Monday, December 14, 2009

Wrestling With the Watch Tower: "The Father is Greater than I"

Upon being shown that his "proof-texts" do not teach Jesus was created (here and here), the Witness at the Christian's door may try to go a different route in proving Jesus is not God. The Watch Tower publication "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" continues the argument saying, "The only-begotten Son never even considered trying to be equal to his Father, " citing John 14:28 and 1 Corinthians 11:3 as proof that "the Bible clearly teaches that the Father is greater than the Son" (


Jesus' words as recorded in John 14:28 are as follows: "You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." On the surface, this passage can seem devastating to the historic Christian teaching that Jesus is God. After all, how can the Father be greater than the Son if they are both God?

The Watch Tower's argument fails to take into account the different kinds of superiority one may have over another. One person may be greater than another in terms of position or authority, yet be equal in terms of nature or quality. One's manager is in a position of greater authority but is no greater in quality or nature. Similarly, scripture teaches that the interpersonal relationship between the Father and the Son is one in which the Father has a greater position of authority than the Son, in the same way a man is in a position of authority over his son and yet is equal in nature.


The Watch Tower points to 1 Corinthias 11:3 as further proof of the superiority of God over the Son, which in part reads, "God is the head of Christ." Again, the Christian might at first be shaken. However, the verse in its entirety, rather than supporting the Jehovah's Witness doctrine, demonstrates the reality of the Christian response to Jesus' statement, "The Father is Greater than I" as explained above: "I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ."

A woman's husband is to a certain degree in a position of authority over her as head of their family. But a greater position of authority does not necessarily equate to a greater nature, as clearly a woman is not inferior to a man. And just as a husband is not superior to his wife over whom he has a certain degree of authority, God the Father is in a position of authority over the Son despite being of the same nature.

But what about Paul's seeming contrast between "God" and "Christ"? It would have been one thing had Paul said, "the Father is the head of Christ," but instead he said, "God is the head of Christ." Doesn't this suggest that Christ is not the God with whom He's being contrasted?


If Paul's contrast between "God" and "Christ" in 1 Corinthians 11:3 means that Jesus is not God, then John's equating Jesus to "God" in his gospel must mean Jesus IS God. He wrote, "the Word was God" (John 1:1 where "the Word" is Jesus) and "God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). Thomas' equating Jesus to "God" must also mean Jesus is God when he called Him, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). And when the author of Hebrews equated the Son to the Jehovah of the Old Testament it must mean Jesus is God: "of the Son He says...'YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH'" (Hebrews 1:8-10, quoting Psalm 102 where "Lord" is the name of God, "Jehovah").

Therefore, Paul's contrast between "God" and "Christ" can't mean that Jesus is not God, for in other places they are equated, not contrasted. What, then, does it mean? Paul was simply referring to the Father as "God", saying He has authority over the Son. Both the Father and the Son are throughout scripture referred to as "God". Both are fully divine and thus deserving of the title.


In Revelation 1:8 God says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega...who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Then, in Revelation 22:13 Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." There can be only one Alpha, one Omega, and that's God, yet both Father and Son claim to be Him.

But at the same time, the Father and Son are distinct from one another, in a relationship in which the Son submits to the Father's authority. In the garden of Gethsemane the Father prayed to the Son, praying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39). One does not pray to oneself, asking that oneself would allow one to escape hardship, but ultimately submit to one's own authority. Clearly, the Son is not the Father.

Thus, Christians can have confidence that the historic Christian faith and its teaching of the Trinity is trustworthy and is an accurate summary of what the Bible has to say about the subject:

1. There is one and only one God
2. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God
3. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct and interpersonally relate to one another
We may not be able to fully comprehend it, but we can apprehend it from scripture, and let God reveal His nature to us without forcing Him inside a box.

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