Jehovah’s Witnesses or Conservative Evangelicals?

Here are two timelines. The first one is a dispensationalist timeline. The outline of world history here is embraced by a huge number of American conservative Evangelicals. They’re the ones who buy into the whole hugely successful Left Behind series of books and films produced by Bob Jones graduate Tim LaHaye (and others)

The bottom chart is a timeline produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. I haven’t looked at them in much detail, but they could pretty much be interchanged.

If such large numbers of American evangelicals buy into this stuff [which was produced pretty much at the same time and by the same sort of religious freelancer. Charles Taze Russell (founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses) and C.I.Scofield (author of the dispensationalists handbook, the Scofield Reference Bible) were pretty much cut from the same cloth.] Shouldn’t we be worried about what else they believe? How close are these people to ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’?

Here’s the really crazy thing: these are the two religious groups who love to accuse Catholics of adding late, human-invented doctrines to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’. Isn’t that just a genuine kick? A huge part of their belief systems were invented by one-man-and-his-Bible amateur Bible students in the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States, but they accuse Catholics of making stuff up.

C.I.Scofield and Charles Taze Russell (and Mrs Baker Eddy and Joseph Smith etc etc etc) are the logical result of the founding Principles of Protestantism. You think the Bible is simple enough for any plowboy to understand? Then plowboys (and unemployed drapery store workers and down on their luck snake oil salesmen and neurotic unhappy housewives) are what you will get as your ‘Bible scholars’ and ‘Church leaders’

The really ironic thing about all this is that the plowboys of this world don’t want the Scriptures to be transparent and easy to understand. It is the bishops and saints and missionaries who proclaim a simple gospel. The plowboys are the ones who turn the Scriptures into a sourcebook for arcane theories, deeply mysterious symbolism of the end times, complicated symbolical and numerological systems and obscure systems for prognosticating about the future.

I’m sure the Devil’s greatest triumph at the Reformation was not getting rid of one Pope, but setting up a system whereby there would be thousands of popes.

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  • Every once in a while, you make an anti-Prot argument the gist of which is that some group or trend within Evangelicalism (currently, Dispensationalists) is fairly put in the same category as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc.This is wrong; it is harmful to ecumenical relations; it is harmful to the cause of the Gospel; and I wish you would stop.Dispensationalists are just like JWs, except for little details such as that Dispensationalists believe in the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the immortality of the soul–little things like that (which JWs deny). But other than that, they’re essentially the same, because they are enthusiastic religious Americans who aren’t Catholic and believe just the Bible, as they interpret it. Is that it?Please stop this.

  • Hang on a minute. C.I.Scofield was very much cut from the same cloth as Pastor Russell and Ellen White and the others. He was a religious entrepreneur with a new and dubious method of Biblical interpretation and an old and dubious moral history.You have a point that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are less orthodox in their beliefs than fundamentalist Baptists, but there is a range of weird religion out there. Where do you put the Seventh Day Adventists? Are they ‘orthodox’ or not? Where do we put the Primitive Baptists with their weird extra Biblical beliefs? Yes, JWs and LDS may be further along the line, but not much further.In addition, I think you overestimate the orthodoxy of fundamentalist Evangelicals. It is wonderful that they affirm the inspiration of Scripture, the virgin Birth, the incarnation etc. But what about all the things they deny which the historic church has considered essential?They deny the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin, the efficacy of Sacraments, the apostolic succession, the primacy of Rome and the authority of the Church. I admit that I have been polemical, but my essential point is the one you have made: personal and individualistic interpretation of the Bible leads to serious lunacy, and there are huge proportions of the American Evangelical public who buy into significant chunks of this lunacy.In balance, however, I’m sure there are many good Evangelicals who are more balanced and careful in their interpretations.

  • jess

    The vast majority of Protestants do not believe any of this nonsense, nor is it reasonable or honest to equate evangelical protestantism with the cult Jehovah’s Witnesses. The theological differences between these two groups are enormous. For many Christians, the end times are a big question mark, with most just trying day by day to be true Christians living out the gospel.Many protestants wish for a unified church and loathe what has become of the protestant churches in America. The problem is that the (sometime) stupidity of modern american evangelicalism does not make the Catholic position true for these same Christians you are denigrating. So people are left trying to hold to the historic Reformation theology and ecclesiology in spite of their leaders (Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodist/Wesleyans). They are not, most of them, trying to be their own pope. And it is not just plowboys who mess things up theologically – look what happened when all those non-plowboy academic types put their Catholic fingers in the pie after Vatican II.

  • Q.E.D. Good-bye.

  • Hi Jess. It would be interesting to find out just what proportion of the American Evangelical population do actually subscribe to dispensationalism. It’s my impression that it is mainstream amongst conservative Evangelicals. I agree that it is not so mainstream amongst the mainline old Protestant denominations, but their wholesale abandonment of the historic faith is even more astounding.What we’re left with are a goodly number of solid, conservative, Bible believing Evangelical folk spread out across a number of conservative denominations. Many of them are godly, stable and moral people. Many of their leaders are prayerful, scholarly and respectable men.I do not wish to tar them with this same brush. I know of their existence, admire them and regard them as brothers in arms.In saying that, however, I think it is fair to criticize the dispensationalists. I think their worldview is just as skewed as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons–even if they do hold more orthodox opinions regarding doctrine.

  • Joe

    I am with Jess here. Chuck Swindoll is a Dispensationalist, but his theology seems far more orthodox and accesible than that of Karl Rahner.

  • Chuck Swindoll’s theology being accessible doesn’t make it true.In saying that, I admit that I know next to nothing about Chuck Swindoll. I wasn’t even aware that he was a theologian. I thought he was more of a popular preacher and writer–something Rahner doesn’t pretend to be.

  • you sound like a mary worshipper to me, prots are truer xtians than the rcc cult!

  • Nearly everything that the Catholic church teaches is false; from the veneration of Mary to their use of idols which are clearly forbidden in the Bible. But no matter, Catholics have their 2000 year old church and their old heresies (trinity anyone?) to give them false comfort so who needs Biblical truth?When I look at the so called Christian landscape, I see all the churches failing miserably, Catholic and Protestant. Homosexuals, heterosexuals who flout Bible principles, abortionists, secularists and feminists have taken them over. Most “Christians” I talk to don’t know anything about the Bible and therefore cannot defend their own Christian faith against atheists and secularists, so before you go attacking others, get your own house in order.It seems that the pathetic and utter ignorance of most Christians about their own religious history, real Bible doctrine and the Bible’s stance on moral issues needs to be corrected before you go spouting off about supposed “cults”.From my own experiences and observations the Protestant and Catholic churches have a whole lot of work to do. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Dispensationalists and Mormons are the LEAST of your worries.