Friday, 17 October 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity?

Many Christians, while talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses, are asked to look at 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 asks you to read it. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

I have tried to personally see every book that the WBTS refer to. This was not easy at first because the WBTS left out references to page numbers, where and when published etc. Initially, thanks to the British Library I managed to see most of them. Since completing my research, the WBTS have issued their list of all the original publicationss.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses will give 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 sections, 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 many of the quotations they use.

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.

Setting it out like this, we hope, that at a glance, you will be able to grasp the WBTS argument and be able to give a clear and concise answer as to what you believe the truth to be.

Remember you are not out to win an argument but to share the truth and give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work in the life of the Jehovah’s Witness. Be cool, calm and collected and allow the Lord to use you!

Today we are posting the first section and will add the others in future posts.

SECTION 1- THE TRINITY IS BEYOND REASON

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

The definition of the Trinity is hard to follow, confusing and contrary to normal reason. They
conclude therefore that because it is beyond human reason and because God is not a God of confusion, the Trinity cannot exist.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

The original words from “Trinity” are in normal print and words or qualifying sentences omitted from the quote are in bold/italic print. We have added the full reference of the edition of the cited book so that a careful check can be made to see that we are not misquoting. Any comments made are in a separate paragraph clearly marked COMMENT. The page number refers to the page in “Trinity” where you can find the quote.

Page 4. -The Encyclopaedia Americana, Vol.27, p.16

It is held that although the doctrine is beyond the grasp of human reason, it is, like many of the formulations of physical science, not contrary to reason, and may be apprehended (though it may not be comprehended) by the human mind.

Page 4. - A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, Rev.L.Abbott, 1875, p.944

It is certain, however, that from the apostolic times they paid worship to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, addressed them their prayers, and included them in their doxologies. It was not till the beginning of the fourth century that the question began to be elaborately discussed how this practice, and the experience out of which it sprung, should be formed into a doctrine, and reconciled with the belief of the Church in one God... Precisely what that doctrine is, or rather precisely how it is to be explained, Trinitarians are not agreed among themselves... It is not possible for human intellect to comprehend fully the divine nature. The Bible represents God to us as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It represents them equally entitled to our highest reverence, affection, and allegiance. It attributes to all the same divine qualities. It even uses these titles at times interchangeably.

Page 4. - What Are They Saying About The Trinity? - Joseph Bracken

Priests who with considerable effort learned... the Trinity during their seminary years naturally hesitated to present it to their people from the pulpit, even on Trinity Sunday Why should one bore people with something that in the end they wouldn’t properly understand anyway?... The Trinity is a matter of formal belief, but it has little or no [effect] in day-to-day Christian life and worship.

COMMENT

It is very clear that if you seek to approach the Trinity purely from a humanistic viewpoint it is beyond our understanding. This type of quote only proves that some people find the Trinity confusing not that the doctrine itself is.

Page 4. - Christianity and the World Religions - Hans Kung, p.113

Even well informed Muslims simply cannot follow, as the Jews thus far have likewise failed to grasp, the idea of the Trinity. The distinctions made by the doctrine of the Trinity between one God and three hypostases do not satisfy Muslims, who are confused, rather than enlightened, by theological terms derived from Syriac, Greek, and Latin. Muslims find it all a word game... why should anyone want to add anything to the notion of God’s oneness and uniqueness that can only dilute or nullify that oneness and uniqueness?”

COMMENT

This quote is correct but Kung explains just seven pages later,

"How should we understand the doctrine of the Trinity for the purposes of dialogue with Judaism and Islam (a test case for every Christian theologian)? Here, in summary fashion, is my answer... Jesus Christ... the ambassador, Messiah, word of the eternal God in human form... From the biblical standpoint, the Holy Spirit is God Himself..." pp.120/1

Page 4. - The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.15, p.47

A dogma so mysterious presupposes a Divine revelation. When the fact of revelation, understood in its full sense as the Speech of God to man, is no longer admitted, the rejection of the doctrine follows as a necessary consequence.

COMMENT

What is interesting about continuing this quote is that it concludes that the only way to reject the Trinity is to reject God’s revelation of it to man. The WBTS are shutting off its members from the revelation of the very God they claim to serve.

Page 4. - Theological Dictionary - Rahner & Vorgimler, p.470

The Trinity looms in outline in the OT as a mystery ready for the disclosure... The NT witnesses to the divinity of Jesus Christ... is aware of the divinity of the Holy Ghost... The Trinity is a mystery... in the strict sense ... which could not be known without revelation, and even after revelation cannot become wholly intelligible. pp.469/70.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT

The WBTS try to lay the foundation that the Trinity is confusing and therefore not of God. However, whereas a number of the quotes they make do talk about confusion they also show that the Trinity exists and that with true revelation from Jehovah God we can see and accept its reality.

The other strand of their argument is that the Trinity is beyond human reason and therefore cannot be true. Is not God Himself beyond human reason? We cannot understand the eternal Almighty God with our finite minds. However, because we cannot understand the eternal God does that mean He does not exist? For God to be truly God He must be beyond our human reason - there is nothing wrong with that.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

The Bible is the revelation of this God who is beyond reason. His ways are not our ways, He is much higher than us - Isaiah 55:8-9. Jesus revealed God to us, John 1:14, and the Holy Spirit is sent to reveal both the Father and Son to us, John 16:13-15. Indeed as we read earlier the revelation of God transcends human reasoning and goes into the heart - 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10, 14; 2 Corinthians 3:5-18.The Trinity is indeed beyond human reason [in the mind] but it is not beyond God revelation [in the spirit].

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