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Charlene wrote:

Hi, guys —

I once was Baptist but then converted over to Jehovah's Witness. Now that I have left the JW's,
I find it hard to believe in the Trinity, mainly because of the things Jesus Himself said in the Scriptures, like: He is going to His Father, etc.

Also, I have read things about the Early Church and how some of them believed in a singular God, not a Trinity.

At the moment, I am interested in the Catholic Church and the (LDS) Latter Day Saints,
[the Mormons]; I think the LDS seems to comfort me because they don't believe in the Trinity.

  • Why is it so hard for me to return to my Baptist faith?
  • Is it because this is the way I was raised, or did I misunderstood what I was taught when I was a child?

Also:

  • How is one to really know who or what God really is?

Some may say it doesn't matter, but it does. If it didn't matter, then you could join any religion.

Charlene

  { Now that I have left the Jehovah's Witnesses, why do I find it hard to believe in the Trinity? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Charlene —

It does not surprise me that you have difficulty with the Trinity after spending time with the Jehovah's Witnesses. I spent some time talking with the JW's as a youth and, as a consequence, rejected the Trinity for a length of time. Perhaps I can help you work these things out.

I do recommend you go to the early Church Fathers. There are a few things you have to keep in mind with those verses you say speak of a "singular" God. I think it would be better to say
"non-triune" because it is not the orthodox position that we believe in multiple gods, i.e., it can be argued that we orthodox do believe in a single God (we are monotheists, after all). Anyway,
a few things to keep in mind:

  • One, if you are getting these quotes from Jehovah's Witnesses, keep in mind they wrench them out of context. You must look at the whole passage in context, what the author is arguing and so forth, and consider what else the author has said or taught.

  • You also have to consider the limitations of thought and language; in other words, you can't expect a second-century father to speak and think like a fourth-century one. Belief in the Trinity was implicit in the faith of the early Christians but they didn't necessarily know how to express it, at least in a way we would recognize today.

Let me give you a hint about this topic based on my experience. Like you, at first glance,
it seemed pretty clear to me that Scripture rejected the idea of a triune God. It seemed a straightforward case, but as I have come to know Scripture more deeply, I noticed that the Trinity is deeply woven into the threads that make up Scripture. It's very subtle. For example, with respect to the divinity of Christ, consider this passage from Ezekiel 34:11-17:

"" 'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. 17 " 'As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats."

Compare this to what Jesus says about himself:

  • Matthew 2:6: "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' "

  • Mark 14:27: "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'

  • John 10:11-16: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."

  • and Matthew 25:31-33: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."

So the Hebrew Scriptures say that Jehovah will be the shepherd of Israel, and Jesus comes in the Gospels and says that he is the Good Shepherd. That is a claim to be God. A subtle one, but not thereby a less ironclad one. There are many verses like this. Another one I like is:

Zechariah 11:13: 'Then the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them." So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.'

Compare to Matthew 26:15 and Matthew 27:3,7.

Another thing is to observe the trial of Jesus.

  • Why did they put Jesus to death?
  • What was the charge? Blasphemy (Mark 14:64).
  • What did that mean?

Well, it meant he claimed to be God. Look at John 10:30-37:

[Jesus said: "] I and the Father are one."  31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"

33"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

34Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'
(Psalm 82:6)? 35If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came — and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.

So his opponents knew he was claiming to be God. How did Jesus respond when they confronted him on the issue? Well he didn't say "No, no you misunderstood me, I'm not claiming to be God."
He basically repeats his claim by proving that he can claim to be God from the Hebrew Scriptures.

Another verse you're probably familiar with is John 8:58-59:

'"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.'

Note that they were trying to stone him for blasphemy again — claiming to be God. JW's translate this verse "Before Abraham was, I existed" but this is a bogus translation — the Greek here is the same as the Greek of the Septuagint translation of the verse in Exodus when Jehovah is speaking to Moses. It's also the same as Mark 14:64, where the [NWT] New World Translation
(the Jehovah's Witness Bible), does not translate it as "I existed". It translates it as
"I am" there as it should.

I'm not sure whether this is the issue you're dealing with so I won't go on further. One additional issue I'll mention is one other it took me a long time to shake, and that is the personhood of the Holy Spirit. It is true that the Holy Spirit has a lot of non-personal characteristics, but He also has some personal characteristics which establish His personhood. The one that finally convinced me was 1 Corinthians 12:11:

"But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills."

Only a person can will and has a will. Therefore the Holy Spirit must be a person.

It's going to take some time to unlearn the JW errors you learned, but keep at it. Pray for enlightenment and seek evidence as you have been doing. If you have specific questions you can ask us again.

You asked:
How is one to really know who or what God really is?

I've tried to touch on that but in general, the answer is, not to sound trite, listen to the Catholic Church. Listen to St. Irenaeus:

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 180 A.D., 3, 4, 1:

"When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whosoever wishes draws from her the drink of life. For she is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers [cf, John 10:1-10]. That is why it is surely necessary to avoid [heretics], while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. What then? If there should be a dispute over some kind of question, ought we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches in which the Apostles were familiar, and draw from them what is clear and certain in regard to that question? What if the Apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the churches?"

This echoes Jude 3 which refers to the faith "once for all entrusted to the saints" — like a deposit in a bank.

Here are some tracts you may find helpful pertaining to the early Church Fathers teaching on the Trinity:

God and Christ

or go to the Catholic Answers home page, click on the Tracts tab, and search on: God and Christ

Hope this helps,

Eric

Eric followed-up:

Here's an additional resource for you, Charlene: It's an article listing several verses which establish the divinity of Christ from the New World Translation, for the sake of other readers:

Eric

Mike replied:

Hi, Charlene —

I admire your interest in evaluating and accessing various faiths. I would like to share with you a page I created called:

When was your Church founded?

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If you are also interested, you can check out these other pages:

Hope this helps,

Mike

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