Two ladies, dressed modestly (if a bit staidly), one with a book in her hands.
And they want to talk. Now, I can’t read minds but I was guessing Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was correct it turns out.
Interestingly, I feel for them, because we live in a rich country neighborhood where every house except ours has an electronic gate, impenetrable fence, and guard dogs. Our house has a wide open gate, broken down fence, and two dwarf goats that don’t even scare my children. So, we were pretty much the only people they were going to be talking with today.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Oh man those ladies don’t know what they were in for, what with Devin being a Catholic Answers-to-be-published Apologist©.” But it ain’t like that. I’m straight up with people and told them immediately “Look, I’m a former atheist who became a Baptist turned Catholic apologist.” Full disclosure.
They replied, “What’s an apologist?”
Doh! So I told them. And they started their spiel, proffering their JW interpretation of the (badly translated) Protestant Bible.
Sweep the Leg Johnny
Daniel-san cannot use his legs to kick if his legs are broken. Sensei Kreese knew that in Karate Kid, and I know it applies to apologetics as well. So I took the Bible away from her. Not literally, but by bringing up the canon.
“How do you know what books belong in your Bible?”
She eventually said, “Well, God inspired the Bible and so He preserved His truth in it for everyone.”
“When did Jehovah’s Witnesses start?”
“The late 19th century,” she said.
“And when do you think the Church got corrupted and went belly-up?”
“At the end of the first century when the last Apostle died, just as Jesus prophesied it would,” she said.
I had my opening: “Okay, so God preserved His Word because He wanted all people to know it, but from 100 AD to roughly 1900 AD, all people had either the wrong Bible (Catholics and Orthodox) or had heretical beliefs (Protestants). So how does that make sense? And also, please tell me the verse where Jesus says the Church will go belly-up after the last Apostle’s death.”
This induced consternation. Her partner, who stood behind her the whole time and never said anything (I think she must have been the “prayer coverage”), started flipping through her Bible in a vain attempt to locate that (non-existent) verse. What’s that? Catholics now know the Bible, too? What’s the world coming to!
I followed up with a one-two punch: “The Church discerned the books of your Bible in the first four hundred years. What do you think of the Church at that time?”
“Oh I know all about it–paganized corruption and Greek influences that led the Council of Nicaea to teach heresies about the Trinity!”
Chew on that, she must have thought. Well, my work was mainly done and I didn’t want to spend more time. So I went over and grabbed a proof copy of my book off the shelf and offered it to her. She shrank back ever so slightly and made no move to take it. I told her I wrote this book, and it was all about why the Catholic Church was true. And that she should think about what I told her.
She and her friend beat a hasty retreat, got in the car, and drove off. My prayers went with them.
No one can change their beliefs on a dime. It takes time. I have found it’s best to present arguments and key contradictions in someone’s beliefs without pressing them to admit defeat, which only causes them to go into turtle-shell defensive mode. It’s enough to present the truth and then let them see it as God helps them to understand.
Note also that the JW’s belief in apostasy is substantially similar to that of the Mormon’s. And it is also similar to Protestants in general, except with an earlier date. So learning the principles is far better than knowing tons of details. I recall very little about JW’s in particular, but I don’t need to, because they fall to the same arguments that can be more generally applied to others.