Heart, Soul, Mind & Strength – Part 3

Man, this holiday week has really thrown me off. Here it is, Thursday, and I’m just finally getting going on writing this next part of what originally was supposed to be a single-shot post. Though, when one takes into consideration my propensity for being verbose, this should not be a surprise.

Over the last couple weeks, we’ve been taking a look at the various ways or methods or perspectives in which we love the Lord our God as Jesus talks about in Luke 10:27. We’ve gone over what it means to love Him with all our hearts. Last week, we looked at how to love Him with all our soul.

Now we pick up with what is perhaps my favorite part…how to love Him with our minds. Perhaps this is my favorite for no better reason than the fact that it seems like this is the area that gets missed the most among the Church today. Most certainly there are some intellectual giants in the Church today, but from what I have seen, the average, ordinary, everyday Christian does not seem to focus on this area all that much.

Sure, there are lots of lifelong church goers who can recite the Ten Commandments. They know Psalm 23 by heart. They can recite the Apostle’s Creed without looking at cheat-sheets. But, does this mean that they truly are engaging their minds with their faith? Not necessarily.

How many people in the Church today can discuss even the most fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith? How well do you understand how God can be one God and yet exist in three, separate, distinct persons? When skeptics start firing questions at you about things like the existence of evil, eternal damnation, how God can become a man and be executed, church atrocities (i.e. the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.), how Christianity differs from other world religions, the historicity of Christianity and many other areas that they use to try to poke holes in our faith, are you able to respond to any of these arguments?

What it comes down to is, most Christians know that the Bible is true and they know that they believe in God and and the salvation of Jesus. At the same time, most Christians are unable to back up their beliefs with historical, logical, factual arguments. I use the term “argument” not as a nay-saying or heated disagreement, but in the sense of being a logical premise that leads to a particular conclusion.

As Christians, we should know the history of our faith. We should know why Christ needed to sacrifice Himself for us in order to restore His relationship with us. We should be able to stand our ground when skeptics start trying to back us into a corner. Or when heretics try to lead us away from orthodox truth.

Not only are many church goers susceptible to secular skeptics, but they are also in danger of falling into heresies such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, the Jesus Seminar or other world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. These groups can offer what, to an “unschooled” Christian, can seem like valid and logical arguments. They seem to make a lot of sense on the surface. But when you start to look a little deeper, their arguments really don’t hold water.

As an example, if a Jehovah’s Witness starts telling you that John 1:1 is supposed to say, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a God” (note the insertion of an indefinite article “a” God) are you able to go through and show them that this indefinite article does not exist in the Greek texts and therefore their rendering is false? Can you show them that Isaiah 43:11 where Jehovah explicity states that He is the only savior and there is no other? And then, can you turn to the New Testament and show where Paul refers to Jesus Christ as the savior?

There are many such areas in rebutting the arguments of Jehovah’s Witnesses or other heretical religions. The question is, are you able to stand your ground and (with love, of course) present your case to them and not be swayed by their arguments? God gave us minds for a reason. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just for us to be able to learn to type or learn to fix cars, or crunch numbers or build space ships. My guess is that the primary reason He gave us an intellect was so that we could understand more about Him so that we could use that knowledge for His glory.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that everybody needs to be a Bible scholar. The Bible specifically teaches that we all have different gifts. Some people simply don’t have an aptitude for knowing all sorts of facts and information. But we should all pursue knowledge of God at least to the extent that we are able to. From there, I believe that God will make sure that, if we are faithful to do so, He will ensure that we are not challenged beyond our capacity.

So, if you’re not the “thinker” type of person and not big on historical research, please don’t worry. If you know enough to keep yourself well grounded, that is sufficient. No need to memorize the dates and names of the kings of Judea and Israel, or which King Herod ruled when and did what. You don’t need to learn about the Kalam Cosmological Argument to prove God exists. Just make sure you learn what you can and always be prepared to defend your faith with whatever facts you have at your disposal.

In fact, it may be enough to know just enough to show that the Bible can be trusted to be true and then lean on scripture from there. There are a good number (never enough, in my opinion) who know scriptures pretty well. If they know the scriptures and take a few moments to think about what scripture teaches when confronted, that will probably handle most potential issues in this area.

As the pastor of Desert Breeze is fond of saying, “Don’t check your brain at the door.” Don’t just believe someone because they look nice or have a microphone or are on a stage or have money or a nice car or whatever. Hold up everything anyone says (including me) against scripture. Verify for yourself that what someone says is aligned with scripture.

Not surprisingly, I am not going to be able to fit the last point in this post, so I’ll have to reserve that for next week. Until then…

Grace, love and peace.

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34 Comments

  1. Dave,

    I am not saying that a false doctrine is required for teaching truth. What I am saying is that every time there was a meeting of the church fathers (each of the ecumenical councils) it was for the purpose of articulating a particular statement of faith as a result of an introduction of a new or potentially false teaching. As various aspects of faith begin to be taught in different ways, it will sometimes prompt the Church to recognize the need to come to an agreement as to what should be properly taught as an accepted doctrine of the Christian faith and establish an orthodoxy.

    This, to a large degree, still goes on today though it is mostly in many people’s personal faith.

    As an example, a person may have been a “Christian” since childhood, but may only be so because their family went to church regularly and perhaps were active in their church. This person has faith, to a degree, but they can’t really articulate what they believe. When a truth is called into question, and the person has to then delve a bit deeper and search through the scriptures, Church history, what they’ve been taught, etc., they may then be able to articulate what they believe though they were not previously able to do so.

    This is the same thing that happened with the Church fathers. In the case of the Nicaean Council, it wasn’t until Arianism was being taught and a rift began to form in the Church that they decided it was necessary to articulate what is the orthodox belief that should be held by the church.

    I like how Warren Carroll puts it in The Building of Christendom when he says that in the Council of Nicaea “the Church had taken her first great step to define doctrine more precisely in response to a challenge from a heretical theology.”

    As you probably know, the two major “players” in this debate were Arius (who was teaching a doctrine in which Jesus was NOT divine) and Athanasius (would supported the deity of Christ). The historian, Eusebius was also instrumental, though I don’t believe we have, today, the sources from which he drew his arguments.

    In fact, according to Eusebius, some of the “most learned and distinguished of the ancient bishops had made use of consubstantial (or homoousious) in treating of the divinity of the Father and the Son.” Origen also uses this terminology in the same way.

    There were other items discussed at the council, but the main topic was to determine whether the Father and the Son were one only in purpose or also in being. They debated for a month on this and finally came to the conclusion that the Father and the Son were homoousious (of the same essence) rather than homoiousious (of similar essence).

    Therefore, in this matter, my faith leans on (though is not completely or solely dependent upon) the teachings of the Church fathers rather than a modern-day organization who has shown to be untrustworthy as a source of truth and has already been condemned by scripture as being an organization of false prophets.

    There are many, many, many other reasons for my not following the teachings or interpretations of the Watchtower that I won’t get into in this format. However, I do want to thank you for your diligence and your comments.

    If we never end up agreeing on what we individually believe to be truth, I do pray that whichever of us may be wrong receives a healthy dose of mercy from God.

    As I continue to study and better understand an know truth and learn what beliefs I personally need to change to conform to God’s truth, I hope that you will continue to do the same. Perhaps someday, God willing, we will arrive at the same truth and enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven for eternity.

    Grace, love and peace.

  2. A false doctrine is not required to teach the truth, and what the early church taught, starting with the apostles, did not articulate that. They plainly articulated that the Father was God, for even Jesus said it was his Father whom the Jews identified as their God (John 8:56), not himself or a Trinity.

    “The firstborn of all creation” and “the beginning of God’s creation” actually do very clearly present Christ as created when the FULL weight of evidence is considered (so with Rev. 3:14, it can’t mean source because tou theou shows the Father as the source and this would contradict all the texts that speak of Christ as the intermediate in creation and the Father as the source, while it certainly doesn’t mean ruler for the NT never uses the singular arche to mean ruler, it always uses archwn as in Revelation 1:5). Trinitarians, unfortunately, attempt to proof text their way out of those passages without a full examination of them.

    Egw does mean I and eimi does mean am, but when you have these two words with an adverb of time past and an aorist infinitive, they can and are properly rendered “I have been. I can demonstrate this from other texts in the Bible and early Greek writings generally. That is why we do not translate at the single word level, but the phrase level.

    Funny thing about the Jews and Exodus 3:14, the Hebrew word in question was translated differently in the LXX only two verses prior. You are in fact wrong though, the LXX identifies God as hO WN, not EGW EIMI. Yet other early Jewish translations of the OT render it just as the LXX does in 3:12, with ESOMAI. So, for example, HALOT, agrees with the NWT.

    -Dave

  3. Dave,

    The early church fathers did not teach the Trinity because until Arianism (which is basically what the Watchtower teachings are based on) came along and the church fathers needed to figure out which view, scripturally, was accurate, the concept was never articulated in such a way. But that does not mean that the idea didn’t exist. After much debate, it was determined that Arianism (insofar as teaching that Christ was a created being and therefore not divine) was a false teaching.

    If that were not the case, if Jesus was never understood to be divine, the Council of Nicea would never have been held as there would have been no need to come to an agreement about whether or not this new Arianism was or was not true.

    The Watchtower teaches that Christ was a created being. That does not bear out scripturally. Even when you try to use “proof-texts” about “first born of all creation” and such. When you follow those out, you find that the writer is either speaking metaphorically, speaking of the fact that Christ has ultimate authority in the way that Jewish firstborns inherited all their fathers wealth, or the Bible contradicts itself.

    This is, in fact, one method by which one can determine if a writer is using metaphor or being literal. As my old pastor used to say, “The best commentary for scripture is scripture.” If one passage says something and it isn’t clear of they are being literal or metaphorical, look at the rest of scripture and see if one way would be contradictory. In this case, to use the “firstborn” literally contradicts scripture.

    As for the “I AM” passage….the Greek “ego ami” is translated as “I AM” and not “I have been.” If it were translated as “I have been” then why would John 8:59 have ever happened?

    Several times throughout the scriptures when orthodox Christians maintain that a given verse is a proof-text or even a help-text to show the divinity of Christ, the Watchtower followers try to posit that we have mis-translated the text. Yet, several of these times, Jesus was almost stone for claiming to be God.

    I’ll have to go back to the Watchtower’s false prophecies as a witness to why I have no faith in what they teach and that they have proven to have prophesied falsely, therefore, according to scripture, they are by default out of the running as a trustworthy authority for Christian doctrine or truth of any kind.

    Considering that the Jews pre-dated all of Christianity and the biblical texts, a quick look at how those who actually spoke Hebrew translate Exodus 3:14 shows that even the Jews agree that this is translated “I AM” and not “I shall prove to be” as the NWT reads.

    I maintain that Christ is/was/always will be divine and the scriptures bear out the fact that He has all of the attributes of divinity: eternality, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. He shared diving titles with God, shared divine prerogatives and authorities, etc.

    In short, He was God in the flesh. At the same time, God was in Heaven. After Christ’s ascension, God the Holy Spirit made His dwelling in all those who believe. Three separate, distinct persons (or centers of conscious, if you will) all of whom are co-equal co-eternal yet are all One True God. One cannot exist with out the other two.

    It would take volumes to describe this concept and it would still not be fully explained. Nonetheless, it is all scriptural. And the church fathers at Nicea knew this. That is the reason they decided to fully articulate this fact, so that people would not fall victim to Arianism in its original or later forms (such as the Watchtower teaches).

    Grace, love and peace.

  4. Dan,

    Simply inaccurate. The 1970 NASB had the same translation as the NWT in the footnote for John 8:58. They only removed it after it was used to defend the NWT! I believe the other text you are referring to is Exodus 3:14, yet modern scholarship well supports and even favors the NWT’s rendering.

    Further, if you read the *earliest* church fathers, they do not teach the Trinity. A common mistake is to argue that calling Jesus theos demonstrates Trinity. I fully reject the Trinity but fully embrace calling him theos.

    -Dave

  5. Dave,

    I understand where you’re going with that, but at a certain level we still need to rely on what history teaches about what the church fathers believed in light of what we have insofar as scriptures and make sure they all line up backward and forward. Because I am not a Greek or Hebrew linguist, I have little choice but to rely on experts in those fields.

    I agree that the method you describe is useful, however it is only as accurate as the translation. If the writing has been tampered with by someone who is trying to push a false agenda by going back and forth in the text and changing things to make them “fit.”

    One example is with the statements by God and Jesus where they each identify themselves as “I AM.” In the NWT, both passages have been changed in order to detract from such an identifying statement and try to pass it off as just a matter-of-fact statement (along the lines of if both you and I were to make a statement like…”I have lived for over 20 years.” Of course, I’m assuming that you’re older than 20…but I’m sure you’re still young at heart 🙂 )

    So, to me, it seems best to use scripture, history, historical teachings, tradition (to a degree, though this can easily be taken too far) and modern science/linguistics to discern the truth of the Gospels.

    Grace, love and peace.

  6. But that still only begs the question, because you continue to look to later sources, outside of the Bible. I submit to examine these things in light of the totality of scripture.

    For example, when the NT authors referenced God in the Old Testament, did they identify this one with the Trinity, Jesus or the Father? The answer time and time again is that they did so with the Father. So, for example, in Hebrews 1:1-2 we find that the God who spoke to the prophets is not Jesus or the Trinity, but the Father. Therefore, when we look into the Old Testament and we find God speaking to a prophet, we know who God is.

    Similarly, specific Old Testament events are at times spoke of, as in Hebrews 3 with a reference to Numbers 12. In Hebrews the reference to “his house” is Jehovah’s “house” in Numbers, when he spoke Aaron and Miriam. Yet because Jesus is ‘a son over his house,’ per Hebrews, we know that this Jehovah was the Father.

    -Dave

  7. Dave,

    You are absolutely correct. I believe that one should take caution with this for that very reason. This is why, while I may use these experts as a reference, I only use this reference to the extent that it follows the long-standing teaching of the church and, ultimately, the scriptures themselves.

    Obviously to weigh them against scripture puts us right back to trusting the modern experts. However, if these translations follow with the old teachings and what was taught about Jesus and do not contradict themselves, I submit that this is persuasive enough to be able to trust these experts to have accurately translated the text (insofar as the language barriers allow).

    Grace, love and peace.

  8. Dan,

    You equally cannot dismiss that those same experts have a theological motivation for denouncing the NWT as well. Therefore their opinions are highly suspect.

  9. Alan,

    That’s pretty cool that you would go through the trouble to get that information. Thanks for that.

    From Mr. Voth’s reply, it still leaves me with the same concern, however. While I can certainly see that it would be far more difficult to go directly from the ancient texts to every language and dialect, he does state that they use these texts for the major languages and then it sounds like they use the process described above for other dialects and forms that are based on, but not exactly like, those major languages.

    That being the case, my concern is not altogether alleviated and is, on a certain level, actually reinforced. I might be more comfortable if it were shown that the NWT followed the same scholarship, but I have seen no such claim…only a reference to the 1985 English translation being used as a basis for other languages.

    Suffice to say, there are far more concerns with the Watchtower than just these. But, in the area of linguistic scholarship, I can hardly overlook the fact that the overwhelming majority of experts in the field denounce the NWT as being a poor, misleading and even “distorted” translation of scripture.

    In the end, I still come to the conclusion that the commonly accepted translations more accurately portray the authorial intent of the scriptures (though I do tend to avoid the Message, the NLT, the TNIV and a couple other just because I fear they may be a little TOO “culturally relevant” in their wording and some of the teaching).

    Grace, love and peace.

  10. Dear Dan C.,

    To your questions:

    “…why would the English translation be used to translate into other languages? Why would the same text used to translate into English be used to translate into French or German or Spanish or whatever other languages they were?”

    Whether you would agree with this as being simply a practical matter or not, it may interest you to know that most all Bible Societies of today do often employ the very same method for facilitating the distribution of God’s Word into other languages.

    As you might expect, finding individuals of the different language groups of the world, that is, those who would have the qualifications necessary to translate from the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek into their native tongues, would certainly be a difficult task. Therefore, in order to afford peoples of other language groups to acquire and read a copy of the Bible in their own language, such a technique for translating is quite often employed – and not only by us, but by other Bible Societies as well.

    It may interest you to know that, once I saw your posting here, I took the initiative to write to the United Bible Societies [http://www.biblesociety.org/] and asked:

    “Please, can you tell me, when the different Bible Societies work on translating the Bible into other languages, do they always translate from the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) or do they often translate from other English translations?”

    This morning, concurring in essence with what I had stated above, this is the reply I received:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The UBS translation projects into majority languages such as English, Spanish, and Pörtuguese, always translate from the best Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts available.

    However, translations into indigenous languages done by teams of indigenous translators often times translate from different Spanish versions, as Spanish is their second language. This process is carefully supervised by a UBS Translation Consultant who always has a PHD in Biblical Languages and Anthropology. The consultant serves the indigenous translation team and provides exegetical and translational advice. In addition we have computer programs that are very sophisticated that constantly run tests on the indigenous texts produced of the Bible. We firmly believe that the translation has to be done by native speakers.

    Cordially in Christ,
    Esteban Voth
    Area Translation Coordinator for the Americas

    Esteban Voth
    Sociedades Bìblicas Unidas
    Virrey Arredondo 2553 “19”
    1426 Capital Federal
    Argentina
    541147825395

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Whereas, I was speaking about their use of English as a base, Mr. Voth explained that many of their projects involve work as done by an “indigenous translation team,” “by native speakers”; and, even though these are “carefully supervised,” what they do in the Americas is “translate from different Spanish versions, as Spanish is their second language.”

    Even though he was speaking about their work for those within the Americas (in utilizing Spanish as the base language), I take by his reply that, when it comes to other ‘indigenous translation teams,’ another language might otherwise be used.

    In fact, as I understand it, the “Good New Bible” (as produced by the American Bible Society) has been utilized in just such a way. And, if I am not mistaken, the following is an example of just such a work (as translated from the English of that work into Tagalog):

    “Magandang Balita Biblia: may Deuterocanonico.” Edition Information: Revised, Tagalog Popular Version. Summary: “Good News Bible with Deuterocanonico.” (Manila, Philippines: Philippine Bible Society, c2005). ISBN: 9712909166; 9712999165. MLCME 2008/00197 (B) / 2009316065.

    Therefore, not discounting the other “UBS translation projects into majority languages,” whereby, they would “always translate from the best Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts available,” the other practice as described above (as is also utilized by the “Watchtower Bible and Tract Society”) is not that unusual as all – apparently, it happens within the work among current day Bible Societies – done more often than people are aware.

    Agape, Alan.

  11. Dave,

    We will probably have to agree to disagree on most of those points. Though, I will have to look up the name of the scholar I referred to as now it’s going to bother me that I can’t remember his name (particularly since he was one of the most well-respected linguists at that time so I really SHOULD remember that sort of thing).

    As for the English translation, I’m not sure how that COULDN’T be a red flag. To not use the ancient texts in their original languages is simply poor scholarship and corroborating evidence that the committee did not actually “translate” but rather took existing English translation, modified the text to support their doctrine and then translated it into other languages.

    I’m saddened that you choose not to discuss the prophesies, however, as they are well documented in Watchtower issues, news clippings, magazine articles, etc. and are the main crux of how one can identify the Watchtower society as false prophets.

    Again, I want to make it very clear that those who refer to themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses are, in my opinion and from my experience, wonderful people to know. I just want to make sure that it is clear that it is not the people I am against, it is the Watchtower’s teaching.

    Grace, love and peace.

  12. Dan,

    I don’t see how the fact that it was translated from English into other languages is negative for the English. I will certainly grant that this is not ideal for other languages, but this would not give an English reader pause.

    Beyond this you move beyond the preface. The scholar you cite, was he really speaking from grammar or theology? I’m confident the latter. Certainly the NWT is not perfect, but it is far from as bad as whomever you cited makes out.

    Your characterization of the court is highly distorted. He was not asked to translate Hebrew, he was asked to translate English. Further, nothing remotely suggested that he was unable to do so, he simply opted not to.

    The names were never listed in the NWT, they were not removed. If you read the preface of the NASB they say the same thing. When the NASB first came out and these names were unknown, were you equally suspect of it?

    I don’t care to defend the prophecies and such, as that stuff was simply wrong, but I feel your characterization of the NWT is simply not accurate.

  13. Dave,

    Certainly.

    When I read the Preface of the NWT, it started out as I would expect any valid linguistic work to start. It mentioned using the oldest Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts known as the basis for this translation. It goes on to say that this project was completed in 1985.

    So far, nothing much to be concerned about.

    Then, however, it goes on to say that this 1985 translation was subsequently translated into several other languages.

    BIG red flag!!

    I think we can all agree that ANY time anything is translated from one language to another, there are certain words, ideas and/or concepts that do not directly translate particularly well. Therefore, when reading any translated work, there is bound to be something missing in the translation at some point.

    That being the case, why would the English translation be used to translate into other languages? Why would the same text used to translate into English be used to translate into French or German or Spanish or whatever other languages they were?

    To me, that is a sign of poor scholarship to do something like that. So, it immediately set me into a mode of trying to find out why this was done this way.

    In that research, I had found letters from one of the pre-eminent Greek scholars of the 20th century written to the Watchtower society vehemently requesting that his good name not be used as a reference for what he called “distortion, not translation.”

    Further, I found copies of court documents regarding a case against some of the leaders of the Watchtower, specifically the editor for the NWT (can’t remember his name off-hand) who had testified that he was overseeing the translation process though, it was discovered during the proceedings, he was proven unable to translate a simple Hebrew text that a 1st year student should have no trouble with.

    Shortly after this case, the names of the people who were part of the “NWT Translation Committee” were removed from all subsequent copies of the work and no longer able to be referenced. While the Watchtower cited that they just didn’t want these people to be glorified so that all the glory would go to Jehovah, it sure seems rather convenient that without this list of names, their scholarship cannot be verified.

    To me, it was things like these that were far too coincidental.

    And, we won’t even get started on how many times prophecies were made that did not come to pass, a test which, biblically, is a 100% certain sign of a false prophet.

    Somehow, these prophecies have since been denied, though the one from the mid 70’s is difficult to forget as many of the followers of the Watchtower had quite their jobs to spend their last year before Armageddon with their families. They were very surprised when it became 1976 and everything was still here.

    Suffice to say, there are so many red flags with respect to the teachings of the Watchtower that there is not possible way I could reasonably follow their teachings.

    Plus, as I mentioned in my response to Alan, to teach these things and imply that God’s truth was lost or covered up for over 1500 years seems to imply that God couldn’t protect His truth throughout that time.

    I’m sorry, but I simply cannot accept their teaching. I think the people who call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses, on average, tend to do far better at portraying the values taught by Jesus as far as family, integrity, honesty, etc. And, for that, I think orthodox Christians could learn a good deal from them. They are good, kind, caring, honest, hard-working, generous people. Unfortunately, from what I have seen of the history of the Watchtower, these wonderful people have simply been misled.

    Grace, love and peace.

  14. Dan,

    Can you point to something in the NWT preface that gives you pause that is not also in the NASB preface?

    Thank you

  15. Ty,

    No ‘explaining away’ required here. The context of the verse in Isaiah involves the Jews in Babylon. In that case “the way of Jehovah” was the means he established for their deliverance and return home. In Matthew the verse is applied to Jehovah’s means for salvation from sin. In neither context did “the way of Jehovah/the Lord” refer to a path that Jehovah took physically, but it referred to his plan that his servants would carry out (Israel and then Jesus).

    John 3:8 does not add any weight to your interpretation. Of course John was sent before Jesus, but Jesus is Jehovah’s means of salvation. Jesus would himself follow Jehovah’s way that John prepared, and in this respect he was just like the psalmist in Psalm 5:8.

    I would further add that the Trinity conceptually is not difficult to grasp, it simply is not biblical. When the Jews spoke of Jehovah they spoke of the Father, as Jesus explicitly explained at John 8:54, so when Christians speak of Jehovah we do the same.

  16. ok

  17. Alan,

    Thanks for your response.

    With respect to the quote from R. L. Richard, I don’t read anything in that which would lend itself to the idea that the “concept” of the Trinity was new in the 4th century. Only that it had, as I previously mentioned, it had first been articulated that way at that time.

    I will have to respectfully disagree that this was not a common belief prior to that. Reading through the letters of Paul, he uses the terms “God,” “Christ,” and “Holy Spirit” interchangeably throughout his writings. Basically, my point is that, no…the church fathers did NOT teach three persons in one God because that concept had not yet been studied and articulated.

    However, what they DID teach was that God the Father was God, Jesus the Christ was God and the Holy Spirit was God. They recognized that these three were all God and they understood that there was only one God. But it wasn’t until Nicea that they could put words to how this actually would work. My guess is that it was very confusing to them as it didn’t seem to make sense. This confusion is sometimes evident in the scriptural writings.

    Now, you mentioned the Jewish beliefs about this, and I wholeheartedly agree that their concept of God was not Triune. This was one reason they didn’t understand Christ.

    Recall that when Christ said that He and the Father were one, some teach that this referred to the idea that they were “in agreement” with one another or something like that. However, if that were how this should be translated, why then did they try to stone him? The accused him of blasphemy and “making himself out to be God.” If that was their accusation, obviously what they were angry about was that Jesus said he was God.

    So, when translating some of the passages in which there may be some disagreement as to whether or or not Jesus is claiming divinity, here it shows that he must have been. If that were not the case, they would not be trying to stone him for it.

    Finally, with respect to the idea of “orthodoxy,” it is true that various groups and factions will assert that they have the exclusive on certain truths. However, there are some truths, such as the Nicean Creed (and some of the other creeds, though not necessarily all of them) that are held to by a vast majority of the Body of Christ whether they are Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal or whatever.

    With that, I think it would really cheapen the omnipotence of God to assert that He was somehow unable to preserve His truth throughout the centuries only to recently be “discovered” again a little over a century ago. If anything, the latter scenario sounds more to me like what the scriptures warn about when the authors write about false teachers.

    To that end, I did try to actually read the New World Translation (it’s actually the first Bible I ever started reading…at least on my own initiative). I was unable to get past the Preface without already having some major red flags raised that made me seriously question the validity and veracity of that particular version.

    So, all that to say, I don’t find the NWT to be a trustworthy translation of scriptures and therefore I find myself trusting more in various other translations as well as the findings of the church fathers as well as modern scholars insofar as all these areas can adequately explain truth.

    Grace, love and peace.

  18. Dear Ty Wallace,

    In reply to your comments…

    *** And why is it so hard for people to understand the Trinity? We ourselves are triune in nature in that we are a soul that has a body and a spirit. I equate the soul to the Father part of God, the body to the Jesus part of God and the spirit to the Holy Spirit part of God. ***

    *** While we have three parts which each have their unique functions, they are all us. In a like manner, God having three parts is still one God. ***

    …I would simply say this: No such thoughts about God, that is, as a Trinity (especially in any of the ways in which you describe) had ever been offered by Jesus or any of his disciples; especially when it might have been expected that just such similar descriptions/explanations would have certainly been warranted. (1 Cor. 4:6 – http://bible.cc/1_corinthians/4-6.htm)

    Along these lines, another of my links might also prove to be of some interest here:

    Some Interesting Observations About the Trinity,
    Perhaps Not So Commonly Known
    http://goodcompanionbooks.com/Some_Interesting_Observations.htm

    Agape, Alan.
    *** http://bible.cc/1_timothy/2-5.htm ***

  19. @Dave – That’s a good way to try to “explain it away” but the fact remains that “Jesus” came to Earth while the “Father” remained in Heaven. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus which is further evidenced when he makes the statement in John 3:28, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but, that I am sent before him.”

    And why is it so hard for people to understand the Trinity? We ourselves are triune in nature in that we are a soul that has a body and a spirit. I equate the soul to the Father part of God, the body to the Jesus part of God and the spirit to the Holy Spirit part of God.

    While we have three parts which each have their unique functions, they are all us. In a like manner, God having three parts is still one God.

  20. Dear Dan C.,

    Yes, and I must also extend a thanks to you, that is, with respect to the civility and graciousness of your own conduct; especially when such is not often the case when discussing topics as important as these – i.e., the identity of the Christ and of God.

    In reply to your comment,

    “Historically, these things were simply not previously articulated because there was no need to.”

    Although I am fully aware of the fact that many hold to just such an opinion, and this, in spite of such acknowledgments as the following:

    “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….”

    As taken from: Richard, R. L. (b.?-d.?). Article on “Trinity, Holy” appearing within: “The New Catholic
    Encyclopedia.” Prepared by an Editorial Staff at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D. C.
    (New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967-c1989), vol. XIV [14], p. 299. BX841
    .N44 1967 / 66-022292.

    The import of such a statement becomes all the more significant when we appreciate the fact
    that “the Apostolic Fathers” are those who were said to have lived during the same time period as the
    Apostles themselves; perhaps, with some having even been taught by them as well. Therefore, if even
    among “the Apostolic Fathers” “there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality
    or perspective,” and, especially, for this teaching to not have ever been a part of the Christian
    “profession of faith,” that is, as expressed within any Christian ‘declaration of belief’ until the end of
    the 4th century, then this would, in my view, unequivocally substantiate the fact that neither the Apostles nor any of the earliest of Christians had ever *believed* and/or been *taught,* nor, in turn, had ever sensed the need to *defend* any such radically new concept about God.

    And, with respect to any need to *defend* such a radically new concept of God, to the suggestion that, no such need had ever developed, that is, “Until they were challenged with a contradictory teaching (in this case, Arianism) the beliefs were unchallenged and assumed to be understood,” I, personally, find such a proposition both difficult to accept as well as unreasonable to believe. After all, for some 1500+ years, the Jews had believed in a God who was anything but a Trinity. Therefore, if, by some chance, Jesus or his disciples were to have made any attempt to introduce such a radically new concept as that, something of which would have been “a contradictory teaching” to how God had revealed Himself for centuries, then surely such would have certainly been ‘challenged’ by them. And yet, as history testifies, no such ‘challenge’ appears on the immediate scene, especially on the part of any of these newly converted Jewish Christians.

    For more on this, I invite you (and readers here) to consider such same observations (even more articulately expressed than what I’ve presented here), at the following website:

    Some Powerful Reasoning’s About the Trinity, Not So Easily Dismissed
    http://goodcompanionbooks.com/Some_Powerful_Reasonings.htm

    Furthermore, with respect to your comment concerning where I might stand, that is, with respect to “Christian orthodoxy,” the following speaks to my view on this:

    “…almost every distinct society of Christians magisterially ascribes orthodoxy to a select set of fundamentals, distinct from those proposed by the teaching of our Savior and his apostles, which on one point must not be questioned by any of its communion. By this means their people are never sent to the Holy Scripture, that true foundation of light, but are hoodwinked; a veil is cast over their eyes, and then they are bid to read their Bible. They must make it all chime to their church’s fundamentals, or else they were better to let it alone. For if they find anything there against the received doctrines, though they hold it and express in the very terms the Holy Ghost has delivered it in, that will not excuse them. Heresy will be their lot, and they will be treated accordingly.”

    As taken from: Locke, John (b.1632-d.1704). “The Reasonableness of Christianity, As Delivered in the Scriptures.” Introduction by: Ewing, George W. (b.?-d.?), Editor. Series: A Gateway Edition, Number 6087. (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1965), p. 211. BR120 .L6 1965 / 65-002632.

    Added to this, I might add just one more:

    “It is only assumption,…that universality and ubiquity are made the tests of religious doctrine. No universality or ubiquity can make that divine which never was such. It is mere prejudice of veneration for antiquity, and the imposing aspect of an unanimous acquiescence (if unanimous it really be) which makes us regard that as truth which comes so recommended to us. Truth is rather the attribute of the few than the many. The real church of God may be the small remnant, scarcely visible amidst the mass of surrounding professors. Who, then, shall pronounce any thing to be divine truth, simply because it has the marks of having been generally or universally received among men?”

    As expressed by: Hampden, Renn Dickson (b.1763-d.1868), D.D., Regis Professor of Divinity at Oxford. “Bampton Lectures.” Series: Annual. (Oxford, England: Oxford University, 1833), p. 356 (parenthesis his). BR45 .B3 / sv87-025507.

    Otherwise, as you had so aptly expressed, “I guess the best we can do is agree to disagree.” Again, I thank you much for the interchange.

    Agape, Alan.
    [Romans 1:12; 14:19; 15:2.]
    *** 1 Timothy 2:5 ***

  21. Ty,

    “The Lord” in Matthew 3:3 is not a reference to Jesus at all, but to the Father. Jesus followed “the way of the Lord” that was prepared by John much as psalmist did in Psalm 5:8.

  22. @Alan – While I have not read your arguments thoroughly but have rather skimmed through them, you seem to be trying to make the defense that Jesus IS NOT in fact God whereas Christians believe that He IS in fact God but in flesh form.

    I call to your attention two scriptures, both pulled from the New World’s Translation of the Bible (the version Jehovah’s Witnesses use).

    The first is Isaiah 40:3 which states: “Listen! Someone is calling out in the wilderness: ‘Clear up the way of Jehovah, YOU people! MAKE the highway for our God through the desert plain straight.'”

    This is the prophecy of John the baptists who came to prepare the way for Jesus Christ.

    It’s fulfillment can be found in Matthew 3:3 which states: “This, in fact, is the one spoken of through Isaiah the prophet in these words: ‘Listen! Someone is crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of Jehovah, YOU people! Make his roads straight.’”

    Your own translation of the Bible just called Jesus “Jehovah” twice! So even your own Bible contradicts your belief and doctrine regarding the deity (or lack thereof) of Jesus Christ.

  23. Alan,

    My guess, from reading your posts, is that what you’re really getting at is that Christ was not divine.

    If that is the case, perhaps the best thing I can tell you is that, if I can speak for the other authors and administrators of this site, we believe in the conclusions drawn at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

    **********************************************************
    I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

    Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

    And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

    And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
    **********************************************************

    Some argue that things like this, since they were not articulated until the 4th century, were not believed prior to this. However, history tells differently.

    Historically, these things were simply not previously articulated because there was no need to. Until they were challenged with a contradictory teaching (in this case, Arianism) the beliefs were unchallenged and assumed to be understood.

    This same type of “formula” for further ecumenical councils continued in Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, etc. A commonly accepted belief or teaching was challenged followed by a gathering of the most learned church leaders to debate and argue and come to a consensus on what is or is not supported by scripture.

    The attempt to deny the deity of Christ is not a new challenge to Christianity. If you believe such teaching, then I would have to say that you are outside of Christian orthodoxy and, as such, we could continue to talk past one another, going toe-to-toe on differences of opinion on how certain phrases and passages should be translated.

    Rather than do that, I will base my trust on not only the Church fathers who were much closer to the source than we are, but also more modern scholars whose credentials can be verified and who overwhelmingly will agree with the way the passages I have referenced have been rendered and understood.

    From there, I guess the best we can do is agree to disagree. Regardless, I appreciate your input and respect the fact that you seem to be very knowledgeable, very articulate and, perhaps most of all, that you have been very respectful and polite in our disagreement.

    Grace, love and peace.

  24. Dear Dan C.,

    With respect to your quote and comments on John 1:3,

    “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

    This has been, in my view, effectively addressed wthin the following weblinks:

    Is Jesus Christ the Source of Creation?
    http://www.scripturaltruths.com/jesus/creator/

    Revelation 3:14 – The Beginning of God’s Creation
    http://www.scripturaltruths.com/jesus/beginning/

    See also:

    Colossians 1:15 – The Firstborn of All Creation
    http://www.scripturaltruths.com/jesus/firstborn/

    Agape, Alan.

  25. Dear Dan C.

    With respect to your comment:

    ***Jesus also accepted the worship of men. Remember how appalled Paul and Barnabas were when men attempted to worship them? Jesus had no problem with it. In fact, He showed that it was expected (Luke 17:11-19).***

    While some translators use the word “worship” in the majority of cases where pro·sky·ne΄o describes persons’ actions toward Jesus, the evidence does not warrant one’s reading too much into this rendering. In fact, some render it by such expressions as “bow before” (The Bible—An
    American Translation) and “pay homage” (The New English Bible).

    The circumstances that evoked the obeisance correspond very closely with those producing obeisance to the earlier prophets and kings. (Compare Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 15:25;
    20:20 with 1 Samuel 25:23, 24; 2 Samuel 14:4-7; 1 Kings 1:16; 2 Kings 4:36, 37.)

    The very expressions of those involved often reveal that, while they clearly recognized Jesus as God’s representative, they rendered obeisance to him, not as to God or a deity, but as “God’s Son,” the foretold “Son of man,” the Messiah with divine authority. — Matt. 14:32, 33; 28:5-10, 16-18; Luke 24:50-52; John 9:35, 38.

    Agape, Alan.

  26. Dear Dan C.,

    With respect to your comment,

    ***Another thought about John 1:1…while I will concede that there are times that the term “god” (small “g”) can be used in reference to a powerful person rather than actual deity, the context of John 1:1 does not lend itself to such a rendering. It would seem rather odd to me to use the type of grammar that John uses, continually referring to God (big “G”) and then suddenly switching to something that has very little connection to what he was just writing about.***

    Nothing within the immediate context would have precluded such a use. Actually, within this very context, such a use would have made perfect sense, especially in view of the way in which John had also identified Jesus as God’s “Word,” as His official spokesman.

    Just as such a title had been used of Moses and other judges/magistrates (including angels) representing God, so too, Jesus could rightly have been designated (although certainly in a much greater sense) as “a god” himself.

    Agape, Alan.

  27. Dear Dan C.,

    With respect to you comment,

    ***Also, in pointing out Elijah and Elisha, we must remember that they did this as “representatives” of God, not of their own power. Remember, that was the major problem that the Pharisees had with Jesus was that He did things on His own authority. It was God, not Elijah, who called down fire from heaven. But it was Jesus, of His own power and authority, who healed, raised the dead, forgave sins, etc.”***

    Again, Jesus made plain:

    (Matthew 28:18) And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been *given* me in heaven and on the earth.”

    Jesus had also said:

    (John 14:10) “Do you not believe that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me? The things I say to YOU men I do not speak of my own originality; but *the Father who remains in union with me is doing his works.*”

    Moreover, even Peter might add:

    (Acts 2:22) “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Naz‧a‧rene′, a man publicly shown by God to YOU through powerful works and portents and signs that *God did through him* in YOUR midst, . . .”

    Therefore, with respect to any “power” and “authority” Jesus displayed, these are made clear by way of Scripture as having come by way of God and certainly not of his own.

    Agape, Alan.

  28. Alan,

    Once again, thank you for your comments.

    And again, going back to John 1:1 as an example, one has to take into account the full context of scripture. Taken by itself, perhaps John 1:1 COULD include that indefinite article. However, that would not fit with scripture as a whole as scripture teaches the divinity of Christ.

    One way we know this is because to say otherwise would imply that Christ was a creation rather than an eternal being. I’ve addressed this issue in my own blog a while back (http://luke-ten27.blogspot.com/2008/12/heresy-vs-orthodoxy-part-ii-chris-is.html)

    In that post, I mention passages such as John 1:3 where it clearly states that Christ was not created:

    “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

    According to this passage, if ALL things were made through Him and nothing created was made without Him, then He could not have been created.

    The fact that authority was “given” to Jesus does not disprove His divinity. It simply alludes to the distinction of the Trinity. As such, in a hierarchical sense, God the Father is the “head” of the Trinity with Christ and the Holy Spirit being functionally subject to Him.

    Also, in pointing out Elijah and Elisha, we must remember that they did this as “representatives” of God, not of their own power. Remember, that was the major problem that the Pharisees had with Jesus was that He did things on His own authority. It was God, not Elijah, who called down fire from heaven. But it was Jesus, of His own power and authority, who healed, raised the dead, forgave sins, etc.

    Jesus also accepted the worship of men. Remember how appalled Paul and Barnabas were when men attempted to worship them? Jesus had no problem with it. In fact, He showed that it was expected (Luke 17:11-19).

    Another thought about John 1:1…while I will concede that there are times that the term “god” (small “g”) can be used in reference to a powerful person rather than actual deity, the context of John 1:1 does not lend itself to such a rendering. It would seem rather odd to me to use the type of grammar that John uses, continually referring to God (big “G”) and then suddenly switching to something that has very little connection to what he was just writing about.

    There are many, many more passages that show the deity of Christ and while the Watchtower Society has done their best to try to hide this, they have been unable to cover up the truth completely, though they have led many astray, sadly.

    Grace, love and peace.

  29. Dear Dan C.,

    To your comment:

    ***…in no other case is any man ever given the authority and power that was given to Jesus. Jesus was given power to forgive sins, heal illness and disease, cast out demons, raise the dead and many other things.***

    Perhaps the key word (repeated twice within the above), is “given.” If Jesus were, indeed, God, he would have never been in need of being “given” anything.

    Furthermore, as to some of these things which Jesus had been “given” by his Heavenly Father (i.e., “heal illness and disease…raise the dead”), others in the past (prior to Jesus’ time) had, indeed, been “given” just such same abilities; e.g., Elijah, 1 Kings 17; Elisha, 2 Kings 5:1-17).

    To your comment,

    “While other people throughout scriptures perform some of these things, Jesus did so under His own authority.”

    Interestingly, contrary to what you’ve stated here, Jesus himself had made clear,

    (Matthew 28:18) . . .And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been *given* me in heaven and on the earth.”

    (John 17:1-2a) 17 Jesus spoke these things, and, raising his eyes to heaven, he said: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, according as you have *given* him authority over all flesh, . . .”

    John 8:28b-29) “. . .I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he did not abandon me to myself, because I always do the things pleasing to him.”

    (John 5:19) . . .Jesus went on to say to them: “Most truly I say to YOU, The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”

    (John 5:30) . . .I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.

    In other words, whatever “authority” Jesus had was derived from what his Father had granted him; for, even Jesus had a God of whom he prayed to and, in further setting the example for us, had humbly sought guidance from.

    Agape, Alan.

  30. Dear Dan C.,

    To your comment:

    ***As an example, if a Jehovah’s Witness starts telling you that John 1:1 is supposed to say, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a God” (note the insertion of an indefinite article “a” God) are you able to go through and show them that this indefinite article does not exist in the Greek texts and therefore their rendering is false?***

    But, ‘when we start to look a little deeper, their arguments really do hold water.’

    The issue of whether, when translating, one may insert the English indefinite article with the use of the noun ‘theos’ in the third clause is not, as you acknowledge, just dependant on whether or not this appears within the Greek there; for, within the Greek language of this period, there was no such thing as an indefinite article. And yet, depending upon the grammar, syntax and context of the phrase, when translating to English, the decision as to whether to add an indefinite article or not would have to be decided by the translator.

    Interestingly, with regard to some specific examples of Biblical verses which do represent the same, basic Greek grammatical construction of John 1:1c, please examine the following within your own preferred translation of the Bible and see whether the translators themselves had, indeed, appreciated the need to insert either an “a” or “an” there. At each of the cases below, it has been found that most Bibles have consistently done just so:

    Mark 6:49
    Mark 11:32
    John 4:19
    John 6:70
    John 8:44a
    John 8:44b
    John 9:17
    John 10:1
    John 10:13
    John 10:33
    John 12:6

    As can be seen at each of the above verses, identity of the one being discussed was not at issue; no, but rather, the class of the individual is. Therefore, when translators are confronted with the same syntactical pattern as that found within John 1:1c, they have added the English indefinite article within their translated text (even though, as you had stated, “this indefinite article does not exist in the Greek texts” there).

    Following this, it should be easy to appreciate how that Jesus (“the Word”) can also be properly identified as “a god” – but certainly not as “God,” the one of whom he was just said to be “with” (1:1b). Therefore, the English indefinite article is also being quite justifiably inserted there as well.

    Agape, Alan.

  31. To the above of what I was initially addressing, I was simply replying to your comment, wherein you had stated/inquired:

    “Can you show them that Isaiah 43:11 where Jehovah explicity states that He is the only savior and there is no other? And then, can you turn to the New Testament and show where Paul refers to Jesus Christ as the savior?”

    Agape, Alan.

  32. While I agree that, taken by itself, I could see it being viewed this way I’m not completely certain that this fits with the entire context of scripture.

    Though I could quite possibly be reading too much into it, here, I believe the references to Jehovah and Christ in the passages I mention are distinct from the other references that you point out.

    The reason I believe there is a difference is because in no other case is any man ever given the authority and power that was given to Jesus. Jesus was given power to forgive sins, heal illness and disease, cast out demons, raise the dead and many other things. While other people throughout scriptures perform some of these things, Jesus did so under His own authority.

    Likewise, the reference to Jesus as Savior was distinct from the others through whom God provided salvation. The Bible tells us that there is “no other name under Heaven by which we can be saved.” Granted, this could be a bit of a reach. But, I believe that with so many other distinctions made between other prophets and people performing miracles and the way Jesus did these types of things, I don’t know that it’s all that much of a stretch.

    Thanks for the comment. Let me know what you think.

  33. Whereas, some would make the claim that, since Jesus had been identified as “Savior” (Acts 5:31), in their view, this can only be understood as meaning to be identifing Jesus as Jehovah.

    In answer to this claim one need only to see that, because this title had also been legitimately used of others, Jehovah was not lying when he claimed this title for himself, especially in such a way as he did (Isaiah 43:11); for, Jehovah was and always had been the only originator and true source of any salvation.

    Examples of such can be found within:

    Judges 3:9 – Jehovah Provides Othniel as a Savior.
    Judges 3:15 – Jehovah Provides Ehud as a Savior.
    1 Samuel 23:5 – Jehovah Provides David as a Savior.
    2 Kings 13:5 – Jehovah Provides Jehoash as a Savior.
    Nehemiah 9:27 – Reminder of Jehovah’s Continual Provision of Saviors.

    Isaiah 19:20 – Prophesy Regarding Jehovah’s Provision of Jesus as Savior.
    Luke 2:11, 1 John 4:14 – Fulfillment of Prophecy of Jehovah’s Provision of Jesus as Savior.

    With this in mind, so too with Jesus – that is, in his having been provided as such by God to the world – as we are all quite familiar, this is quite aptly expressed by the following familiar scripture:

    “…God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” – New World Translation (John 3:16).

    Agape, Alan.

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