Teachings on God
The Jehovah’s Witness teachings rejects the Christian teaching of the Trinity, as evidenced by quotations from two of the Jehovah’s Witness leaders.
“How strange that any should attempt to misuse and pervert these our Lord’s words, to make them support the unreasonable and unscriptural doctrine of a Trinity, – three Gods in one person.”
Atonement Between God and Man/ Studies In The Scriptures Vol. 5, page 76, 1912 - Charles Taze Russell
“If you ask a clergyman what is meant by the trinity he says: “That is a mystery.” He does not know, and no one else knows, because it is false. Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advanced than that of the trinity. It could have originated only in one mind, and that the mind of Satan the Devil.”
Reconciliation, page 101, 1928 - J.F. Rutherford
If you’ve not yet read the earlier section in this guide on the Trinity, (click "Trinity" to open a tab to that section), please do so to have a better understanding of the evidences that answer these challenges to the Biblical teaching of the Trinity, as well as illustrations that provide greater understanding of the concept of the Trinity. Wikipedia has a very detailed article on the Trinity and how the doctrine was developed.
Trinity - Wikipedia
The Jehovah’s Witness organization seems to selectively use passages from the Bible in an attempt to prove that Jesus is not the eternal God and that the Holy Spirit is not a person, so they can claim that Christianity’s understanding of the verses are wrong and that Christianity’s teaching on the Trinity is wrong.
The following link on the Jehovah’s Witness Church’s website in the first paragraph of the article gives the definition of the Trinity according to the Athanasian Creed.
Their article also lists publications which make reference to the doctrine of the Trinity not being established in Christianity until about the 4th century. The article suggests that the doctrine originated from pagan sources and that the term isn't found in the Bible. Could these pagan sources be the same as those indicated in this guide's subsection on the Trinity (click to open new tab), which are disproved? These “details” seem to be included to raise doubts on the doctrine, and I think the author has been fairly effective at raising doubts about the doctrine of the Trinity for those who don’t have reasons to believe otherwise.
Let’s consider some of the points raised by the article. Does the indicated 400 year delay mean that we can’t be confident in the conclusion about the Trinity? Hardly. The Trinity wasn't the only doctrine debated early in Christianity and there are doctrines still being debated 2000 years after Christ lived on earth; doctrines such as: the Tribulation (Pre, Mid, Post), Predestination vs. Election, the Millennium Reign, etc. Debating a topic is a good way to bring out all the information available, so that an accurate and informed conclusion can be arrived at. I believe this article leaves out important details which can lead one to come to a different conclusion about the Trinity than what the Bible teaches.
Something else to consider about this 400 year delay. How difficult was it at that time for people to obtain information? No internet or newspapers, and libraries were only in very major cities. Very few people had any written works.
The printing press was to the past what the Internet is to us now. The printing press allows us to have multiple copies of the Bible in our homes, but it didn’t exist till 1000 years after Christ lived on earth, and 600 years after the Athanasian Creed was finalized. The Gutenberg Bible, the first Bible printed by printing press, wasn’t printed until about 1450, almost 1000 years after the Athanasian Creed was finalized and almost 1500 years after Christ. Until then, most people probably never had the opportunity to touch a Bible, much less own one.
Think about the Bible, a hand copied work of over 1000 pages. It would be surprising if more than a few of those who were involved in determining the Athanasian Creed had a complete Bible. Creating copies of Bibles was something commissioned only by kings because it was so expensive, and time consuming.
Now think about how easy it is now for us to access so many resources and being able to do so now on a phone most of us have with us every day. Remember, the cell phone and all the other quick information access options we have? They didn’t exist even 40 years ago. This pre-technology limitation to the access of information in the world existed unchanged for over 1500 years. Does this give you a better understanding as to the challenges faced by those in the past; those determining official doctrine?
And something to consider, the concept of the Trinity taught in the Bible was completely revolutionary to those in the early church. Even today, with all the teaching and resources available to us, most Christians have difficulty trying to describe the concept of the Trinity to someone who had not heard of the concept before. How difficult it must have been 2000 years ago to have anything more than an acknowledgement of the teaching, much less any real understanding.
Think again about the concept of Truth. Truth isn't dependent upon on whether or not we understand that truth. As long as something is not self-contradictory, like a square-circle, or a married bachelor, etc., then our lack of understanding about something cannot eliminate the possibility of its existence.
A few of the paragraphs from this Jehovah’s Witness article on the Trinity demonstrate some of the mistaken assumptions made by the author. And since this is on an official Jehovah’s Witness site these assumptions must be those of the organization as well.
“Other statements of the dogma emphasize that these three “Persons” are not separate and distinct individuals but are three modes in which the divine essence exists.”
This sentence is in the first paragraph of the same document above. The paragraph starts by indicating the Christian definition of the Trinity as indicated in the Athanasian Creed, and ends with the sentence above. The writer of the article adds the sentence indicating “Other statements” but they don’t include any of these “other statements” or indicate what they are. If you accept this sentence as accurate by the article’s author, and don’t read any of the Athanasian Creed you will get the impression that this sentence gives an accurate representation of the Athanasian Creed. The Athanasian Creed can be read at the following link. This link is one of many that are easily found doing a simple web search.
The Athanasian Creed
The above sentence also states
“these three ‘Persons’ are not separate and distinct individuals”
The following statements from the Athanasian Creed are the only ones which use the word “person”. Do any of the following from the Athanasian Creed give any indication that the persons of the Trinity are not separate?
v3. “Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance”
v4. “For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.”
v18. “For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord;”
v25. “But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal.”
v35. “One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.”
Do these lines give the impression that “these three ‘Persons’ are not separate and distinct individuals”?
Lets consider a few of the other lines of the Athanasian Creed that will add even greater clarity:
1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
2. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
3. Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance
4. For there is one Person of the Father, another (person) of the Son and another (person) of the Holy Spirit.
5. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
6. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit.
7. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
8. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
9. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
10. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
11. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
12. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;
13. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
14. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
15. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
16. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
The sentence in the Jehovah’s Witness article further states:
“these three “Persons” are not separate and distinct individuals but are three modes”.
V4 of The Athanasian Creed indicates:
4. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.
Does this verse give any indication of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not being distinct individuals? Also, in The Athanasian Creed, the word 'Mode' is not found.
The concept of “three modes” is a teaching called "Modalism", where God is not three persons but one person. In Modalism, this one person operates in three different modes or roles at different times, but not more than one at any given time. Like an adult being an employee at their job, and then a student taking college classes, and then a parent in the evening. Modalism is one person operating in different capacities at different times, but again, not in more than one role at any given time. Applied to the concept of the Trinity, God would operate in the roll of God the Father, and at another time operate as God the Son, and at another time God the Holy Spirit. But according to Modalism, God will never operate in more than one role at any given time. Modalism is a representation of God which Christianity rejects.
In the following paragraph at the same link, the author states that there is no personal name applied to the Holy Spirit in any Biblical Scripture.
“The Holy Scriptures tell us the personal name of the Father—Jehovah. They inform us that the Son is Jesus Christ. But nowhere in the Scriptures is a personal name applied to the Holy Spirit.”
Jehovah’s Witness teaching that there is no personal name applied to the Holy Spirit is considered evidence by them of the Holy Spirit not being a person. They refer to the Holy Spirit as “God’s power in action, his active force.”
What Is the Holy Spirit?
Most Biblical verses about the Holy Spirit however, describe the Holy Spirit using personal attributes. If personal attributes are used, can we say that the Holy Spirit isn't a person in the Godhead? Law enforcement officers daily record accounts of person describing personal details of others they saw but did not know and don't know a name for. Those who are described are obvious persons even if there is no known name. This author claims that a personal name isn't used. But what personal attributes are used of the Holy Spirit in the Bible?
Acts 5:3-4 "But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit . . . You have not lied to man but to God.”
The Holy Spirit can be lied to and is also referred to as God.
2 Cor 13:14 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all"
We can have fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
John 14:26 "But the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." (He not it)
The Holy Spirit can teach.
John 16:13-15 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you."
The Holy Spirit can guide, speak, and disclose.
Ephesians 4:30 "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
The Holy Spirit can be grieved, and is referred to as 'whom' not 'it'.
Romans 8:27 "And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
The Spirit has a mind and can intercede.
Even Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as Him and a Helper, "him" not It.
John 16:7 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
Do these verses seem to describe a person or an impersonal force, and does this verse give at least one name to the Holy Spirit, the Helper? Consider also the verses which describe God both in the singular and the plural. These verses demonstrate the concept of the One God being composed of the three persons.
God describing Himself as singular.
Isaiah 43:10 "Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me."
Isaiah 44:6 "'I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me."
Isaiah 44:8 "Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none."
God describing Himself as both singular and plural
Gen 1:26 “Then God [singular] said, “Let Us [plural] make man in Our [plural] image, according to Our [plural] likeness...”
Gen 1:27 “So God [singular] created man in His [singular] own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
God describing Himself as plural
Genesis 3:22 “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us [plural] in knowing good and evil.”
Genesis 11:7 “Come, let us [plural] go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.”
Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit [plural]"
"Baptize in the name" singular, not "names" plural
It is important to stress again the command of the Bible, and also the emphasis the Bible places on itself as the only true authority to best learn about of God and His will for us.
2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
In the same article the following paragraph can be found. It is the third paragraph below the section heading:
Texts from which a person might draw more than one conclusion...
It demonstrates the author’s confusion with the terms God and Person.
“Which translation of John 1:1,2 agrees with the context? John 1:18 says: “No one has ever seen God.” Verse 14 clearly says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . we have beheld his glory.” Also, verses 1, 2 say that in the beginning he was “with God.” Can one be with someone and at the same time be that person? At John 17:3, Jesus addresses the Father as “the only true God”; so, Jesus as “a god” merely reflects his Father’s divine qualities.—Heb. 1:3”
You can see that the author's understanding of the teaching of the Trinity is the incorrect analogy of 1+1+1=1, and not the Christian teaching of 1x1x1=1. Seeing this confusion, it is understandable why Jehovah’s Witness teaching rejects the Christian teaching of the Trinity. Again, Christians also reject this teaching of the Trinity as 1+1+1=1. Christians use the analogy: 1x1x1=1. As mentioned earlier, the author equates the teaching of the Trinity with Modalism (1 then 1 then 1 = 1), and not the Christian teaching of three persons in one God (1 x 1 x 1 = 1).
In the 6th paragraph the author fully acknowledges passages which use terms of personal attributes, but then discounts them because of other passages which don’t use terms of personal attributes.
“Some individual texts that refer to the Holy Spirit (“Holy Ghost,” KJ) might seem to indicate personality. For example, the Holy Spirit is referred to as a helper (Greek, pa·ra′kle·tos; “Comforter,” KJ; “Advocate,” JB, NE) that ‘teaches,’ ‘bears witness,’ ‘speaks’ and ‘hears.’ (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:13) But other texts say that people were “filled” with Holy Spirit, that some were ‘baptized’ with it or “anointed” with it. (Luke 1:41; Matt. 3:11; Acts 10:38) These latter references to Holy Spirit definitely do not fit a person. . . . What is the reasonable conclusion? That the first texts cited here employ a figure of speech personifying God’s Holy Spirit, his active force, as the Bible also personifies wisdom, sin, death, water, and blood.”
The author asks “What is the reasonable conclusion?”
Wouldn’t the reasonable conclusion be the Holy Spirit that the Bible indicates, with both characteristics of personhood and non-personhood? While a square-circle is a contradictory concept, the Holy Spirit having both attributes of personhood and non-personhood is not contradictory. People are sometimes referred to in both personal and non-person terms. People are sometimes referred to as a rock, a pillar of the community, a beacon of righteousness. I’m sure some have said about me at times that talking to me is like talking to a brick wall. If people can be referred to in personal and non-personal terms, why would we limit the God of the Universe in the way this author does? Also, no Bible verse indicates that the Holy Spirit is only these non-personal attributes.
In this article, the author has concluded that the Holy Spirit can only be personal or non-personal, and not both. The author has also concluded that the personal attributes don’t justify the possible consideration of the person-hood of the Holy Spirit. I think the author’s concept of God is too small, because their concept is limited to a God they can understand. Again, the quote by pastor Wayne Stockstill:
“If God was a God we could understand, He wouldn’t be much of a God, would he?”
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