Posts Tagged ‘Father Edward Fortman’

Academic Dishonesty or Incompetence-What Did the Experts *Really* Say?

About the time Wayne Rogers and I had our discussion on how to properly interpret those proof text used by Trinitarians on the nature of God, I got a phone call from some Lutheran friends of mine who lived in Nebraska.  At the time I was a professor at Concordia University in Seward, NE and there was a small Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall there. 

Evidently, some JWs were visiting some Lutheran friends of mine who attended the local Lutheran parish in Seward and these JWs had given them a copy of the brochure “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”  I had heard that the JW author of this booklet, which is still published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, had included many quotes in this booklet from history and theology experts to support the JWs’ views on the nature of God.  When my Lutheran friends had read the booklet they were confused by these quotes and troubled because there were no references in the booklet other than at most an author’s name and perhaps a title to a book or article.

Since, the local Lutheran college had a rather extensive theological collection, I told my Lutheran friends to meet me at the college library and that we would try to find as many of the references cited in the JWs’ booklet as we could to see if they had been taken out of context in some way.  The results of this exercise were shocking not only to my Lutheran friends but to me as well.

Here is an example of one of the many misquotes we found in the JWs’ booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”  The JW author of the booklet is constantly making the argument that a faithful Christian would reject the Trinity doctrine because the Christian Greek Scriptures (that is JW speak for the New Testament), does not clearly present the Trinity doctrine.  In support of this view, they quote a ton of scholars who appear to support the JW author’s point of view.  Here is an example of one of the quotes that they use:

“Bernhard Lohse says in A Short History of Christian Doctrine: “As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity.””

For the trusting reader, this quote seems to be quite convincing.  However there is no page number cited in the booklet where one can go and read the original quotation in its entirety.  If one does, then one would get a whole different perspective on what Bernhard Lohse was trying to say.  Here is the quote in its entirety on page 38 of the book A Short History of Christian Doctrine:

“As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity.  This does not mean very much, however, for generally speaking the New Testament is less intent upon setting forth certain doctrines than it is upon proclaiming the kingdom of God, a kingdom that dawns in and with the person of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, however, there are in the New Testament the rudiments of a concept of God that was susceptible of further development and clarification, along doctrinal lines.”

As one can see from the entire quote (as well as by reading the entire book), Lohse does not reject the Trinity and neither does he say that the Trinity is not found in the New Testament at all as the JW author claims he does.  What Lohse does say is that the fully formulated Trinity doctrine is not found in the New Testament but the “rudiments” of such a concept of God are found in the New Testament and the Church, over time, developed those ideas into the Trinity Doctrine.  In fact on page 41 of the book A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Lohse says:

“From the beginning, of course, certain fundamentals were firmly held by the church, namely, that God is one, i.e., that it did not believe in two, let alone three gods; that this one God has revealed himself in a threefold way as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;”

The worse of the misquotes and misrepresentations that the JW author uses is when he quotes from Father Edward Fortman’s book entitled The Triune God.  To the trusting reader the JW author makes it appear as though Father Fortman, a Catholic priest no less, rejects the central doctrine of the religion that he is supposed to be advocating.  However, any reasonably intelligent individual can tell by reading just the first few pages of his book that Father Fortman is a very strong believer and defender of the Trinity doctrine and that his book is dealing with how the Church formulated this belief from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. 

The JW author’s reputation for misrepresenting and misquoting scholars in this booklet alone is the subject of TONS of websites.  If you want more examples, I will refer you to the following links:

In any case, after discovering these misquotes and misrepresentations, my Lutheran friends were very upset that someone would write and publish such a dishonest brochure.  They made photocopies of the full quotes and also checked out those books from the college library that they could to show their JW visitors how the author of the “Should You Believe in The Trinity?” booklet was misrepresenting things. 

About two months later, I got another call from my Lutheran friends and they told me that they had shared their information with their JW visitors.  They told me that the JW visitors were visibly shaken at what had been shared with them and that they took the photocopies with the promise that they would come back with an explanation.  However, my Lutheran friends said that their JW visitors never returned on the day they said they would.  In fact, when my Lutheran friends saw their JW visitors at a local restaurant and went over to say hello to them, the JWs quickly left the restaurant and refused to speak to my Lutheran friends.

I told my Lutheran friends that they should now pray for their JW visitors because obviously some seeds of doubt had been planted in them about whether or not the Watchtower Society leaders could be trusted when it comes to dealing with subjects about the nature of God.  It is one thing to believe differently than others but it is a whole other thing to grossly misrepresent the beliefs of others in such an academically dishonest, at worse, or academically incompetent, at best, way.

About a week or so after I had coached my Lutheran friends and after they had been shunned by their JW friends at the local restaurant, two JW elders knocked on my door.  The little town where I lived in Nebraska was quite small so it did not take the local elders long to discover who it was who had been coaching the local Lutherans in their discussions with the local JWs.

 Evidently, one of the elders who visited me was the Presiding Elder of the local congregation and his daughter was one of the JWs who had visited my Lutheran friends.  I imagine that the presentation that my Lutheran friends had given her must have really shaken her up to make her father go on a search and visit mission to meet with me.  The two elders tried to discover who I was and where I was from and when I did not give them the information they wanted and when I told them my intention was to continue to share this information with whomever would visit my home and the homes of my Lutheran friends, the two JW elders got quite angry.  (In fact, one of them got in my face and began to close his fist as if getting ready to hit me when the other elder pulled him back and convinced him to leave.)

Another thing that happened during this time was that in addition to misquoting Biblical Scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries in this booklet, the JWs also misrepresented a group of individuals known as The Early Church Fathers.  These individuals wrote about the beliefs of the Christians during the end of the 1st Century and beyond.  I will discuss what I discovered in these writings next.