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Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that God is a Trinity and use this as indication that they alone worship truth. However, in order to support their Arian based doctrine, Watchtower inaccurately defines the Trinity, resorts to misquoting sources, and fail to acknowledge the large number of Christians that do not worship a Trinitarian God.
This section does not propose to solve a 2000-year debate on the nature of God, but rather show the inaccurate statements and misleading methods the Watchtower uses to support its teaching.
Watchtower claims they have the correct understanding of God, and Christendom holds a pagan view.
"Christendom's unchristian doctrine of a Trinity of "God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Ghost" will be rejected by all enlightened mankind as being a blasphemous pagan lie." Paradise restored to Mankind - By Theocracy p.388
This us-and-them attitude fails to recognise there are groups that share Watchtower's Arian concept of God. Furthermore, there are a number of different beliefs regarding the Nature of God, including:
Assemblies of Yahweh and some Church of God branches follow Binitarian beliefs and many millions of people belonging to the Oneness Pentecostal movement are not Trinitarian, but Modalist. When claiming Christians believe in a Trinity, Watchtower fails to acknowledge the large number of Christians that are not Trinitarian.
A "straw man" argument defines a person's point of view inaccurately, and then attacks the misrepresentation. The Watchtower does this by defining the Trinity inaccurately and inadequately. When presenting the Trinity doctrine, the Watchtower melds Trinitarian and Modal concepts, creating an inconsistent and confusing teaching that does not define any formal position. Modal concepts are passed off as the Trinity, yet in the 56 years of Watchtower publications on the Watchtower CD 2006, there is not a single discussion on Modalism. By failing to recognise these different teachings and mixing doctrines, the Watchtower misrepresents the Trinity, making it impossible for one of Jehovah's Witnesses to form an informed opinion.
Inaccurate Trinity Statements
The Trinity doctrine defines one God in three persons; not three Gods, three Gods in one, or three Gods in one God. As described by the Athanasian Creed, "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God."
The Trinity doctrine maintains:
1. There is only one God - Jehovah or Yahweh
2. The Father is God
3. Jesus the Son is God
4. The Holy Spirit is God
5 .The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons
It is by proving each of the above 5 statements from the Bible that a Trinitarian comes to their understanding of the nature of God. This is the belief taught by most Catholic and Protestant religions.
More accurately termed Modalistic Monarchianism or Sabellian , this is the notion that there is one unique God that manifests Himself in three different modes or stages. God appeared initially as the Father in the Old Testament and the Son in the four Gospels. Whilst appearing as the Son he ceased to exist as the Father. At Pentecost God began to move as the Spirit, and is therefore no longer either the Father or the Son.
Binitarianism accepts two personae, the Father and the Son, in one Godhead. The Holy Spirit is understood to be an aspect of both Father and Son. This view is held by various Church of God groups, and presented by L.W. Hurtado as the original Christian concept of God.
The Watchtower description of God is a Unitarianism description. It initially most closely aligned to Arianism, after Arius (c. AD 250-336) who famously promoted this view during the fourth century. This denies the eternality and the absolute Deity of Jesus. Jesus is described as a creation and as such temporal. Some Arianists, such as Jehovah's Witnesses believe in Jesus as an inferior deity. As such, the Watchtower originally taught that Jesus was to be prayed to and worshipped, but when it prevented these practices in 1954 it deviated from strict Arianism.
The Watchtower makes a habit of inaccurately defining the Trinity as "three gods in one." This is a straw man technique, as that is not the doctrine of the Trinity.
“The Watch Tower of June 1882 stated: “At this time, therefore, the doctrine of three Gods was invented …”” Proclaimers p.125
“The disgusting idolatry of the religions of Christendom and pagandom has been set aside by Jehovah's restored people. Their worship is not distributed to three gods in one, the so-called godhead of some mysterious Trinity, but they are united as the one people who worship the one God, Jehovah.” Watchtower 1984 Mar 1 p.23
“… a trinity of three gods in one, …” Awake! 1998 Dec 8 p.11
“… teach that God is a trinity of three gods in one, …” Awake! 1989 Jan 22 p.23
"If he is one Jehovah, then could he be three gods, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, as the Trinitarians teach?" Watchtower1970 Apr 1 p.210
“Christendom has copied the heathen, pagan nations of Asia in teaching that God is a trinity, three Gods in one Person.” Watchtower 1962 Apr 15 p.235
(See also w88 4/1 p.19; w89 3/15 p.18; w75 11/1 p.651; w63 8/1 p.461; w63 8/15 p.488)
This is not the Trinity; it is not taught that there are "three Gods in one". Trinitarians embrace the statement at Deuteronomy 6:4 that "Jehovah our God is one Jehovah." There is one true God by nature, existing as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Watchtower then attempts to prove that Jesus is not equal to the Father, without explanation of what equal means. As early as the Apostolic Fathers, distinction was made between the positional and essential relationships of the Godhead - the Ontological and Economic deity of Christ. Jesus is second in manner of existence, in position, but not in nature. Ontologically the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the same essential nature - economically they are not.
To illustrate, a king holds a higher economic position than his subjects do, however, this does not make his essential worth as a human greater, so ontologically a king and his subjects are the same. The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912, Vol. 15, p 47-49 explains:
"In point of fact the doctrine of the Incarnation involves that, in regard of His Human Nature, the Son should be less than the Father."
Accurate discussion of the Trinity cannot occur without separation of the Ontological and Economic elements, yet the Watchtower never mentions these concepts.
When quoting, the meaning of the original quote should be apparent, even when using ellipses (…). A classic source of misquotes is the Watchtower publication Should You Believe in the Trinity? (ti), using ellipses to hide words like "but", "however", "therefore" to present a completely different point from that being made by the source. Furthermore, provision of only partial references to the source of quotes make it difficult and time consuming to locate the original quote. Examples of misquotes follow.
|Source||Trinity Brochure||Full Quote|
|Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethic, James Hastings, Trinity, p.461||"At first the Christian faith was not Trinitarian . . . It was not so in the apostolic and sub-apostolic ages, as reflected in the N[ew] T[estament] and other early Christian writings."-Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics. (ti pp. 6-7)||"At first the Christian faith was not Trinitarian in the strictly ontological reference."|
|The Triune God, Edward Fortman||"Jesuit Fortman states: "The New Testament writers . . . give us no formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. . . . Nowhere do we find any trinitarian doctrine of three distinct subjects of divine life and activity in the same Godhead."" (ti p.6)||"They give us no formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. But they do give us an elemental trinitarianism, the data from which such a formal doctrine of the Triune God may be formulated."|
|The Encyclopedia Americana||"The Encyclopedia Americana notes that the doctrine of the Trinity is considered to be 'beyond the grasp of human reason." (ti p.4)||"It is held that although the doctrine is beyond the grasp of human reason, it is, like many of the formulations of physical science, not contrary to reason, and may be apprehended (though it may not be comprehended) by the human mind".|
|The Catholic Encyclopedia (newadvent.org /cathen/ 15047a.htm 21/12/2006)||"The Catholic Encyclopedia also comments: "In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word ????? [tri´as] (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A. D. 180. . . . Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian."" (ti p.5)||"The word [tri'as] (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A. D. 180. He speaks of "the Trinity of God [the Father], His Word and His Wisdom" ("Ad. Autol.", 11, 15, P. G., VI, 1078). The term may, of course, have been in use before his time. Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian."|
|Encyclopedia of the Holy Trinity||The Catholic work Trinitas-A Theological Encyclopedia of the Holy Trinity, for example, notes that some of Tertullian's words were later used by others to describe the Trinity. Then it cautions: "But hasty conclusions cannot be drawn from usage, for he does not apply the words to Trinitarian theology." (ti pp.5-6)||"The great African fashioned the Latin language of the Trinity, and many of his words and phrases remained permanently in use: the words Trinitas and persona, the formulas 'one substance in three persons,' 'God from God, light from Light.' He uses the word substantia 400 times, as he uses consubstantialis and consubstantivus, but hasty conclusions cannot be drawn from usage, for he does not apply the words to Trinitarian theology"|
|New Catholic Encyclopedia - p.306||"And the New Catholic Encyclopedia also says: "And the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the O[ld] T[estament]."" (ti p.6)||"The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the OT. In many places of the OT however, expressions are used in which some of the Fathers of the Church saw references or foreshadowings of the Trinity."|
|Origin and Evolution of Religion||"Yale University professor E. Washburn Hopkins affirmed: "To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; . . . they say nothing about it."-Origin and Evolution of Religion." (ti p.6)||"The beginning of the doctrine of the Trinity appears already in John (c.100 AD.") To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; at any rate they say nothing about it."|
A favourite quote in regular use in Watchtower publications is:
""The formulation 'one God in three Persons' was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the fourth century. . . . Among the apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective." -New Catholic Encyclopedia." Should You Believe in the Trinity? p.7
This quote is from New Catholic Encyclopedia p.299 (1967, Volume XIV). The inaccuracy of the context can be seen when continuing to read on page 300:
"If it is clear on the one side that the dogma of the Trinity in the stricter sense of the word was a late arrival, product of three centuries' reflection and debate, it is just as clear on the opposite side that confession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and hence an elemental Trinitarianism - went back to the period of Christian origins"
History of the Trinity
The Watchtower misconstrue development of the Trinity when giving the impression it was not believed by early Christians, but introduced centuries later by Constantine.
"Another fabrication, concocted centuries later, is the doctrine of the so-called holy Trinity." Watchtower 2006 Dec 1 p.6
"Also, whereas several Eastern churches were inclined to follow Arius, who denied the Trinity doctrine, Rome quickly adopted this pagan idea of a triune god. On both of these matters, Emperor Constantine came out in favor of Rome. This he did by making a Sunday observance law in 321 C.E. and by imposing the Trinity at the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. He fused apostate Christianity with the pagan Roman cult and made this "universal" or "catholic" form of worship the state religion." Watchtower 1983 Sep 15 pp.7-8
The Trinity brochure inaccurately presents the ante-Nicene Fathers as somehow in agreement with the Watchtower belief on the deity of Christ.
"THE ante-Nicene Fathers were acknowledged to have been leading religious teachers in the early centuries after Christ's birth. What they taught is of interest.
Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is "other than the God who made all things." He said that Jesus was inferior to God and "never did anything except what the Creator . . . willed him to do and say."
Irenaeus, who died about 200 C.E., said that the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus is not equal to the "One true and only God," who is "supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other."
Clement of Alexandria, who died about 215 C.E., called God "the uncreated and imperishable and only true God." He said that the Son "is next to the only omnipotent Father" but not equal to him.
Tertullian, who died about 230 C.E., taught the supremacy of God. He observed: "The Father is different from the Son (another), as he is greater; as he who begets is different from him who is begotten; he who sends, different from him who is sent." He also said: "There was a time when the Son was not. . . . Before all things, God was alone."
Hippolytus, who died about 235 C.E., said that God is "the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all," who "had nothing co-eval [of equal age] with him . . . But he was One, alone by himself; who, willing it, called into being what had no being before," such as the created prehuman Jesus.
Origen, who died about 250 C.E., said that "the Father and Son are two substances . . . two things as to their essence," and that "compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light."
Thus, the testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter." Should You Believe in the Trinity? p.7
This passage is strongly misleading. After reading the following quotes from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, it is quite clear early Christians taught Jesus was everlasting and God. The word Trinity and its formulation was in development at least from the 2nd century, not the 4th century under Constantine.
|Quotes from the Ante Nicene Fathers 1|
|Mathetes - 130 AD||"the holy and incomprehensible Word the very Creator and Fashioner of all things. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Savior He sent Him the immortal One for them that are mortal" Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ANTE Vol.1 pp.63,65|
|Polycarp of Smyrna, a student of the Apostle John - 150 AD||"Wherefore also I praise Thee [the ever-truthful God] for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen" - Epistle of the church at Smyrna Ch.14 ANTE Vol 1 p.92|
|Justin Martyr - 150 AD||
"we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove. For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all; for they do not discern the mystery that is herein, to which, as we make it plain to you, we pray you to give heed." First Apology Ch. 13 ANTE Vol 1 p.309
"nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son, who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him, He endured both to be set at nought and to suffer, that by dying and rising again He might conquer death. And that which was said out of the bush to Moses, "I am that I am, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and the God of your fathers," this signified that they, even though dead, are let in existence, and are men belonging to Christ Himself." - First Apology ch. 63 ANTE Vol 1 p.352
|Tatian the Syrian - 170 AD||"We do not act as fools, O Greeks, nor utter idle tales, when we announce that God was born in the form of a man." - Address to the Greeks, ch. 21 ANTE Vol 2 p.149|
|Melito of Sardis - 160 - 177 AD||"The activities of Christ after his baptism, and especially his miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the deity hidden in his flesh. Being God and likewise perfect man, he gave positive indications of his two natures: of his deity, by the miracles during the three years following after his baptism, of his humanity, in the thirty years which came before his baptism, during which, by reason of his condition according to the flesh, he concealed the signs of his deity, although he was the true God existing before the ages." Anastasius of Sinai's The Guide 13|
|Irenaeus, student of Polycarp - 180 AD||"For the one and the same Spirit of God, who proclaimed by the prophets what and of what sort the advent of the Lord should be, did by these elders give a just interpretation of what had been truly prophesied; and He did Himself, by the apostles, announce that the fullness of the times of the adoption had arrived, that the kingdom of heaven had drawn nigh, and that He was dwelling within those that believe on Him who was born Emmanuel of the Virgin." Against Heresies ch.21 ANTE Vol.1 p.933|
|Clement of Alexandria - 190 AD||"I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father." - Stromata, Book V ch. 14 ANTE Vol.2 p.970|
|Tertullian - c. 205 AD||
"The connection of Father and Son, of Son and the Paraclete [Holy Spirit] makes three who cohere in a dependent series. And these three are one thing; not one person." - Against Praxeas ch.25
"... the Son the Son of the Almighty is no less almighty than the Son of God is God." Against Praxeas ch.26
Around 205 A.D. in TERTULLIAN'S TREATISE AGAINST PRAXEAS Tertullian wrote that people "maintain that Father and Son and Spirit are identical, favouring the monarchy at the expense of the economy ...." This shows the Trinity was well formulated by that time, though Tertullian goes on to explain that the three are not identical, as they differ in monarchy, though not in economy.
The following contradictory quotes give a good indication of the quality of Watchtower information on this subject.
"However, this is no proof in itself that Tertullian taught the Trinity." Should You Believe in the Trinity? p.5
"As Tertullian erroneously sought to prove the divinity of Jesus by means of another theory, he coined the formula "one substance in three persons." Using this concept, he attempted to show that God, his Son, and the holy spirit were three distinct persons existing in one divine substance. Tertullian thus became the first to apply the Latin form of the word "trinity" to the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit." Watchtower 2002 May 15 p.31
Support for Binitarianism and the Trinity
Exodus 20:2-3 commands:
"I am Jehovah your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You must not have any other gods against my face."
Development of the Trinity arose due to a concept that the Watchtower has struggled with: that Jesus is described in the New Testament as God. Until 1954, Jehovah's Witnesses worshipped Jehovah and worshipped Jesus; as such, could be considered Polytheistic.
Early Christians grappled with this concept because the Bible describes Jesus as a god worthy of prayer and worship, our everlasting creator. Rather than take the polytheistic approach of individually worshipping Father and Son, early Christians described these two entities as being of the same Nature as part of a single God; a Binitarian view. The Scriptural support for this is:
Jesus is referred to as God
John 20:28-29 "In answer Thomas said to him: "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him: "Because you have seen me have you believed? Happy are those who do not see and yet believe.""
Isaiah 9:6 - "For there has been a child born to us, there has been a son given to us; and the princely rule will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
John 1:1 "In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god."
Jesus is our creator
Isaiah 42:5 "This is what the [true] God, Jehovah, has said, the Creator of the heavens and the Grand One stretching them out; the One laying out the earth and its produce, the One giving breath to the people on it, and spirit to those walking in it:"
John 1:2-4 "This one was in [the] beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Jesus is to be worshipped
Hebrews 1:6 "And let all God's angels do obeisance to (proskune? worship) him (Jesus)."
Most Bibles translate the Greek word proskune? as worshipped. Despite the New World Translation translating this word as worship when in reference to angels, humans or Jehovah, it inconsistently changes to obeisance when referring to Jesus.
Jesus was prayed to
Acts 7:59 "And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Unlike most translations, the New World Translation uses the word "appeal" instead of "prayer". However, the footnote to New World Translation, 1950 edition, states "footnote b: "invocation; prayer"", and by context Stephen was praying to Jesus.
Jesus is everlasting
Micah 5:2 "And you, O Beth´le·hem Eph´ra·thah, the one too little to get to be among the thousands of Judah, from you there will come out to me the one who is to become ruler in Israel, whose origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite."
1 John 1:2 "yes, the life was made manifest, and we have seen and are bearing witness and reporting to YOU the everlasting life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us,..."
Jesus is worthy of the same honor as the Father
John 5:23 "In order that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him."
John 5:23 is considered one of the strongest statements that Jesus is God by commentaries such as Burton, Coughman's and John Calvin, because of the implication that honor should be to the same degree. This corresponds to the preceeding verse in John 5:18 that "On this account, indeed, the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God."
Old Testament Scriptures referring to the Father are quoted as referring to Jesus
The Stone of stumbling
Isaiah 8:13, 14. "The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall."
1 Peter 2:6-8. "For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,' and 'A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.'"
(See also Isaiah 45:22-24 - Philippians 2:9-11 "every knee should bend" and Isaiah 40:3 - Matthew 3:1-3 "Prepare the way")
The only Savior
Isaiah 43:11 "I-I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior."
Titus 2:13 - "... manifestation of the great God and of [the] Savior of us, Christ Jesus....
... (3:4) However, when the kindness and the love for man on the part of our Savior, God, was manifested,
... (3:6) This [spirit] he poured out richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior."
(Note the New World Translation inclusion of [the] to change the meaning of this passage.)
The above passages indicate Jesus' followers worshiped Jesus as God, believing him to be the same as Jehovah of the Old Testament. On the other hand, there is clear distinction between the role of Father and Son in the New Testament. The way to resolve this Mono/Polytheistic quandary was for Ante Nicene Fathers to say that God was represented by the differing roles of Father and Son.
The development of the Trinity, with the Holy Spirit as the third person of God, is not as clear as the duality of the Father and Son. This is based on Scripture that:
- Identify the Holy Spirit as a person
- Group the three persons together
The Personality of the Holy Spirit is determined because "he" does things that only a person can do. The Holy Spirit:
- speaks Acts 13:2
- has an "Ego" - I Acts 10:19-20
- thinks Acts 15:28
- shows emotions such as love Romans 15:30
- has intellect and teaches Hebrews 9:8, John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:13, Nehemiah 9:20
- has a will 1 Corinthians 12:11
The Watchtower Society identifies Satan as a person by showing he does things that only a person can do: speak and think. (Awake! 1973 Dec 8 p.27 "Satan the Devil-Personification or a Person?"). Most Christian religions determine the Holy Spirit to be a person by using this same methodology. For this reason, religions that do not accept the Trinity or the personhood of the Holy Spirit, such as Christadelphians and Christian Scientists, commonly also do not believe that Satan is a person. The Watchtower takes an unusual stance of believing Satan is literal, but that the Holy Spirit is not.
Grouping of the Father, Son and Spirit is at Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:10-11, Luke 1:35, Luke 3:22, Romans 15:30, Hebrews 9:14, Titus 3:4-7, 1 John 5:5-6. An example of this grouping is 2 Corinthians 13:14:
"The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the sharing in the holy spirit be with all of You."
A key Trinitarian text is Matthew 28:19 as it groups the three, indicates the Holy Spirit is a person with a name and uses the singular 'name' rather than plural 'names', indicating the three share the same name Jehovah.
Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit,"
Paul does not separate pneumatology from Christology and uses the Spirit of God interchangeably with the Spirit of the Son.
Galatians 4:6 "Now because YOU are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: "Abba, Father!""
In early Christian history Adoptionists, Ebionites, Gnostics, Marcionites and Arians rejected the Trinity. It was the third century dispute with Arius that particularly led to doctrinal clarification of the Trinity through the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. In the 1200's, several religions started promoting Arianism and then faded out of existence, most prominently the Cathars. Since the seventeenth century, several Protestant groups reignited the issue and the following are some of the groups that in current times do not accept Modalism or the Trinity:
- Bible Students
- Christian Science
- Iglesia ni Cristo
- Jehovah's Witnesses
- Some Seventh Day Adventist groups
- United Church of Christ
- United Church of God
- Denominations that split from Worldwide Church of God
Russell's Adventist influences had mixed views about the Trinity. At first, Russell's associates and early influential Watch Tower contributors were primarily Trinitarian, including Nelson Barbour and John Paton. George Storrs believed that Jesus was God, but believed that the relationship of the Father and the Son was a mystery, and would not characterize his belief as either Arian or Trinitarian.
In Three Worlds, and the Harvest of this World, p.58, published 1877 by N. H. Barbour and C. T. Russell, Christadelphians were criticised for not accepting the Holy Spirit as a person.
"I will give a sample of their way of reasoning: The words Satan, and Devil, says the above book, means accuser, or adversary; and are only Bible synonyms for sin. And if they really set about it, as the Christadelphians do, they can explain away the Holy Spirit."
The first assistant editor of Zion's Watch Tower was J. H. Paton, a Trinitarian. He wrote the 1880 Watchtower book The Day Dawn. Page 225 personifies the Holy Spirit, capitalising the word2 and referring to the Holy Spirit as He, Him, or a Person and interchanges the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of Christ.
"The work of the Holy Spirit is one of the most important elements in the plan of revelation and salvation. He is always spoken of by the Saviour as a Person, and is called the "Spirit of truth."
He inspired men to write or speak the truth; and second, He enables men to understand it.
By comparing this with 1 Pet. 1:11, it will be seen that the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Christ are used interchangeably."
Russell did not start printing articles disputing the Trinity until after Paton left the magazine's staff.
Influential anti-trinitarians include former Baptist Minister Henry Grew from the 1820's and George Stetson, pastor of the Allegheny Advent Christian Church, from whom it appears Russell based his eventual stance. The Watchtower first promoted its Arian viewpoint in the Watchtower 1882 Jun p.369-377. Proclaimers p.123 seems to refer to this article when writing:
"As Brother Russell and his associates studied the Scriptures, it did not take them long to see that the God portrayed in the Bible is not the god of Christendom."
The Nature of God was further discussed in the 5th volume of Studies in the Scriptures from 1899. However, Russell's views were at odds with current Watchtower viewpoint, as he taught that Jesus should be worshipped and prayed to.
During the 20th century the Seventh-day Adventists, Adventist Christian Church and the Worldwide Church of God have all changed their official stance on the Nature of God and started to accept the Trinity. In each case, splinter groups broke off remaining against the Trinity.
The Nature of God is not the black-and-white case that the Watchtower attempts to present. From the first century, Church leaders grappled to understand the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There has been a 2,000-year debate over the details of the nature of God because the Bible does not present a clear explanation of the Son's relationship with the Father, and there are inherent difficulties with both Arianism and Trinitarianism.
The Watchtower's lack of honesty and transparency regarding the Nature of God should be of concern to Jehovah's Witnesses. Indication of an issue with Watchtower theology is highlighted by the:
- changes and cover up of the worship of Jesus
- manipulation to the New World Translation to falsely include the word Jehovah in the New Testament
- inaccurate and deceptive discussion of the Trinity within Watchtower publications.
A human cannot hope to understand the reality of the Nature of God; spiritual beings are beyond the comprehension of physical beings. The closest a fleshly being can come to understanding the spiritual realm, a realm unknown to daily reality or scientific understanding, is through the approximations of anthropomorphological statements. For this reason, any description of God is merely a vague humanised likeness. As the reality of God is an unsolvable mystery, incomprehensible until we see him "face to face", it is foolish to judge others with marginally different points of view.
1 Ante Nicene quotes in this section are from The Ante-Nicene Fathers Edited by A. Roberts and J Donaldson as appears on SAGE Software CD, Albany, Oregon © 1996. For further quotes from the Ante Nicene Fathers see the article THE WATCHTOWER AND THE ANTE-NICENE CHURCH FATHERS by Michael J. Partyka.
For full copies of the Ante Nicene Fathers writings, see http://archive.org
2 Whereas Holy Spirit is commonly spelt with capitals to indicate a person, the Watchtower no longer use capitals for holy spirit.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2023