From the Book: "Introduction"

Being the author of this work, first and foremost I consider myself to be a reporter giving an account of his personal conversations, experiences and impressions, endeavoring to add only his own observations.

I would, however, like to stress that I have a deep dislike for any kind of general condemnation, particularly when persons judging a matter attack others with uninformed prejudice while offering a collection of unreflected prejudice as negative evidence. In so doing, a clear infraction of Exodus 20:16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."<//span> is evident.

I do not mind admitting that over the period of two years that I met with Jehovah`s Witnesses intensively, I initially experienced feelings "between admiration and disconcertment" (title of a dissertation coming up in this book). This admiration increased considerably as our contact deepened, which certainly had an effect on this work. 

I got to know Jehovah`s Witnesses better in their daily life and found out that they seemed to take their faith very, very seriously. From February 1995 until December 1996 I met with Jehovah`s Witnesses for intensive theological conversations 217 times, approximately three hours each time.

My wife and I were invited into the homes of Witness families and we in turn received them as guests in our house. Altogether, including journeys to other congregations and assemblies I spent more than 1,000 hours with various Jehovah`s Witnesses during the compilation of this work and was thus able to gain a deepened, personal impression of the applied religious life of these Witnesses.

My questions posed to Jehovah`s Witnesses were based on an intensive study of three leaflets published by the Protestant Church of Germany (EKD) which were distributed as handbills to warn people against Jehovah`s Witnesses. The wording of these leaflets is included in chapter 46 of this book.

Several "elders" of Jehovah`s Witnesses reviewed the answers to all my questions and confirmed that they were related correctly, even though my observations did not always reflect the official position of the Watchtower Society.

The origin of Jehovah`s Witnesses is widely known and has been documented, particularly in the book called "Jehovah`s Witnesses - Proclaimers of God`s Kingdom" published by the Watchtower Society that nearly all publications concerning this subject refer to. For the work at hand the historical background of the development of Jehovah`s Witnesses into a mass movement is only of interest insofar as the church`s warning leaflets refer to this background. The main purpose of this work is to examine whether the religious association of Jehovah`s Witnesses is a challenge for the traditional churches, especially for the Protestant churches united within the Protestant Church of Germany (EKD) and how far this is justified from a Biblical point of view.

When Jehovah`s Witnesses called at my home, I asked myself, "Who are these people?" On a subsequent occasion when two Jehovah`s Witnesses came to my door, I asked them in and we started a conversation. They continued to visit me, as I had agreed to, and left me issues of The Watchtower and Awake magazines as well as other literature published by the Watchtower Society. During the ensuing conversations, I sought to find answers to questions resulting from the magazines, as well as to questions that had arisen from my Bible study up until that time.

During the previous 40 years I had mainly dealt with the Hebrew Scriptures and actually suffered from not being able to find anyone locally, either in private or church circles who was qualified or prepared to answer my questions. In fact, at that time it proved less of a challenge for me to get in touch with such authorities as Professor Viktor E. Frankl, Vienna, Professor Shalom Ben Chorin, Jerusalem or with Professor Pinkas Lapide, Frankfurt to receive answers from them.

I once told the pastor responsible for my parish: "The success prophesied in Matthew 7:7 is obviously easier fulfilled when turning to God than turning to people."

After moving to a place near Lueneburg, however, I was able to become active in my new parish straight away. I was happy to be trained to be a lecturer and took on readings in church services and also had a share in church service arrangements. Highlights were my own sermons and later being able to conduct a church service in my own right.

I was very pleased about these experiences which resulted from the fact that the pastor couple on whose door I knocked a few days after having moved to my new parish, without any hesitation accepted my invitation to visit and get to know each other. We had deep conversations about religious questions, and from this visit onwards we developed a very close, personal relationship. Our cooperation in parish and church affairs continued to develop positively, in spite of pressure from third parties.

In this respect the writer, Pastor Dr. J. Diestelkamp, states in the "Pastoraltheologischen Ueberlegungen zu "Bruecken bauen" in Lüneburg" (Pastoral/theological considerations with regard to the "Building of Bridges" in Lueneburg) on page 41, directly referring to the author (translated) "One should not ignore the fact that a ... reform process (in ones own church) creates fear. Questioning the existing facts oneself ... allowing outside observers to question oneself ... can make one feel uncertain of oneself. Whoever begins to get involved with those who distance themselves from the church ... granting them equal status in the community of church, will meet with opposition. That is what I presently perceive as being exemplified by a person who used to take a very reserved view of the church and is not at all familiar with church-internal communication forms, nor does he know any church-internal values by which conduct and speech are governed. His manner creates opposition, a feeling of uncertainty, rejection. Presenting himself with self-confidence, bringing out his abilities - a style which is helpful and valuable to this person in his professional life; his unusual manner is embarrassing to many in the church."

Returning to the Bible study with Jehovah`s Witnesses, a few months later the questions that I asked led to an exchange of people I spoke to and I started an intensive study of the Bible with an "elder" from the congregation of the area I live in along with an experienced Gilead School graduate who had 15 years of experience as a missionary in Brazil. Any books published by the Witnesses that I requested were made available to me free of charge. When I visited the large printing establishment at the Selters branch office I was able to gain an impression of their organization and operations, and noticed their professional approach to their work.

My Bible study with the Witnesses centered around their books "You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth" and later "Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life". The flow of the study was often interrupted by the questions I asked, and their answers. They never rejected any of my questions as being inappropriate. The publications mentioned are by no means obligatory for a Bible study with Jehovah`s Witnesses as all their publications directly lead to the Bible. These books, however, virtually cover the entire range of the Bible and are therefore preferred study aids.

Right from the outset, the people I spoke to knew that I had a firm attachment to my Lutheran faith and to my church. However, I wanted to form my own impression of Jehovah`s Witnesses, free of prejudice, and I also used the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of the Bible through a joint study, not least to be able to draw my own theological comparisons.

Three leaflets by the Protestant Church of Germany, warning of "Jehovah`s Witnesses" and the "New Apostolic Church" which were distributed in my parish and in Lueneburg gave cause for this work. Based on these warning leaflets I put together a list of more than 45 questions to Jehovah`s Witnesses and sent it to the branch office in Selters, Germany. The branch office asked (instructed) the two Witnesses who had been visiting me up until that point to provide me with answers to my questions. I then included the results in the individual chapters of this book.

To gain a lasting and deeper impression, I attended the Sunday arrangements of the Lueneburg-South congregation as well as other towns. My personal participation in the Congregation Book Study, the Theocratic Ministry School, assemblies and Memorial celebrations form part of this work. In addition, I undertook research based on nearly 100 issues of 1995 and 1996 Watchtowers as well as on individual copies dating back to the 1950`s. I was amazed how strictly the Witnesses adhere to the Bible as the Word of God. They do not have the slightest doubt that the Bible is inspired by God.

I was also astonished how firm Jehovah`s Witnesses are in encouraging each other to live according to the truly demanding Biblical standards of morality. Even in their Sunday talks they promoted honesty in paying taxes. The Witnesses obviously obey this rule so consistently in daily life that it is even reflected in press releases about Jehovah`s Witnesses as being remarkable. To my great surprise I got to know each baptized Jehovah`s Witness as a knowledgeable and involved preacher of the Gospel for whom the proclamation of The Word of God was more important than any professional career. I wondered which of the churches could claim to have more than 5,000,000 voluntary missionary preachers among them! I was even more amazed by the attitude of the young people I met (mainly unbaptized daughters and sons of Jehovah`s Witnesses between 14 and 18 years of age) with regard to sexual questions, clothes and music. It seems as if even in today`s world, with probably only few exceptions, young men and women who belong to this religious association or who are closely associated with it enter marriage as virgins. I did not meet a single Jehovah`s Witness who was a smoker, alcoholic or drug-taker or who participated in any form of gambling (lottery, the pools, poker, and so on.).

Through my work on this book and based on the experience I gathered, I have come to the following conclusion:

 

For any Christian recognizing the Bible as God's Word, the way of Jehovah's Witnesses is a challenge.