The Trinity: Answering Watchtower Objections
The concept of the Trinity is a difficult one for anyone to
grasp but especially for Jehovah's Witnesses.
What is the Trinity?
"A word not found in Scripture, but used to express the
doctrine of the unity of God as subsisting in three distinct
Persons.... the propositions involved in the doctrine are these:
"1. That God is one, and that there is but one God.
"2. That the Father is a distinct divine Person -
distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit.
"3. That Jesus was truly God, and yet was a Person distinct
from the Father and the Holy Spirit.
"4. That the Holy Spirit is also a distinct divine Person,"
(Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1893).
What Do the Jehovah's Witnesses Say About It?
Jehovah's Witnesses will object to the Christian that the word
"Trinity" is not found in the Scripture, the doctrine
is unreasonable, it is of pagan Babylonish origin, it was introduced
as church doctrine in the fourth century, is a `complicated,
freakish-looking, three-headed God,'" and finally, they
will call it unscriptural. (Let God Be True, p. 83)
Is the Word "Trinity" in the Bible?
One of the easiet objections to answer is the charge that the
term "trinity" is not found in Scripture. True, it
is not. The term was first coined by Theophilus, who lived from 116
to 181 A.D., to express the Biblical teaching of three (tri)
Persons in one (unity) God. If Jehovah's Witnesses insist that this point is important,
point out to them that the terms millenium, theocracy,
and rapture are not found in Scripture either. Will they stop believing their doctrine on these subjects because
of the absence of these words in Scripture?
The Watchtower Society has a long history of raising superficial,
or, "strawman" objections fo Biblical doctrine. This
objection is a classic example. They have regularly used this argument in their books and door-to-door
proselyting. How many people have been swayed to disbelief because of something
that has no significance whatever? Continued use of this argument when it is known to be meaningless
is an evidence of weakness in their position.
Is the Trinity Unreasonable?
Watchtower doctrine is very rationalistic and so gives rise
to another of their objections, which says "The trinity
is unreasonable." How can one be three and three be one? This is a serious objection.
It must be kept in mind, and repeated often to the Jehovah's
Witness, that the sense in which God is `one' (His nature)
is different from the sense in which He is `three' (Persons). As Rev. John S. Banks says in A Manual of Christian Doctrine,
"The combination of the two elements involves no logical
contradiction, because they refer to the Godhead in different
respects, one to nature, the other to persons. The mere fact
of incomprehensible mystery is no objection, every truth respecting
God being no less mysterious," (p. 108).
God is an infinite being and man is a sin darkened finite creature
so by definition man is unable to comprehend infinite perfection,
regardless of whether it is the Watchtower god or the Biblical
God. We know the nature of God to the extent we do because it is
revealed, not because we thought it up. C.S. Lewis said in Beyond Personality, "We can't compete,
in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How
can we? We're dealing with Fact," (p. 13).
Is the Trinity A Pagan Doctrine?
Jehovah's Witnesses recoil at the Trinity as a Christian would
recoil at idol worship. They think the Trinity is a "Babylonish triad of gods"
according to their book, Babylon the Great Has Fallen...,
It is true there are pagan "trinities" which date back
to Babylon, but rather than this fact supporting the Watchtower
contention it actually is an evidence in favor of the Biblical
triune God. Augustus H. Strong's Systematic Theology quotes Robert Watts
(?New Apologetico, p. 195) as saying the pagan triads are "residuary
fragments of the lost knowledge of God, not different stages
in a process of theological evolution, but evidence of a moral
and spiritual degradation," (p. 152.)
If we keep in mind the tendency of man's sinful nature to corrupt
the image of God (Romans 1:23), and that Satan uses counterfeits
and half truths to mislead, then we might safely assume that
the Adamic heritage of monotheism was so eroded that when we
arrive at the book of Exodus we find the pagan triad of Osiris,
Isis, and Horus holding sway in Egypt. Thus, from Genesis to Malachi, we see God reaffirming monotheism
in the minds of His people (Deut. 6:4). Israel had dwelt four hundred years among the polytheistic Egyptians
and acquired a taste for additional gods. For this reason,
the Trinity is not clearly revealed in the Old Testament.
This view is presented in the book ?The Two Babylonso by Alexander
Hislop. Hislop says concerning these pagan trinities, "All these
have existed from ancient times. While overlaid with idolatry,
the recognition of a Trinity was universal in all the ancient
nations of the world, proving how deep-rooted in the human
race was the primeval doctrine on this subject, which comes
out so distinctly in Genesis," (page 18).
In their tract, "The Trinity - Divine
Mystery or Pagan Myth?", the Watchtower quotes a portion of
this statement by Hislop. Under the subheading of "Pagan Origin" several pagan
trinities are discussed and then this quote, "According
to the historian Hislop: `The recognition of the trinity was
universal in all the ancient nations of the world.'" End
of quote. No evidence is given to indicate that Hislop believed this was
an evidence of the corruption of the true doctrine. The quote ended with a period, whereas an accurate quote would
have used an ellipsis (...) to show there was more to the statement
though not quoted. This tract by the Watchtower has Hislop saying the opposite
of what he intended. That is dishonest!! Why? Does true doctrine
need such a defense?
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967 edition, Vol. XIV, page
306), said, "The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught
in the OT (Old Testament)." Jehovah's Witnesses latched onto this statement and tried to
make it sound as if the encyclopedia was denying the doctrine
had scriptural support. To the contrary, the opposite is affirmed when the encyclopedia
points to those Scriptures that indicate a plurality of Persons
in the Godhead and says of them "that the minds of God's
people were being prepared for the concepts that would be involved
in the forthcoming revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity,"
Is the Trinity A Fourth Century Invention?
Jehovah's Witnesses charge that the doctrine is of late origin,
a fourth century product, hence an invention of men. With the advent of Jesus, and the writing of the New Testament,
God reveals clearly the plurality of Persons in the Godhead. What we see in Church history from that point until the fourth
century is a growing controversy over the person of Christ,
and not whether three Persons comprise the one God. For the
most part, this was a disagreement over his true humanity,
not his deity. The Gnosticism of the day, which influenced many of the Chruch
Fathers, did not see that God, who is pure and holy, could
have any real contact with matter, which they saw as evil. Thus, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ (Emmanuel, meaning
"God with us') presented many Church Fathers with problems
over Jesus' true humanity.