Thursday, May 8, 2008

Jehovah's Witnesses: Trinitarian?

THERE can be no compromise with God's truths. Hence, to worship God on his terms means to reject the Trinity doctrine. It contradicts what the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians believed and taught. It contradicts what God says about himself in his own inspired Word. Thus, he counsels: "Acknowledge that I alone am God and that there is no one else like me."—Isaiah 46:9, TEV.

God's interests are not served by making him confusing and mysterious. Instead, the more that people become confused about God and his purposes, the better it suits God's Adversary, Satan the Devil, the 'god of this world.' It is he who promotes such false doctrines to 'blind the minds of unbelievers.' (2 Corinthians 4:4) And the Trinity doctrine also serves the interests of clergymen who want to maintain their hold on people, for they make it appear as though only theologians can understand it.—See John 8:44.

Accurate knowledge of God brings great relief. It frees us from teachings that are in conflict with God's Word and from organizations that have apostatized. As Jesus said: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."—John 8:32.

By honoring God as supreme and worshiping him on his terms, we can avoid the judgment that he will soon bring on apostate Christendom. Instead, we can look forward to God's favor when this system ends: "The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever."—1 John 2:17.

Obviously not. This was the conclusion to an article I found posted on the Watchtower's website (the Jehovah's Witness official website), answering the question, Should You believe in the Trinity? You can find the full length article here.

The article is rather lengthy and to deal with each issue I found within it would take far too much space. So I will attempt to condense my thoughts in interacting with their concluding statements.

The author starts out bold and in the first few lines I can only agree, there can be no compromise with God's truths. However, this is where he/she and I will invariably begin to part ways. He cites that the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians all taught against the Trinity. He argues this in his article. However, his treatment of the Jesus' own words alone lead me to believe the author has not properly investigated the gospels well. The article affirms that Jesus never claims to be God. The author dismisses many of the utterances of Christ as the Son of God to be merely titles for His work when these claims many times offended the 1st century Jewish context He was apart of (cf. John 5.19, 25; 8.58) The rejection of the Deity of Christ is where most of their rejection of the Trinity comes from. In this article, most of their denial of Christ comes in light of his service and humility in fulfilling the work of the Father. They interpret this as God the Father being a Superior being and Jesus his subsidiary. This is not a new development, the JW only follow in the footsteps of Arius in their denial of the deity and eternality of Christ. Due to poor exegesis, most famously of John 1.1, their rejection of that orthodoxy, without even dealing with their view of the Spirit or the words of Paul, is enough to deem their movement as unorthodox.

Another aspect of their argument hinges on the idea that "Trinity" is never found in the actual text but was a term which described the doctrine later. But to presuppose that this denies the doctrine is again a poor investigation of the Apostles teaching, especially Paul. While Ryan argued on a previous post that Paul was at least binitarian in his greetings and salutations, we both fully affirm that he was Trinitarian through out the whole of his letters. Especially with respect to his work in Galatians dealing with the fruit of the Spirit and in the Spirit's role in the giving of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Furthermore, to suggest that because some of the early Christians denied the pre-incarnate Christ and did not hold to a Trinitarian perspective only proves their agenda rather than being objective enough to see all those who fought steadfastly for its establishment as orthodoxy (Irenaus, Tertullion, Athanasius, The Cappadocean Fathers, etc.). Of course their were some who denied the Trinity, and not surprisingly, it was usually due to poor Christology.

Lastly, one of the most frustrating arguments here is their nonacceptance of the mystery of God. They ask, is God a God of confusion? No, therefore the Trinity does not exist for its tenets are too confusing for the Christian. I think this is only an excuse to be negligible and lazy with the text. If something is too difficult, it must not be true, for God ought to only reveal Himself to be simple. In many cases He does, but to expect a God so vast, transcendent, holy, pure, perfect, the list could go on, to only remain easy to understand for the simple mind is philosophically foolish. When contemplating the mysteries of God I enjoy the words of N.T. Wright in his book Simply Christian,
"people often grumble as soon as a discussion about the meaning of human life, or the possibility of God, moves away from quite simple ideas and becomes more complicated. Any world in which there are such things as music, sex, laughter and tears, mountains and mathematics, eagles and earthworms, statues and symphonies and snowflakes and sunsets - and in which we humans find ourselves in the middle of it all - is bound to be a world in which the quest for truth, for reality, for what we can be sure of, is infinitely more complicated than simple yes-and-no questions will allow. there is appropriate complexity along with appropriate simplicity. The more we learn, the more we discover that we humans are fantastically complicated creatures. Yet, on the other hand, human life is full of moments when we know that things are also very, very simple."

I accept the mystery the Godhead presents in the doctrine of the Trinity. Do I have it all figured out? No. But I have enough of an understanding to reject the JW worldview that sees no Trinity in the text. It may not be an open and closed case in understanding all the complexities surrounding it, but it certainly does not warrant a poor investigation of the theology that the text directs us to. Read the article first, then interact with my response. As always, I probably left some things unsaid or in need of further explanation. I always enjoy good dialogue and further discussion.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Trinity and the Bride

I have recently be thinking about the church and it's success and failures over the past 24 years of my life. It is amazing to me the drastic dichotomy that can be displayed with so many positive and truly God honoring acts and selfless acts of worship as displayed by the global church body with so many sinful and blatant godless acts of that same global church body. I have always been perplexed by this. Now, I want to make one thing clear. I do not intend for this to turn into a church bashing session or a chance for denominational bombings, but rather a discussion about how we as the church can better satisfy the fulfillment of the image and purpose that we, being the global church, were created to be.

Over the past couple years I have generated my presuppositions of who the Bride of Christ was intended to be based solely on the person of Jesus Christ and the life he lived out on this earth, coupled with the commands He has given us in his Word. But recently I have began to think of it in a different light, correlating the interrelationship of the Godhead, and the way they fellowship with one another, to the intrinsic and purposed makeup of the church. Specifically I can think of three images that are displayed in the Trinity that should be better, or maybe i should say more completely, reflected in the church; Unity, Selflessness, and Missional.

As God is completely Unified so should his Church be unified. More and more do we here of church splits and dissension among church bodies. Bickering and slandering of other churches and other members of the church is readily available and prominent. It is through our inability to humbly embrace the diversity and difference among the body of Christ that we find the church in its current state. May we learn to better and more humbly fight to be a church defined by unity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As God is selfless and completely self giving so should the Church be selfless and self giving. It is all to often that our churches are oriented and built to serve it's own church body. Though we are called to love each other I believe we must be careful not to absorb ourselves into self centeredness. As my professor put it, " so a local church when it becomes centered on its own well being will become a hollow shell of what it was intended to be." May be we a church that focused on being self giving in all aspects of our ministry, to one another in the body and outside of the body.

Finally, as God is Missional so should the Church be Missional. As God the Father has sent his Son and his Holy Spirit as the divine missionaries so should we model the sentness of the Godhead in our churches. May we as the church be intentionally pursuing the imperative command of our Lord in Matt. 28.19 to , " Go and make disciples of all nations.....". May we be missionaly pursuing all people, from our neighborhoods to the far off lands.

As we look to better resemble and display our God, let us look to unify the body of Christ both locally and globally through our selfgivingness and missional hearts, in order that God may receive the glory! Let us better reflect Trinity as the Bride of Christ, the one He seeks to return for!


The Creed of Nicea

I believe it is important for us to affirm the Creed of Nicea and its importance of forging the foundation for Trinitarianism in the Christian faith.

The Creed of Nicea: 325

We believe in one GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY,
Maker of all things visible and invisible;

And in one LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God,
begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten and not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, who because of us men and because of our salvation, came down and became incarnate, becoming man, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, and will come to judge the living and the dead;

And in the HOLY SPIRIT.

But as for those who say, There was when He was not, and,
Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is of different hypostasis or substance, or is created, or is subject to alternation or change – these the Catholic [universal] Church anathematizes.

From Early Christian Creeds, ed. J. N. D. Kelly and Henry Bettenson. Documents of the Christian Church (2d ed., Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress, 1963), 215-216.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Practical Implications of the Trinity

They say you learn something everyday.

Today must have been one of those days.

In reflecting on the lecture given concerning the practical implications of the Trinity, I began to process how a view of the Trinity can impact humanity on a daily, rather routine, level. Especially in reference to interpersonal relationships between the sexes, particularly in marriage. I am not sure why I have never thought of it as such, but the community the Trinity enjoys carries fantastic lessons for marriage. What intrigues me most is the ontological equality yet distinction in roles and person. I have long thought that the complementarian vs. egalitarian debacle could be credited to a misunderstanding of roles and function, and in many cases a rejection of them. Perhaps this is due to poor teaching concerning what it means to be male and female. It could also be that I have a limited scope where I have seen far too many times the oppression of women in the complementarian side of things a sort of awkward power struggle on the egalitarian side. So I remain open to the idea that this is only an argument from experience, a perhaps skewed one at that. Nevertheless, the Trinity offers a perfect example of what it means to be ontologically equal yet still distinct in role and function. It is a community where submission occurs, where different functions are carried out by different persons, yet love still abounds within and there is much that is shared by all in the community. Finding myself to be probably the softest complementarian you might find and perhaps a rather hard egalitarian, my desire is to further seek out the roles and functions given to male and female. Not due to some agenda I have of making gender roles an issue of controversy or some sick desire I have of wanting to pick fights within the evangelical realm, but in quest to better model the Trinity. If the Godhead truly does exist as ontologically equal yet distinct in terms of role and function, would that not also suggest a pattern for human relationships, being as we are the Imago Dei?

What it all boils down to is my longing to see men and women, not only in marriage I suppose, figure out what God has as their role and get on board. I think there is enough evidence to presuppose, not least in the book of Ephesians, that God commands different things to the husband than He does the wife. His expectations are different for each. I don't think this undermines or demeans the intrinsic value of the person as much as it does give mission and purpose to the relationship. If everyone were running around doing the same thing, carrying out the same task, it would make for a mess of things. Maybe this is far too of an idealistic sense to such a complicated problem. If so, feel free to correct me.


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Trinity and Genesis One

I found this particular Rob Bell video interesting. Some might be encouraged that he openly affirms the doctrine of the trinity (there are a number of people who still think Bell does not by taking his words out of context in Velvet Elvis - see previous post on Bell)

My concern and question is, does he force a trinitarian perspective into the context of Genesis 1?


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Paul and the Godhead

I have been spending some time in Paul's letters and would like to start a discussion on his perspectives of God, more specifically the trinity. I am going to make this statement and then try to back it up with my observations. It is through my readings of his letter that I believe or have begun to believe that Paul is at least binitarian. Let me clarify what i mean by that.....I think that Paul is binitarian with a developing or less emphasized confession of the deity of the Holy Spirit. With that said I will admit that my investigation to this point is "new-born" and I am trying to develop it more. So let me try to support my statement first through a series of post:

1. The greetings: all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. - Romans 1.7

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 1.3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. - 2 Corinthians 1.2

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ - Galatians 1.3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. - Ephesians 1. 2

To the saints and faithful brothers1 in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. - Colossians 1.2

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. - 1 and 2 Thessalonians 1.1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. - 1 Timothy 1.1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. - 2 Timothy 1.1-2

To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. - Titus 1.4

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. - Philemon 1.3

These are all the intros that Paul uses in his letters....obviously some are repetitive but you get the point. Paul has a clear understanding of the deity of God the Father and Jesus Christ, but he interestingly lacks the Holy Spirit as a part of all his greetings . This does not even take into consideration the closings that he uses, that often look much like his greetings. This was ultimately the first observation that drove me to begin to look at Paul's perspectives on the Godhead.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Trinitarian life

This is a video of Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Seattle, explaining the community Christians experience with the Trinity. So, not only does the Trinity have community within itself, it extends the benefits of such community to believers. The clip is interesting to say the least.

Any thoughts?