Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Protestant?
How is Protestantism defined ?
“confessional Protestantism (that is, the Protestantism that honors the Word of God by explicitly identifying what it teaches and then codifying these teachings in the various protestant confessions) is the best system.”
You write from theologian’s perspective, perhaps that is looking for best systems. But a believer or a seeker is looking for the best church. Your answer “confessional Protestantism” is too loose, too flabby. It seems like to mean -anything except the Catholic church or the Orthodoxy.
Here’s my response:
OK Vishmehr24, good questions. You sound skeptical, but I hope you’ll allow me to set the record straight.
The key issues underlying your questions would be these: First, Who, or what, has the authority to define Christianity? Second, What difference does it make if one adheres to an invalid (or not-fully-valid) version of Christianity?
The answer to the first question has to be Jesus Christ and the Apostles he trained. And since they are no longer available for direct consultation, we must look to the written record of God’s words, the Bible. This is the correct way to know what Christianity is.
Yes, yes, everybody knows that people disagree about what the Bible means. But this objection applies to all authorities and therefore it does not count against any authority. Disagreement proves nothing. It just shows that we must be diligent in seeking to understand the Bible rightly. I assume that the true meaning of Scripture can be had, if we apply ourselves.
So which is the true Christianity? Obviously, the Christianity taught by Christ (and, indirectly, by the Apostles.) What other answer could there be? When in doubt, consult the highest authority. That would be Jesus Christ, who took pains to define his doctrine. He didn’t just wander around the Judean countryside delivering pithy sayings. He delivered a body of teaching that he wants his followers to know and affirm. That’s not all he did, but it’s the part that’s most relevant here.
And I don’t just refer to the passages where the Bible quotes Jesus. The rest of the New Testament was written—or directly authorized—by people trained by Jesus. And Jesus affirmed the Old Testament as being the words of God, not just of man. The entire Bible is the teaching of Jesus.
And which version of Christianity is the most careful to refer back to the highest authority? Certain versions of Protestantism. The ones that take care to identify what the Bible actually teaches and to require members to know and agree with these teachings. It only makes sense that we ought to be faithful to the Founder, especially since the Founder took great pains to tell his followers that they should hold to his teaching and guard themselves against false teachings.
Which brings us to issue number two: What difference does it make if we fail to hold to the Christianity actually taught by Jesus? Well, the Bible (and especially the New Testament) repeatedly warns us to guard ourselves against false teachers who offer false gospels about false Christs. And the Bible also repeatedly tells us that salvation from the penalty of sin comes only through faith in (the real) Christ.
And “faith” does not just mean knowing true facts about God. It does that, but more fundamentally it means to trust God, especially God in the person of Jesus. The one who trusts Jesus will want to know what Jesus teaches, and will believe it.
That’s where theology comes in. It’s not an intellectual game (although it can be perverted into that.) Instead, theology honors Christ by seeking to know and believe what he taught.
Take, for example, the doctrine that Jesus is God. Jesus himself said “unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24.) And that phrase “I am” is the name by which God the Father named himself when he revealed himself to Moses out of the burning bush. So here Jesus is claiming to be God, and also claiming that agreement with this is necessary for salvation.
The primary issue here is not abstract theological knowledge. The primary issue is trust. The one who trusts Jesus will believe what Jesus teaches. The one who does not trust Jesus will look for excuses not to believe, for example, by badmouthing the idea that God is both one and three, a Trinity. The one who trusts Jesus will believe what the Bible teaches and trust (i.e., faith) in Jesus saves us.
All this may be foreign to your ears. That’s because Christianity is qualitatively different from other religions. No other religion was founded by a person claiming to be God. (One of the gods, yes. The God, no.) No other religion sets fairly clear-cut requirements for salvation. No other religion has its validity based on the identity and work of its founder.
And that’s why we Protestants worry about getting it right. It’s not just an academic game. It’s what our Founder wants.
Now to answer your questions.
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Protestant? No. They’re not even Christian. They intentionally teach falsehoods about Jesus, claiming that he is not Jehovah, which makes their name an unintentional irony. They may be Christian in the loose sense of claiming to honor Christ, but they really aren’t.
How is Protestantism defined? These days, unfortunately, it only means “Not Catholic or Orthodox.” Institutional Protestantism is in bad shape because it has mostly abandoned its original purpose of identifying and holding to the true teachings of Christ using the Bible as the highest (but not only) authority. That’s why I refer to “confessional” Protestantism as the best Christianity.