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Why do JW think other faiths are unbelievers?

I have a JW friend and we have always respected each others faiths. I would ask Questions about her faith and she would answer, with out getting it getting out of hand. Thank God for our awesome friendship. She is always trying to hook me up with a respectful JW brother, and I am open to the idea (I'm Catholic) because of my great friendship with my friend, but I'm trying to understand what he thinks I don't believe in. I am believer in Christ, and the Good and only GOD. Please help me understand.

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I think this is a question of terminology as well as being a question of theology. I’ll try to address both.

The vast majority of branches of Christianity will divide the world up into groups which look roughly like this:

  • Us (the people who agree with us theologically, and associate with us);
  • People we disagree with on minor matters;
  • People we disagree with on fairly major matters, but whom we still accept as Christians;
  • People who are completely wrong (“Heretics” / “people who claim to be Christian, but aren’t”);
  • Non-Christians / members of other religions (“people who don’t even claim to be Christian”);
  • Atheists.

(Many won’t see any need to distinguish between those last two groups, of course.)

One important difference between the Witnesses and mainstream Christianity is the sizes and memberships of the various groups above. Jehovah’s Witnesses are very united, and believe that acting as a group is important. As such, they do not accept the Christianity of anyone outside their faith. At least, not in modern times. They accept that others will have glimpses of the truth, and have said complimentary things about Luther, Calvin, and other luminaries of the Reformation, but they think that since their own organization started God has uniquely blessed it.

As such, the second group (“people we disagree with on minor matters”) is pretty much non-existent to the Witnesses, unless you count the very small differences within the faith. (As I said, the Witnesses are a very united group, but the leadership don’t pin down every single theological question; just most of them. Witnesses can differ from each other on minor matters, but are cautioned not to hold any such belief as an actual teaching, just as a personal hypothesis. That’s acceptable.)

The third group (“other Christians”) is also pretty much non-existent in the modern day. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept anyone other than themselves as Christians. (To be fair, other Christian groups usually return the favour.)

While you might expect to fall into that third group as far as the Witnesses are concerned, in fact you fall into the fourth: you would be seen as a member of “Christendom” (this is another word which has a different meaning in Witness theology to its normal geopolitical meaning). “Christendom” (false Christians), non-Christians, and atheists are all lumped together as “non-believers”.

Note that if you were to pursue a romantic relationship with a Witness, this would be regarded as dating outside the faith, becoming “unequally yoked” with an unbeliever, and strongly disapproved of by his fellow Witnesses.

Summary

  • Theology: Witnesses regard modern-day non-Witnesses as non-Christian.
  • Terminology: Witnesses lump all non-Witnesses together as “non-believers”, whatever they actually believe in.
  • So what is it about non-JW Christians that puts them all into the fourth group? – curiousdannii Jun 24 '14 at 23:46
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    Put simply, they teach that God always directs teaching through an organization, so those outside that organization have rejected it. They simply do not recognise any other groups as valid Christians. @curiousdannii. – TRiG Jun 25 '14 at 1:25
  • I think this answer has really great information, but it doesn't address the main question of what are the specific differences in beliefs (i.e. the Trinity, the true nature of Jesus, Revelations, etc.), theology and practice that the OP might experience. If you can edit to add those, you will definitely get my vote. – Chris Sunami Jul 16 '14 at 14:24
  • Great post full stop. Reads even better the second time I've looked at it. What you're saying in your last comment sounds so similar to the Catholic concept of their Magisterium - do JWs show any awareness of this likeness through attempts to embrace/refute comparisons? Posted as a main question here: Just how comparable are the concepts of the Teaching Magisterium in the Catholic Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses view of their Watch Tower society? – bruised reed Jul 16 '14 at 15:51
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As a former JW, the difference between the faiths of a pronounced Christian and a Witness of Jehovah is plain and clear.

  1. They follow the Christ's example of preaching his word to all the nations.

  2. They do not put faith in men, but in scripture.

  3. They uphold the highest moral standards set forth in the bible.

  4. They do not think that others are unbelievers, they know that others want to know the truth and come to an accurate understanding of scripture, however, the church's of Christendom have perverted the word, and have mislead many into false teachings, such as he'll, eternal torment, the trinity, paganistic and man-made holidays, the list goes on.

  5. Lots of people will say I'm being fed from the "watchtower organization", but if you actually do the digging and research these subjects, along with prayer, you will find the answers, which I have. I do not take a man's word over God's word, and I use several bible translations, and I've also helped translate the Septuagint and dead sea scrolls into modern, understandable English, but keeping the meaning and entirety of the original writings.

  • Can you please edit this to remove the ambiguity of "they", because most trinitarians think the first three points too. – curiousdannii Jul 16 '14 at 11:30
  • #4 seems completely inconsistent with what I know of JW doctrines. Are you sure this is representative of their perspective (as asked by this question)? Can you source that or any of the other claims here using their doctrinal statements or teachings? – Caleb Jul 19 '14 at 7:39
  • @Caleb #4 seems to more describe how unbelievers are treated. If asked, a Witness would say the person is an unbeliever, but unbelievers are treated as future brothers/sisters. The only exception would be if the person had been disfellowshipped, because in that case they would be treated as a hurt, but possibly contagious brother/sister. – 4castle Dec 22 '16 at 20:00

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