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Explaining the Trinity to Jehovah's Witnesses

Article Index
Explaining the Trinity to Jehovah's Witnesses
The Deity of Christ
Does this mean there are two Gods?
Next consider ...
The Person of the Holy Spirit
In Summary

by Jay Hess

Joshua Publications
P.O. Box 14554
Durham, NC 27709

Introduction

Occasionally the doctrine of the Trinity is described as a "mystery" and as "incomprehensible". To many thinking persons these terms imply that the doctrine is illogical and unbelievable. But any doctrine that is held by so many should be logical, easy to understand and easy to explain. It should not require one to be a language scholar or even to wrestle with language issues. Any appeal to language considerations should be only to add clarity to the message that is already present. Did the fishermen and shepherds in first century Palestine need to acquaint themselves with obscure language issues in order to understand the doctrinal basics? I do not think so. True, they were already familiar with the original language in which the text was written but I doubt they had to concern themselves with fine points of grammar.

Further, a doctrine that is considered to be fundamental to the Christian faith should not have to stand on isolated verses here and there that only give hints. It should be clearer than that. We should be able to find extended passages that demonstrate the point.

If a doctrine is to be held with conviction, then it should be able to respond to Scriptural challenges logically and simply and not have to repeatedly resort to statements like "it is a mystery" or "God is beyond our comprehension". While it is true, of course, that there are things that are true of God that are beyond our comprehension - I still cannot conceive of what `from eternity' means - but, at the very least, those doctrines that we choose to hold firmly should not appear contradictory.

For example, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 shows that after his reign, Christ will be eternally submissive to his Father. How does this fit into the Trinity doctrine? 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches that the head of Christ is God, and without any temporal qualification. Does this not imply that Christ is eternally submissive? Is that how we conceive of Jesus as being God? Since Revelation 3:12 shows that the Father is the God of Jesus, how do we answer the series of questions: `Does God have a God? If Jesus is God and Jesus has a God, then does that not mean God has a God? How many Gods are there?' How can Jesus be God and at the same time be a servant (Acts 4:27)? And what about Hebrews 5:8, which implies that Jesus had to come to earth to learn obedience. Why would God have to learn anything? 1 Corinthians 8:6 seems to say that the Father is the one to call God while Jesus is distinguished as Lord. - All these issues should be explainable.

Finally, it is preferable that doctrines be based on the most straight-forward reading of a Biblical text without reading something into a text. If the straight reading of a text seems difficult to reconcile with other texts, this is not a sound reason to immediately assume it cannot mean what it says. If this sounds hard to do, just think of this as an `experiment' where we will just accept the texts for what they say and see if, in the end, we have something that is easy to understand or whether we have an incomprehensible mystery.

There will be two presentations in this booklet, one using the first part of the book of Hebrews and another using the Gospel of John chapter 5. Both of these passages assume that the reader is familiar with Jewish beliefs. So as the discussion proceeds it will be necessary to refer to Old Testament texts. Because a JW will only accept the New World Translation and because non-JWs often do not realize the significance of the differences between the NWT and other Bibles, this presentation will quote mainly from the NWT.