Friday, 31 October 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity? - 2

Most Christians who talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses will eventually come across the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s [WBTS] booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity” [abbreviated to “Trinity” from now on.]

As with most WBTS publications, the booklet gives the impression of being a well-produced, scholarly work. It is only as you check it out carefully that the errors begin to come to light. It may not be easy to get a Witness to investigate this publication but we want to give the opportunity to lovingly show some of the faults in it and hope you will be able to do the same with the next one that calls at the door. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses have been given is, “Well the writer does say these words and therefore we are not misquoting them.” The answer I give to this is to quote John 3:16 & 17 from the New World Translation, as follows:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order
that everyone... might... be destroyed.

Is that correct Mr Witness? No? Nevertheless, it is what is written in your Bible. I hope that through this the Witness will begin to see how dishonest it is, by judicial editing, to make any author say the opposite to what he or she actually said.

The “Trinity” booklet weaves a number of themes together but we have tried to break it down to a few main subjects each of which we will look at under the following headings.

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS - A summary of their main arguments.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED - A look at the quotations they use, replacing, in bold italic print, anything of interest they have left out.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT - Highlighting anything that is wrong or suspect with their argument.

D. ADDED MATERIAL - A concise look at any extra material that will present another point of view.

SECTION 2 - THE TRINITY IS NOT TAUGHT IN THE BIBLE

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

The word trinity does not appear within the Bible. The quotes show that the idea of the trinity is not even in the New Testament let alone the Old.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 5. - The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, I. V.P., Part 3, p.1597

The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and though used by Tertullian in the last decade of the 2nd century, it did not find a place formally in the theology of the church till the 4th century. It is, however, the distinctive and all-comprehensive doctrine of the Christian faith... Although Scripture does not give us a formulated doctrine of the Trinity, it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine. The teaching of Christ bears testimony to the true personality of each of the distinctions within the Godhead... The necessity to formulate the doctrine was thrust upon the church by forces from without, and it was, in particular, its faith in the deity of Christ and the necessity to defend it, that first compelled the church to face the duty of formulating a full doctrine of the Trinity... - pp.1597/8.

Page 5. - New Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.14, p.304

The 4th century articulation of the triadic mystery is at least implicitly the word of God, hence part of the Christian credo. On the other hand, it is not, as already seen directly and immediately word of God. And today, it is becoming more and more recognized that the direct and immediate word of God, the Biblical message speaks for itself, should be the heart and substance of the communication both in preaching and in catechises.

Page 5. - The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.15, p.47

In scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word trias (tri’as) (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180... Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian.

COMMENT

This quotation is correct but gives no problem to believing the doctrine of the trinity.

Page 6. - The Encyclopaedia of Religion, Vol.15, p.54

Theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity. While it is incontestable that the doctrine cannot be established on Scriptural evidence alone, its origins may legitimately be sought in the Bible, not in the sense of ‘proof-texting’ or of finding metaphysical principles, but because the Bible is the authoritative record of God’s redemptive relationship with humanity. What the scriptures narrate as the activity of God among us, which is confessed in creeds and celebrated in liturgy, is the wellspring of later trinitarian doctrine.

Page 6. - The New Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.14, p.306

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the O(ld) T(estament). In many places of the O.T., however, expressions are used in which some of the Fathers of the Church saw references or foreshadowings of the Trinity... The revelation of the truth of the triune life of God was first made in the NT...

Page 6. -The Triune God, Edmond Fortman

COMMENT

The quote begins on p.xv of the Introduction and then misses out some 18 pages before concluding on p.9 of chapter 1.

The Old Testament... tells us nothing explicitly or by necessary implication of a Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit... There is no evidence that any sacred writer even suspected the existence of a (Trinity) within the Godhead... Even to see in (the “Old Testament”) suggestions or foreshadowings or ‘veiled signs’ of the trinity of persons, is to go beyond the words and intent of the sacred writers. Perhaps it can be said that some of these writings... did provide a climate in which the plurality within the Godhead was conceivable to Jesus. However, these writers definitely do give us words that the New Testament uses to express the trinity of persons... - pp. xv-9.

Page 6. - The Triune God, Edmond Fortman

COMMENT

This quote starts in the middle of the last Forman quote above but does not finish until 24 pages later! Much of course has been left out.

If we take the New Testament writers together they tell us there is only one God, the creator and lord of the universe, who is the Father of Jesus. They call Jesus the Son of God, Messiah, Lord, Saviour, Word, Wisdom. They assign Him the divine functions of creation, salvation, judgement. Sometimes they call Him God explicitly. They do not speak as fully and clearly of the Holy Spirit as they do the Son, but at times they co-ordinate Him with the Father and the Son and put Him on a level with them as far as divinity and personality are concerned. They give us in their writings a triadic ground plan and triadic formulas... They give us not formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. But they do give us an elemental trinitarianism, the data from which such a formal doctrine of the Triune God may be formulated... The Holy Spirit is usually presented in the Synoptics and in the Acts as a divine force or power. But in a few passages the sacred writers leave a vivid impression that for them He was someone distinct from both Father and Son with a distinct personal existence. In both Synoptics and the Acts there are traces of the triadic pattern of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The clearest expression of this pattern is found in the baptismal formula where Matthew presents the three together as at once a triad and a unity. But nowhere do we find any trinitarian doctrine of three distinct subjects of divine life and activity in the same Godhead. pp.xv-15.

Page 6 - The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol.X, p.126

Neither the word Trinity not the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament... The earliest Christians, however, had to cope with the implications... Thus, the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.

Page 6. - A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Bernhard Lohse, p.39

As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity... In other passages of the New Testament the predicate ‘God’ is without a doubt applied to Christ. With these affirmations, which for Jewish monotheism were utterly offensive, Christians expressed their faith that it was not merely some heavenly being which encountered them in Jesus Christ but God himself...

Page 6. - New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol.2, p.84

The New Testament does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity. ‘ The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of equal essence’ (said Protestant theologian Karl Barth)... All this underlines the point that primitive Christianity did not have an explicit doctrine of the Trinity such as was subsequently elaborated in the creeds of the early church.

One may perhaps say that there is indeed no developed doctrine of the Trinity in the NT, but that the writers, particularly in the later strata, thought in trinitarian forms.
- Vol.2, p.516.

Page 6. - Origin and Evolution of Religion, E. Washburn Hopkins, p.336

The beginning of the doctrine of the trinity appears already in John (c.100). To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown, at any rate, they say nothing about it... But the first Christian theology was given in the words ‘I and my father are one’ and the plain faith of the early church members who were not doctrinaires was just this and nothing more. Jesus is God. - pp.336 & 338.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT.

About the only comment we can make is that their case is far from proven. Whereas many of the quotes say something about the explicit doctrine of the Trinity not being seen in the New Testament most when completed also show that the doctrine is there in one form or another.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

It is not important to find the word trinity in the Bible. What is important is that the meaning of the word trinity is found in the New Testament. The word trinity describes a relationship in which the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God. That teaching is found in the Scriptures as the following selection of verses indicate. Further teaching on this important subject can be found in other publications of REACHOUT TRUST.

Zechariah 12:1 in the NWT shows us three things,

1. Jehovah is ‘THE ONE’.

2. Jehovah THE ONE stretches out the heavens etc.

3. Jehovah THE ONE formed the spirit of man.

However Zechariah 12:10 with John 19:34-37 shows us that THE ONE Zechariah is talking about is JESUS.

Again Hebrews 1:10 and John 1:3 show us that JESUS is THE ONE who created heaven and earth.

Moreover, Colossians 1:16 & 17 show us that JESUS is THE ONE who created the spirit of man.

We discover that the “family name” reserved for God, Jehovah, is also given in Scripture to Jesus. Scripture therefore shows at least two persons in the Godhead.

However, when we compare Exodus 17:7, Psalm 95:8 and Hebrews 3:7-11 we find that this same “family name” is also given to the HOLY SPIRIT. Genesis 1:1-3 & Psalm 104:30 show the HOLY SPIRIT as the CREATOR. In addition, Job 33:4 shows the HOLY SPIRIT making man and breathing into him.

Summarizing this teaching in the simplest form we can say:

The FATHER is neither the SON nor the HOLY SPIRIT but He is God.

The SON is neither the FATHER nor the HOLY SPIRIT but He is God.

The HOLY SPIRIT is neither the FATHER nor the SON but He is God.

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