Friday, 26 December 2008

Should You believe in the Trinity - 6

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.

I have tried to see personally 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 have managed to see most of them. Since completing my research, the WBTS have issued their list of all the original publications.

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 6 - THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD’S ACTIVE FORCE

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS


The words used for ‘Spirit’ in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, do not indicate that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity. The Bible usage indicates a controlled force that Jehovah God uses. Certainly not a person and therefore cannot be part of the Trinity.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 21. - Triune God, Edmund Fortman, p.9

Although this spirit is often described in personal terms, it seems quite clear that the sacred writers (of the Hebrew Scriptures) never conceived or presented this spirit as a distinct person.

COMMENT

This quote refers to the Old Testament. Later, referring to the New Testament, Fortman adds:

There is another series of texts that strangely suggests that the Holy Spirit is a person, for in these Paul says that the Spirit is, ‘grieved,’ ‘bears witness,’ ‘cries,’ ‘makes intercession,’ and ‘comprehends the thoughts of God.’ ... In all these so many personal acts are attributed in such close parallel to Christ that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to regard the Spirit as merely a divine impersonal force or personification. - p.21.

Page 22. - A Catholic Dictionary, WE.Addis & T.Arnold 1951, p.796

On the whole, the New Testament, like the Old, speaks of the spirit as a divine energy or power... However if we look well to (1 Cor.12:11), we find that the Spirit is distinguished from the gifts of the Spirit, and that personal action is predicated of Him... In the fourth Gospel, however, this personal existence is stated more fully and plainly (ch.xiv).

Page 22. - The Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.7, p.409

Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find any clear indication of a Third Person.

COMMENT

This is an honest quote but it is referring to the Old Testament. There follows four pages of evidence to show that in the New Testament the proof is there for us to see.

Page 22. - The New Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol.14, p.574

The Old Testament clearly does not envisage God’s spirit as a person... God’s spirit is simply God’s power. If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly.

COMMENT

This again is under the Old Testament section. One quote from the New Testament section is:

So clearly does St John see in the Spirit a person who takes Christ’s place in the Church, that he uses a masculine pronoun.

C. COMMENTS ON WATCIITOWER ARGUMENT

The quotes that the WBTS list, may agree that there is not much proof in the Old Testament to show that the Holy Spirit is neither a person nor God. However most go on to say that there is proof of the reality of the person of the Holy Spirit as part of the Godhead in the New Testament. We have listed under ADDED MATERIAL just a few of the major Scriptures.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

Three things are necessary in order to be classed as a person. Intellect, will and emotion.
John 14:26 tells us the Holy Spirit is able to teach. A sign of INTELLECT. 1 Corinthians 12:11 shows the Holy Spirit has a WILL of his own. And Ephesians 4:30 shows the Holy Spirit can be grieved, a sign of EMOTION.

It is clear that Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is a person. This can be clearly seen by reading John 14:7 & 13-15 in the NWT. Repeatedly the Holy Spirit is a HE. However, does the Bible also show that the Holy Spirit is God?

In Acts 5:3 Ananias lies to the Holy Spirit, but in Acts 5:4 Ananias lied to God.

But when there is a turning to Jehovah, the veil is taken away. Now Jehovah is the Spirit; and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom. And all of us, while we with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah, are transformed: into the same image from glory to glory, exactly as done by JEHOVAH [THE] SPIRIT. - 2 Cor.3:16-18 {NWT}

The Holy Spirit is not God’s active force as this verse clearly points out. The Holy Spirit is called by the name Jehovah; He is part of the Godhead.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Saudi Arabia Rejects Divorce Plea From 8-Year-Old Girl Married To 58-Year-Old Man

 

Saudi Arabia Rejects Divorce Plea From 8-Year-Old Girl Married To 58-Year-Old Man

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Compass Direct News

The Western World seems to have been fascinated by "the east" forever. Certainly, since the nineteenth century, with its spiritualism, theosophy and varieties of esoteric movements, we have fallen for the notion that the primitive, simple and "peaceful" religions of the east have so much more than the Christianity with which we grew up. These reports from Compass paint a quite different picture. The persecution of Christians across the world, often at the hands of so-called "peaceful" religions, gives the lie to the myth. We should not be completely naive about the deceivingly comforting stories of far, far away.

 

Buddhist clerics and local council officials are holding 13 newly converted Christians captive in a pagoda in a southeastern mountainous district of Bangladesh in an attempt to forcibly return them to Buddhism. A spokesman for the Parbatta Adivasi (Hill Tract) Christian Church told Compass on condition of anonymity that local government council officials in Jorachuri sub-district in Rangamati district, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Dhaka, are helping the Buddhist monks to hold the Christians against their will. “The 13 tribal Christians were taken forcefully to a pagoda on Dec. 10 to accept Buddhism against their will,” he said. “They will be kept in a pagoda for 10 days to perform the rituals to be Buddhists – their heads were shaved, and they were given yellow saffron robes to dress in.” Fearing for their lives, the source said, some area Christians have gone into hiding. Mogdhan Union Council Chairman Arun Kanti Chakma, the source said, warned that Christian converts would be ostracized, beaten, or killed. “The chairman threatened to beat the Christians unless they change their faith to Buddhism,” he said. “The chairman also threatened, ‘If you become Christian again, we will not keep you alive.’”

Compass Direct News

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Barbara Kay: Raelians, witches and Christians -- in Quebec there is no difference - Full Comment

George Orwell's 1984 is being lived out in Quebec as a repressive new law mandates that, regardless of their religious affiliations, teachers must teach and students learn the most meaningless pluralism imaginable while parents with strong religious beliefs are ignored as the state takes over their children's spiritual development.

"No religious leaders are solicited for their views in this text, but Françoise David, the radical-feminist leader of the Marxist party Québec Solidaire is “interviewed.” Beside a large picture of Mme. David, benignly smiling, face upwardly tilted in the old Sovietic mode, the question is posed: “What would you say to those adolescents who don’t feel concerned about feminism?” David replies: “[Adolescents] need a feminist analysis in their life.”

Paganism and cults are offered equal status with Christianity. Witches “are women like any other in daily life;” “Technologically [the Raelians] are 25,000 years in advance of us.” And considering that of the 80,000 ethnic aboriginals in Quebec only 700 self-identify with aboriginal spirituality (the vast majority of ethnic aboriginals are Christian), aboriginal spirituality (falsely equated with environmentalism) is accorded hugely disproportionate space and reverence.
In this ERC monoculture, only similarities between religions are permitted, to further the jolly illusion that all religions are merely variations on a single theme of brotherly love."

Barbara Kay: Raelians, witches and Christians -- in Quebec there is no difference - Full Comment

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sharing Your Faith With Mormons « “PoP cuLTuRe MiX”

(This article first appeared in Southern Baptist Theological Journal, Summer 2005)

.

Christians are supposed to defend the faith (Jude 3), preserve the Gospel’s purity (Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Peter 3:15), test all things (1 Thess. 5:21), and correct those who have doctrinally erred (2 Tim. 4:2). Equally relevant scriptures include Eph. 4:15, which mentions speaking the truth “in love,” and 2 Tim. 2:24-26, which says to correct using “gentleness and respect.”

Unfortunately, these latter two passages often take a backseat to what becomes the overriding aim of witnessing—that is, make sure that someone realizes he is wrong. But this unbiblical approach never results in a person falling to his knees, repenting, and shouting appreciation for being shown the error of his doctrinal ways. Instead, emotional walls go up defensive arguments are launched (no matter how baseless or illogical they may be), and a golden opportunity to show Christ’s love is lost.

Sharing Your Faith With Mormons « “PoP cuLTuRe MiX”

Friday, 12 December 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity - 5

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.

I have tried to see personally 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 have 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 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 5 - THE BIBLE’S REVELATION OF GOD AND JESUS

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS


The WBTS claim that the Bible teaches the following:

God is one; Jesus was a separate creation; God could not be tempted; the ransom must be a man; only-begotten; Jesus was never considered to be God.

Under a sub-heading they claim that God is always superior to Jesus because:

Jesus is distinguished from God; He is God’s submissive servant; He had limited knowledge; He will continue to be subordinate; and above all Jesus never claimed to be God.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 12. - Evolution of Trinitarianism, L.L. Paine, p.4

The Old Testament is strictly monotheistic. God is a single personal being. The idea that a trinity is to be found there is utterly without foundation.

COMMENT

This quote is accurate but further on we read,

"... the fourth gospel at once goes back from Christ’s human birth into the eternity of the divine existence and out of God himself by a divine incarnation makes Christ proceed; and this divine nature of Christ, as the eternal Logos of God, is the keynote of the whole Gospel. . the (logos) of God, God of God, derived indeed, but essentially divine". - pp.342/3.

Page 16. - Greek & English Lexicon of the New Testament, E. Robinson, p.508

Only born, only begotten, i.e. an only child... In John’s writings spoken only of o logos, the only begotten Son of God in the highest sense, as alone knowing and revealing the essence of the father.

Page 16. - Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, p.738

(Mo-no-ge-nes) means ‘of sole descent’ i.e. without brothers or sisters.

COMMENT

The above quote is taken from the section headed usage outside the New Testament. To use this publication honestly the WBTS should quote usage inside the New Testament, as we do below.

In Jn. the Lord is always the Son. Because He alone was God’s Son before the foundation of the world, because the whole love of the Father is for Him alone, because he alone is one with God, because the title God may be ascribed to Him alone, He is the only - begotten Son of God.

Page 16. - Bulletin of John Rylands Library, Vol.50, Spring 1968, No.2, pp.241-261

Yet be that as it may, the fact has to be faced that New Testament research over, say, the last thirty or forty years has been leading an increasing number of reputable New Testament scholars to the conclusion that Jesus himself may not have claimed any of the christological titles which the Gospels ascribe to him, not even the functional designation ‘Christ’, and certainly never believed himself to be God... When therefore, they assigned (Jesus) such honorific titles as Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, and Lord, these were ways of saying not that he was God, but that he did God’s work. - p.251.

C. COMMENTS ON WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT

They make some very strong claims but as we have seen from the few quotes above, they are not always borne out when investigated fully. Under the ADDED MATERIAL heading, we are listing and answering some of the Scriptures mentioned in this section.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

On p.13 the WBTS says,

"That is why nowhere in the Bible is anyone but Jehovah called Almighty. Otherwise, it voids the meaning of the word ‘almighty.’"

However, we only have to read carefully Revelation 1:8 - Jehovah is the Alpha & Omega, the Almighty. Revelation 22:12 & 13 - the one who is coming [Jesus] is the Alpha & Omega and therefore the Almighty. The Alpha & Omega is also the first and the last. Revelation 1:17 & 18 - the first and the last is Jesus because He is the one who was dead and now alive. The first and the last = the Alpha & Omega = the Almighty. Jesus is called by the name Almighty.

On the same page under the sub heading, “Not a Plural God,” the WBTS begin to try to discredit the doctrine of the Trinity by claiming that the fact that “elohim” is plural does not signify more than one person of the Trinity. This by itself is true. However, it also does not deny the understanding of the Christian Trinity either but it does give problems to the WBTS.

The Trinity states that God is one and therefore starting with this fact is not a problem. It also shows though that there are three persons in the Trinity therefore allowing for more than one in the Godhead. However, if the WBTS, as they do, make much of the fact that God is One and One alone, then when they say that Jesus is a lesser God they are the ones who are bringing in a Pagan doctrine to the Biblical revelation.

Several verses are also mentioned in this section, which seek to prove that Jesus is a separate creation from God.

Colossians 1:15 - A Witness reads this verse as Christ is the first one of creation to be born; however it does not say that. If we read verses 15-18, without the notorious “other” that the WBTS have added 4 times, without any justification from the Greek, it is self-evident what these verses mean. Jesus created all things, in the heavens and on earth; He created all authorities and powers; He is before all things; all things hold together in Him; and He is to have first-place in everything. This last phrase clearly sums up that the “first-born” of all creation is to be seen in the sense of the first-born in the OT usage, the Son that was pre-eminent over all.

Revelation 3:14 - once again the WBTS have mistranslated this verse. If you look at the K.I.T., you will see that the literal Greek is “of God” but the NWT is “by God.” When did the Greek change? Added to this we must understand what the Greek word ‘arche’ really means. The WBTS do give it one of its possible meanings; “beginning” but it does not means the first to be begun but the one who is over all the beginning, i.e. “the ruler” or “the source.” So instead of this verse meaning that Jesus is the first to be created it actually means He is the source of all of God’s creation.

Proverbs 8:22 - The Witnesses make this verse say that Jesus is Wisdom and that Jehovah created Jesus at the beginning. However, when you check the Hebrew word used here with the rest of the Old Testament it is never used of created. Secondly, v23 says, “from everlasting I was established” [NASB]. The Hebrew word for everlasting is also used in other places of Jehovah God which the WBTS readily take as showing He had no beginning. The same must be said of Wisdom here. The more correct translation and understanding of verse 22 is that Jehovah possessed wisdom right at the beginning and He has never been without it.

The next two arguments, “Could God Be Tempted,” p.14 and “How much was the Ransom,” p.15, show, as others will later, a lack of understanding as Jesus being both God and man. He could say and experience things as a man but that did not mean to say He was not God.

Only Begotten Son. The WBTS try to make this fit their understanding of Jesus being created. However, the fact is this title more than any other shows that Jesus is God. If Jesus is created He cannot be begotten they are two different actions. In addition, the very life of the one doing the begetting is found in the one begotten. The life of Jehovah is God and that is the life that is begotten into the Son. Hebrews 1:3 helps here too, especially if you read the literal Greek from the KIT. It is not talking about a mirror image but it is talking that out of the person of Jesus the very being of Jehovah shone. Jesus is the exact representation of Jehovah. Does Jehovah look like Jesus? No. It is the inward being of God that was within Jesus and shone out even through His manhood.

The WBTS claim that God is clearly superior to Jesus because Jesus submitted Himself to the Father does not mean He is lesser.

1 Corinthians 15:27, 28 simply says He will submit Himself. What does submit mean? Other uses of the very same word in Ephesians 5 and Luke 2 show that submission does not mean you are lesser or different. It clearly shows that people with the same life can be in submission one to another because this is God’s order. There is order in the family, there is order in the church and there is order in the Godhead.

Finally, in this section the WBTS say that Jesus never claimed to be God. Nevertheless, in both what He said and what He did not say he claimed to be God.

Very clearly in John 20:28, where Thomas calls Jesus, “ho theos”, which according to the WBTS is only used of Jehovah God. Whatever various arguments the Jehovah’s Witness seeks to bring here, in the end the facts are indisputable. Thomas calls Jesus, God, and He accepts that title as true. Not only that but He goes on to commend all those that did not see Him yet believe; believe what? That He is God!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Creative Minority Report: Dictionary Removes Christian Words - A Catholic Blog: Religion, Politics, Current Events, Humor, and more.

 

Many words associated with Christianity have been removed from a children's dictionary in Britain. Come on! Tell me you're surprised.
Oxford University Press has excised words like "aisle," "Saint," "devil," "bishop," and "chapel" from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like "blog," "interdependent" and "celebrity," says
The UK Telegraph.

As something of a dictionary enthusiast (I won't put it stronger than that, although it is something of an obsession actually) and as a sold out Bible-believing Christian I had to share this. The original blog comment is very good (please do look at it) but the subsequent posts are utterly priceless for anyone who truly appreciates the intelligent use of words and the right application of reason, and all done in the best possible taste.

I can only add that when your culture and history is being systematically removed from the dictionary that dreadful chimera multiculturalism has gone too far and turned from inclusiveness to appeasement.

Creative Minority Report: Dictionary Removes Christian Words - A Catholic Blog: Religion, Politics, Current Events, Humor, and more.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Joseph Smith Papers

With its usual modesty and demonstrating its typical self-effacing character the Mormon Church has announced the publication of The Joseph Smith Papers. Aimed at scholars and “serious students of the life of Joseph Smith”, it draws on some 6,000 documents taken mainly from the archives of the Mormon Church but also from the Re-organised Church (The Community of Christ) and some private collections. The aim is to produce a definitive, scholarly edition of Joseph Smith’s papers in approximately thirty volumes produced at a rate of two volumes a year at just under $50 a volume.

Did someone say hubris? One wonders how many Mormons, let alone non-Mormons, will actually end up with a set. If you’re determined to own a set yourself it will likely take you fifteen years to complete it, although they hope to speed up production. Certainly, for the average Christian what you meet on the doorstep will not change. The story of Joseph Smith as presented by missionaries and shared by the typical Mormon will be the same.

There is extensive information on the josephsmithpapers.org web site including a very interesting FAQ section. Of course, FAQ’s are not always genuine FAQ’s but are often simply questions devised by the publishers as a device for presenting a positive apologetic for their work and/or to anticipate difficult questions and head them off at the pass. Some of their questions and answers raise further questions and doubts in this writers mind.

A very apposite FAQ is addressed, i.e. can the LDS church expect to maintain scholarly credibility while publishing its own works? Their answer, in brief, is wait and see and an appeal to trustworthy scholarship. We are led to believe that the published collection will be exhaustive. This is difficult to judge of course since this project is entirely a church project and the vast majority of sources are exclusively held in notoriously inaccessible church facilities in SLC.

We are promised a high level of scholarship and they go to great lengths to point out endorsements from respected independent institutions such as The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). However, since such endorsements come from institutions concerned principally with methodology and organising principles and given the Mormon Church’s history of hiding documents (remember their denial for years of the existence of different accounts of the so-called First Vision), and the discriminating nature and doctrine-driven character of official Mormon history (remember Boyd K Packer’s assertion that not all scholarship is “helpful”) one might be forgiven for having doubts.

Two things stand out for me. The first is that these papers will serve the same purpose for the average Mormon and Mormon missionary as the encyclopaedic collection of works produced by the late Hugh Nibley. It was said of Nibley’s often dense and impenetrable writings that most Mormons didn’t read Nibley, it was enough for them to know that he was there. In the same way, we will no doubt find Mormons citing the Joseph Smith Papers to “prove” that their church has nothing to hide without actually going to the trouble of finding out whether their naive claim actually stands up.

For the Christian this highlights the constant need to be determined not to be easily impressed. The fact of thirty volumes, the apparent level of scholarship involved, the endorsement of academic institutions do not together in any way prove the claim to integrity and veracity, much less the claim of Mormonism to be “restored Christianity”.

Secondly, there is an irony in the fact that the original claim of Mormonism is that, in the absence of prophets, the inevitable obfuscation of apostasy followed upon man’s having to fall back on scholarship and his own wit in doing the best he can to arrive at the truth of his Christian faith. Prophets, it is claimed, have restored the truth, shone the light of revelation where there was only darkness and brought understanding where there was confusion.

Traditionally, Mormons have been urged to trust their Prophets over against anything as prosaic as scholarship, Christian or secular. Having a hotline to God historically divided learning for Mormons into two categories: the flawed learning of the world and the thoroughly reliable learning of Mormon “knowing”. The world and its scholarship, it is insisted, has never “understood” Mormonism and the church has to continuously correct misconceptions but “when the prophet speaks all debate is ended”.

Mormon-watchers will have observed however that, in recent years, it is Mormon “Para-church” organisations like FAIR and FARMS and Mormon educational establishments like BYU and the Neil A Maxwell Institute that are making the running in defending Mormonism against critics, in developing and teaching Mormon theology. While the Mormon leadership does occasionally issue statements aimed at clarifying issues that come up in the press etc. and make policy announcements they seldom engage meaningfully with any major issues of traditional Mormon teaching and theology. FAIR and FARMS, etc. on the other hand, are consistently engaged in producing apologetics, refutations, sturdy defences and counter arguments in response to church critics and in simply explaining the faith.

As this foray by the Mormon Church from the world of special revelation and blind faith into the conventional but disciplined world of scholarship becomes normative it is inevitable that a) more and more Mormon history and controversy will come under the spotlight and b) the Mormon Church’s ability to live up to its claims of scholarly integrity and theological verity will be tested. They will be found wanting.

See also: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/23004/joseph-smith