One of the identifying marks of a psuedo-christian group is to deny the Deity of Jesus Christ. Therefore, many who’ve been called to minister to the cults seek to establish the Trinity as a priority topic in their witness to them. I do not.
Though I do believe in the Triune God, I recall that when I first came to faith, the Trinity doctrine was a difficult concept for me. From the letters I receive from others now, I know I was not alone in that.
From an email sent to me via the ministry team:
“Thank you for taking the time, as you always do, to write me. You said something that hit a nerve because my husband says it too. It was that I am defending the doctrines of the Watchtower. It may seem like that but I never believed in the Trinity. Way before I knew who JW’s were. 3 cant be divided into one. The nuns and priests said I was evil for 2 reasons. 1) my mom was baptized Catholic so I was able to go to Catholic school but my dad didn’t believe in religion and I wasn’t baptized. 2) so I was a demon to them because I wouldnt pray to Mary and I questioned the Trinity.”
From the Meetup for former JWs:
“… I keep getting into trouble with “churches” because when I’m pushed to give my opinion on the theology of the trinity, I just simply try to explain why as an avid Bible reader, I just don’t believe that God is a trinity. I have studied and studied and studied this subject for many, many years. I have read the so called trinity scriptures over and over again and I just can’t see why Christians hold so tight to trinitarian belief. I know what JW’s and other non trinitarian groups say. I’m only interested in my own scriptural conclusions.
I walk about so tactfully when I’m worshipping with other Christians, but I find I want to scream “I don’t believe the trinity is a Biblical teaching!”
That feels much better. Thank you for listening. I don’t mean to offend. It’s good to sometimes be able to get things of your chest.”
What I see in both of these comments are not people determined to worship a false God, but honest, truth-seeking students of the Bible who on their journey to know Him deeper, have come upon stumbling blocks. Is the block the Trinity or is it the church? In both cases, they felt their mustard seed of faith was not honored by those with whom they worshipped. Perhaps honoring what truth a person has and accepting them where they are at is much more conducive to spiritual growth.
Prior to my own involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I had read portions of the New Testament and believed in Jesus Christ. I even said my own version of a salvation prayer to him. I believed he was sent from heaven, but I didn’t think he was God. Insecure in my new faith as it was, how could I find a church when they all promoted Jesus as God? I had to be honest that I just did not see a trinity when I read the gospels. At one point I even thought perhaps God didn’t love me enough to show me what he was showing those in churches. Maybe I just wasn’t good enough? Jehovah’s Witnesses made a lot of sense to me when I learned that they too had a problem with the Trinity and I was relieved to meet these people who valued the Bible and its moral teachings without the confusion of having to acknowledge a Triune God.
And so I entered the ranks of the Watchtower distributing their message of a coming Kingdom government under Jesus Christ the SON of Jehovah God the Almighty. It made sense to me and my heart joyfully proclaimed it as truth. Though I was “preaching a different Jesus,” my heart was set on the goodness of God’s promises. I believe that is true of many Jehovah’s Witnesses. I am thankful for the Christians who invited me into their homes and met me “where I was at” and validated that mustard seed of faith in God rather than write me off as a person with no faith at all simply because I saw two separate entities in the gospels. Their prayers that God would reveal Himself to me in his perfect time were answered as I now do believe in the Deity of Jesus Christ.
Jehovah’s Witnesses tell those with whom they study that it is noble minded not to accept something just because a religion says you must. I would agree. No one in the church should blindly accept anything based on the mere words of another person. So in the same way, a person leaving the Latter Day Saints or the Watchtower should not be pressured by Christian evangelists into accepting Jesus as God before the Holy Spirit has given them a personal conviction about the belief. The Scripture is clear:
“…no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”—1 Corinthians 12:3
By the very fact that the phrase “Lord” in the New Testament is used of Jehovah God, the parallel is evident. No one can say “Jesus is Jehovah” without the Holy Spirit! Since it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth about the Deity of Jesus Christ, any person who tries to get an unregenerate Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon to see the Trinity, without leading them FIRST to the Gospel, is engaging in an exercise of futility. Since the person without the Spirit literally CANNOT see the Trinity, arguments like these often do more to alienate than convince of the truth.
My own experience validates this. When I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I had some people tell me I would go to hell unless I believed in the Trinity. Is that the gospel of peace? (Eph 6:15). When I asked them to share their belief in it and explain it to me, they could only parrot what their religious upbringing gave them and yet their lack of personal conviction was evident. They “believed” in the Trinity because they were told to, not because it made any sense to them. I could at least respect the work of the Witnesses who knew enough to defend their beliefs while others did not even bother to attempt to figure out their own inherited religion.
The well-versed Christians were another story. They could engage me in a game of Scripture ping-pong over the Trinity, but they bypassed the real message I had to hear while trying to convince me that Jesus was God. I heard nothing about why I personally needed a Savior. Now, I understand, it’s not so much about the Trinity doctrine as it is about being born again. For without the Spirit, we remain mere fleshly creatures dependent only upon what our intellect can teach us rather than what God wants us to know about Him.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe the Trinity doctrine is important, but it is something that should be approached AFTER the message of salvation and being born again is presented. The Watchtower says only 144,000 are born of God’s Spirit and therefore the rest of the flock remain dependent upon them for any wisdom from the Spirit. It keeps them separated from The Great Teacher who knows anyone can attain Bible knowledge and even do good religious works and yet never know him.
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”—John 5:39-40
I had to learn that lesson first before I could grasp the concept of a Triune God. I had to trust JESUS, not my own abilities and not a religion. I had to trust that I could be BORN OF SPIRIT and recognize the lie that I’d been told about the Watchtower Governing Body being my teacher. And when I could trust the SPIRIT of Christ living inside of me, that is when I could discern the deeper things of God, even the Trinity.
Jesus said that in order for anyone to SEE or ENTER his kingdom something had to happen. He said we MUST be born of his Spirit. Why is that so important? Because it is the Spirit that teaches us.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”—John 14:26
“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.”—1 John 2:27
Religion had stolen the Spirit away from me. God was waiting to help me grow and learn more about Him but I closed Him off by being part of a religion that would not allow me to rely on the teacher he provided, the Holy Spirit. It was wrong of me to give authority to men that belongs only to God. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I was saying “Lord, Lord” and yet denying that I belonged to Christ by his Spirit.
I came to understand that, however, BEFORE I understood the Trinity. So what message does a person who has come out of a cult need to hear most? What did I come to know first? That Jesus is the Trinity? No, that Jesus is the TRUTH (John 14:6), that He is worthy of worship and prayer, and that I had to go directly to Him (not an organization) for salvation. It was then that He regenerated me by His Spirit so that I could discern the spiritual truth of the Trinity.
Before I was born again by the Holy Spirit, I read books supporting the Trinity, and I read books that did not support the Trinity. Intellectually, they both made some sense in the arguments they presented. But God knew my questions and the way to reach me.
One day, when I wasn’t even asking or looking for it, I just happened to be reading the gospel of John and it opened up to me in a way it never had before. From chapters 7-10 he drew me in and revealed his Triune nature. I knew. Do you know why? Was it because of the exhaustive efforts of a human teacher who gave me three pages of scriptures meant to convince me that Jesus was God and then shame me if I didn’t see it? No. I had been born of Spirit and was now TRUSTING HIM instead of any human teacher.
In John 10, Jesus said that sheep listen to the voice of their shepherd. He said, “they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:5) As a lost sheep, all I had to do was listen to Jesus’ voice, the voice of My Shepherd, and follow Him. Then, when I responded to HIM, He showed me WHO He is, just as Jesus described in John 10:14:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”—John 10:14
This is how God works. It’s like a baby who responds to the voice of his mother and father. He doesn’t know EVERYTHING about his parents when he is first born. It takes time, months and years, before he even knows their names. So it is with a baby Christian. He or she doesn’t know EVERYTHING about his or her Heavenly Father at first. It takes time. Walking in relationship to God and following the teaching and leading of the Holy Spirit before one can fully grasp the Trinity doctrine.
To force this process is frustrating because you are trying to convince someone about the Deity of Christ before they accept and trust the real Teacher. Therefore, I prefer to encourage new spiritual sheep in their initial trust in God (Triune or not) so that they don’t become hurt and frustrated as revealed in the two letters which opened this article.
After all, I know what it’s like to be kicked out of fellowship simply because I saw things a little differently. The mere word ‘apostate’ is a devastating label given to one who still believes in God. One of the most encouraging comments I received during the dark and depressing time of having just been disfellowshiped came from a nurse practitioner who calmed me down in her office by saying, “Julie, you’re still a person of faith.” I felt someone understood. Somehow, some way, I still belonged to Jehovah God.
But we want Jehovah’s Witnesses to know the Triune God don’t we? We want to be teachers of what is good and true. Peter had the good fortune to walk side-by-side with the man Jesus Christ. Can you think of a better teacher than that? But Jesus taught many other people and yet they did not believe in him as Messiah, let alone as God! When Jesus asked Peter what he believed and Peter responded that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus said that MAN (flesh and blood), did not reveal it to Peter. He credited the Father in heaven (Matt 16:17). Now think about that. If Jesus as flesh and blood, but full of Holy Spirit, could not reveal things, how can any of us? Yes, we proclaim truth and we point people in the right direction, but ONLY GOD’S SPIRIT CAN TEACH. And that’s why I value prayer, not just intellectual debates on the Trinity.
We learn two things from this exchange between Peter and Jesus. Number one, it took an act of Spirit to reveal truth to Peter, not just time spent with Jesus as a human teacher. If Jesus recognized his limitations in the flesh, certainly we must! It is the Spirit of God that teaches, not us!
Secondly, what truth was Jesus fishing for out of Peter? Was it “do you know I’m God?” No, he asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter did not respond by saying Jesus was God. Did Jesus condemn Peter at that point because he failed to recognize a Trinity? No, Jesus praised his Father because Peter had accepted him as the MESSIAH, the one prophesied to take on the sins of the world. This is the first step of faith for any of us—whether fresh out of a false religion or raised in the church.
Where in the Bible is the experience of a person having to first believe in Jesus as an aspect of the Trinity in order to come to him? The first step was to accept him as the promised Messiah. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and imparts wisdom, so it follows that once a person accepts Christ (even if they haven’t got the Trinity figured out), God will lead them to that conclusion.
In the case of Jesus saying he was the “I am” to the Pharisees, yes, they knew exactly what he meant and remained in their sins not only for rejecting the Messiah but also YHWH Himself. They knew! (John 8:58)
However, in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 I’m not sure his reading of Isaiah 53 led him to know Jesus was God himself, but it did lead him to understand he was pierced for his transgressions. He came to Christ and was baptized on the basis of this first. I have no doubt the Holy Spirit revealed the rest to him later in his journey for the Spirit leads us into all truth.
Unfortunately this is not possible in the Watchtower because according to them, only 144,000 people are considered to be born of the spirit. If a person remains faithful to THEM as teacher, they must deny the persistent call of the Spirit. Their growth will be stunted and they will have to deny what the Spirit tells them in favor of what the Watchtower tells them.
I came to Christ in 1995, but God revealed His Triune nature to me in 2007. Why the gap? I accepted the Watchtower as my channel to God in 1996 and therefore shut out the Spirit who wanted to lead me to understand his Triune nature. Even when I left the Watchtower in 2003, it took another 4 years to TRUST what I was receiving from the Spirit. God is persistent in his efforts to teach us. So I don’t worry if a person doesn’t understand the Trinity right away. My concern is whether they trust God’s Spirit to indwell them and teach them about Himself or whether they trust an organization instead.
And because I believe, as did the apostle Paul, that the core message concerns ‘Christ crucified’ (1 Cor 2:2; 15:1-4), I don’t put a lot of emphasis either on making sure someone believes the Trinity first before they give their life to Jesus Christ. I have come to believe in the Triune God, but it’s not my first message unless that is what someone’s asking about.
I always try to stay focused on the message of a Messiah and not get sidetracked. This is very difficult to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses. We can go off into Trinity debates, millennial debates, holiday origin debates, moral issues, etc. and never get around to the message God has asked us to share. I believe it comes down to Isaiah 53 in knowing the one prophesied to take our sin, sickness and rejection upon his body has come! It is finished. Christ crucified for our sins is good news.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not realize how forgiven they are. Some do, but the sad thing is they are also taught by fear that they must remain in THAT organization in order to have a relationship with God or survive Armageddon which they believe is always just around the corner. The Watchtower does not teach about any present salvation, but only the hope of a possible future redemption for members in good standing. It is all based on performance and obedience to the Watchtower religion and since no one in it is perfect, they always feel condemned. As Christians, we understand our imperfections were already dealt with at the cross and therefore trust that “there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ” (Romans 8:1). Isn’t that the good news we long to share with them?
Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:
Is the Trinity a Biblical Concept? (4jehovah.org)
Is Jesus the Archangel Michael? (4jehovah.org)