Yes: I would start with the issue of interpretation
FIRST HOME VISIT: Interpretation Guidlines
After initial exchanges you might want to open discussion with something like:
I mentioned to you that I don't believe that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is biblical. So before we explore anything else, I'd like to explain how I distinguish what is biblical from what is not biblical.....so that you will know what I can accept as truth and what I can't accept. Matthew 13:44 provides an excellent way to illustrate this. (Go to the passage)
Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hidden in a field;
the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof
goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Mt.13:44
Note: This verse is outside the box for JWs. You can ask how they understand this parable but they may be somewhat reluctant to offer an explanation. Consider their views if presented and then follow up with the following totally fabricated explanation/interpretation:
- Imagine you are approached one day by two young elders who
see this passage as support for the Mormon religion. They explain
that Joseph Smith discovered a treasure in gold plates while walking
in a field in Up State NY- in the year 1827. He immediately buried these
plates, but later after fully dedicating himself to God's kingdom concerns, returned to unearth them. They add that these plates were then translated
into what we know today as The Book of Mormon. Then you are asked to
compare Matt 13:44 with Ez.37:16 regarding the stick/book of Joseph.
What could be said to: (i) discredit their interpretation?
(ii) set them straight on this passage?
Note: Again as this is outside the box your visitors will probably have little to say. Offer to share your strategy:
Here's how I would handle this situation.
a. First, before directly tackling the elder’s understanding, I would introduce these four basic guidelines regarding interpretation into the discussion.
BASIC GUIDELINES FOR VALIDATING DOCTRINAL CLAIMS
i. There must be a scriptural reference that can be
cited for support of any doctrinal claim or position.
ii. The scriptural reference must not be tampered with,
added to, deleted from, or have words substituted or
iii. Scriptural references are considered arbitrarily linked
unless it is shown that subject or content is clearly related.
iv. Interpretations of biblical passages must take into
consideration, context, including textual, situational
cultural and historical contexts.
Do you think applying these guidelines might help reduce doctrinal error?
b. Secondly, I would then use these four guidelines to demonstrate that their explanation of Matthew 13:44 is not a biblical interpretation, but an extra-biblical interpolation; that they are in fact guilty of interpretive abuse not only for ignoring context and arbitrarily linking unrelated passages, but also for tampering with (impregnating) the text by superimposing their own church history, names, dates and places onto the Bible.
c. Lastly, I would apply the sound biblical interpretative practice of letting the Bible interpret itself by informing them that this parable is 1 of 7 mostly field parables spoken to the multitudes from a boat. Unlike Jesus' vineyard parables that apply specifically to Israel, these field parables pertain to the church and actually foresee the development of the church through history until the harvest. As indicated in the parallel passage in the fourth chapter of Mark, all field parables are related (see Mark 4:13) The keys to interpreting the parable are found in the explanation of the other field parables.
The field = the world [verse 38 of Matthew 13]
Man in field = Son of Man [verses 24, 37 of Mat 13]
The treasure = Good Seed/ Children of the kingdom/ Church [verse 38]
The Son of Man gives everything he has to purchase field/world to
acquire his hidden ( hidden even from the prophets [verse 17])
Do you think that my pointing out their interpretive abuse might help the elders to see that their teachings here are extra-biblical and untrustworthy?
Do you think that sound exegesis might correct them or get them to change their minds about this parable? Why not?
Note: Because their primary faith is in their church leadership and not in the Bible - neither pointing out their interpretive abuse, nor providing sound exegesis is likely to convince these elders that their teachings on this passage are extra-biblical and therefore untrustworthy.
Clarification: You do agree that the elders’ beliefs about this passage
are not biblical - that they are in fact the product of interpretive abuse
and really represent extra-biblical teachings of men? In other words these
elders accept their interpretation of this passage because their church
teaches it, not because it is clear from the Bible – right?
Looking at your religion now: Is it possible that the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses is entirely founded on (similar) interpretive abuse? ….that the entire basis of your organizations' authority rests not on the Bible, but on the speculations of men?