Thursday, October 08, 2009

Jehovah's Witnesses misrepresent the Trinity

A couple of weeks ago, some Jehovah's Witnesses came by and gave me the September 1, 2009 edition of the Watchtower magazine. On page 28, there's a short one page article called "In What Way are Jesus and his Father One?" I think this article illustrates very clearly why it is that Jehovah's Witness have such a difficult time understanding the Trinity and why they constantly misrepresent it.

At the beginning of the article, it says, "Some quote this text to prove that Jesus and his Father are two parts of a triune God." Then at the end of the article it says, "Thus, when Jesus said, 'I and the Father are one,' he was speaking, not of a mysterious Trinity, but of a wonderful unity--the closest bond possible between two persons." Everything that comes between the beginning and the end, then, was meant to demonstrate that the Trinitarian interpretation of John 10:30 is incorrect.

What is striking for this trinitarian is how the article attempts to prove its point. It says that Jesus' statements in verses 27 to 29 "would have made little sense to his listeners if he and his Father were one and the same person." After paraphrasing the verses, the articles says, "No one would conclude that this son and his father were the same person." Citing Matthew 24:36, the article asks rhetorically, "If Jesus and his Father were really one person, why did Jesus pray to God and humbly admit to not knowing things that only his Father knew?"

So basically this article attacks modalism as if it were the Trinity. The authors of this article are very confused, and they are confusing the many Jehovah's Witnesses who read it. According to modalism, the Father and the Son are the same person. But that is not the Trinity. In the Trinity, the Father and the Son are distinct persons. So a trinitarian would totally agree with this article when it says,
This strong bond of unity, however, does not make God and his Son, Jesus, indistinguishable from each other. They are two individuals. Each one has his own distinct personality. Jesus has his own feelings, thoughts, experiences, and free will. Nevertheless, he chose to submit his will to that of his Father.
The Jehovah's Witnesses who left this article said they would come back this Saturday for a chat. I was thinking about asking them if I could video tape the conversation. Wouldn't that be neat?

24 Comments:

At 10/09/2009 10:53 AM , Blogger Survivor said...

You're cellar-dwelling in semantics. You believe in an almighty God, his son Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit as an agent of God. So do Jehovah's Witnesses. You happen to call it the Trinity, which is neither here nor there. Package it however you like, but the contents of the package on both sides are the same. I don't think God intended Himself to be understood from the lens of big words and cryptic explanations. If we are indeed created in His image, that is something for you to consider.

 
At 10/09/2009 10:23 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Survivor, if I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that Jehovah's Witnesses and Trinitarians don't actually have a disagreement in what they believe about God. They only disagree in the terminology they use to express their belief. Have I got it right?

If what you're saying is true, then there's no difference between Jesus being created and Jesus not being created. There's no difference between the Holy Spirit being a person and the Holy Spirit not being a person. There's no difference between God being one person and God being three persons. I must admit that I'm skeptical our differences are only in semantics.

 
At 10/10/2009 2:25 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Bummer. I was all ready this morning. I even used a lint roller to get the cat hair off my couch. But the Jehovah's Witnesses did not show up. They will probably show up at the most inconvenient and least expected time. I think next time, I'll just exchange phone numbers with them.

 
At 11/20/2009 3:30 PM , Blogger JJones said...

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At 11/20/2009 3:45 PM , Blogger Sam said...

I'm not sure what that has to do with this post, but I'll say something about it anyway. It seems to me that if your primary source of information about Jehovah's Witnesses or any other people group is through criminal court cases, you are going to get a very distorted picture of that people group. Imagine, for example, that I want to learn as much as I can about white people and white culture, so I look up all the criminal cases I can involving white people. Do you honestly think I'd get an accurate picture of white people in general? Of course not. I'd get a very distorted picture of white people because I'd only be looking at the worst case scenarios.

The best way to learn about Jehovah's Witnesses, in my opinion, is by (1) interacting with Jehovah's Witnesses themselves, and (2) reading their literature.

 
At 10/20/2011 7:04 PM , Blogger Richard W 4Christ said...

I have gone to my trinitarian churches and found the Statement Of Faith in each to be intriguing in a bad sense. Let's look at the premise of the doctrine statement: We believe in God existing in three persons namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...". Does anybody see anything wrong with this statement alone? I found a few things: (1) It says God is a separate being from the 3 persons identified-that God resides in those 3 persons (2)It says that God can only exist in that combination of 3 persons-that if one is taken out or that two is taken out, then the one cannot be God nor can the two be God (3)It says God can only EXIST in these 3 persons apart from being self-existent-that God doesn't exist at all if the 3-fold combination is compromised (4)It says God exists in somthing-that God was made to exist by or through the things that were said to created or begotten by Him and lastly (5)It says that God exists in the Father-that God resides in the Father. This statement on a whole is heresy in any regard according to the Holy Scriptures. Scriptures teach that God is the Father, and even that He is the God and Father of our Savior Jesus Christ. And, God does not EXIST in any thing nor anyone for that matter. Everything exists in God and because of God. Why should trinitarians put down the JW's, and vice-versa? To their credit, JW's are right about the identity of the Holy Spirit. Translators are at fault for replacing what the Spirit is with a "He" or "Him" instead of the correct translation being 'it'. The Greek words 'houtos' and 'autos' can carry multiple meanings such as 'it,that,this'and they have since added 'he' to limit confusion in select words. The Greek translation is translated from Hebrew, so Hebrew has the premise to present the right translation and it is opposite that of the Greek which mistakes 'it' with 'he'. One example other than the Holy Spirit verses, is John 1:1. The WORD identified in this passage was originaly not 'he', but 'it'. LOGOS is the identification of ideas or concepts of the thoughts,plans and purposes of God Himself. It originally states,"It was in the beginning with God. All things were made by IT, and without IT was not anything made". The WORD had no particular person identified with it until IT become FLESH. John said that, "in IT was LIFE". The original says 'it', while recent ones have 'in Him'. But watch how this makes more sense when it reads from the earliest translations: "In (the Word)IT was LIFE. That LIFE was the light of men..." You see, there was a life that came to be in that WORD. Who was that LIFE in that WORD? The LIFE was Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus came forth as that LIFE existing in that WORD and to embody that WORD, thus becoming the manifestation of that WORD. Jesus said that He's the WAY, THE TRUTH, and the LIFE. THAT LIFE was the LIGHT of men. Jesus was the Light of men. Let's continue: "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it". It says further that John the Baptist bore witness of that LIGHT. That LIGHT was the true light lighting up every man coming into the world. The LIFE was Jesus Christ. In the WORD was LIFE and that LIFE was Christ. That LIFE lights up every man coming into the world. But current translations have replaced the 'it' with 'he'.

 
At 10/20/2011 7:20 PM , Blogger Sam said...

We believe in God existing in three persons namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...

Richard, you're reading an awful lot into that statement.

 
At 10/20/2011 8:27 PM , Blogger Richard W 4Christ said...

Anyway, continuing the point of my earlier post, then you'd have the verses in John 1 reading like,'In Jesus was the LIFE' 'In Jesus was Jesus'. Very confusing right? But the earliest centuries translations say, " IN IT (the Word) was LIFE(Jesus)". Then we understand that the LIFE was Jesus. That LIFE was the LIGHT of men. Jesus Christ was conceived as that LIFE in the ideas/concepts LOGOS of God and became the manifestation through the conception, thus the embodied WORD became flesh. "It" and "he" have been interchangebly misused for a long time now and it really will take much time to present evidence and proof of this. Anyway,refering back to the identification of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father God Himself. Just like the spirit of a man is himself( I Corinthians 2:10-12). The spirit of a man is not a different person from himself but the essence and life of his very self. So it is with the Spirit of God. God says, "I will pour out of MY SPIRIT.."(Joel 2). Jesus says no one can come to Him unless the SPIRIT OF HIS FATHER draws him. That explains why His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are His children. His Spirit controls in place of our spirit so we can become as Him. When one is full of the Spirit, it's the power, influence and essence of God flowing through a person. And let's not forgot. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, but who was credited as His Father. God Himself the Father. Why? Because Jesus was conceived by the Spirit of God the Father Himself. So lets' try to get the facts straight. It would help to have some knowledge in the Hebrew,Aramaic, and Greek translations into English. Different denominations, various doctrines. Let's not put anybody down, but correct one another in compassion,mercy and love. Let's rightfully divide the scriptures and not be afraid to teach and do right by God's truth.

 
At 10/20/2011 8:29 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Richard, I appreciate you visiting my blogs, but would you do me a favor when you respond and try to stick to the subject of my posts. You write long posts that mostly don't address what I wrote. This blog post is specifically about how Jehovah's Witnesses confuse the Trinity with Modalism.

 
At 10/20/2011 8:33 PM , Blogger Richard W 4Christ said...

I'm not reading a lot into that statement Sam. Ask anyone who believes in the trinity if one can exist without the two. Why use "exist". Anybody could read that statement and get the exact confusion. I just asked a few people a while ago. They told me the never saw it like that until I OPENED it up to them. Now they going to look to their pastor for some sort of revision.

 
At 10/20/2011 8:42 PM , Blogger Richard W 4Christ said...

I do apologize Sam for the lengthy posts, but I think they're right on topic. I'm just trying to explain the root of why all these confusions exist. I'm sorry if it seemed like I was getting off topic. Your blog site is my favourite site because I like the way that you open the floor to a lot of issues that we overlook in our lives. So absolutely no disrespect to you. You have great blogs and a good thought process. So I do apologize if I offended you in any way, but I love your blogs.

 
At 10/20/2011 8:43 PM , Blogger Sam said...

You didn't offend me at all. I just like to stay focused. Thank you for your kind words.

 
At 10/20/2011 8:54 PM , Blogger Richard W 4Christ said...

I think you should video tape the conversation if the JW's actually come on Saturday and let you do it. That would be very interesting blog though hahaha!

 
At 10/20/2011 9:03 PM , Blogger Sam said...

I asked some Mormon missionaries if they'd let me video tape the conversation, but they wouldn't let me. I guess I'll have to find a way to hide my camera. ;-)

 
At 10/20/2011 9:09 PM , Blogger Richard W 4Christ said...

Hahahaha! I hope it works out for you Sam. I'd love to know how it went if they actually show up. Great post though.

 
At 10/21/2011 12:24 AM , Blogger Survivor said...

I guess you must have a lot of time and gumption on your hands if you want to videotape visits and discussions with evangelicals who visit you at your home. If you don't agree with them, then don't waste anyone's time. How you view and interpret God is your business, as is your blog.

I will say that I was one of Jehovah's Witnesses for 20+ years, serving at their world headquarters in Brooklyn, NY for several years and also served as a congregation elder. I left in 2002, and have never looked back. I sometimes miss my friends there, but the ones with common sense and humanity that I enjoyed being with have left themselves and have since reached out to me. It's a very dysfunctional religion, rife with mental illnesses, shame, guilt, stress, low self-esteem, very little education among the adherents, and a very exclusionist view. I sometimes can't believe that I have spent literally thousands of hours over a couple of decades knocking on other people's doors and imposing my hubris and self-righteousness on them.

Anyhow I am a practicing Shin Buddhist now, as well as a proud atheist and secular humanist. I have never been happier, healthier, and better integrated in all areas and relationships in my life. I have a great marriage and family life, made new friends along the way, and would not trade it for anything, esp. if it involved re-joining the JW group. I am finally coming to terms with the rage, anger, and denial that I initially had in leaving them and have since let go of that and now only wish each of them the very best life has to offer, and hope that each of them as individuals will find their own path in life and in this universe and recognize the amazing and undeniable interdependencies that tie together every living sentient being in the universe.

One of the benefits of not worrying about god, gods, or higher powers is that I have a lot more time to waste writing long diatribes on other people's blogs, as well as Facebook posts (smile). If there is a God, then he or she should not be so proud and arrogant as to think that everything and everyone must bow before them, or even care about what human beings think about "modality" vs "trinity". There are far bigger issues, and in the end if there is a divine sentient being who demands justice and our attention, then how we live our lives and love one another will matter far more than semantics explaining the mysteries of the trinity or any other gobbledegook that religion blinds people toward doing. And if there really is a god who is so arrogant and demanding, then frankly, I would want nothing to do with such a person or being. Either way, I win by living my life on life's terms and spending my time enjoying life instead of pondering over mysteries or other vaguaries.

Either way, I wish you all the very best. Please have a safe and joyous year.

 
At 10/21/2011 12:51 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Survivor, although your post has nothing to do with my blog, I found it very interesting. Thank you.

I guess you must have a lot of time and gumption on your hands if you want to videotape visits and discussions with evangelicals who visit you at your home.

Oh, I make time for Jehovah's Witnesses.

If you don't agree with them, then don't waste anyone's time.

They don't agree with me which is precisely WHY they take the time to come to my door. I appreciate that.

 
At 11/24/2013 1:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have noticed a lot of hate and arguing when one tries to talk to Jehovah's witness believers about their own faith. I don't believe Jesus was a angel, he is the Son of God. I believe in the trinity, I never got a change to explain, I got attacked!

 
At 2/01/2016 11:11 PM , Blogger Tony McGurk said...

Hi Sam, I left the JWs 6 months ago after 20 years in it. I am attending a regular Christian church now but still have trouble getting my head around the trinity. It really is difficult to get some of their way of thinking out of your head. I came across a comment you left on Clay Jones' blog a few years ago with a link to your post here. That comment really helped in my trying to understand the trinity as all the old JW reasonings keep rising in my thoughts. eg Jesus not knowing some things his Father knows. Saying his Father is greater than he. Praying to himself etc

 
At 2/02/2016 12:04 PM , Blogger Sam Harper said...

Hi Tony! Thanks for your comment. Although I was never one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I did share their view on the nature and relationship between God and Jesus, so I can kind of relate. One book that helped me out a lot was the book I mentioned on Clay Jones' blog--The Forgotten Trinity by James White. It's an easy read, and it's a lucid explanation and defense of the Trinity.

 
At 4/03/2016 8:37 PM , Anonymous Brad said...

Hi Sam, and other searchers of truth. This is my own true account of my own life experiences... When I was little my brother died in cot death. My brother and I found him. Not understanding death. I asked mum who was non-practising Church of England "Where did Brendon go" Mum could only say "He has gone to heaven Brad. I respect the Jehovah's Witness's only because they and the Mormon missionaries where the only ones who at the time of brothers death came to visit my family out in the country in Australia to give me some knowledge of where he went.
I read the little golden book as my first bible but felt it wasn't enough. As I got hold of the King James Version of the Bible. I found many answers as I read but it still confused me.
As a child I once dreamed what I thought God would look like. It scared me so I wanted to know also what he looked like. It helped in Genesis to say we where made in his image. I still yearned for more.
I learned in high school how some churches where formed or started.
There is a lot more to my lifestory but I like what Tony said. I started with the JWs but I discovered a new path. I have read the scriptures, I asked myself why would Jesus pray to himself it made no sense. With more research I now know that Jesus would not pray to himself, that God & Jesus are 3 separate beings but with one purpose and I love this fact, like the Three Musketeers which much more purpose. This is based upon my own learning. TO anyone who finds the truth may it set him free wherever it leads him.

 
At 4/04/2016 3:00 PM , Blogger Sam Harper said...

I asked myself why would Jesus pray to himself it made no sense. With more research I now know that Jesus would not pray to himself, that God & Jesus are 3 separate beings but with one purpose and I love this fact

Brad, Trinitarians would agree with you that Jesus would not pray to himself. It's the modalist you ought to be concerned about. But it doesn't follow that because Jesus prays to God that Jesus and God are therefore distinct beings. All that follows is that Jesus and the Father are distinct persons. The fact that Jesus and God are the same being is inescapable from the fact that:

1. There is one and only one God.
2. The Father is God.
3. Jesus is God.

That is why Trinitarians believe that the Father and the Son are the same being--God--but they are distinct persons. See my series on the Trinity for a fuller explanation.

 
At 4/14/2016 1:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Sam,
Thankyou for clearing up the dfference between Modelists and Trinitarians.

I do believe that God, Jesus & the Holy Ghost are 3 separate personages. I can also see that God and his son are one as in like my father and me are one in purpose sometimes.
I understand that Jesus is the son of God and made in his image. I liken this to the scriptures when Abraham's son Isaac was made in the image of his father.
I have found scriptures that talk about their relationship. (like "thankyou father for hearing my prayer" involving Lazerus being raised from the dead)and when he took upon all our sins in Gethaname and cried to his Father.

I have found that my own father loves me and it comforts to me to know that Jesus had a loving father. It seems logical to believe we are all apart of his family and we are his sometimes wayward children. lol

 
At 4/14/2016 2:20 AM , Blogger Sam Harper said...

Howdy Anonymous. It sounds like you're a Mormon. If you're interested, I wrote a series of posts defending the doctrine of the Trinity. It was mainly aimed at Jehovah's Witnesses and the sorts of arguments they make, but you might find it helpful as well. It starts here:

http://philochristos.blogspot.com/2005/02/logic-of-trinity.html

I also wrote a blog entry on the Book of Mormon's take on the relationship between the Father and the Son:

http://philochristos.blogspot.com/2009/06/book-of-mormon-1218.html

 

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