Written by John Carson
What is the Watchtower's view on the Trinity?
If you have had any Bible lessons with Jehovah's Witnesses, you would come to realize they despise the Trinity. Why is that? The major reason is because of what the Watchtower continually teaches their members about
this doctrine. How they define the Trinity is certainly not what we Trinitarians believe, as you will see in this article.
My hope is that this information
will help you to understand that Jehovah's Witnesses have been lied to, and that we should equip ourselves to expose those lies and point them to the Truth.
Watchtower President Attacks Trinity Doctrine by Misrepresentation and Taking Quotes Out of Context.
From the Watchtower’s JW Broadcasting, October 2018:
President of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Robert Ciranko, taught in their October 2018 JW Broadcast:
“And what a proud honour it is for us to bear the name of the only true God, but with that name goes responsibility, one that other
religious groups do not want to take on. You see, we are under obligation to bear witness to Jehovah, to tell the truth about him, and to expose false teachings that misrepresent Jehovah; and a classic example of an unscriptural dogma that God’s
people have exposed, is the Trinity.
- (Ciranko gave an example of a famous art hoax
that fooled many, but later the artist was exposed of as committing fraud. He then compared the hoax to Trinitarianism . . . .)
“. . . . Well something similar went on during the apostasy that took place after the death of the Apostles. . . .
- (He then rightly pointed out that a portion of 1 John 5:7 from the KJV (which textual critics have identified as a spurious addition), should not be used, as some do, to prove the Trinity “.... in
heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” Ciranko used this to try to persuade his audience that Trinitarians are also fooled, as the Watchtower claims, by fraudsters who (they say) invented the Trinity. He
used a quote from the New Catholic Encyclopedia in his attempt at verifying this accusation. . . .)
“. . . . Interestingly the New Catholic Encyclopedia comments on this and says that:
- “The Trinitarian dogma is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention.... Among the apostolic fathers there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.”
“Well, Jehovah’s Anointed Witnesses firmly rejected Christendom’s Trinity dogma. In 1915
the Watch Tower exposed the foolishness of teaching a doctrine that contradicts the Bible. The Watch Tower said:
- “In what a jumble of contradictions and confusion do they find themselves who say that Jesus and the Father are one God! This would involve the idea that our Lord Jesus acted the hypocrite when on
earth and only pretended to address God in prayer, when He Himself was the same God. . . . the Father has always been immortal, hence could not die. How, then, could Jesus have died? . . . . The Scriptures declare, however, that He did
die. . . . If they admit that Jesus really died, they take the other horn of the dilemma; for believing that their three Gods are all one Person as many do, when Jesus died they must all three have died. If they all died, who raised them to life? How foolish
all this sounds! . . . . Shall we thus contradict the Apostles and Prophets and Jesus Himself, and ignore reason and common sense, in order to hold to a dogma handed to us from the dark, superstitious past, by a corrupt apostate Church? Nay!””
Source: - fast forward to 40:38)
I would agree that
what needs to be exposed, is the difference between what is true and what is false, and to identify those that misrepresent truth. I’m sure Robert Ciranko’s teachings would be very persuasive for Jehovah’s Witnesses at feeling obligated to
spread the same message as he had. My hope however, is that my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ will see clearly through the haze, and equip themselves to answer accusations such as these.
Are his accusations valid? Let’s take a look at some major flaws in Ciranko’s argumentations:
- He misrepresented the Trinity doctrine.
- He used quotes out of context.
- He used a classic faulty Watchtower argument.... “Since Jesus died, how can he be God?”
He misrepresented the Trinity doctrine.
The above teachings from their Watchtower President, is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are UNDER OBLIGATION to EXPOSE false teachings.... particularly the TRINITY doctrine. These are
their marching orders. The last quote President Ciranko gave, was an interesting definition of the Trinity doctrine. The Watchtower accuses many Trinitarians of.... “believing that their
three Gods are all one Person”.
For them to be obligated to expose false
teachings, this is not a good starting point. Do Trinitarians believe three Gods exist as one Person? Is that the Trinity doctrine? Not a chance! The teaching that three Gods are one Person, is not Trinitarianism; it is a form of Tritheism.
Tritheism is actually an anti-Trinitarian heretical teaching, which claims there exists more than one God. The belief in three Gods is in direct opposition to the Trinitarian
doctrine of three Persons in the One Godhead. For the Watchtower President to accuse Trinitarians of believing in more than one God, either demonstrates....
- that he does not have a proper understanding of what the Trinity doctrine is, or
- if he does understand the doctrinal differences, he is misleading the people.
This misguidance is not new though. Here’s another Watchtower quote that goes back to 1887. As you read, notice how their accusations are no different than
they are today. They taught that the belief of “three Gods in one”, is not only a widely revered Trinity doctrine, but that it had gained prominence and general acceptance amongst Trinitarians.
From ‘God’s Kingdom Rules!’:
the Bible Students exposed as false the widely revered Trinity doctrine. In 1887, Zion’s Watch Tower remarked: “The Scriptures are very clear concerning the distinct individuality and exact relationship of Jehovah and our Lord Jesus.”
The article then noted how amazing it was that “the idea of a triune God —THREE GODS IN ONE, and at the same time, one God in three— should ever have gained prominence and general acceptance.
But the fact that it is so, only goes to show how soundly the church slept while the enemy bound her in the chains of error.”
cannot be a Trinitarian and also believe in more than one God. The foundation of the Trinity doctrine is monotheistic at its core. Since Tritheism teaches that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three separate gods, it is diametrically
opposed to Trinitarianism.
Scripture reveals that there is only one God in essence, Who being the Originator of eternity, has always
existed and is revealed in three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A few of many Scriptural references that can be
He used quotes out of context
Ciranko quoted from the New Catholic Encyclopedia in the attempt to try
to prove the doctrine of the Trinity was a late 4th century invention.
dogma is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention.... Among the apostolic fathers there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.”
Notice ‘Reasoning From the Scriptures’
also quoted from this same source:
“The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: “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. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic
Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.”—(1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299.”
careful reader should take special notice that the word dogma used here, is not synonymous to the word doctrine. As you will see from considering the full context (as well as early church history), the source is claiming that the Trinity doctrine was already
believed in and taught; and that the existing doctrine was not formulated as the accepted dogmatic phrase, “One God in three Persons” until the late 4th century. So what the source is really saying, is the phrase “One God in three
Persons” became the dogma of an already existing doctrine. Take a closer look at this quote within its context. (The maroon texts are what the Watchtower lifted out.):
- “Question of Continuity and Elemental Trinitarianism: From what has
been seen thus far, the impression could arise that the Trinitarian dogma is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention. In a sense, this is
true; but it implies an extremely strict interpretation of the key words Trinitarian and dogma. Triadic Consciousness in the Primitive Revelation. 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. But
it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective; among the 2nd-century
Apologists, little more than a focusing of the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead.... From the vocabulary and grammar of the Greek original, the intention of the hagiographer to communicate
singleness of essence in three distinct Persons was easily derived.... If it is clear on one side that the dogma of the Trinity in the stricter sense of
the word was a late arrival, product of 3 centuries' reflection and debate, it is just as clear on the opposite side that confession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-and hence an elemental TRINITARIANISM-WENT
BACK TO THE PERIOD OF CHRISTIAN ORIGINS.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, vol. 14 p.299).
The New Catholic Encyclopedia
is actually claiming the doctrine of the Trinity went back to the period of Christian origins, and that the formulation of the dogma, “One God in three Persons”, was to concisely communicate the singleness
of essence in three distinct Persons. Notice again, the Trinity is not “three Gods in one Person” as the Watchtower would have you believe.
In order to persuade others that the Trinity doctrine is a false and fraudulent invention, the Watchtower went to the extremes of claiming the doctrine teaches something
it does not, and consistently takes quotations out of context (see also TRINITY).
These are their deviant hallmarks that show the Watchtower is guilty of purposefully misleading its people. The deviation does not end there.
He used a classic faulty Watchtower argument.... “Since Jesus died, how can he be God?”
Ciranko quoted from their own Watchtower source that stated:
“.... the Father has always been immortal, hence could not die. How, then, could Jesus have died?”
begins with the assumption that Jesus ceased to exist when He died. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus was without consciousness and remained in that state until God the Father resurrected Him. Therefore, they believe Jesus was not immortal, and hence cannot be God. However, the teaching that Jesus ceased to exist at anytime, is not found anywhere in Scripture.
In dealing more thoroughly with the Watchtower’s challenge, “Since God cannot die, and Jesus died,
how can he be God?”, please go to our page “Beyond The Grave”.