This is part two from yesterday’s conversation. We were talking about whether or not Jesus is the same substance as the Father.
We’ve talked about this before and what my Witness friend does not understand is that the Watchtower does not teach that Jesus is the same nature as the Father. Of course I can’t explain that yet because he does not know what I know about Watchtower teachings. This forces me to pay close attention to what he says so that I can still make my point without having to show him Watchtower literature to prove it.
KW: I don’t understand how you can say that though. When I say “nature,” I’m talking about God’s eternal nature. All three of us agree that Jehovah is eternal.
JW: But I don’t think you guys believe that the Son, Jesus, is eternal.
JW2: He has not always existed.
KW: If He has not always existed, He is not eternal, therefore He cannot be the same “stuff” that the Father is because the Father is eternal. That would mean they are not the same nature.
JW1: Paul said He was the beginning of all creation. The firstborn of all creation. In Revelation 3:14 John says He is the beginning of the creation by God. I remember you telling me that the word beginning can mean the beginning of something or it can mean the source. But if you put the word source into the sentence, it wouldn’t make any sense because it would say the source of the creation by God.
KW: It doesn’t make sense to you because you aren’t thinking outside of your non-Trinitarian box.
When I listen to someone explain their views, I try my best to place myself in their shoes and understand what they believe from their own perspective. If I can understand it from their perspective, I have a better opportunity to explain my perspective because I understand theirs. Jehovah’s Witnesses RARELY attempt this. Real communication only takes place when two opposing sides understand each other. They can still disagree, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t understand each other first. I was challenging my Witness friend to try to understand things from my perspective.
Evidently my Witness friend has been doing a lot of research online because he mentioned that he knows of Greek dictionaries which explain how words are translated and how they should be interpreted differently in light of the context.
I fully agreed with him and was impressed that he has been looking in to this so deeply. I agreed that context does define words because if I speak of a trunk in my garage, I am not suggesting that I have an elephant there. I also took this opportunity to explain why I think the term “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15 refers to preeminence and not birth order because the context demands it. Verse 18 plainly says in the NWT, “so that he might become the one who is first in all things.” If this is not enough to prove that Paul was speaking of preeminence and not birth order, then I don’t know what else Paul could have said.
I also explained that there was nothing in the context of Revelation 3:14 which suggests that Jesus is not the source of all creation. Atheists believe that all of creation came from the Big Bang. That is their origin or source for all things. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the origin or source of all things. He is where it all starts.
JW1: If Jesus is the source, then He is the initiator of everything.
JW1: Then why does it say, “of God” or “by God?”
KW: Because He is the one who did it. He is the beginning of creation. Everything that God created, came from the origin, source or beginning which is the Son.
My Witness friend was confused. He started reading the Revelation 3:14 again and said something I didn’t see coming. It is a perfect example to show what Jehovah’s Witnesses think of the organization. In the NWT the verse reads, “To the angel of the congregation in Laodicea write: These are the things that the Amen says, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God.” My Witness friend had trouble reading it and read something completely different.
JW1: “These are the things that the Amen says, the faithful and dis…, uh… faithful and discreet, uh. No, not… faithful slave, right?
KW: Faithful slave?
JW1: Faithful and true witness. You know this is talking about Jesus, right?
KW: Yes. The faithful and true witness is Jesus The faithful and discreet slave is not Jesus.
I couldn’t believe he did that. Whenever he thinks about the word “faithful,” he automatically thinks “discreet slave” instead of reading what is written about Jesus. Jehovah’s Witnesses would never admit it, but they place more importance on and think about the Watchtower more than they do in Jesus. He was embarrassed and rightfully so. He immediately went back to asking about the term “by God,” because he did not understand why that phrase was included in the verse.
KW: The origin of all of creation is from one source, God.
JW1: in that case, God would be the source.
KW: If Jesus is God, there is no problem at all.
He took his pencil back and pulled out another copy of his Trinity diagram. He was confusing the personalities of the Trinity again and not understanding that in this context when I say “God” I could be referring to the person of the Father or the nature of deity.
KW: Can we change that word from God to deity? I think when you hear the word God, you automatically think Father. Again, I’m not looking to agree yet. I’m looking to understand. Like I’ve said in the past, we can’t agree or even disagree unless we first understand each other. I think there are some things about my beliefs that you are still not quite understanding. If I am wrong in my beliefs I am ready, willing and able to be corrected, but you can’t do that unless you first understand where I’m at.
When I say “God” and you think “Father,” and then I say Jesus is God, you are hearing me say that Jesus is the Father and that is not what I am saying. So what I want to do is change my vocabulary so that I do not unnecessarily confuse you.
JW1: Yes, but the diagram says the Father is God.
KW: To help you understand what I am saying though, I’ll say, “The Father is Deity.”
JW1: God is a person.
KW: The Father is a person. God is three persons.
JW1: God is a person.
KW: You see, that is what I am saying. If you are going to understand where I am coming from you’ve got to understand that when I say “God,” I could be referring to the nature of God, what He is, eternal, His make up. I could be referring to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit or all three persons at the same time. The context is going to define what I am saying. What I am suggesting is that we replace the word “God” with “deity” so that I don’t confuse you when I say that Jesus is God because I am not saying that Jesus is the Father.
JW1: So in Genesis when it says that God created the heavens and the earth, you could be saying that Deity created the heavens and the earth?
KW: Yes, that would work. Actually, that brings up a verse to my mind on which I’d like to get your opinion. It is about creation and it is about who created it.
Blank stares. They did not seem happy that I had a verse in mind because it has never turned out well for them when I bring up a verse like this.
KW: I’ve understood you to say that Jesus created all things except Himself because He is the only direct creation of God.
KW: There is a verse that confuses me. Unless you have a Trinitarian view of God, in my mind this verse would contradict the idea that Jesus created all things.
Nothing. They did not seem interested in looking at another verse.
KW: It is in Isaiah 44.
I picked up my iPad and they reluctantly navigated to Isaiah. I gave them the full reference of Isaiah 44:24 and JW1 just stared at it. He looked at it for about a minute before he nodded giving me the impression that he had read the verse. This was unusual because he normally reads all verses aloud. I don’t know any other way to describe the silence from him other than to use the word THICK. The silence was THICK.
KW: Who created the earth by Himself?
He sat in silence for 10 seconds and then finally read the verse aloud.
JW1: “This is what Jehovah says, your Repurchaser, Who formed you since you were in the womb: “I am Jehovah, who made everything. I stretched out the heavens by myself, And I spread out the earth. Who was with me?” Okay?
KW: If Jesus is not Deity, if He is not Jehovah, then He did not create the earth because Jehovah said He did it by Himself. He even asks a rhetorical question, “Who was with me?” The obvious answer being, nobody.
JW1: Okay. Point taken.
This is HUGE! For a Jehovah’s Witness elder to admit that a Trinitarian has a good point about the Deity of Christ, oh man. This is a momentous step.
JW1: You could ask Donald Trump too. Who built Trump tower?
KW: He wouldn’t say he did it by himself and then ask the rhetorical question, “Who was with me?” All of the construction workers would raise their hands and say, “We were!” It is verses like this which point me in the direction towards Trinitarianism. If Jesus created all things, then the Father can’t say He did it all by Himself.
JW1: He could still say that.
KW: By Himself?
JW1: Because He is the source.
KW: I don’t follow you. If you were to show me a drawing that you did and you said you did it all by yourself… my kids will sometimes do this. Our youngest list to draw. Sometimes Daddy helps him draw and he’ll tell Mommy, “Look what I did!” I’ll correct him and include, “With Daddy’s help.” But if he wants his Mom to know that he did something all by himself, without Daddy’s help, then he will say, “Look what I drew. I did it all by myself.”
He is making a distinction between what he did with my help and what he did alone. I see this verse clearly saying that Jehovah did it alone. Otherwise the rhetorical question, “Who was with me?” would make no sense because the answer would be, that Jesus was with Him and you didn’t do it by yourself.
JW1: I am sure there is an explanation and I will have to look for it.
JW1: Who is the only begotten god in John 1:18?
My Witness friend will do this often. He’ll concede a point and then almost immediately attempt to come up with a counter argument before he has thought it through. That is usually not a good idea.
JW1: “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is at the Father’s side is the one who has explained Him.”
KW: Yes, like we talked about with the word “image” in Colossians 1:15, the Father is invisible, no man has seen Him, but the person who has explained Him to us, the visible image, is the only-begotten God, Jesus.
JW1: So Jesus is a god then.
KW: No, not a god. He is THE God because I believe there is only one true God. If there are only two categories of gods, true gods and false gods, and Jesus is a god, then we have to make a choice. Is He the true God or is He a false god? I don’t want to call Him a false god.
JW1: When you say He is God and eternal, then He can’t be the only-begotten.
KW: The Son is begotten and He became a human being. This is how God explains Himself to mankind. This reminds me of something that happened years ago. Sometimes Churches have a summer program for children called Vacation Bible School or VBS for short. Me and a good friend of mine were the coordinators for the VBS program on year. At the end of the week I had the responsibility of addressing the children and their parents with what they had learned throughout the week and also present the gospel to everyone in attendance.
I remember standing before the congregation when an illustration popped into my mind. I hadn’t planned on getting into this during my presentation, but it just sort of happened. I gave the illustration of a young boy who loved a colony of ants in his backyard. Every day he would play with the ants, dig and make mounds with them even though he suffered an occasional ant bite.
One day his neighbor’s house caught on fire and it was spreading towards his house through his backyard. The boy was afraid for his ants. I wasn’t sure if I was doing a good job of communicating to my audience or not, but I asked the question anyway. If the boy wanted to save his ants, what was the best way to save them?
The puzzled looks on the faces of some of the parents was not very encouraging to me. Even as I was giving the illustration I was wondering if anyone was going to understand what I was getting at. I thought I was making a mistake by trying this illustration until one small boy raised his hand. I gestured to him and he loudly exclaimed, “He could become an ant and warn them!”
PERFECT! That was exactly the point I was trying to make. You become an ant so that you can communicate with these creatures that you love that they are in danger. That is my view of what God did for us in the person of Jesus. Deity became an ant. Not only to warn me, but to save me from the danger that is coming.
JW1: I see it similarly, but not that God became Jesus. God uses terms so that we can understand. We know what a father is and what a son is. The Father is called Father because He brought forth something. The Son is what He brought forth.
He reached into his book bag again, pulled out another copy of the Trinity diagram and began writing and drawing lines on it.
KW: How many of these things did you print out?
JW2 started laughing.
KW: I’m just curious, but what would happen if you dropped one of these at the kingdom hall?
JW2: They would just wonder who dropped it.
Yeah, right. I guarantee you that if I visited a kingdom hall and dropped one of those diagrams on the floor, I’d be asked to leave and never come back.
KW: Man, I count four of these diagrams.
JW1: I’ve got more than that.
I was surprised that he did this amount of homework and that he had plenty of these diagrams. He kept writing more things on the sheet and tried to show how the Trinity can’t be true. All of his examples amounted to modalism so I was doing my best to show him how Jesus can be Deity and the Father is Deity, but there is a distinction between the persons.
JW1: But why the mystery? If God uses terms like father and son so that we can understand Him, then why the mystery?
KW: God uses words like eternity to describe Himself, but do you really understand it? I don’t. I can’t picture God always existing. What did He do before He created anything? I’d be bored, but having the concept of a bored God doesn’t fit. I don’t get that, but eternity is a word that I can use to explain a little bit about God. I know that He is forever, He always has been and always will be so I get that part of it. But when I start asking question about what did He do before He created anything, I’m a limited human being so I’m not going to get that. My limitations do not limit God.
JW1: You know what, let’s pick it up here next week. I have an appointment.
KW: Okay, but I’ve got a question I’d like you to think about, actually two questions. The first of which I’ve asked you before If God wanted to exist as a Trinity, could He? In other words, is God limited to my understanding of him.
The second question is, let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Trinity is true. How could you explain it to someone so that they could understand it? You’ve said things like, if the Trinity is true, God should have said this or He should have said that or He wouldn’t have said this or wouldn’t have said that. But if it were true, if you were a Trinitarian, how would you explain it to somebody? I’d be very interested to hear how you would do that.
The reason why I asked him this last question is because I wanted to continue to get him to try and look at things from my perspective. I can fully explain the Watchtower position on the Deity of Christ and even did a role play as a Jehovah’s Witness two weeks ago when I taught at a Baptist Church. Knowing the Watchtower position helps me communicate to Jehovah’s Witnesses. I also know that if he really tries to look at this issue as a Trinitarian does, there is a greater chance that he will see the truthfulness of our position. My elder friend didn’t respond to my questions, but instead talked about some personal experiences when dealing with this subject.
JW1: When we talk to people and ask them about the Trinity, they can’t explain it, but when we tell them what we believe, they think that makes sense.
KW: Then they are not looking at Isaiah 44:24 because that doesn’t make sense to me.
JW1: Then God isn’t doing a good job of explaining who He is because lots of people are confused about the Trinity. All they can say is that it is a mystery.
KW: It is no more of a mystery than how He can be eternal.
JW1: What is still a mystery to me is how you say that God is not a person, but He is a quality, divine. Why does He have a name then? A quality doesn’t have a name. Jehovah, Yahweh or whatever. God is a person who has a name, not just a quality. I have something for you to read.
He reached in his book bag again and pulled out a printed sheet from the Watchtower online library. The article is titled, “Is Jesus God?” He also gave me a new Watchtower and Awake magazine. We ended our conversation by talking about the Olympics a bit. Neither of them are watching much of it, but at least we had something less stressful with which to end our discussion.
One quick note to new readers of this blog. It has taken me MONTHS of preparation to be able to talk this deeply about the Deity of Christ and get JW1 to admit that I have a good point. Be careful when you approach this subject. More often than not, Christians will lose a long term opportunity with Witnesses by jumping into this topic too soon. Prayerfully consider how you witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friends and their families.