“Proof texting is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage they are citing.” (Theopedia)

Bible hopscotching is jumping from one part of the Bible to another or one topic to another without taking time to examine anything in detail.

Here is an example of both, taken from Watchtower argumentation against the deity of Christ, which appears on page 203 of its book What Does the Bible Really Teach?

Learning additional facts on this subject will help you to draw the right conclusion. For instance, consider what John further writes in chapter 1, verse 18: “No man has seen [Almighty] God at any time.” However, humans have seen Jesus, the Son, for John says: “The Word [Jesus] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory.” (John 1:14, KJ) How, then, could the Son be part of Almighty God? John also states that the Word was “with God.” But how can an individual be with someone and at the same time be that person? Moreover, as recorded at John 17:3, Jesus makes a clear distinction between himself and his heavenly Father. He calls his Father “the only true God.” And toward the end of his Gospel, John sums up matters by saying: “These have been written down so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” (John 20:31) Notice that Jesus is called, not God, but the Son of God. This additional information provided in the Gospel of John shows how John 1:1 should be understood. Jesus, the Word, is “a god” in the sense that he has a high position but is not the same as Almighty God.

[Matthew] quotes Jesus as saying: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) How do these words confirm that Jesus is not Almighty God? Jesus says that the Father knows more than the Son does. If Jesus were part of Almighty God, however, he would know the same facts as his Father. So, then, the Son and the Father cannot be equal. Yet, some will say: “Jesus had two natures. Here he speaks as a man.” But even if that were so, what about the holy spirit? If it is part of the same God as the Father, why does Jesus not say that it knows what the Father knows?

Wow! In the space of less than 350 words, they’ve made no less than seven different arguments.

Before you could respond to one, they were on to the next.

Before you were able to recall the context of any particular verse, they cited another one.

They finished by switching topics so as to challenge the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit.

I’m convinced that the Watchtower does this deliberately to keep people off balance so they won’t examine the Watchtower’s rationale with the scrutiny that’s needed.

How can we deal with a tidal wave of arguments like that?

We need to take charge of the process and insist on taking the time we need to think things through and ask important questions.

Modeling that type of reflection can be an important step in helping the Witnesses learn to develop critical thinking skills themselves instead of just accepting whatever the Watchtower tells them.

So here are my recommendations regarding the process to follow.

  1. Listen to the Witnesses’ presentation respectfully without interruption. They aren’t trying to put something over on you. This is the way the Watchtower teaches them. Let them have their say.
  2. Write down your own outline of the arguments and verses.
  3. When they have finished, say something like, “That’s a lot for me to take in all at once. Is it all right if we go back over that and discuss the points one by one because I have a lot of questions?” Of course, they will have to say yes.
  4. Slow things down.
  5. Go back over the Watchtower lesson and deal with its arguments one by one.
  6. Take as much time as you need—take several meeting sessions if necessary in order to do justice to the issues.

Here are the basic arguments I spotted and my recommendations for answering each of them.

Argument #1: No man has seen God but men have seen Jesus; therefore, Jesus can’t be God.

I deal with this argument on pages 176-177 of my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

My suggestion is that you show them three Old Testament passages where people did see God—Exodus 24:9-10, Exodus 33:20-23, and Isaiah 6:1. Have them read those passages aloud and ask for their explanation. The common factor of these passages is that although they saw some manifestation of God, they did not see him in his entirety, that is, the entire essence of his being. It is true that no human has seen God’s entire essence, but they have seen Jesus Christ, and he reveals to us what the Father is like (John 14:9). So in no way does John 1:18 disprove the deity of Christ.

Argument #2: How can an individual be with someone and at the same time be that person? (John 1:1)

My answer would be, “That’s a great question. If God consisted of just one person, it wouldn’t be possible, would it?” If necessary, you can add, “If, as trinitarians believe, God consists of three distinct persons, then the traditional rendering of John 1:1 makes perfect sense.”

If they want to continue the discussion, you can point out that the Watchtower’s argument suggests that it thinks you believe in modalism, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one person who appears in different modes, and that’s not what trinitarians believe.

Argument #3: In John 17:3, Jesus calls his Father “the only true God,” so Jesus can’t be God.

I deal with this argument on pages 172-173 of my book.

  • Have one of the Witnesses read aloud Jude 4: “My reason is that certain men have slipped in among you who were long ago appointed to this judgment by the Scriptures; they are ungodly men who turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for brazen conduct and who prove false to our only owner and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Watchtower translation). Ask, “By calling Jesus ‘our only owner and Lord’ is the scripture saying that the Father is not our owner and Lord? That’s the same reasoning you are using to say that Jesus’ calling the Father ‘the only true God’ proves that Jesus can’t be the true God as well.”
  • Also ask, “If Jesus meant to exclude himself when he called the Father ‘the only true God,’ then wouldn’t that make Jesus a false god?”
  • If they try to convince you that—as the Watchtower translation renders John 1:1—Jesus is “a god,” the best reply is simply to ask, “Is Jesus a true god or a false god?”

Argument #4: In John 20:31, John says he wants his readers to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He didn’t say “to believe that Jesus is God,” so John 1:1 can’t be saying that Jesus is God.

God isn’t limited like mere humans are. In John’s gospel, it isn’t Either / Or; it’s Both / And. In John 1:1, John calls the Word (Jesus) “God,” and in John 20:31, he calls him “the Son of God,” Jesus is both, which is what trinitarians believe. In fact, it’s considering all the relevant scriptures such as these that convinces us to be trinitarians.

Argument #5: Jesus, the Word, is “a god” in the sense that he has a high position but is not the same as Almighty God.

Ask, “Is having a high position all you mean when you say that Jesus is “a god”? Show them the first sentence of Hebrews 1:3: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power,” and ask, “How can that be describing a mere creature”?

Also, remind them of Jehovah’s own words in Isaiah 43:10: “…I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.”

Argument #6: Jesus didn’t know day or hour of his return but only the Father (Matthew 24:36), but if Jesus were God he would know everything the Father knows.  

I discuss “human limitations” passages such as this on pages 158-160 of my book. When Jesus became a man, he voluntarily undertook a number of human limitations. It’s part of the incarnation, not disproof of his deity.

Argument #7: Why did Jesus only the Father knows the day or hour of his return? If “it” (the Holy Spirit) is part of the same God, why didn’t Jesus say that it also knows what the Father knows?

Did you notice how they switched topics on you? They’ve been talking about who Jesus is. Suddenly, they switch to the Holy Spirit.

Don’t take the bait. Tell the Witnesses you’ll be glad to discuss the Holy Spirit with them later, but for now you want to stick to the subject of Jesus.

When you do discuss the Holy Spirit, have one of the Witnesses read aloud 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 in the Watchtower Bible: “For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So, too, no one has come to know the things of God except the spirit of God.”

Ask, “Does this show that the Holy Spirit knows everything that the Father does? In fact, if the Holy Spirit is just an impersonal force, how could it know anything at all?”