Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Witnesses' Sixth Visit

Today, I received my sixth visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses. There were three of them this time. Two were the same, but the third was a new person. I started off our talk this time by responding to their belief in "soul death." I handed them a paper with an outline of some of the Bible's teaching on the continued conscious existence of the human spirit after death. They're going to look that over and get back with me next week.

I was prepared today to talk with them about the "kingdom of God/heaven," but they wanted to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity. We ended up re-hashing a lot of ground that we've covered before, but I think it was good to go over it again. They started off by pointing out the places in the Bible where it strongly affirms that there is only one God. I heartily agreed with them and told them that I am a "strict monotheist." Then, they said that the encyclopedia calls the "Trinity" an incomprehensible doctrine. They argued that God is not a God of confusion; therefore, the Trinity must not be of God. I responded by asking them if they fully comprehend Jehovah, that he never had a beginning, that he is the Alpha and the Omega, etc. I argued that though the Trinity is incomprehensible in the sense that we cannot understand it fully, it is nonetheless coherent, takes into account all of the biblical data, and it is without logical contradiction. They then pointed out places in Scripture that show a distinction among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I explained that there is one God who is three distinct, but not separate, persons. God is one in essence but He is three centers of consciousness, each of whom perfectly loves the others. The personal name of this one triune God is "Yahweh."

I argued from John 20:28 that since Thomas says to Christ, "My Lord and my God," Jesus is God. They said that Thomas was calling Jesus "God" in a sense subordinate to Jehovah (citing 1 Cor 8:5-6). They also said that Isa 9:6 prophesied that Christ would be called "God." Therefore, Thomas was fulfilling prophecy. I argued that since Isa 9:6 prophecies that Christ would be called "God," doesn't it make sense that He actually is God!? I also asked them if they would call Christ "my God," just like Thomas did. They said that they would not. So, they admitted that they would not refer to Christ in terms that Scripture itself affirms are appropriate.

They asked me, "If Jesus is God, then did God die?" I said, "The humanity of Christ died, but not His divinity." They asked me whether the Bible teaches that. I responded that the Bible teaches that Christ's physical body hung on the tree and perished. The Bible never teaches that Christ's divinity perished because divinity cannot perish. Next week, when they come back, I may mention that in the death of Christ, Scripture recognizes that in some sense God died. Acts 20:28 says, "Care for the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood." There are some textual issues with that verse, but the weight of evidence is on the above rendering. Also, Revelation 2:8 says, "The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life," and the phrase "first and last" refers to God throughout the Bible. These passages are not saying that God's essence died, but that the second person of the godhead died in the death of Christ's human nature.

I again argued that Christ is "worshipped," according to the Bible. That happens in the resurrection story: Matthew 28:9, speaking of Christ, says, "And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him." This is not an isolated event in Scripture. Jesus is worshipped, but worship is to be reserved for God alone. God will not share His glory with another (Isa 48:11), and salvation is of the Lord (Jon 2:9). If Jesus saves, as they say He does, and if Jesus is not God, as they teach He is not, then Jesus shares in the glory of our salvation and robs God of the glory that He alone is due. Their response was to say that while we glorify Christ and do Him "obeisance," we do not worship him, and He gives all the glory He receives in our salvation back to Jehovah. But that response will not work because the Greek term for worship (esp. proskuneo) does not simply mean "obeisance." It means "worship." And, even though Christ gives all glory to God, the fact that He receives any glory at all for our salvation demands that He is God, since God alone saves and God alone gets all the credit for our salvation.

I learned today that the Witnesses don't believe that Jehovah is omnipresent. He is located in space, though His "spirit" emanates from Him, such that He has knowledge and contact with all everywhere. They want me to exchange a limitless God for a limited one. I must say, I'm not tempted to do that in the least.

Finally, they closed our discussion today by inviting me to their annual celebration of Christ at their kingdom hall. I told them that I would go to their meeting if they would come to our church. I said, "It's only fair!" They said that they can't do that. We parted on good terms and they will be back next week.

3 comments:

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  3. Tom, I am delighted that the dialogue continues. I am stopping right now to pray for your continued conversation and their conversion.

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