Posts Tagged ‘Holy Ghost’

The Creation Contradiction

One of the contradictions that was pointed out to me by Jay Hess had to do with answering the question, “Who created the heavens and the earth?”

For example in the New World Translation the following scriptures from the Old Testament indicate that Jehovah, whom the Jehovah’s Witnesses would say is God the Father, is the One who created everything by Himself with no assistance from anyone:

“This is what Jehovah has said, your Repurchaser and the Former of you from the belly: “I, Jehovah, am doing everything, stretching out the heavens by myself, laying out the earth.  Who was with me?”-Isaiah 44: 24 -New World Translation

“This is what Jehovah has said, the Holy One of Israel and the Former of him: “Ask me even about the things that are coming concerning my sons; and concerning the activity of my hands you people should command me. I myself have made the earth and have created even many upon it.  I –my own hands have stretched out the heavens, and all the army of them I have commanded.” –Isaiah 45: 11, 12 New World Translation

However, the JWs believe that Jesus was created directly by Jehovah and was used by Jehovah to help him create the rest of the Universe.  To support this view of Jesus being responsible for the creation of the Universe they cite the following scripture (remember that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Word (in Greek “Logos”) is Jesus in his pre-human existence):

“In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in [the] beginning with God.  All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” John 1:1-3 New World Translation

Note that the JWs’ own Bible indicates that not one thing that came into existence came into existence apart from the work of the Word-Jesus Christ.  However, if one accepts the belief that Jesus is not equal in nature to God the Father and that the Word, Jesus, cannot also be rightly referred to as Jehovah (or Yahweh), then it appears as though the Old Testament claims made by Jehovah in Isaiah are contradicting the New Testament claims made about the Word, Jesus, in the Gospel of John.   In other words, how could Jehovah (or Yahweh) make the claim that He created the heavens and earth by Himself if Jesus was there to help Him as the JWs claim?

For a Trinitarian, however, this is not a problem because Trinitarians believe that Jesus has all of the attributes and abilities of God the Father and, therefore, can also be referred to as Jehovah (or Yahweh) so then there is no contradiction here.   As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 292:

The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit, inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the Church’s rule of faith: “There exists but one God. . . he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom”, “by the Son and the Spirit” who, so to speak, are “his hands”. Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.”

If you remember, this discussion on the Trinity started when a former JW, Wayne Rogers, asked me why I accepted the divinity of Christ after leaving the JWs. What I have written over the last few weeks is what I learned from mostly Protestant Bible Scholars about what most Christians believed about the nature of God.  After sharing these views with Wayne, his response to me was, “You know, all of these scriptures that you shared with me were pretty much the same ones we used as JWs, you have just interpreted them differently now.  How do you know that your interpretation of these scriptures is correct?”

I thought that was an excellent question so I told him that I would do some reading to see how Christians interpreted these scriptures back in the first and second centuries.  This lead me to discovering the writings of the Early Church Fathers.  I will share these findings with you in the coming weeks.

The Holy Spirit is a Person and The Holy Spirit is God

The Holy Spirit is a Person

The JWs, deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit.  The scriptural evidence they give to say that the Holy Spirit is not a person is as follows:

“As for the “Holy Spirit,” the so-called third Person of the Trinity, we have already seen that this is not a person but God’s active force.  John the Baptizer said that Jesus would baptize with holy spirit, even as John had been baptizing with water.  Hence, in the same way that water is not a person, holy spirit is not a person. (Matthew 3:11)  What John foretold was fulfilled when, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, holy spirit was poured out on his followers gathered in Jerusalem.  The Bible says: “They all became filled with holy spirit.” (Acts 2:4)  Were they “filled” with a person?  No, but they were filled with God’s active force.”- You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth page 40

However, the JWs will admit that anyone in the Bible who is depicted has having an intellect and will is a person.  They say this in their discussion about the person of God when they say on page 36 of the book You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth, that God exhibits intelligence and, therefore, this along with him having a body makes God a person.

If the Holy Spirit is a person, we would expect for the Bible to describe and attribute to the Holy Spirit those qualities and abilities that we would expect a person to have such as intellect (the ability to know), emotion (the ability to feel) and will (the ability to choose).   An impersonal active force, however, would not have these capabilities.  Notice how the actions of the Holy Spirit are described even in the New World Translation:

“But when they are leading you along to deliver you up, do not be anxious before-hand about what to speak; but whatever is given you in that hour, speak this, for you are not the ones speaking, but the holy spirit is.”-Mark 13:11

“Thus says the holy spirit, ‘The man to whom this girdle belongs the Jews will bind in this manner in Jerusalem and deliver into the hands of people of the nations.”- Acts 21:11

“Moreover, the holy spirit also bears witness to us,”-Hebrews 10:15

After I read these scriptures, I wondered how an impersonal force can speak or bear witness as in a courtroom.  Notice the next examples from the New World Translation:

“As they were publically ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: “Of all persons set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them.”-Acts 13:2

“For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things.” Acts 15:28

“Moreover, they went through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, because they were forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the [district of] Asia.-Acts 16:6

“Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son].-Acts 20:28

After I read these scriptures, I wondered how an impersonal force can choose individuals, choose not to add further burdens to others, forbid the apostles from going to Asia, and even choose overseers in the local congregations in Ephesus.  These are all examples of what a person would do who has intellect (the ability to know) and will (the ability to choose).  Notice the next scripture from the New World Translation:

“Also, do not be grieving God’s holy spirit, with which you have been sealed for a day of releasing by ransom.”-Hebrews 10:29

After reading this scripture, I wondered how an impersonal force could feel grieved.  Here was another example of the Holy Spirit having the emotional attribute (the ability to feel) of a person.

In short, there are many references to the Holy Spirit as a person, even in the JWs own New World Translation of the Bible.  The JWs response to this would be to say that the inspired writers are merely using the literary technique of personification which is that they are giving the attributes of personhood to a thing whereas a more correct understanding of scripture would be to realize that the holy spirit is merely a force belonging to God that is no more a person than the natural forces of fire and water.

At this point, I was rather confused as to which perspective was most correct.  It seemed that I was at an impasse as both the JWs and the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians could both point to scriptures which appeared to support their very different points of view.  However, I was impressed by the number of scriptures that the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians could cite in support of the Holy Spirit being a person.

What I wanted to know now, was how Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants came to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, using the Bible.

The Holy Spirit is God!

During our discussion on the Divinity of Christ, I gave examples of how the New Testament writers applied Old Testament scriptures that the Jews applied to Jehovah (or Yahweh) and now applied these to Christ.  These examples went a long way in helping me to see how Christians, Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic could come to the conclusion using the Bible that Jesus is God by nature because according to the writers of the New Testament, Jesus has all of the qualities of God the Father while being a separate person from God the Father.  I wondered, if there were any examples of this relating to the Holy Spirit.  With the help of the JWs own New World Translation of the Bible and the book The Trinity: Evidence and Issues by Dr. Robert Morey, I found some examples that proved to be very troubling for me.

In Acts 28:25-27, St. Paul is speaking to the Jewish people of the city of Rome about the Gospel of Jesus.  In his last words to them, the following is said according to the New World Translation:

“The holy spirit aptly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your forefathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “By hearing, you will hear but by no means understand; and, looking you will look but by no means see.” For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they should never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn back, and I should heal them.”

In the 1984 Reference Edition of the New World Translation, it has a cross-reference to the book of Isaiah chapter 6.  Notice who Isaiah says is speaking these words:

“And I began to hear the voice of Jehovah saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And proceeded to say: “Here I am! Send me.” And he went on to say: “Go, and you must say to this people, ‘Hear again and again, O men, but do not understand; and see again and again, but do not get any knowledge.’ Make the heart of this people unreceptive, and make their very ears unresponsive, and past their very eyes together, that they may not see with their eyes and with their ears they many not hear, and that their own heart may not understand and that they may not actually turn back and get healing for themselves.”-Isaiah 6:8-10 New World Translation

So, in addition to St. Paul saying that the Holy Spirit speaks which in and of itself seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit is a person, St. Paul attributes the words of Jehovah from the book of Isaiah as coming from the Holy Spirit.  I found this troubling because how can an impersonal force speak and, furthermore, how can an impersonal force speak as if it is Almighty God, Jehovah, Himself?

In another example of this, the writer of the book of Hebrews says that the Holy Spirit bears witness to us as in a courtroom about the New Covenant that Jehovah wishes to make with his faithful people.   Here is what it says in the New World Translation:

Moreover, the holy spirit also bears witness to us, for after it has said: “ ‘This is the covenant that I shall covenant toward them after those days,’ says Jehovah.  ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds I shall write them.’ ” [it says afterward] “And I shall by no means call their sins and their lawless deeds to mind anymore.”-Hebrews 10: 15-17

Notice the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that the holy spirit bears witness to us.  How can an impersonal force bear witness to someone?  In addition, the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us in verse 17 that the holy spirit (which the JWs’ Bible refers to with the impersonal pronoun “it”) will no longer hold the sins of the people to account anymore.  The questions now are how can an impersonal force do that and is the writer of the book of Hebrews giving some power to the Holy Spirit that would in the minds of the JWs belong only to Jehovah, whom they consider Almighty God?

Well, when I looked at the cross-reference to Hebrews 10:17 in the 1984 Reference Edition of the JWs’ New World Translation, it references the book of Jeremiah chapter 31: 34 which says:

“And they will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother,’ saying, ‘Know Jehovah!’ for they will all know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.  “For I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.”-Jeremiah 31:34 New World Translation

So, the writer of the book of Hebrews appears to be saying that it is the Holy Spirit who will forgive the sins of the people and it appears as though He is quoting from a passage in Jeremiah which says that it is Jehovah, Almighty God, who will forgive the sins of the people.  Thus, I believed that an argument could be made that the writer of the book of Hebrews is equating the Holy Spirit as a person with the same qualities as God the Father!

It was at this point that I was beginning to see the way in which someone could accept the doctrine of the Trinity as a dogma that could be derived from Sacred Scripture.  And, I also began to realize that in many respects, the JWs did not really understand what the Trinity doctrine actually confessed about the nature of God.

The Mysterious Nature of Almighty God!

In general, the JWs are very uncomfortable with mystery.  In many respects, if there is something about the nature of God that is hard to understand or difficult to explain using mainly human reason, it makes the average JW very uncomfortable.  I will demonstrate this with a couple of examples from my own JW experience.

I can remember, as a JW, attending five meetings a week.  One of those meetings was usually on Tuesday evening where we met in the home of one of our fellow JWs and one of the local congregation elders lead us in a study of the Bible using one of the books published by the Watchtower Society as a guide.

Many of the topics that we discussed at these meetings dealt with the end of the world, as JWs saw it, and how Bible prophecy was being fulfilled in the world, as JWs saw it, at this very moment.  Much was made about the sovereignty of Jehovah, as Almighty God, and the inherent right that Jehovah had to rule over man.  During these studies we often discussed the great power and might of Jehovah as Almighty God.  I can remember reading the following scripture fairly often when a discussion of the greatness of Jehovah was the topic for that evening’s study:

“O, Jehovah, you yourself have proved to be a real dwelling for us. During generation after generation. Before the mountains themselves were born.  Or you proceeded to bring forth as with labor pains the earth and the productive land.  Even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.”-Psalms 90: 1, 2 New World Translation [Bold added]

This scripture and in particular the bolded part was emphasized to indicate that Jehovah, as Almighty God, had no beginning and no ending.  I remember trying to get my mind around the fact that as a JW we believed that Jehovah never had a beginning and never will have an ending and that Jehovah has and will always just exist.  I remember trying to discuss this attribute of Jehovah with my father and asking him about it.

He told me not to think about it too much because it would make me go crazy and there was really nothing good that could come of thinking about it.  Here was a mystery about God that the JWs accepted and that I could in some sense explain and understand on an intellectual level to some degree but it was beyond my human reason and experience to totally grasp. And, obviously my father was rather uncomfortable with this mystery about God.

Years later when I was in college, I had the opportunity to take a couple of classes in World History and World Literature.  In these classes, we were exposed to much of the classical history and literature of Western Civilization.  It was here that I was exposed to many different views on the nature of God throughout history, and I was also exposed to a somewhat systematic view of the Catholic and Protestant views on the nature of God which is vastly different from the JWs’ view on the nature of God.

In particularly, I remember for the first time realizing that for the mainstream Catholic and Protestant, God existed outside of time.  This was something rather new to me.  As a JW, I believed that God had always existed but that He had always existed within the bounds of space and time and I had never really considered the idea that Jehovah existed outside of the bounds of space and time.

One day while I was eating dinner with my parents and my siblings, I asked them for their opinion on whether or not we, as JWs, believed that Jehovah existed beyond the bounds of space and time.  When I asked the question my father had already left the dinner table and while he may have been in the room he did not really actively engage in the discussion.  My mother was starting to clear the table and was not really engaged in the discussion either but was listening as my brothers and I had this really interesting discussion on the topic with each of us giving our opinion.

After the discussion went on for about an hour or so, my mother, who must have been listening to our discussion, turned around from the kitchen sink where she had been washing dishes and with tears in her eyes and ran into her bedroom and slammed the door.  In a matter of minutes, my father entered the dining room and gave us all a good scolding for engaging in such an unprofitable discussion that had obviously upset my mother.

It was these experiences along with other things published in Watchtower literature that helped me to realize that the JWs, in general, are very uncomfortable with mystery and will do what they can to get rid of mystery in their own religion.

The JWs’ and the Christian’s view of Mystery

In the JWs’ booklet entitled Should You Believe In the Trinity? one of the main arguments they make against the Trinity doctrine is that it is considered to be a mystery and, for the JWs, mystery is equivalent to mental confusion.  Notice what they say in this on-line booklet:

“However, contending that since the Trinity is such a confusing mystery, it must have come from divine revelation creates another major problem. Why? Because divine revelation itself does not allow for such a view of God: “God is not a God of confusion.”—1 Corinthians 14:33Revised Standard Version (RS). http://www.watchtower.org/e/ti/article_02.htm

Their reasoning is that since the Trinity doctrine is mysterious and confusing and difficult to understand that this means it is not a trustworthy revelation about the nature of God since God is “not a God of confusion.” So, for the JW, when a Christian refers to the Trinity as a profound mystery it is, in the JW’s mind, the Christian’s way of admitting that they are confused and do not understand the Trinity doctrine.  However, this is not what a Christian means when they say that the Trinity is a profound mystery.

First of all, the doctrine of the Trinity has been stated and re-stated in numerous official Church documents throughout history.  Therefore, anyone who has the ability to read can discover for themselves what it is the Catholic Church teaches about the Triune nature of God.  For example, here is what is said about the Trinity doctrine in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 253:

“The Trinity is one.  We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.” The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e., by nature one God.” In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215):  “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.”

For an excellent explanation of the Trinity written by a Protestant Theologian, I recommend the book The Trinity: Evidence and Issues by Dr. Robert Morey.

These writings give a very clear explanation of what a Christian, both Catholic and Protestant, believes when they confess their understanding of the nature of God as being Triune.  Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, believe that God is multi-personal.  With each person of the Blessed Trinity- Father, Son, and Spirit- having all of the qualities of God.

However, Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, will admit that this understanding of the nature of God is beyond our complete grasp using human reason and experience alone.  Therefore, because of this, God’s very nature is mysterious to us.  We can explain the nature of God to some extent by analogy but we have difficulty totally understanding the nature of God using our human reason and human experience alone and because of this, it is a mystery.

Similarly, as a JW, I was taught that Jehovah has just always existed and that he never had a beginning and will never have an ending.  This statement of belief about the nature of God is very clearly stated by the JWs as something that we believed as JWs.  It was not confusing per se, but it was beyond my ability as a JW to grasp completely using my human reason and experience alone.  It was a belief that we as JWs accepted about Jehovah but it was and is very mysterious to JWs, not unlike the way in which the Triune nature of God is mysterious to Christians.  The JWs even admit this in their book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth page 44:

“Although it may be hard for our minds to understand, Jehovah never had a beginning and will never have an end.  He is the “King of eternity.” (Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17)

Once I realized that the JWs, in their own way, accept certain mysteries about God’s nature, such as Jehovah’s having always existed, in a similar way that Christians accept certain mysteries about God’s nature, like the Tri-unity of persons, I realized that just because a certain doctrine might be difficult to understand completely based on human reason and experience alone that this was not a good reason to reject a doctrine as false.