Sunday, April 17, 2011

Should you believe in the Trinity?

There are moments that forever stand out in your mind. For me, they are a bunch of “firsts.” I remember the first time I saw my wife, the first time I went swing dancing, and my first real cup of coffee – courtesy of Eli. Last night was another one of these stand-alone moments as I read the Watchtower publication Should You Believe in the Trinity?, given to me by the Jehovah’s Witness I’m talking with.

I had just finished doing up my usual cup of coffee – a tall, half inch of non-fat milk, one equal, well stirred – and claimed a comfy seat outside Starbucks. I managed to complete the magazine in that sitting, and I’m certain I scared the little old ladies sitting nearby as I furiously annotated in the margins with a look of concern on my face. What I discovered within the brief 31 page magazine were a series of poorly constructed arguments, misrepresentations and falsehoods in an attempt to disprove the Trinity.

“Why should a subject like this be of any more than passing interest? Because Jesus himself said: “Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” So our entire future hinges on our knowing the true nature of God, and that means getting to the root of the Trinity controversy. Therefore, why not examine it for yourself?” (Page 3). My annotation here summarizes exactly what I was thinking as I finished this: “Amen!” Truly, there is no greater subject of difference between Christianity and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Oddly enough, the Watchtower publication attempts to unravel the foundation of the Trinity by claiming it is too confusing to understand, and since God is not a God of confusion it must be untrue. “However, contending that since the Trinity is such a confusing mystery, it must have come from divine revelation creates another major problem. Why? Because divine revelation itself does not allow for such a view of God: “God is not a God of confusion.”” (Page 5). Aside from the fact that the citation of 1 Corinthians 14:33 is about proper use of spiritual gifts in the church, the doctrine of the Trinity is comprehensible. Josh (my Jehovah’s witness friend) has argued that he thinks it is confusing because he can’t imagine what it is like to exist as a trinity. My response to him was that simply because we can’t relate to God in all of His attributes – especially about His very nature – does not disprove that this is how God actually exists. There are many attributes about God that we cannot fully relate to: his omnipresence, omniscience, and his complete power. Nevertheless, these unrelatable attributes are true of God. So then, if the Lord has revealed that He is only one Being, shared by three distinct coequal and coeternal Persons, then the Trinity is true … even though we can’t relate to God in this way.

When and how the doctrine of the Trinity developed becomes the next focus. In a nut shell, it is argued that early Christians borrowed from pagan religious sources to shape their understanding of God. Examples include the Egyptian gods Horus, Osiris and Isis and the Babylonian gods Ishtar, Sin and Shamash. It was at this point that I set the magazine down on the table and had to try not to look as angry as I felt. The reason I was so bothered is because the idea that the polytheistic world was adopted by Christians flies in the face of the absolute monotheism of the Bible. The most essential truth of Judaism and Christianity is the firm belief in the existence of one true God. If I may add one further point, because other polytheistic religions had a “set” of three gods does not even begin to compare with the absolute monotheism of Christianity.

“When Jesus was about to die, he showed who his superior was by praying: “Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” To whom was he praying? To a part of himself? No, he was praying to someone entirely separate, his father, God, whose will was superior and could be different from his own, the only One able to “remove this cup.” (Page 18). Words like this sound entirely strange to Trinitarian ears because we recognize that the Father and the Son are different persons. What is surprising is that here the Watchtower does not seem to understand that Trinitarians do believe that. When I read the question, “To whom was he praying? To a part of himself?” I thought to myself: this is either a dishonest question or one made out of ignorance. One or the other.

Dishonesty or ignorance? The entire magazine could be easily refuted by a Trinitarian familiar with the doctrine of the Trinity. The simple understanding that difference in function does not mean inferiority in nature. In other words, because the Father and the Son have some distinct roles does not mean one has an inferior nature. All three of the divine Persons share the one Being of God.

If you have could use some help in further understanding and explaining the Trinity I would highly recommend Dr. James R. White’s The Forgotten Trinity, purchasable through Speaking of “firsts,” the first time I read James’ book I remember thinking to myself, “Oh that’s what the Trinity is…”


Thanks for reading,


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