Meaning, Purpose and Truth

Exploring some of the ultimate questions that confront humanity, and responding imaginatively to them;

 

The ups, downs and meaning(s) of life’s journey.

 

 

Religious Experience

In general, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not emphasise personal religious experiences but rather focus on the Biblical narratives of those who have had direct revelations of God, including the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets and, later, Jesus and early Church leaders such as the Apostle Paul. This is in line with the emphasis placed on the Bible as the blueprint for living. Charles Taze Russell did not claim a direct personal experience of God or a new Revelation, unlike the founders of some other new religious movements and 19th century sects such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Contrary to some popular belief, Witnesses do not claim new prophetic revelations, but only seek to interpret biblical prophecy.

Answers to Ultimate Questions

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Bible has the answer to all spiritual questions and is the source of truth and the blueprint for living. It follows that they, as the correct interpreters of the Bible’s messages, have the truth. Whilst they do not consider themselves to be infallible, Jehovah’s Witnesses do consider themselves to be ‘in the truth’ and all other religions, including ‘nominal Christianity’ (the term for all other denominations), are part of ‘Babylon the Great’. Only those who accept Jehovah through belief in the ‘ransom sacrifice’ of Jesus, and who are repentant and seek to imitate Jesus in their lives, will survive Armageddon.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ answers to ultimate questions are inextricably tied to the key beliefs of the organisation (see Basic Beliefs section above). As mentioned above, they believe that the second coming of Christ and the establishment of his Kingdom on earth is imminent, and that we are currently in the ‘last days’, with the present political and environmental situation as evidence of this. They seek to reach everyone with this message – ‘publishing’ or evangelising door-to-door or with literature stands in public places. During Armageddon, the living and dead will be judged by Christ. A ‘great crowd’ of people from all nations and time periods will survive and will live in Paradise on Earth. A further 144,000 (the ‘anointed class’) will rule with Christ in Heaven. This theocratic government will rule over Paradise Earth and will replace all current government systems which are believed to be ruled by Satan. Those who are judged adversely will be destroyed.

Religion and Science

As with all aspects of life, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible has the answers to science and the origins of life. They believe that God created the universe but they reject the label creationist, arguing that some creationists take too literal an interpretation of Biblical accounts of the origins of the universe, for example that it was created in six days of 24 hours each. They argue that a Biblical ‘day’ can be an unspecified length of time. Hence they reject the ‘Young Earth Creationism’ associated with the belief that the world was created in six days, and are aligned more to ‘Old Earth Creationism’ which recognises that the Earth could be billions of years old. Nor do they reject all aspects of ‘big bang’ theory, rather arguing that there was an intelligent creator behind the big bang.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept the theory of evolution. Instead they hold to a theory which has become known as ‘Intelligent Design’. They argue that God created all plant and animal life on the planet, including a perfect human couple who, as they were created on a different ‘day’, have no common ancestry with animals. This belief, they suggest, does not conflict with scientific accounts of variations within species. Scientific observation is valued because through examining his creation, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ argue, one can view the Creator. Hence they claim they – and the Bible – are not anti-science. They suggest that the Bible contains numerous scientific and medical ‘facts’ which were ‘ahead of their time’.[11] However, they believe that there is a limit to the scientific method and that there are some things, such as the origin of the universe, which cannot be tested scientifically. They suggest that the theory of evolution does not adequately answer the most important questions such as how life began; life is too complex to have started by chance – especially the development of human consciousness and its ability to reason and make moral judgements. Life can only be the result of an intelligent creator. “After decades of research in virtually all branches of science, the fact remains that life comes only from pre-existing life”, their website states.[12]

Jehovah’s Witnesses websites and publications provide much information on their view of science. An online series called, ‘Was it Designed?’ (which began in Awake! magazine) provides articles arranged by topic from the human body, to land animals, sea animals, birds, insects, plants and more, each focusing on ‘evidence’ of ‘intelligent design’. The materials also include interviews with scientists who are Christian and who reject evolution. These materials are particularly geared towards children and teenagers who will be presented with evolution as ‘scientific fact’ at school. The materials include counter facts, questions to think about, and answers to common criticisms of those who reject evolution.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief in intelligent design leads to an adherence to an environmentally responsible lifestyle. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Earth was created to provide a home to those faithful to Jehovah, and as such they are stewards of the Earth. They have won environmental awards for their relocation projects in both New York, USA and Essex, UK (see also The Environment section in Values and Commitments).

11. https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/watchtower-no1-2018-jan-feb/is-the-bible-outdated/

12. https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g201501/how-life-began/