Remember Lieutenant Columbo, the TV homicide detective played by Peter Falk?
Because his questions were presented as efforts to clear up various points rather than as accusations, he never came across as threatening.
In fact, at times he was self-deprecating. He would say things like, “I’m sorry, but little things like this bother me. I can’t get them out of my mind.”
Because of his soft non-threating manner, suspects tried hard to give him answers, hoping he would finally be satisfied with their explanations.
He would back off for a while, but inevitably some new inconsistency puzzled him and he asked for further help resolving that problem as well.
In order to avoid triggering the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ persecution mindset when you challenge Watchtower dogma by voicing questions they would never dare or even think to ask, I recommend that you emulate Columbo’s non-threatening manner.
Here are some examples of how this can be done (I’ll highlight the “Columbo” language).
By Watchtower quotations
Christian: I read part of a Watchtower book entitled, Jesus—The Way, the Truth, the Life, but I was really puzzled by something I read there.
Jehovah’s Witness: What was that? Maybe I can help.
Christian: It’s from Chapter 17 concerning Jesus and Nicodemus. I wrote down the quote that I find puzzling. It said…
Regarding the Watchtower’s understanding of faith and works
Christian: I wonder if you would read Romans 4:6 aloud from your Bible, because I have a question about that.
Jehovah’s Witness: “Just as David also speaks of the happiness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:”
Christian: Now, since “faith without works is dead,” how can God count this man righteous apart from works? That seems puzzling to me.
Regarding the Watchtower teaching that the new birth is only for 144,000
Christian: Could you please read John 3:1 through 3 from your Bible because I have some questions about that.
Jehovah’s Witness: All right… Let’s see. “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to him in the night and said to him: “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher, for no one can perform these signs that you perform unless God is with him.” In response Jesus said to him: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Christian: As a Jehovah’s Witness, you go door-to-door preaching the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom. Isn’t that what you told me earlier?
Jehovah’s Witness: Yes.
Christian: But since you aren’t born again, you will never even see the Kingdom of God, and people like me that you’re witnessing to will never see the Kingdom of God either, right? Do you see why that confuses me?
Regarding the Watchtower’s view of salvation
Jehovah’s Witness: Oh, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I agree that salvation is a gift and that we can’t earn it by our works
Christian: I guess I’m confused then. Please explain to me the difference between meriting salvation by our works—which you just said we can’t do—and proving worthy of everlasting life by our works, which I understand the Watchtower teaches we must do in order to be saved.
Seek their help in understanding
Regarding Paul’s teaching about faith and works in Romans 4
Christian: You know, Paul says some things in Romans and Ephesians about the relationship of faith and works that I find hard to reconcile with what James says. I wonder if we could look at some of those verses together because I’d really like to get your take on them.
Jehovah’s Witness: All right.
Christian: The first passage I’d like to ask you about is Romans 4:1-8. I’d like to ask you read that aloud from your Bible and I’ll want to ask questions as we go along because I really want to hear your understanding of Paul’s teaching point-by-point. Could you please start by reading verses 1 and 2?
Regarding the Watchtower teaching that only the 144,000 need to be born again
Jehovah’s Witness: The fact that only 144,000 will be born again and reign with Christ from Heaven is shown in Luke 12:32, where Jesus said, “Have no fear, little flock, for your Father has approved of giving you the Kingdom.”
Christian: That verse doesn’t mention the term “born again,” nor does it specify a number. Please help me understand why you believe that the “little flock” must be the same as the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation and that they are the only ones who’ll be born again.
To avoid their hopscotching the Bible
Jehovah’s Witness: Paul emphasizes the importance of faith but James 2:21 says that Abraham was declared righteous by works when he offered Isaac on the altar
Christian: That’s a great point and I do want to discuss that with you a little later, but right now I’d like to concentrate on what Paul says to make sure I understand what Paul is trying to get across. Then I’ll be happy to look at what James says because I know God’s Word doesn’t contradict itself.
Apologize rather than criticize
To avoid their changing the subject
Follow-up questions are also often helpful in dealing with the Witnesses’ practice of changing the subject when you ask a question for which they have no good answer. This tactic gets them off the hook and onto a topic they feel more comfortable discussing.
The best way to stop that is to say, “I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t phrase my question very well. What I’m asking is….” Then simply rephrase the question.
To avoid dialogue-ending conflict
Be careful not to come across as rude, sarcastic, or condescending. If you reach an impasse, tell them, “I’m sorry. I just don’t get that…” or “I’m sorry. I guess we’re just not on the same wavelength on this. Maybe we should just move on for now and come back to this later.”