blood transfusions show gross disrespect for Christ’s ransom sacrifice.
The Watchtower states: “… only sacrificial use of blood has ever been approved by God, and that since the animal sacrifices offered under the Mosaic Law foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ, disregard for the requirement that Christians ‘abstain from blood’ would be an evidence of gross disrespect for the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ…”[iii]
You can respond with comments such as these:
- Blood was created to provide life. That is a use for blood that God approves that doesn’t involve sacrifice at all.
- Please show me in the Scriptures where it says that saving a life by means of a blood transfusion is grossly disrespectful of Christ’s sacrifice.
It isn’t there. In fact, it was Jesus himself who was distraught by the Pharisees’ legalistic view of Bible commandments.
Remind them that it was Jesus who said in Mark 3:4, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?’”
Ask, “Given Jesus’ question to the Pharisees in Mark 3:4 concerning breaking the Sabbath, how do you think he would feel about religious authorities who require people to die to uphold the sanctity of life rather than allowing them to have a life-saving blood transfusion?”
You can also cite to them Jesus’ statement in Mark 2:27: “Then he said to them: ‘The Sabbath came into existence for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the Sabbath.”
Then sum up your argument with the following soundbite analogy: “Blood was created to give life to man; man was not created to give his life for blood.”
(This article has been adapted from my upcoming book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
Have you ever discussed blood transfusions with Jehovah’s Witnesses? Do you think some of these soundbites might help you get through to them?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
[i] Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 73
[ii] Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1995, 2006 printing), p. 129
[iii] Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1993), p. 183