I have had some personal experience with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, my wife’s aunt and uncle are Jehovah’s Witnesses. This came in to play during our wedding in fact. We had the wedding at the beach, one of the deciding factors in our decision to have it there was to accommodate her aunt and uncle who are not supposed to go in to another denomination’s church building. I have never had the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door, nor have I before closely examined their beliefs. Still, because of the family connection I have some familiarity with parts of their doctrine.
Jehovah's Witnesses are described as a millenarian, and a restorationist denomination of ...view middle of the document...
The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the present world will soon be destroyed in Armageddon as is depicted in the book of Revelation. (Beckford 1975) The establishment of God's kingdom on Earth will follow, and this is seen as the only solution for the problems faced by mankind in this present age.
By the literal interpretation of Bible scripture which inform their doctrine, the Jehovah’s Witnesses further identify themselves with the fundamentalist mindset of other religious sects, despite the fact that all the group’s doctrines are determined for them by the Governing Body. The sense of hopelessness for the present age is also in keeping with other groups described as fundamentalist. Those others who believe that only the establishment of God’s Kingdom here on the Earth can solve the problems we face.
The sect now known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses was started by Charles Russell, he was born in 1852 and grew up in Pittsburgh. (Chryssides 2008) Russell was raised a Congregationalist, when he was seventeen he attempted to convert an atheist to Christianity but was instead converted himself, at least to an agnostic world view. (Holden 2002) A few years later Russell attended an Adventist meeting, he was told that the second coming of Jesus would soon occur; thereafter he became interested in the Bible.
The leader of the Adventist movement had been William Miller; Miller predicted that the end of the world would occur in 1843. (Chryssides 2008) When 1843 came and went, Miller determined that there was an arithmetic error in his calculations and concluded that the end would come in 1844. (Crompton 1996) After this second prediction failed, many of his followers began to withdraw from the Adventist movement. A portion of the group led by Ellen White would go on to form the Seventh-Day Adventists.
I was interested to learn of the early connection between the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses; I had previously noticed some similarities between the two sects but did not previously know that they both sprang up from the same original group. It is less surprising then that both groups are often labeled as heretical or even cults by some mainstream Christian denominations.
It was during this period of instability within the Adventist movement that Russell became involved. Russell took a position as a Pastor, despite his lack of formal education. Then in 1879, Russell formed the Watch Tower. (Chryssides 2008) It was this Watch Tower which would later become the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the backbone and teaching organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 1908 the Watch Tower moved its headquarters to Brooklyn, New York where it has remained ever since.
Some of the doctrines that Russell taught his flock that were different from those taught by most Christian churches include the non-existence of hell. Russell believed that all unsaved people would simply be destroyed by God at the Day of Judgment, which was a...