Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wrestling With the Watch Tower: The Pagan and Platonic Trinity

Despite that the early Church Fathers taught a Trinitarian understanding of God (as demonstrated here), and despite that the vast majority of the bishops assembled at Nicaea had already believed in a Trinitarian understanding of God (as demonstrated here), and despite that New Testament prophesies indicated that the Church would experience apostasy in part but would nevertheless give glory to God throughout all ages (as demonstrated here), the Watch Tower continues in their brochure, "Should You Believe in the Trinity?", and attempts to demonstrate that the doctrine of the Trinity is the result of pagan influence on apostate Christendom.

As we've seen, the doctrine of the Trinity, albeit clarified over the first centuries, nevertheless was the consistent teaching of the Church Fathers from the time of Christ to the Council of Nicaea, and from a short time thereafter until today. Thus, we already know this claim to be false; this domino is already being tipped over by the previous ones we caused to fall. Still, it is an easy claim to refute, and lest we give the perception that we haven't honestly dealt with the issue, we should answer this argument as well.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Discussing Destiny: Unless the Father Draws Him

In the discussions I've had, seen and heard regarding predestination and the Bible, I've witnessed a variety of reactions from one side. There are those who were completely unaware the debate exists. Others are shocked and consider the idea virtually heretical. Still others recognize that some well-meaning Christians believe it, but quickly dismiss it as easy to answer. What all these people have in common is a failure to recognize that there are some passages in Scripture which are not easily "dealt with," and which must be taken seriously.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Lord and My God: You, LORD, in the Beginning

In "Introducing the Trinity" we started this series by looking at Thomas' response to the risen Lord when he touched Jesus' crucifixion wounds. Specifically addressing Jesus, Thomas called Him, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). We were introduced to the historic, orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity: there is one and only one God; the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit God; and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct and interpersonally relate to one another.

For a long time I have considered one particular argument from Scripture as the proverbial "slam dunk" (above innumerable other "slam dunks"), and have pointed to it regularly. I had planned to start this series in earnest by first laying down the foundation for this doctrine, namely the biblical insistence that there is one and only one God. However, recent events have caused me to reconsider my "slam dunk," and having done so I now believe even more strongly in this argument. Before I continue with this series in the manner I had intended, I'd like to share my excitement with you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wrestling With the Watch Tower: Athanasius and Apostasy

In "Development of the Trinity," we examined the Watch Tower's claims that it was not until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD that the Church first started teaching that Jesus is "of one substance" with the Father, that they did not include the Holy Spirit in this shared substance, and that the pagan Roman emperor Constantine forced the attending bishops to agree to a new view of the relationship between God and Jesus that had not previously been held. We discovered that in each case the Watch Tower utterly lies: the vast majority of the Council already agreed that Jesus and the Father were equal and "of one substance," and differed only in the terminology they felt should be used; they did include the Holy Spirit, though not as explicitly because His divinity was not called into question, as was the Son's; and Constantine merely proposed a Greek term that was a translation of a Latin term that had already been used by the Church for a century.

Their brochure, "Should You Believe in the Trinity?", continues in the section entitled, "How Did the Trinity Doctrine Develop?" under the heading, "The Athanasian Creed:"

Wrestling With the Watch Tower: Development of the Trinity

In "Church Fathers and the Trinity," we examined the Watch Tower's claim that early "Church Fathers" did not teach a Trinitarian understanding of God's nature. In so doing, we discovered that the Watch Tower lies in their brochure, and that in fact the ancient theologians they quoted did teach that the Son of God is eternal and equal with the Father, two Persons but one God in substance and essence. Their brochure, "Should You Believe in the Trinity?", continues in a section entitled, "How Did the Trinity Doctrine Develop?"


"AT THIS point you might ask: 'If the Trinity is not a Biblical teaching, how did it become a doctrine of Christendom?' Many think that it was formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E.

That is not totally correct, however. The Council of Nicaea did assert that Christ was of the same substance as God, which laid the groundwork for later Trinitarian theology. But it did not establish the Trinity, for at that council there was no mention of the holy spirit as the third person of a triune Godhead."

Much could be said in refutation of this short introduction alone; remember, the Church Fathers leading up to Nicaea had already been teaching for over two centuries that "Christ was of the same substance as God." What is important about this introduction, however, is the impression given that the Council did not teach that the Holy Spirit is one of the Persons in the Trinity.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In the Beginning: From the Very First Verse

In introducing another series, "Discussing Destiny," I explained that as a new believer in Jesus, I was not immediately aware of the debate that had been raging for years within the historic Christian faith between two understandings of God's sovereignty and man's "free will." As I grew in my faith, I discovered another debate stretching far back into the history of the Church, but which in recent centuries has increased in intensity.

Growing up in the American secular public school system I was taught as a matter of fact that the universe is billions of years old and spontaneously leapt into existence solely as the result of natural processes. I was told that humans and all other species evolved from a common ancestor over the course of millions of years through a random process undirected by any supernatural influence. And it was explained to me that the first living organism sprang from a "prebiotic soup" devoid of life as a natural consequence of chemical evolution.

As a new believer, it was obvious that the supernatural--the God of the Bible--had a hand in these processes. However, my years-long indoctrination in secular origins science still held sway when it came to my understanding of earth's history and the diversification of life. I continued to believe that the universe was billions of years old, and that life had evolved from a single original organism, and viewed the history depicted in the first chapters of Genesis--if I gave it any thought at all--as being allegorical in nature.

It wasn't long, however, before I discovered that this is not what many learned Christians throughout the past two thousand years have believed. In fact, most of the Church has historically taught that the universe was young, between 6,000 and 10,000 years young, based on the biblical record. Additionally, it has generally been understood that God created all kinds of life in the 6 days of creation described in the first chapter of Genesis. And to my surprise, many Christians today point to scientific evidence they argue supports these ideas.


Despite the historic understanding of the origin of the universe and of life held by the majority of the Church for the past two millennia, many Christians today believe differently. The Church today is divided. There are "creationists" who believe God created all forms of life from nothing, mostly as they exist today, and there are "theistic evolutionists" who believe that all species have evolved from a common ancestor, but that evolutionary theory is compatible with the Bible, God operating as the driving force behind it. There are "young-earth creationists" who hold to the traditional view that the universe is young, and there are "old-earth creationists" who believe the modern, secular scientific view that the universe is billions of years old is consistent with Scripture.

Those Christians who do not hold firmly to either position, out of a genuine desire to preserve unity amongst the Church ask, "Why does it matter?" Pointing to the divisiveness that often results from this debate, they might urge others to leave this matter behind, quoting Jesus' prayer for unity amongst His followers: "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me" (John 17:22-23). And questioning the relevance of this debate they might say, as one did recently to Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, "The gospel doesn't rise or fall on the days of creation." (Already Gone, Ken Ham & Britt Beemer, 2009, p. 81).


People who belong to the two sides of this debate answer this question differently. "Old-earth creationists" and "theistic evolutionists" may say that it matters because many in our modern culture create a false dichotomy between "science" and "faith," viewing them as being at odds with one another. Biblical faith, they say, teaches one thing about the age of the universe and of the origins of life, but "science" teaches another (nevermind the fallacy of reification they're committing when they put it this way).

Out of a desire to demonstrate the compatibility between faith and science, in an effort to draw unbelievers to Jesus, many Christians interpret the Bible as teaching an account of creation consistent with certain secular scientific ideas. At Reasons to Believe, for example, a ministry that teaches one "old earth" interpretation of Scripture, their stated purpose is as follows:

"Many people assume that science and faith are at odds with one another. The common response: we must either choose between them or keep them apart...It is our conviction that since the same God who 'authored' the universe also inspired the writings of the Bible, a consistent message will come through both channels. In other words, the facts of nature will never contradict the words of the Bible when both are properly interpreted. We want to help seekers of truth to find answers to those questions that bar them from entrusting their lives to Christ. And we want to help Christians find new joy and confidence in worshiping the Creator as they shed their fear of science."


On the other side of the debate, "young-earth creationists" say it matters because of its impact on one's view of the authority of Scripture. They agree that faith and science are compatible, that believers needn't fear science, and that unbelievers are wrong in viewing the Bible as being at odds with modern science. However, they believe that interpretations of the Genesis account which view the days of creation as long periods of time, and the creation of life as symbolic of evolution, result from reading fallen man's fallible interpretation of the evidence into the text of the Bible, thus making man and his methods more authoritative than Scripture.

Here's how Ken Ham and Britt Beemer put it in Already Gone, in which they analyze the trend of young people leaving the Church:

"'The gospel doesn't rise or fall on the days of creation...But does the gospel rise or fall on the authority of Scripture? And does the authority of Scripture rise or fall on the days of creation?'...when a person believes in millions of years (or Darwinian evolution), and then reinterprets the days of creation to be long periods of time, they are undermining the very authority from which they get the message of the gospel. They are undermining the authority of the Word of God by taking man's fallible ideas on the age of the earth and using those ideas to change the clear meaning of the Word of God. It is an authority issue." (Already Gone, p. 81)

What are the consequences of this usurping of authority? The authority of Scripture thus undermined, they argue, young people who leave the Church in their high school and college years and beyond were, essentially, "already gone" from an early age. Here's how Dr. Georgia Purdom put it her article at Answers in Genesis, "Science and Biblical Authority:"

"the research shows that many '20 somethings' have left the church because they question the truthfulness of the Bible, especially as it concerns the age of the earth. As children, they were typically taught Bible 'stories' in church. They were shown bathtub-shaped arks overflowing with colorful animals but no mention of fossils, rock layers, and animal kinds.

Curriculum publishers, Sunday school teachers, and parents failed to connect the Bible to the real world. So, these children learned that you go to school to learn about history and science, and you go to church to learn moral 'stories' and spiritual truths."


In John 3:12 Jesus said, "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" Whichever side of this debate we fall on, we thus need to make sure that our beliefs are founded upon the authority of the God-breathed Bible. We certainly should expect that what we see in the physical universe lines up with what we see in the Bible. However, how we interpret the evidence drawn from scientific investigation should be recognized, since we are fallen man, as being fallible, whereas God and His Word are perfect.

This is particularly important for those of us (like me) who are parents, for our children are leaving the faith in droves as they get older, questioning the Bible's authority and trustworthiness. If our actions suggest we do not believe God when He tells us "earthly things," such as His account of creation, how can we expect our children to believe when we teach them of "heavenly things," like sin and salvation, hating fleshliness and loving righteousness? We can't.

Therefore, in this series we will look at what Scripture records in the book of Genesis, as it pertains to creation, the age of the universe and other issues. We will make it our effort to understand what it is that the Genesis account is communicating, comparing it with the rest of Scripture. And we will give it the place of authority it demands, interpreting what we see in the universe "through the lens" of the Bible. We will determine what God has told us "From the Very First Verse."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wrestling With the Watch Tower: Church Fathers and the Trinity

In "Trinity Not in the Bible," we examined the Watch Tower's claim that the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly taught in Scripture. In their literature, they quote several Protestant and Catholic sources as acknowledging as much. However, we discovered that the Jehovah's Witness quote these sources out of context, and that though these sources admit that the doctrine is not explicitly and succinctly stated in the Bible, they insist it is nonetheless an accurate representation of the statements throughout Scripture that teach it.

As we'll see as we continue through their brochure, "Should You Believe in the Trinity?", the Watch Tower further misrepresents the teachings of the leaders of the early Church, which Christians often refer to as the "Church Fathers." Quoting again from the section of the brochure entitled, "Is It Clearly a Bible Teaching?":

"THE ante-Nicene Fathers were acknowledged to have been leading religious teachers in the early centuries after Christ's birth. What they taught is of interest."

The section continues, quoting early Church Fathers, alleging that they taught something other than the Trinity. Let's take a look at these one-by-one.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wrestling With the Watch Tower: Trinity Not In the Bible

In "Not a God of Confusion," we examined the Watch Tower's argument that the Trinity cannot be true because it is confusing, and discovered that 1 Corinthians 14:33 does not say, "God is not a God of confusion," but rather, "God is not a God of disorder," prohibiting chaotic church services. Additionally, we learned that God transcends human ability to fully comprehend Him, and thus we cannot expect to grasp His nature completely.

Having refuted this plank of the Jehovah's Witness' case against the Trinity, let's continue with their brochure, "Should You Believe in the Trinity?" In the next section entitled, "Is It Clearly a Bible Teaching?" the argument continues:

"Since the Bible can 'set things straight,' it should clearly reveal information about a matter as fundamental as the Trinity is claimed to be. But do theologians and historians themselves say that it is clearly a Bible teaching?"

Teaching Faith to Faith Teachers: The Word of Faith Movement

Imagine you were to tune into the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) hoping to get some good, solid biblical teaching. After all, it bills itself as the "World's Largest Christian Network." So little worthwhile entertainment is available on television in today's culture, it's natural to seek solace in a network that calls itself Christian.

Upon tuning into the local affiliate, you see a charismatic, vibrant, attractive teacher preaching. Passionate and excited teaching is met with eruptions of applause and shouts of, "Amen!" "Wow," you think, "this must be a great leader." Then, you hear something that doesn't quite sit right:

"God can’t do anything in this earth realm except what we, the body of Christ, allow Him to do." Fred Price

"Jesus went into hell to free mankind. … When His blood poured out it did not atone." Kenneth Copeland

"the believer is as much an Incarnation as Jesus Christ" Kenneth Hagin

"The Scripture tells us that we are to ‘call the things that are not as if they already were’" Joel Osteen

You recognize immediately that what was said is a problem. God can do anything He wants, whether the Church approves or not. Jesus' work of atonement was finished on the cross. The believer is not an incarnation of God as Jesus is. And Scripture says God calls the things that are not as if they already were, not man. Being rooted in the Word of God, you immediately recognize these statements for the falsehoods they are. Unfortunately, this is not true of many Christians.


A movement exists within the Charismatic/Pentecostal circles of the Church that is gaining masses of unsuspecting followers. Because their followers are often not intimately familiar with Scripture, they find themselves swept away by the winsomeness and charisma of the leaders in the forefront of the movement. Had they known their Bible, they would have seen these "faith teachers" for what they are: wolves in sheep's clothing, either intentionally or unintentionally leading people into error and, often, the destruction of faith.

In this series, we will analyze the teachings of the Word of Faith movement and others like it, like the Bereans "examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). We'll also look at some of their leaders' false prophecies--oh yes, some have made extreme predictions of events which did not come to pass. And we'll see how some of their teachings destroy the faith of many. Lord willing, we will be "Teaching Faith to Faith Teachers."