(Continued from page 77)
The Trinity and the Church
Once more the WBTS betray their failure to really understand the doctrine of the 'Trinity' (Triunity!) of God - as they show by stating 'that the Father is a separate person'! Remember they quoted The Living Pulpit magazine definition of the Trinity earlier: "There is one God and Father, one Lord Jesus Christ, and one Holy Spirit, three 'persons'... who are the same or one in essence...; three persons equally God, possessing the same natural properties, yet really distinct, known by their personal characteristics." How could they fail to notice that the definition they quoted states clearly that the three persons of the 'Trinity' are three, distinct, persons! Unless they do so out of deliberate ignorance, of course!
The WBTS asks the question: 'If God and Jesus are "one in essence," as the Trinity doctrine says, how could Jesus' will, or wish, seem different from that of Father?'
We have already amply illustrated the reasons for Christ walking the earth as a man - the 'second Adam.' There we learnt that the sinless Jesus had a free will as a man, just as Adam did before 'The Fall'. Adam chose to sin by following the lead from Eve and accepting Satan's lie. Jesus had to live a perfect life without sin and a large part of that test was to seek to follow God's will perfectly. This meant He would be 'tempted in all ways [just as we are!] yet remain without sin' (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). This is the reason why He said to the Father: 'Father, if you wish, remove this cup ... from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.' He knew He had to suffer at Calvary and die for the sins of the world and, as a Man, recognized the horrendous pain and suffering that would fall upon Him. He was tempted to try and avoid the horrors of such a death but, as a Spirit-led Man, He was 'faithful unto death, even death on a cross' (Philippians 2:8) and faithfully remained in the 'will' of His Father in heaven. We emphasise here that temptation is not sin - it is yielding to temptation and sinning that is abhorrent to God. (Matthew 6:13; 26:41; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
We remind readers again - Philippians 2:5-11 tells us that Jesus voluntarily became 'lower that the angels' (Hebrews 2:9) in order to be the Incarnate Son of Man. Thus He lowered Himself so He now had limited knowledge through being empowered by the Holy Spirit in the things He did on earth as a Man. He was still fully God but chose, through constant prayer-communion with the Father (thus, also setting the perfect example to His disciples!), to remain fully in the will of God. The question whether Jesus could have chosen not to obey the will of God was also dealt with in the section on the humanity-deity of Jesus!
This also answers the other WBTS challenge - 'how could one of them be aware of things of which the other was not?' Jesus had chosen not to operate in His former omniscient and omnipotent power as God, just as He chose not to destroy those who came to arrest Him at Gethsemane when He refused His 'option' to call 'twelve legions of angels' (Matthew 26:53) to destroy His enemies: 'Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"). This is why He said, regarding the time of the world's judgment: "Concerning that day or the hour nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father." It may look as if the WBTS have made a good point in this matter until you consider Revelation 19:11-12:
REVELATION 19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but He himself.
The WBTS agree that the rider on the white horse is the Lord Jesus Christ (see the WBTS publication: Revelation Its Grand Climax at Hand!). But they cannot accept that the clear statement that Christ knows something that 'no one knows but He himself.' Is it possible that Jesus knows something that the Father does not know? Can the WBTS accept that this is what Scripture so clearly says? When they accept that there were things that Jesus did not have knowledge of while on earth - as the Son of Man - can they accept this clear statement regarding unique knowledge held by the Son? The early readers of Revelation would have recognised that so great is Christ's power that His name is known only by Himself for, in antiquity, knowledge of the name was associated with the power of the God. The clear teaching of Scripture is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have their own realms of operation in which they alone have full jurisdiction even though they are equal.
Page 7 - Awake! April 22, 2005
WBTS statement: The Trinity is not a teaching of Jesus or of the early Christians. As noted previously, it is "a teaching of the church." In its 1999 issue on the Trinity, The Living Pulpit observed: "Sometimes, it seems that everyone assumes that the doctrine of the trinity is standard Christian theological fare," but it added that it is not "a biblical idea."
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) discusses the Trinity at length and admits: "The Trinitarian dogma is in the last analysis a late 4th century invention.... 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 4th century."
Martin Werner, as professor at the University of Bern, Switzerland, observed: "Wherever in the New Testament the relationship of Jesus to God, the Father, is brought into consideration, whether with reference to his appearance as a man or to his Messianic status, it is conceived of and represented categorically as subordination." Clearly, what Jesus and the early Christians believed is far different from the Trinity teaching of churches today. From where, then, this teaching come?
[Orthodox Christian Reply: Here the WBTS article first repeats some of the false claims made earlier. We have already shown that the doctrine of the 'Trinity' is clearly found in the Bible. The writings of the Early Church Fathers show that the facts found in Scripture, which make up the clear 'Trinitarian' doctrine, were recognised even though they were not yet 'formulated'. The church may have remained happy to defend its beliefs in the way the Fathers' writings demonstrate, but the 'Trinitarian' doctrine needed to be formulated to answer the many heresies that began to arise - such as Docetism, Gnosticism, Marcionism, Monarchianism and Arianism. The councils of Nicea (318 A.D.), Constantinople (381 A.D.), Ephesus (431 A.D.), and Chalcedon (451 A.D.) were called to answer the heretical doctrines which had been promulgated by such as Arius who used the problems of communication in those days to expound his false views of Christ (views held by the Jehovah's Witnesses today). This same response continues to this day as opposition to the Biblical view arises and men continue to fulfil Paul's inspired words in Acts 20:28.
So the claims that the 'dogma is ... a late 4th century invention....not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century' leaves out information that could lead an honest investigator to accept the way in which the doctrine was formulated from Scripture to combat error.
Later, we will view the way in which the WBTS have formulated an utterly insulting and un-Scriptural doctrine on the supposed nature and origin of Christ (as 'Michael the Archangel') without one shred of evidence.
How do we answer their quote from Martin Werner? First, note that Werner is making a point about the subordination of the 'Jesus to God, the Father ... in the New Testament.' This subordination of Jesus in the New Testament, when He took the part of a Perfect Man in order to redeem the fallen human race, is not a problem to orthodox Christians, as we have already shown.
It is important to note from the outset of any study of the deity of Christ that the Scriptures concerning Him may be classified into three groups. Any other classification results in the problems that cults, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, have in explaining verses that simply do not fit their theology:
There are those groups that teach the subordination of Christ because He voluntarily became incarnate, was born as a baby, grew as a child, hungered, thirsted, grew tired, slept soundly, and suffered every temptation common to man. In this truly human condition He was the 'Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief' (Isaiah 53:3) and the Father, being in glory in heaven, was positionally greater than He, and Jesus constantly sought the leading of the Father (how else would a Perfect Man set the perfect example to us?) See John 5v19; 8v42; 14v28; 16v28; Luke 2v40; Mark 13v32.
The second group of Scriptures affirms that Jesus, before the foundation of the world, was distinct from the Father. He was distinguishable as a Word from the speaker of the Word (John 1v1); as a uniquely begotten Son from His Father (John 1v14); as one who had priority not in time (since He always existed time is irrelevant to Him), but in rank, over all created things (Colossians 1v15; Revelation 3v14); as the shining is distinguishable from the sun, and as a perfect image is distinguishable from that which it portrays (Hebrews 1v3). In view of such passages the doctrine of the 'Trinity' states that the Father and the Son are eternally distinct as persons. In this respect the Bible regularly recognises an order, placing the Father first, the Son second, and the Holy Spirit third.
3 But the third group of Scriptures teaches that the Father and the Son are not two separate beings or Gods, but rather one essence and spiritual substance. In this respect the Son is equally God. This unity of the Godhead is not shattered by the threefold eternal distinctions or by the incarnation of the Son. Rather, as the doctrine of the 'Trinity' explains, the Godhead is one in respect to essence, three in respect to personal distinctions, and three in respect to roles in the creative and redemptive programmes.
Only Triunitarianism does justice to all three types of references without resorting to any 'wresting (twisting!) of the Scriptures' or 'human reasoning and supposition'. Jehovah's Witnesses doctrines may be true to passages on Christ's humanity, and in some measure to those asserting His distinctiveness from the Father. But they utterly fail to account for the extensive evidence that Christ is in fact deity - and in trying to deny this fact they resort to twisting Scripture and the Hebrew, Greek and English languages! The Bible, while not neglecting Jesus' humanity and distinctiveness from the Father, also teaches His essential deity.
So when the WBTS reaches the conclusion that: 'Clearly, what Jesus and the early Christians believed is far different from the Trinity teaching of churches today' they are shown to be seriously faulty.
Finally, they declare: 'From where, then, this teaching come?']
Page 7 continued - Awake! April 22, 2005
The Trinity's Early Origins
WBTS statement: The Bible tells of many gods and goddesses that people worshiped, including Ashtoreth, Milcom, Chemosh, and Molech. (1 Kings 11:1, 2, 5, 7) Even many people in the ancient nation of Israel once believed that Baal was the true God. So Jehovah's prophet Elijah presented the challenge: "If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him." - 1 Kings 18:21.
[Orthodox Christian Reply: They are correct in these statements and in stating the challenge of Elijah, for Israel should have recognized that there is only one true God who should be followed. Unfortunately for the WBTS they reveal that they are polytheistic themselves through their un-Scriptural view of the Father and the Son!]
WBTS statement: The worship of pagan gods grouped in threes, or triads, was also common before Jesus was born. "From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity," observed historian Will Durant. In the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, James Hastings wrote: "In Indian religion, e.g., we meet with the trinitarian group of Brahm~, Siva, and Vishnu; and in Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus." So there are many gods. Did early Christians acknowledge this? And did they view Jesus as Almighty God?
[Orthodox Christian Reply: Again, they are correct that pagan religions worshipped 'gods grouped in threes, or triads'. But they are wrong not to point out that Trinitarians' do not worship more than one God, and do not worship triads - we worship the 'one true God'. They are also wrong in failing to point out a logical reason for these occultic religions worshiping 'triads' of 'gods': Satan is the most evil and malevolent creature in opposition to the One True God of the Bible. As the 'god of this world' (1 John 5:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4), from the moment he fell he sought to lead the people of the earth astray by instilling false ideas about God and he did this through one of his favorite ploys - by mimicking the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! So he set up these triads of gods to lead people astray. Worse still, for the WBTS led Jehovah's Witnesses, he inspired such groups to mock the true God by getting their followers to compare Him to these Satanic triads! So, in their accusations, they are being led by Satan, the 'god of this world.' No logical person, examining the history of the occultic WBTS, could draw any other conclusion.
The WBTS also conveniently forget to tell their readers that even pagan religions sometimes believed in 'one true god' or 'main deity', who was above all the other 'gods'. Amon was the god that was dignified in the highest position in Thebes until Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) turned his focus and beliefs to another deity called Aten, the sun god. In the Bikini islands, before the missionaries taught the natives about the true God of the Bible, they worshipped many different gods but believed that Worejabato was the most powerful 'god', superior to all other 'gods.' We also have the example of the Muslims who now claim that Allah alone is God - but they forget to tell us about the three 'daughters of Allah', al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat. Muhammad himself commanded his followers offer prayers to these 'Allah's daughters', but later retracted the command and blamed the revelation on the Devil. It is this true event in Muhammad's life which was the topic of Salman Rushdie's odious book, The Satanic Verses.
It is ironic that the WBTS teach their adherents that the God of the Bible is 'Jehovah' who is Almighty God, and the Lord Jesus Christ is merely a created 'god'. So they have a 'Big God' and a 'little god' - just like the pagans!
Finally, we will answer the WBTS questions: So there are many gods. Did early Christians acknowledge this? And did they view Jesus as Almighty God?
Page 8 - Awake! April 22, 2005
"Those Who Are Called 'Gods'"
Was Jesus Also Called God?
WBTS statement: WHEN the apostle Paul healed a lame man in Lystra, the people shouted: "The gods have become like humans and have come down to us!" Paul they called Hermes, and his companion Barnabas, Zeus. (Acts 14:8-14) In Ephesus the silversmith Demetrius warned that if Paul was allowed to continue to preach, 'the temple of the great goddess Artemis would be esteemed as nothing.' Acts 19:24-28.
People in the first century - like many today - worshiped "those who are called 'gods,' whether in heaven or on earth." Paul, in fact, said: "There are many 'gods' and many 'lords'." However, he also explained: "There is actually to us one God the Father," and "there is one Lord, Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.
[Orthodox Christian Reply: It is no surprise to see that the pagans in Paul's day believed in 'many gods'. But did the Christians? What did Paul clearly mean when he wrote: '"There are many 'gods' and many 'lords'" but "There is actually to us one God the Father," and "there is one Lord, Jesus Christ"? The actual Scripture reads:
5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth - as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords" - 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
First note that Paul wrote, using the Greek word 'legomenoi' (legomenon), translated 'so-called' ; thus he was making it clear that these 'many "gods" and many "lords"' were of the pagan kind, i.e., not gods at all, but gods of wood and stone, perhaps inhabited by demonic powers.
He maintains a distinction of Personality between the Father and Son by assigning a different title of Deity to each, while at the same time distinguishing both from all creation [ta panta], each in a different way. When Paul says that there is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, he does not mean that the Lord Jesus Christ is not God. Rather he simply indicates the respective roles which these two Persons of the Godhead fulfilled in creation and in redemption. What did Paul mean when he spoke of 'one God, the Father'? Did he mean that only the Father is God? It might seem so until we consider that, if this was indeed his claim then, when he wrote there is 'one Lord, Jesus Christ' he was saying that only the Lord Jesus Christ is 'Lord'. Unfortunately for the WBTS there are many places in the New Testament where the Father is called 'Lord' (despite their attempt to smuggle 'Jehovah' into the text in 237 places where the word 'Lord' occurs!). So, clearly, Paul was not claiming that only the Father is God! Hence he teaches that, because the many 'gods and lords' have no existence as true Deity, the eating of meats which had been sacrificed to idols will not adversely affect the Christian.
A number of scholars and commentators have persuasively argued that, in this verse, Paul is recasting the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) in Christian terms. The Shema is the great monotheistic declaration: "Hear O Israel! YHWH, our God, YHWH is one." In the LXX, this becomes akoue israêêl kurios ho theos hemôôn kurios eis estin ("Hear Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one"). YHWH becomes kurios ("Lord") in the LXX. The similarity in language between this verse and 1 Corinthians 8:6 becomes apparent if they are set side by side in the Greek. Paul does not just reproduce all the words of the statement about YHWH in the Shema but rearranges the words in such as way as to produce an affirmation of both one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. It should be quite clear that Paul is including the Lord Jesus Christ in the unique divine identity. He is redefining monotheism as Christological monotheism. If he were understood as adding the one Lord to the one God of whom the Shema speaks, from the perspective of Jewish monotheism, he would certainly be producing not Christological monotheism but outright ditheism - which is exactly what the WBTS produce by claiming that the Father is a 'Big God' and the Son is a 'little god'! Paul's unprecedented inclusion of Jesus in the formula, in the context of devotion, can only mean that the Lord God (YHWH) was now to be perceived as including both the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Page 8 continued - Awake! April 22, 2005
WBTS statement: Although Jesus never claimed to be God, as Jehovah's appointed ruler he is identified in Isaiah's prophecy by the terms "Mighty God" and "Prince of Peace." Isaiah's prophecy adds: "To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:6, 7) So, as the "Prince" - the son of the Great King, Jehovah - Jesus will serve as Ruler of the heavenly government of "God Almighty." - Exodus 6:3.
[Orthodox Christian Reply: Are the WBTS correct in their claim that 'Jesus never claimed to be God'? The only way to find out is to examine Scripture without the influence of WBTS publications. We will start by looking at a Scripture in which God calls Jesus God!
GOD CLEARLY CALLS JESUS GOD!
A passage that clearly emphasizes that the Son of God, Jesus, is much higher than the angels and is worshipped by them because He is fully God is Hebrews, Chapter 1:
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
(Continued on page 79)