A Case Study of Watchtower Falsehood (Part III)

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The Watchtower Society being so desperate to indoctrinate their readers against the Trinity doctrine really tried to link it with Paganism (pp. 9-12). But their fabric kept falling apart at its seams.

On page 9, under the heading “The Triads of the Great Gods,” they quoted the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology to prove that ancient Babylonia and Assyria believed in triad of deities which influenced the Christian Trinity but they left out this part:

He [Anu] was god in the highest sense the supreme god. All other deities honoured him as their ‘Father’ that is to say their chief…” (pp. 54-55).

This wasn’t included because the Babylonian triad actually looks more similar to the Jehovah’s Witness theology of a supreme Father called Jehovah and other lesser gods – Jesus, angels, devil and men – than the historic, orthodox doctrine of the Christian Trinity!

On page 10 are pictures of triad deities and the “Christian Trinity” aimed at ‘proving’ that the Trinity came from paganism. This is actually an appeal to emotion. These deities didn’t influence the Trinity doctrine in any way.

All scholars agree that ancient Babylonian religion was polytheistic, not “trinitarian.” The same goes for ancient Egyptian, Greek, Canaanite and Sumerian religions.

The Egyptian Osiris, Isis and Horus belonged to a large family of gods like Set, Nut, Seb, Apnu etc. with their head being Amon-Ra. Is this the Christian Trinity? Absolutely not.

The tactic of trying to fault the Trinity by pointing to pre-Christian pagan cultures with similar beliefs is not only a fallacy of wrong parallel, it is in fact, lame. In another publication, they stated that:

The universality of the flood accounts is usually taken as evidence for the universal destruction of humanity by a flood … So we can confidently conclude that the Flood legends confirm the reality of the Biblical account.” (The Watchtower January 15, 1992, 8).

If the flood legends in many pagan cultures confirm the Biblical account, then the trinity beliefs in many cultures can confirm the Divine Trinity.

Another thing to note is that, most of the sources they used in an attempt to link the Trinity with paganism were either heretical or anti-Christian works. In other cases where this wasn’t done, they resorted to their favourite tactic – misquotation.

On page 9 for instance, the Encyclopedia Americana (Vol XXVII, 294) was quoted:

“Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching.

But page 301 of the same work says: Neither will Unitarians accept any dogma as true because Scripture teaches it … The Unitarian church … maintains that [the Bible] writers were subject to errors.”

Here they were quoting an article on the Unitarians as an authority on the history of the Trinity! How preposterous!

Why is the Watchtower so desperate that they would resort to quoting the opinions of Bible haters for what Christians are to believe?

Again, on pages 3, 6 and 11, they quote Arthur Weigall’s The Paganism in Our Christianity (1928, 197) which is a Unitarian cultist book:

“The origin of the [Trinity] is entirely pagan.” But the final paragraph of this book has this to say:

The mistaken attitude of Christianity is very largely the fault of St. Paul … Paul was not very interested in Christ the Teacher; he was more concerned with Christ the divine Human Sacrifice.”

Why in the name of integrity would a writer quote a cultist as an authority of Christian belief?

The Watchtower writers couldn’t obviously find works by reputable Christian scholars they could use to attack the Trinity, so they had to use anti-Christians like Alvan Lamson, Andrew Norton or E. W. Hopkins.

Such a feat shows that the Watchtower Society grossly disobeys its own directives in Qualified to be Ministers (1967, p. 199):

Be very careful to be accurate in all statements you make. Use evidence honestly. In quotations do not twist the meanings of a writer or speaker or use only partial quotations to give a different thought than the person intended … And use reliable, capable authority.

On page 14, there is a section titled “Jesus a Separate Creation”. A part of it reads:

“…Jesus was a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God…[He] was ‘the first-born of all creation.’ (Colossians 1:15 NJB) He was ‘the beginning of God’s creation.’ (Revelation 3:14, RS)…Yes, Jesus was created by God as the beginning of God’s invisible creation.”

These are claptrap arguments. First, nowhere did the Bible ever say “Jesus was created.” The idea of Jesus being an archangel is totally false and has been addressed here.

That Colossians 1:15 used as “proof” is invalid because the word “firstborn” does not imply “first created”. Two different Greek words are used for them (prototokos and protokistos) respectively.

JWs have craftily added the word “other” in brackets 4 times to Col. 1:14-18 in their translation to support the error that God created Jesus and Jesus made all other things.

But the “firstborn” means “preeminence” and “eternal preexistence” (Strong # 4416). It doesn’t mean ‘first created’. According to Greek scholar Marvin Vincent:

‘First-born’ points to eternal pre-existence …We must carefully avoid any suggestion that Christ was the first of created things, which is contradicted by the following words: ‘in Him were all things created‘” (Word Studies in the New Testament, 1946, 3:468).

The Greek word translated as “beginning” in Rev. 3:14 is “arkhe” which denotes the Creator, Originator or the One Who starts and stops time. In Rev. 21:6 and 22:13, God Himself is called Alpha and Omega, the Beginning [ar-khe] and the End. Therefore, the title applies to God as it applies to Jesus.

From pages 14-20, most of what the booklet attacked are straw man arguments about the Deity of Christ. The Watchtower Society may have convinced JWs that they are demolishing the Deity of Christ there, but what they did all through was slash away at straw man points.

Let me dig up three more misquotations.

Page 16: The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel (1967, Vol IV, 736) says: “[Monogenes] means ‘of sole descent’ i.e without brothers or sisters … But the word can also be used more generally without reference to derivation in the sense of ‘unique’, ‘unparallel’, ‘incomparable.'”

Page 20: “The fact has to be faced that New Testament research over, say, the last thirty or forty years has been leading an increasing number of reputable New Testament scholars to the conclusion that Jesus himself may not have claimed any of the christological titles which the Gospels ascribe to him, not even the functional design ‘Christ’ and certainly never believed himself to be God” (G. H. Boobyer in John Ryland’s Library Bulletin 1697-8, 50: 251).

This was a work written by another cultic group attacking Christian belief but the magazine cleverly omitted the points which trashes their belief in Jesus as Christ yet they steal their arguments!

Page 22: “Although the NT concepts of the Spirit of God are largely a continuation of those of the OT, in the NT, there is a gradual revelation that the Spirit of God is a person. The majority of NT texts reveal God’s spirit as something, not someone, this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 13:575)

In their conclusion on p. 30, they wrote:

“…Trinitarians have often persecuted and even killed those who rejected the Trinity doctrine…They have killed their fellow Trinitarians in wartime … all in the name of the same Trinitarian God? … Thus the teaching of confusing doctrines about God has led to actions that violate his laws.

This mode of argumentation is called “poisoning the well.” It’s an attempt to create a very negative image of your opponent such that you don’t even want to consider what he really believes or to listen to what he has to say.

By making these vague or exaggerated accusations against Christians who believe in the Trinity, the Watchtower Society seals up the trap to prevent JWs from seeing their own deception.

Interestingly, this statement is coming from a religion that is horribly stained with the blood of its own adherents who have chosen to die for their heresies instead of accepting blood transfusion.

They continued: “By honouring God and worshipping him on his terms, we can avoid the judgement that he will soon bring on apostate Christendom” (p. 31).

Such hypocrisy! Does it honour God to promote falsehoods in His name? Does it honour God to hack up quotations and hide scholarly evidence that refute your views? Does it honour God to quote people who oppose His Word and deny His nature as authorities?

Do you worship God on His own terms by getting around your own rules and misleading your followers? This booklet says it all: the Jehovah’s Witness religion is a false one!

A Case Study of Watchtower Falsehood

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In 2009, a Witness gave me an anti-Trinitarian magazine titled “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” (published in 1989). She assumed it would shatter my belief in the Trinity and perhaps make me a Jehovah’s Witness. It actually backfired, as it gingered me to study more on this topic.

When she showed up again, she was disappointed. Her hope of converting me finally fizzled out like a damp squib.

They usually give this booklet to “strong Trinitarians,” and the reason is obvious, the rhetoric employed in this work is slippery.

The reader is bombarded with numerous quotes from various “Christian” scholars and historians all stating that the Trinity doctrine is confusing, a-historical, false, pagan and unbiblical. A Christian who is not well versed in Scripture, church history or theology can be easily misled by this 32 page brochure.

Reading this booklet, the first snag you will quickly run into (if you are observant) is that the sources quoted are not completely cited. They gave the names of the publications, but not the volume or page numbers. This makes it quite difficult for people to double-check the sources they quoted from. This is because, most of the quotes presented in favour of their thesis were a-contextual and spurious.

I will provide several examples of the dishonest quotations, convoluted and slippery -slope arguments that fill up this magazine. Of course, it won’t be necessary for me to refute every line in this work. Some dedicated Christian scholars have done that already.

Once the consistent errors and flawed methodology employed by the Watchtower Society in this booklet is noted, their entire thesis collapses along with their credibility. This should suffice to prevent Christians from being swayed by their arguments. It wi also show JWs that they have trusted in a deceitful organization.

Page 4: “Many sincere believers have found it [the Trinity doctrine] to be confusing, contrary to normal reason, unlike anything in their experience. How, they ask, could the Father be God, Jesus be God, and the holy spirit be God, yet there be not three Gods but only one God?”

Apart from the fact that this is an appeal to prejudice, here, the JW writers are trying to define the nature of God with human reason and experience. What happened to the transcendence, greatness and majesty of God?

God ceases to be God is all He is or able to do are only what the human mind can reason out or explain.

Can JWs explain to us by their “normal reason” or “experience” how God couldn’t have a beginning, or how He created the world out of nothing?

The next paragraph says:

This confusion is widespread. The Encyclopedia Americana notes that the doctrine of the Trinity is considered to be ‘beyond the grasp of human reason.’ Many who accept the Trinity view it that way.”

JWs are trying to say is that the Trinity doctrine should be rejected because it is beyond human comprehension. This is a double standard because in another publication, they say:

“Our minds cannot fully comprehend it. But that is not a sound reason for rejecting it … Should we really expect to understand everything about a Person who is so great that he could bring into existence the universe…?” (Reasoning From the Scriptures, 1985, pp. 148-9).

The full quote from the Encyclopedia Americana used (27:116) says:

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.”

You can see that this work is saying the Trinity can be apprehended but the Watchtower magazine selectively quoted it.

The full quote on the same page from A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge (Lyman Abbot, 1875, 944) says:

“Precisely what the doctrine is, or rather precisely how it is to be explained, Trinitarians are not agreed among themselves … Sabellians … Others … Arianism … Tritheists … Swedenborgianism … the view of modern Trinitarians most current may be stated thus. It is not possible for the human intellect to comprehend fully the divine nature. The Bible represents God to us as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It represents them as equally entitled to our highest reference, affection and allegiance.”

The parts omitted by the magazine appear in bold. The author was saying the opposite of what JWs wanted people to believe, so they selectively quoted him.

On pg. 5 we are told “that since the Trinity is such a confusing mystery” it couldn’t have come from divine revelation because “God is not a God of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

This is a fallacy of wrong conclusion based on false premises. The Bible text used here is speaking of order in a church service not the nature of God which the Scripture calls “the mystery of godliness” (1Tim. 3:16).

By juggling the word “mystery” with “confusion,” the Watchtower craftily presents its faulty conclusion.

In the same page under the heading “‘Trinity’ in the Bible?” the full quote from the Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Hodder and Stroughton, 1959, 3:1597) says:

It must be remembered that the OT was written before the revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity was clearly given. The word Trinity is not found in the Bible…It did not find a place formally in the theology of the church till the 4th century … Although Scripture does not give us a formulated doctrine of the Trinity, it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine.

Again, the source says the opposite of what the booklet is saying. Another full citation from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1912, 15:47) quoted in the same page reads:

“In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word [trias] (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. Auto, 11, 15. P.G VI1078). The term may, of course, have been in use before his time. Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian.”

When you are quoting from a work, the meaning of the original quotes should be apparent, even when you use ellipses (…). But in this magazine, the Watchtower Society omits any aspect of their source that opposes their agenda.

Here, they deliberately left out the part in the work stating that  Theophilus taught the Trinity doctrine at least two generations before Tertullian.

Another example is Bernhard Lohse’s A Short History of Christian Doctrine (1966, 38) quoted on p. 6:

“As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity … At the same time, however, there are in the New Testament the rudiments of a concept of God that was susceptible of further development and clarification, along doctrinal lines.”

You can see again that their source admits that the Trinity doctrine came from the Bible, a fact that the Watchtower didn’t want their readers to know. This is the same methodology employed throughout this booklet. Let me give one more example.

On page 6, under the heading ‘Testimony of the Hebrew Scriptures’ they quoted from the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1965, 306):

“The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the O[ld] T[estament].”

But the very next sentence after this says: “In the N[ew] T[estament], the oldest evidence is in the Pauline epistles, especially 2Cor 13:13, and 1Cor 12:4-6. In the Gospels, evidence of Trinity is found explicitly only in the baptismal formula of Mt 28:19.”

That JWs would even use a Catholic reference work to repudiate the Trinity is enough to call their intellectual dignity into question, because everyone knows that Catholics believe in the Trinity.

Interestingly, this source also says: “The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is not taught in the O.T

Will JWs on this basis stop celebrating the Lord’s Evening Meal yearly? The only way the Watchtower Society could deny the Trinity is by misrepresenting people’s views. This is wicked and ungodly.

Read part two here.

A Case Study of Watchtower Falsehood (Part II)

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The most ridiculous part of the “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” booklet was when it began to quote patristic sources to support its assertions.

On page 7 under the heading “What the Ante-Nicene Fathers Taught,” quotes from Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Origen were presented as if these men were second century Jehovah’s Witnesses who believed in a supreme God and archangel Michael called Jesus.

Interestingly, none of the sources they obtained their quotes from were indicated. I will quote from the booklet (which will appear in blue) and provide the real quotes from the early church fathers below each one.

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” (p. 7)

Yes, Justin Martyr did say that Jesus manifested as an ‘Angel’ in the Old Testament:

“[He] is called an Angel and apostle, for he declares whatever we are to know, and is sent forth to declare what is revealed.”

But he also said: ” [the] Son who also, being the first begotten Word of God, is even God” (First Apology, LXIII cited in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1994, 1:184).

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 beside whom there is no other.”

But here is what he really taught:

“We have already shown from Scripture that not one of these sons of Adam is called ‘god’ in the proper sense of the term or named ‘lord’. But that He (Jesus) is Himself, in His own right, beyond all men who have ever lived, God and Lord and king Eternal, and Incarnate Word, proclaimed by the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself” (Against Heresies III, 6, p. 419)

While Irenaeus argued against the modalist heresy by stressing that Jesus was a different person from God the Father, he never taught that he had a “separate existence from God.”

The Watchtower writer is trying to put their own beliefs in Irenaeus’ mouth!

He refuted their belief in the same work:

“Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is of God of the living, who spake to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers.” (p. 467)

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. (p. 7)

Clement of Alexandria didn’t call Jesus a creature. In his writings, he stated that Jesus is eternally pre-existent and uncreated.

“There was then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; and also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreated” (Clement, Fragments Part 1, Sec. III 190 A.D)

He also wrote:

“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).

Tertullian, who died about 230 C.E., taught the supremacy of God … He also said: “There was a time when the Son was not … Before all things, God was alone.” (p 7)

This is a shameless misquoting of Tertullian. The full quote says:

“For before all things God was alone–being in Himself and for Himself universe, space and all things. Moreover, He was alone, because there was nothing external to Him but Himself. Yet even not then was He alone for He has with Him that which He possessed in Himself that is to say, His own Reason … which term we also designate Word or Discourse … the Word was in the beginning with God.” (Against Praexe Ch. 2, Vol. III, p 300).

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”

JWs are trying to make Origen say what they think he should say. What he really wrote was:

“[Jesus is] the perfect essence of God the Father; for these things cannot be severed from Him or separated from His essence… In their nature and essence they are one, and in them is the fullness of divinity” (On First Principles, IV, 28).

Origen in fact, rightly call those like JWs who believe that Jesus was created heretics:

“For we do not hold that which the heretics imagine: that the Son was procreated by the Father from non-existent substances, that is, from a substance outside Himself, so that there was a time when He did not exist” (De Principis, Bk. V Summary, Sec 28).

Perhaps realizing that their patristic quotations do not fly above the roof, JWs concluded the paragraph by quoting Alvan Lamson’s The Church of the First Three Centuries:

“The modern popular doctrine of the Trinity derives no support from the language of Justin [Martyr]; and this observation may be extended to all the ante-Nicene Fathers; that is to all Christian writers for three centuries after the birth of Christ.”

Now, if the Watchtower Society had a modicum of integrity on their side, they should have informed their readers that Alvan Lamson was a Unitarian heretic and therefore can’t be relied on for Christian orthodoxy.

Why did they need a quote from a Unitarian (a 19th century cult) to cement their views if it was well-affirmed by history?

The truth is, JWs will not mind quoting a heretic who shares their anti-Trinitarian view to reinforce their belief, and to make it worse, they had to misrepresent patristic works (which are easily accessible) to support their position. This indicates a high disregard for historical facts.

Read part 3 here