Misrepresenting the Trinity

© Spotlight Ministries, Vincent McCann, 2002

For many years, the Watchtower Society has not only disagreed with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but has also deliberately misrepresented it. Even some Jehovah's Witnesses themselves have recognised this fact. For example, Jehovah's Witness defender, Greg Stafford, admits that Jehovah's Witnesses have sometimes misrepresented the Christian doctrine of the Trinity:

"This is not to say that the Witnesses have always been accurate in describing and communicating the teachings of others respecting the Trinity." (Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, p 221, n. 19).

Jehovah's Witnesses have misrepresented the doctrine of the Trinity in two ways:

Misrepresentation 1: Jesus is the Father.

This doctrine, called Modalism, was rejected by the early Church (Modalists are still about today in the form of the United Pentecostal Churches - not to be confused with Trinitarian Pentecostals).

Misrepresentation 2: That there are 3 'gods' in the Trinity.

The Christian Church does not teach this. This is an error known as Tritheism, also rejected by Trinitarians.

At this point, it may be useful to look at what the Church has historically said about the Trinity, by examining some sections of the Athanasian Creed (4th - 5th centuries A.D.):

"So the Father is God: the Son is God: and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods: but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord: the Son is Lord: and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three Lords: but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity: to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord: So we are forbidden by the Catholic Religion [Note: this is not to be confused with "Roman Catholicism". The word "Catholic" simply meant "universal"]: to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords."

So, on the one hand, the Athanasian Creed clearly defines the Trinity as "one God", and rejects any idea of those who would say that three gods were in view. Similarly, the creed equally rejects the error of those who would seek to establish Modalsim by destroying the distinctions between the Father, Son, and Spirit, as the following section shows:

"And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father: another of the Son: and another of the Holy Spirit."

Before looking at some of the specific misrepresentations of the Trinity by the Wathchtower Society, the question might be asked of Jehovah’s Witnesses: "How would you feel if another religious organisation misrepresented the Watchtower view of God by saying something like: "Witnesses believe that God is a woman", or some other such similar inaccuracy? Would this not be gross misrepresentation? Would this not be unfair and dishonest?"

As stated briefly above, the Watchtower have wrongly associated the doctrine of the Trinity with Modalism, which is the belief that Jesus is the Father:

"Moreover, the very words "Father" and "Son" imply a difference, and contradict the thoughts of the Trinity and oneness of person" (The Atonement Between God and Man, Studies in the Scriptures, Series V, 1906 ed., p. 60).

"...a contradiction to the common thought of Trinitarians, that the Son is the Father" (The Finished Mystery, Studies in the Scriptures, Series VII, 1917, p. 11, emphasis added).

"The trinitarians say: 'God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are one, equal in power, in person, and eternity, and are three in one.' Jesus said: "My Father is greater than I." (John 14:28) The clergy say: ‘Jesus was his own father.’ They do not tell the truth. The true relationship between God and Jesus is that of Father and Son, and this relationship is always acknowledged ...Jesus’ own words are given as further proof that he was not his own father ...the clergy who teach the trinitarian doctrine are false witnesses." (J. F. Rutherford, Reconciliation, 1928, pp. 117-118, emphasis added).

On the other end of the spectrum, the Watchtower have misrepresented the doctrine of the Trinity by declaring that Trinitarians believe that there are 3 gods! This was another ancient heresy called Tritheism, also condemned by the Church:

"Our readers are aware that while we believe in Jehovah and Jesus and the holy Spirit, we reject as totally unscriptural, the teaching that there are three Gods in one person, or as some put it, one God in three persons. (Zions Watchtower, July 1882, p. 369, italics in original)

"...the unreasonable and unscriptural doctrine of the Trinity - three Gods in one person." (The Atonement Between God and Man, Studies in the Scriptures, Series V, 1906 ed., p. 76, emphasis added). To add to the confusion, this article then switches from giving a trithesitic definition of the Trinity to a Modalistic one: "...all should notice that the entire context shows a distinction between the Father and the Son, such as no reasonable person would use if he desired to give the impression which Trinitarians seek to draw from it" (Ibid).

"The holy Spirit conceived of as a person, one of a trinity of Gods..." (The Atonement Between God and Man, Studies in the Scriptures, Series V, 1906 ed., p. 244).

"The doctrine so taught... that there are three gods in one; to wit, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost..." (J. F. Rutherford, Reconciliation, 1928, p. 100, emphasis added).

"Another lie made and told by Satan for the purpose of reproaching God’s name and turning men away from God is that of the "trinity". That doctrine is taught by the religionists of "Christendom" and is in substance this: "That there are three gods in one..." (J. F. Rutherford, Riches, 1936, p. 185, emphasis added).

Under the heading of "Is There a Trinity" in the book Let God be True we find this statement: "The doctrine, in brief, is that there are three gods in one: "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost" (Let God be True, 1946, p. 81, emphasis added). However, confusingly, the same page gives an accurate definition of the Trinity from the Athanasian Creed further on. But to add insult to injury, the author of this book then accuses Trinitarians of believing in a kind of three headed monster god!: "When the clergy are asked by their followers as to how such a combination of three in one can possibly exist, they will generally answer, "That is a mystery." Some will try to illustrate it by using triangles, trefoils, or images with three heads on one neck. Nevertheless, God-fearing persons who want to know Jehovah and serve him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three-headed God. The clergy who inject such ideas will contradict themselves in the very next breath by stating that God created man in his own image; and certainly no one has ever seen a three-headed human creature." (Let God be True, 1946, pp. 83-84, emphasis added).

"Rejecting the supremacy of Almighty God, orthodox religion champions a pagan doctrine of a trinity of gods, not one supreme God, but three coequal ones. On and on one could go pointing out the errors of Christendom's religions-Christian in name, but actually as pagan as ancient Rome, Greece and Babylon whence her religions have been drawn. (The Watchtower, 1/1, 1951, p. 21, emphasis added).

"They [i.e. the churches] grossly misrepresent the Creator when they claim that he is a triune God of three persons in one, thus likening him to what pagans say about their gods." (The Watchtower, 1/15, 1968, pp. 40-1, emphasis added).

"...there are many doctrines and practices found in religions throughout the earth today that have a common origin in Babylon's false religion. What are some of these? Among the teachings prominent in ancient Babylon were: worship of a triad or trinity of gods ...Along with the doctrines of the "Trinity"...any other teaching or practice that goes contrary to God's inspired Word marks a religion false..." (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, 1968 ed., p. 134, emphasis added).

"If he is one Jehovah, then could he be three gods, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, as the Trinitarians teach?" (Watchtower, April 1, 1970, p. 210, emphasis added).

"Is he three Gods in one - a trinity?" (What Do You Really Know About God?, tract, 1971, p. 2).

"Therefore, those who accept the Bible as God's Word do not worship a Trinity consisting of three persons or gods in one." (Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life, 1995, p. 31, emphasis added).

I think it is a serious misrepresentation of the beliefs of Trinitarians for the Watchtower to say what it has said throughout the years. I also think that it is done deliberately to confuse the rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses, and to make Trinitarians seem confused and unreasonable. Obviously, those at Watchtower Headquarters, either do not know what the Trinity is (if this is the case they should not comment on what they do not know), or (and it seems to me that this is the more likely) they have maliciously misrepresented the Trinity for their own purposes. If only they would follow their own advice:

"ACCURACY OF STATEMENT Jehovah’s witnesses are an organization of truth. We should want to speak the truth and be absolutely accurate in every detail at all times. This should be so not only as regards doctrine but also in our quotations, what we say about others or how we represent them..." (Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook, 1971, p. 110, bold in original).

For a related article on another website see: Jehovah Witnesses' Confused Understanding of the Trinity.

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