For many Jehovah’s Witnesses the Doctrine of the Trinity is a huge preoccupation. It doesn’t take long, when talking to a Christian, for a JW to bring the conversation round to this particular topic.
All JWs have been taught that the Trinity is unbiblical and it actually finds its roots in paganism. Here is a typical picture found in Watchtower publications:
Using a few Biblical ‘proof’ texts, a twisted version of Christian history and some misleading and dishonest quotes from ‘worldly’ literature, the Watchtower convinces their adherents that the Trinity is folly; and those who believe it are pagan worshippers.
Here are a few of the Biblical ‘proof’ texts that they use to disprove the Trinity:
“Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.”—Deuteronomy 6:4.
“You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”—Psalm 83:18.
“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
“God is only one.”—Galatians 3:20.
A few things to note here: Firstly, there is the blatant use of the name Jehovah (which is not God’s name) which they have added in their own biased Bible version. Secondly, none of the verses they use deny the Doctrine of the Trinity; but they do is show their lack of understanding of both Scripture and the Trinity.
JWs often assume that to say God is triune is to deny that God is One. The Doctrine of the Trinity declares that God is One and it is in full agreement with the verses quoted above. If these were the only verses seen in Scripture, the JWs may have a valid point, but there are many verses that shed more light on the identity of this One God.
The following is what God’s Word says about the Trinity:
1) There is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5).
2) The Trinity consists of three Persons (Genesis 1:1, 26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8, 48:16, 61:1; Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). In Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew plural noun “Elohim” is used. In Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8, the plural pronoun for “us” is used. The word “Elohim” and the pronoun “us” are plural forms, definitely referring in the Hebrew language to more than two. While this is not an explicit argument for the Trinity, it does denote the aspect of plurality in God. The Hebrew word for “God,” “Elohim,” definitely allows for the Trinity. In Isaiah 48:16 and 61:1, the Son is speaking while making reference to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Compare Isaiah 61:1 to Luke 4:14-19 to see that it is the Son speaking. Matthew 3:16-17 describes the event of Jesus’ baptism. Seen in this passage is God the Holy Spirit descending on God the Son while God the Father proclaims His pleasure in the Son. Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14 are examples of three distinct Persons in the Trinity.
3) The members of the Trinity are distinguished one from another in various passages. In the Old Testament, “LORD” is distinguished from “Lord” (Genesis 19:24; Hosea 1:4). The LORD has a Son (Psalm 2:7, 12; Proverbs 30:2-4). The Spirit is distinguished from the “LORD” (Numbers 27:18) and from “God” (Psalm 51:10-12). God the Son is distinguished from God the Father (Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 1:8-9). In the New Testament, Jesus speaks to the Father about sending a Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). This shows that Jesus did not consider Himself to be the Father or the Holy Spirit. Consider also all the other times in the Gospels where Jesus speaks to the Father. Was He speaking to Himself? No. He spoke to another Person in the Trinity—the Father.
4) Each member of the Trinity is God. The Father is God (John 6:27; Romans 1:7; 1 Peter 1:2). The Son is God (John 1:1, 14; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20). The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
5) There is subordination within the Trinity. Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son, and the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is an internal relationship and does not deny the deity of any Person of the Trinity. This is simply an area which our finite minds cannot understand concerning the infinite God. Concerning the Son see Luke 22:42, John 5:36, John 20:21, and 1 John 4:14. Concerning the Holy Spirit see John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and especially John 16:13-14.
6) The individual members of the Trinity have different tasks. The Father is the ultimate source or cause of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11); divine revelation (Revelation 1:1); salvation (John 3:16-17); and Jesus’ human works (John 5:17; 14:10). The Father initiates all of these things. The Son is the agent through whom the Father does the following works: the creation and maintenance of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17); divine revelation (John 1:1, 16:12-15; Matthew 11:27; Revelation 1:1); and salvation (2 Corinthians 5:19; Matthew 1:21; John 4:42). The Father does all these things through the Son, who functions as His agent. The Holy Spirit is the means by whom the Father does the following works: creation and maintenance of the universe (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30); divine revelation (John 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 1:21); salvation (John 3:6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2); and Jesus’ works (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38). Thus, the Father does all these things by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Most JWs do not read the Bible in any systematic way, rather they are fed the usual ‘out of context’ Scriptures that appear to deny the Trinity. They are also taught some twisted version of Christian history that leads them to believe that the Doctrine of the Trinity was a Fourth Century invention. Here JW.org quotes from The Encyclopaedia Britannica:
“Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies.”
It is ironic that the Watchtower orders its members not to read ‘worldly’ or ‘apostate’ material, but they are happy to use it themselves when it appears to fit with their preconceived theology. The quote above shows their dishonesty. The ellipses in any quote used in Watchtower publications are always telling. Here is the full quote from The Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Trinity, in Christian doctrine, the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead.
Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The earliest Christians, however, had to cope with the implications of the coming of Jesus Christ and of the presumed presence and power of God among them—i.e., the Holy Spirit, whose coming was connected with the celebration of the Pentecost. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were associated in such New Testament passages as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19); and in the apostolic benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). Thus, the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.
The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. Initially, both the requirements of monotheism inherited from the Hebrew Scriptures and the implications of the need to interpret the biblical teaching to Greco-Roman religions seemed to demand that the divine in Christ as the Word, or Logos, be interpreted as subordinate to the Supreme Being. An alternative solution was to interpret Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three modes of the self-disclosure of the one God but not as distinct within the being of God itself. The first tendency recognized the distinctness among the three, but at the cost of their equality and hence of their unity (subordinationism); the second came to terms with their unity, but at the cost of their distinctness as “persons” (modalism). It was not until the 4th century that the distinctness of the three and their unity were brought together in a single orthodox doctrine of one essence and three persons.
The Council of Nicaea in 325 stated the crucial formula for that doctrine in its confession that the Son is “of the same substance [homoousios] as the Father,” even though it said very little about the Holy Spirit. Over the next half century, Athanasius defended and refined the Nicene formula, and, by the end of the 4th century, under the leadership of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since. It is accepted in all of the historic confessions of Christianity, even though the impact of the Enlightenment decreased its importance.
(Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online/Trinity)
This shows the scholastic dishonesty of the Watchtower. Rather than denying the Doctrine of Trinity, the full quote explains its Biblical foundation and the process which led to it becoming orthodox Christian belief.
In 1989 the Watchtower publication ‘Should you believe in the Trinity’ appeared to widespread acclamation amongst the faithful. It would finally disprove the heinous Trinitarian doctrine. It is telling that this publication is no longer in print. Many outside the organization proved its deceitfulness, causing the Watchtower to remove it. Here can be found an examination of the booklet.
In refusing to accept the Trinity, the Watchtower has a flawed view of God. Their denial of the Deity of Christ, choosing to believe him to be only a created being and their impersonalisation of the Holy Spirit, claiming He is only an active force, leaves them way off Christian orthodoxy.
It is my prayer that God would open the eyes of the JWs to the wonderful reality of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
For an in depth Biblical look at the Doctrine of the Trinity click here.