Our Readers Ask
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a Protestant Religion?
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not consider themselves to be a Protestant religion. Why not?
Protestantism arose in 16th-century Europe in an effort to reform the Roman Catholic Church. The word “Protestant” was first applied to the followers of Martin Luther at the Diet of Speyer in 1529. Since then, the term has generally come to describe all those who adhere to the tenets and goals of the Reformation. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, thus defines a Protestant as “a member of any of several church denominations denying the universal authority of the Pope and affirming the Reformation principles of justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth.”
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the universal authority of the pope and wholeheartedly support the primacy of the Bible, they differ from Protestant religions in many significant ways. In fact, The Encyclopedia of Religion refers to Jehovah’s Witnesses as being “distinctive.” Consider three ways in which they are different.
First, although Protestant faiths reject certain features of Catholic worship, Reformation leaders retained certain Catholic dogmas, such as belief in the Trinity, hellfire, and the immortality of the human soul. Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, believe that those doctrines not only contradict the Bible but also promote a distorted view of God.—See pages 4-7 of this magazine.
Second, the religion that Jehovah’s Witnesses advocate is, not one of negative protest, but one of positive instruction. They take seriously the Bible’s counsel: “A servant of the Lord is not to engage in quarrels, but has to be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and patient. He has to be gentle when he corrects people who dispute what he says.” (2 Timothy 2:24, 25, The Jerusalem Bible) Jehovah’s Witnesses do point out contradictions between what the Bible says and what many religious groups teach. Yet, their goal in doing so is not to reform other religious organizations. Rather, their goal is to help sincere individuals to gain accurate knowledge of God and of his Word, the Bible. (Colossians 1:9, 10) When people of other persuasions insistently disagree with them, Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid engaging in fruitless debates.—2 Timothy 2:23.
Third, unlike the Protestant movement, which has splintered into hundreds of denominations, Jehovah’s Witnesses have maintained a united global brotherhood. When it comes to Bible doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses in over 230 countries follow the apostle Paul’s counsel to “speak in agreement.” There are no divisions among them. Instead, they are genuinely “united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) They strive within their own ranks “to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.”—Ephesians 4:3.