Is water baptism necessary for salvation? This subject has been hotly debated between Christians and those in certain cult groups (Churches of Christ and Oneness Pentecostals, etc.) and the apostate Roman Catholic church for decades.
In order for water baptism to be considered necessary for salvation it must be part of the gospel message because it is the gospel that provides salvation. (Romans 1:16) But is water baptism synonymous with the gospel of Jesus Christ as some pseudo Christian groups claim it is?
On a “gospel song” Nicki Minaj espouses the Word of Faith teaching of “Name it and Claim It.” Is this doctrine biblically supported? For that matter, can we as Christians take Nicki Minaj seriously when it comes down to the bible and theology?
Can We Literally Speak Life and Death into Existence?
What does Proverbs 18:21 mean when it says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. Is this passage of Scripture teaching us as Christians that we can literally speak life and death into reality by the words which we speak?
In this video we will examine Proverbs 18:21 and see whether or not we as Christians can speak life and death into existence as it is claimed by those in the Positive Confession/Word of Faith movements. Click here and find out.
In part 1 of ‘In Defense of the Triune Nature of God’, the Jehovah’s Witnesses faulty understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity historically was exposed, and their misinterpretation of two Scripture passages which they attempt to use to debunk the Christian doctrine of the Triune nature of God: John 17:3 and John 14:28 were corrected hermeneutically. If you haven’t yet read the previous article or if you need to refresh your memory on what was written, I encourage you to go back and read ‘In Defense of the Triune Nature of God: Part I. In this concluding article, I will address the remaining Scripture passages mentioned in Part 1 and examine and refute the Jehovah’s Witnesses interpretation of them: Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 42:8, and Acts 2:32. With no further delay, let’s dive in and continue where we left off.
“Proof Texts” Against the Doctrine of the Trinity (Continued)
At first glance, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct in saying there is one LORD (Yahweh or Jehovah). As Christian theologian Ron Rhodes accurately stated, “That there is only one true God is the consistent testimony of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. That truth is like a thread that runs through every page of the Bible.”1 Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses can readily agree on this fundamental biblical truth. Where we part ways, however, is when Jehovah’s Witnesses equate God (who they refer to as Jehovah) as being a singular Being, and thus assume this proves beyond a shadow of doubt God is not a Triune Being.
This begs the question: How does affirming Jehovah as being one God disprove the claim that He has a Triune Nature as Christianity claims God does? In actuality, it doesn’t disprove it at all. In fact, it exposes the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ ignorance of what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches. This argument demonstrates their gross assumption that Trinitarianism and tritheism are definitionally synonymous with one another. As seen, however, in part 1 of this article, Trinitarianism teaches that there is one God who exists as three co-eternal and distinct persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–whereas tritheism is the belief in three distinct gods like The Capitoline Triad in ancient Roman religion: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. In Christianity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have the same divine nature: God’s nature. They do not have three separate and different divine natures. If so, this would lead to tritheism.
It is also important for Jehovah’s Witnesses (and Christians alike) to understand that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all called Jehovah or Yahweh (LORD). The Greek word for the Hebrew word YHWH or LORD is Kyrios. With this understanding in place, let’s see what Scripture says concerning the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit being Jehovah or Yahweh.
In the gospel of Matthew in verse 25 it states, “At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” Jesus rightfully calls the Father, Kyrios (Lord) of heaven and earth.
In Romans 10:9, it states, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” In Romans 10:9 the Apostle Paul tells us Jesus is Kyrios (Lord) and four verses later the Apostle Paul tells us “For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.””(Romans 10:13) The Kyrios who sinners call upon for salvation is none other than Jesus. The Apostle Paul quotes this from the Old Testament prophet Joel in chapter 2 verse 32 where LORD refers to Yahweh or Jehovah. The Apostle Paul understood and believed that Jesus was Kyrios and specifically the Kyrios and YHWH the prophet Joel was speaking of in chapter 2 verse 32.
Finally, in Acts 13:2, it states, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” This verse may not be as clear as the earlier verses, but in verse 2 the Holy Spirit is equated with Kyrios. First, we have to ask: who is being ministered to? The Lord (Kyrios). Secondly, who responds to the ministering? The Holy Spirit. Thirdly, who calls Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to their missionary task? The Holy Spirit. Lastly, can anyone outside of the Lord (Kyrios) call Christians into ministry? No, they cannot. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must be Kyrios; Yahweh or Jehovah.
Thus, as clearly understood from the New Testament, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are Kyrios and the Jehovah or Yahweh (YHWH) of Deuteronomy 6:4. Deuteronomy 6:4 does not disprove the Triune nature of God if one has a proper understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. The only thing God, through Moses, sought to teach Israel and ourselves also, is that there is only one God; not a multiplicity of gods like the pagan nations surrounding them believed in and worshiped. Until the Jehovah’s Witnesses properly understand the doctrine of the Trinity and stop equating the Trinity with tritheism, these kinds of misinterpretations of Scripture will continue on and on ad nauseam.
As with the previous passage in Deuteronomy 6:4, Jehovah’s Witnesses assume their position without actually proving their position. Again they beg the question: How does Jehovah being one God disprove the claim that He has a Triune Nature as Christianity claims God does? This is once again a blatant misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Trinity and we will not reiterate what has already been explained concerning the difference between Trinitarianism and tritheism. Instead, we will examine Isaiah 42:8 and see that God the Father (Jehovah) does in fact share His glory with another, but not with idol gods as God Himself states so clearly to us in this text.
In John 17:5 of Jesus’ prayer to the Father just before His crucifixion on the cross, said, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Further along in John 17:24, Jesus says, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” So do we have a contradiction between these two verses in John 17 and Isaiah 42:8? Not at all if we understand what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us about the nature of God.
If we believe what God said concerning Him not giving His glory to another (and we rightfully should), then how can we reconcile what God the Father (Jehovah) said with what Jesus said in John 17:5, 24? It is actually quite easy to reconcile these Scriptures with each other if we look at them in light of God’s Triune nature. Isaiah 42:8 tells us God does not give His glory to graven images; which are false gods/idols. Since this is the case, was Jesus telling the truth or was He lying and thus guilty of the sin of blasphemy? Or worse yet, do we simply toss the whole Bible away and reject the claim that it is divinely inspired? The answer to both questions is no.
Jesus was not guilty of blasphemy; otherwise Jesus’ death on the cross would have been ineffective, and therefore vain in atoning for our sins. This is not the case since the Apostle Paul told us “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21) Since we know this to be indeed true, we can thankfully wipe away from our minds the other conclusion, which is that the Bible is not the divinely inspired Word of God.
So the logical answer to how Jesus can share in God’s glory, but at the same time know that God gives His glory to no one else is to explain it in light of God’s Triune nature. If Jesus is God–which we have seen from Scripture that this is the case–then it logically follows that Jesus has glory equal to the Father. This would also include the Holy Spirit since He is also God in nature.
So when we understand the doctrine of the Trinity (insofar as we are able to), then we can see how the Jehovah’s Witnesses argument against the Trinity, as we see here in this misinterpretation of Isaiah 42:8, is truly fallacious. As I have said once, and I will say once more: Until the Jehovah’s Witnesses understand what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches about the nature of God, they will continue to be guilty of grotesque misinterpretations of Scripture in a futile attempt to debunk the Triune nature of God.
5.) Acts 2:32: “God resurrected this Jesus, and of this we are all witnesses.” “Thus, the Almighty God and Jesus are clearly two separate persons.” (You can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth: God–Who is He? p.39.)
At this point you may be thinking, “Is it necessary at this point to respond to this argument?” To your question, I say yes, it is necessary to respond to this weak argument against the Triune nature of God; the deity of Jesus in this particular case. The reason for doing so is to demonstrate that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are so desperate to deny the Triune nature of God that they end up falling off the cliff of sound reasoning.
The argument stated here by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is as follows:
1. God resurrected Jesus from the dead.
2. Therefore, the Almighty God and Jesus are clearly two separate persons.
As you can probably see, the premise and the conclusion are totally disconnected from one another. The conclusion does not flow from the above premise or vice versa, the premise does not logically lead to the conclusion stated. It is common logic from those in the cults and their reasoning leads them to incoherent truth claims. What does God raising Jesus from the dead have to do with Jesus not being God in human flesh or Jesus not being part of the Triune Godhead? There is clearly no logical connection between the premise and the conclusion. All Christians readily agree with the Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Father and Jesus are two distinct persons, but this biblical and logical truth does not disprove that Jesus and the Father are both God in their nature (as well as the Holy Spirit). This argument offered up here by the Jehovah’s Witnesses only demonstrates the obvious, which is that the Father and the Son are truly distinct persons. Nothing more, and nothing less.
In conclusion, we have seen here and in part 1 of this article, that the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a sound logical and biblical case against the Triune nature of God. Instead we have continuously seen how their misinterpretation of Scripture and the poor arguments they state are due to a gross misunderstanding of the teaching of the doctrine of the Trinity. They wrongly make Trinitarianism and tritheism definitionally synonymous with one another and as a result provide Christians with illogical and incoherent arguments against the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
So if you are a Christian reading this, do not fear the arguments railed against the Triune nature of God which has been taught in the Christian church since its inception and was progressively revealed to us from Genesis to Revelation beforehand. The doctrine of the Trinity is biblical and God’s Triune nature is unique because no other god in the cults or god in the vastness of world religions compares to Him. This Triune God is unique, special, and is full of mystery; especially as it pertains to His nature. This God is worthy of everyone’s worship, but we must know Him as He has revealed Himself in the pages of Scripture: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Worshiping God in spirit is not enough unless you know the truth about who God (Yahweh) is.
Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), pp. 229.
Can we as Christians speak things into existence? Can we speak life and death into our lives or speak poverty and wealth into our lives with our words? There are those in the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity movement who would want us to believe we can in fact do so.
In my latest TikTok video (a two-part video) I deal with this subject by examining one of the passages of Scripture they use to claim we can call things into existence: Romans 4:17. Follow the link here to watch and find out how they are in serious error concerning this doctrine of Positive Confession.
I hope you’ll make your way there. Until next time, God bless you.
A couple of articles ago, I sought to accurately identify Jehovah god, the god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In that article I identified Jehovah god using three descriptions: The Nature of Jehovah god, The Attributes of Jehovah god, and The Name of Jehovah god and its Salvific Power. Its purpose was to provide an introduction to anyone unfamiliar with the god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses since this god could, and often does, go under the radar undetected by some and is often wrongly identified as the God of the Christian faith. By the end of the article we discovered how very different Jehovah god is to Yahweh, the God of Christianity.
In this article we will begin embarking on a biblical, theological, and apologetical journey in our response and refutation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses strong objections to the Triune God of Christianity, which they attempt to do, both historically and biblically. This will be done in two parts beginning with examining their historical claim against the doctrine of the Trinity and afterwards, responding and refuting the Jehovah’s Witnesses interpretation of two of the five Scripture passages stated in the prior article. The other three passages of Scripture will be covered in the second part.
The Trinity: Egyptian in Origin?
In the prior article, I quoted from a Jehovah’s Witnesses source which claimed that the doctrine of the Trinity is not unique to Christianity, but was borrowed from Egyptian religions by an early church father, Athanasius, and was thus inserted into Christian theology concerning the nature of God. Just in case you did not see the quote prior, here it is below:
Historian Will Durant observed: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. . . . From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity.” And in the book Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz notes: “The trinity was a major preoccupation of Egyptian theologians . . . Three gods are combined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology.”
Thus, in Alexandria, Egypt, churchmen of the late third and early fourth centuries, such as Athanasius, reflected this influence as they formulated ideas that led to the Trinity. Their own influence spread, so that Morenz considers “Alexandrian theology as the intermediary between the Egyptian religious heritage and Christianity.” (Should you Believe in the Trinity: How Did the Trinity Doctrine Develop?https://www.jw.org/en/library/books/Should-You-Believe-in-the-Trinity/How-Did-the-Trinity-Doctrine-Develop/. Accessed 29 November 2021.)
Is it true? Did the doctrine of the Trinity derive from pagan Egyptian religions? Absolutely not, and here is why. Historian Will Durant defines the Trinity as three gods who are combined and treated as a single being. This is not Trinitarianism; this is Tritheism, which is commonly confused with the former. Even dictionary.com confuses the two terms in its definition of Tritheism, “belief in three Gods, especially in the doctrine that the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are three distinct Gods, each an independent center of consciousness and determination.”(https://www.dictionary.com/browse/tritheism) Dictionary.com has the first part correct in defining Tritheism as the belief in three distinct gods, but the later part of the definition is incorrect. There are not three distinct gods in the Triune Godhead, but three distinct persons in the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The correct definition of the Trinity is due at this point. “The Christian understanding of God as one in essence though consisting of three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”1 In other words, there is only one God, and this one God exists (not manifest himself) as three distinct persons who are fully God in nature and who are coeternal and have coexisted together for all eternity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same in essence, but distinct and different in persons. This theological definition of the Trinity in Christian theology is entirely different from Historian Will Durant and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ faulty understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. Trinitarianism is not Tritheism and Tritheism is not Trinitarianism. Thus, Trinitarianism was not derived from Egyptian religions by Athanasius. Instead, Athanasius theologically and philosophically arrived at the definition of the Trinity, both logically and biblically.
“Proof Texts” Against the Doctrine of the Trinity
As I wrote in my prior article, Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt to provide “proof text” from their New World Translation of the Bible which they believe debunk and disproves the doctrine of the Trinity. Every “proof text” provided by Jehovah’s Witnesses to debunk and disprove the Trinity are also used in an attempt to debunk the deity of Jesus Christ. If they successfully debunk and disprove the deity of Jesus, they also successfully debunk and disprove the doctrine of the Trinity. There are also passages of Scripture which they also use in an attempt to debunk the deity of the Holy Spirit, but I will address those passages in a future article. I will, however (where I can), make a case for the divinity of the Holy Spirit in correlation with the Scriptures and arguments in question.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have provided us with two arguments: 1). Jesus called God “the only true God, which implies that Jehovah God is the only true God, which therefore excludes Jesus as well as the Holy Spirit as God and 2). Jesus never referred to God as a deity of plural persons, which they think debunks and disproves the doctrine of the Trinity.
In the first argument, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have put themselves in the proverbial corner logically and biblically and here’s why. If God the Father is the only true God, then Jehovah’s Witnesses must also believe that God the Father is also the only Savior which would instantly exclude Jesus as Savior since Isaiah 43:11 says, “ I, even I, am the Lord, And besides Me there is no savior.” But we know that Jesus also is called the Savior as seen in Luke 2:11 where the Angel of the Lord proclaimed to the shepherds that…”there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” On one hand we clearly see in Isaiah 43:11 that God proclaims with authority that there is no Lord and Savior beside Himself, yet on the other hand, the Angel of the Lord proclaims that Jesus is both Lord and Savior. Well, if we follow the Jehovah’s Witnesses argument to its logical conclusion, then Jesus is neither Lord nor Savior and the entire New Testament testimony of Jesus as Lord and Savior is deemed as false, which no rational thinking Jehovah’s Witness would agree with.
So, how do we make sense of this apparent conflict between Isaiah 43:11 and Luke 2:11? We make sense of this apparent conflict by concluding that both the Father and the Son are equally Lord and Savior, which is only possible if both of them by their very essence and nature are God, since only God can be both Lord and Savior as Isaiah 43:11 truthfully states. Thus, when Jesus called His Father “the only true God”, He is declaring that by nature the Father is the only true God, but this does not exclude either Jesus or the Holy Spirit as being by nature the “only true God”. Besides, if Jesus is not by nature the only true God, then Jesus is a false god because Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is the mighty God, which they quote from Isaiah 9:6.
In the second argument provided by Jehovah’s Witnesses which argues that Jesus never referred to God as a deity of plural persons, they highly neglect the one passage in all the New Testament which clearly demonstrates the plurality of persons in the Godhead. In Matthew 28:19, which is commonly known as the Great Commission, Jesus commands His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” At first glance you may ask, “Where is the Trinity demonstrated in this passage? I don’t see it!” Just look a little more closely at the Scripture. It is in the grammatical structure of the second half of the verse, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” The word ‘name’ is a singular word which is followed by three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Normally, this is grammatically incorrect, since name (singular) is followed by three persons (plural), so Jesus must be conveying something unique here.
The singular word ‘name’ in Matthew 28:19 refers to God (Elohim): Yahweh. This is followed by “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” So what is the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? The name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is Yahweh. This means that all three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are by nature God, which in turn demonstrates the Tri-unity of God. Therefore, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are grossly wrong for claiming Jesus never referred to God as a deity of plural persons. We find Jesus doing just that in Matthew 28:19.
2. John 14:28: “You heard that I said to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I am.” “ THE Bible’s position is clear. Not only is Almighty God, Jehovah, a personality separate from Jesus but He is at all times his superior. Jesus is always presented as separate and lesser, a humble servant of God. That is why the Bible plainly says that “the head of the Christ is God” in the same way that “the head of every man is the Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) And this is why Jesus himself said: “The Father is greater than I.”—John 14:28, RS, Catholic edition.” (Should you Believe in the Trinity: Is God Always Superior to Jesus? https://www.jw.org/en/library/books/Should-You-Believe-in-the-Trinity/Is-God-Always-Superior-to-Jesus/ Accessed 29 November 2021.)
Jehovah’s Witnesses would consider this verse of Scripture to be one of the strongest “proof texts” against both the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. They assume that when Jesus said “the Father is greater than I”, it means that the Father is greater than Jesus from the standpoint of divinity, which then means Jesus is lesser than the Father in nature as God. Unfortunately, for the Jehovah’s Witnesses they are saying more than what Jesus meant when he said, “the Father is greater than I.”
The issue at hand in John 14:28 is not God the Father being greater than Jesus and more superior than Jesus because the Father is God and Jesus is not, but it is an issue of position in the Godhead. Christian theologian Dr. Ron Rhodes in his outstanding book Reasoning from the Scripture With the Jehovah’s Witnesses explains to us that according to the Greek text, Jesus did not teach the Father was better (krettion) than Him, but instead that the Father is greater (meizon) Him.2 Furthermore, Rhodes said, “The word ‘greater’ is used to point to the Father’s greater position (in heaven), not a greater nature”3
David A. Reed, a former Jehovah’s Witness who converted to Christianity, Scripturally explains why Jesus in John 14:28 is referring to the Father as being greater than Him positionally. Reed explains, “Remind them that Jesus was speaking at a time when He had done as in Philippians 2:6-7: ‘Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men’ (KJV)”.4 Reed explains to us that Jesus could say that the Father was greater than Him because Jesus, though in the form of God and did not count it robbery to be equal with God, choose to make Himself positionally lesser than the Father by taking on human flesh in order to die on the cross for our sins and rise bodily from the dead.
Interestingly, and quite revealingly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses argument as stated above actually validates and proves the point Dr. Rhodes and Reed made as it pertained to the Father being positionally greater than Jesus. Remember the latter end of their argument? They argued, “That is why the Bible plainly says that “the head of the Christ is God” in the same way that “the head of every man is the Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3) And this is why Jesus himself said: “The Father is greater than I.” Surprisingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses left out a very critical part of I Corinthians 11:3. From their New World Translation, let’s read it again, “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.” In their quote above from I Corinthians 11:3 they left out “in turn, the head of a woman is the man.”
Now, is the man greater (meizon) than the woman because the man has a better (krettion) nature than the woman? Of course not! The man is greater than the woman positionally in the household, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” (Ephesians 5:23) Therefore, we can confidently read I Corinthians 11:3 in the following way: ‘But I want you to know that the head of every man (positionally) is Christ, the head of woman (positionally) is man, and the head of Christ (positionally) is God.’
Thus, Jesus is not teaching us that the Father is greater than Him because the Father has a better nature (divinity) than Him (Jesus), but that the Father is in fact greater than Him positionally because Jesus, who is equal with God in nature, left heaven and added on the nature of a human being and was born of a virgin in order to redeem humanity. Also, we can further say that the Holy Spirit is positionally lesser than both the Father and the Son, but He is in no way by nature inferior to them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses own faulty argument and usage of I Corinthians 11:3 backfire on them in their attempt to debunk and disprove both the deity of Jesus and the Triune nature of God.
In the second part of this article we will cover the remaining Scripture verses: Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 42:8, and Acts 2:32. I hope this has helped you as you seek to win Jehovah’s Witnesses to the biblical Jesus of the Christian faith. The second article will be written and posted ASAP. I look forward to writing and sharing the second and final part of this article with you.
1. C. Stephen Evans, PocketDictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), pp. 118.
2. Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), pp. 146-47.
3. Ibid, pp. 147.
4. David A. Reed, Jehovah’s Witnesses: Answered verse by verse (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 80.
Since the time of the late Dr. Walter Martin ( father of Counter-Cult apologetics), the ministry of Apologetics, particularly Christian Apologetics, had grown rapidly in leaps and bounds, but exploded after the death of Dr. Walter Martin in 1989. Apologetics found a home in various areas of studies ranging from theology to philosophy through which numerous apologists from numerous specialties and expertise ascended onto the scene. Renowned apologists such as William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Ron Rhodes, Norman Geisler, and many others have made a major impact on the study and ministry of Christian apologetics like no other time in the history of the Christian Church.
Presently, apologetics is primarily promoted and practiced in the field of philosophy; particularly the philosophy of religion. Counteracting postmodernism/atheism’s rejection of the existence of God using philosophical arguments like the Kalam Cosmological argument, the Teleological argument, the Ontological argument, or the Moral argument as well as debunking moral relativism which, on the ethical side of philosophical apologetics, is quite challenging, seems to be the topical focus today. While it is important to deal with issues brought forth by atheists who are responsible for the steady increase (10% in the United States in 20211) of those who do not identify with any religion in the United States, there is still an area of apologetics that has been everything short of abandoned: counter-cult apologetics/cult apologetics. We must return to the ministry of counter-cult apologetics.
Before moving ahead however, the term ‘cult’ must first be defined. Dr. Walter Martin defined a cult as follows:
“By the term cult I mean nothing derogatory to any group so classified. A cult, as I define it, is any religious group which differs significantly in one or more respects as to belief orpractice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture.”2
In the case of Christianity, there are several cults that seek to identify with historic Christianity: Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith movement, and Oneness Pentecostalism, just to name a few. How exactly are they considered cults in light of Dr. Walter
Martin’s definition of a cult? These groups deny or depart from one or more of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith such as the dual nature of Jesus Christ (Christ as fully God and fully human- better known as the incarnation), the Triune nature of God, salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone apart from works, the existence of an afterlife (Heaven and Hell), the divine inspiration of the bible, etc. A denial or departure from any of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith will categorically place one outside the gates of Christianity and even on the wrong side of God relationally. This is serious business, but it seems far too many in the field of apologetics are not treating it as such.
Knowing now that a “Christian” cult is a group that denies or departs from one or more of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, what exactly is apologetics? Apologetics is defending and proclaiming the truth of the Christian faith. In I Peter 3:15 we are told to, “… sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” In Greek, the word for “defense” is apologia where we get our word apologetics.
Counter-cult apologetics is polemic in nature. The function of polemics, according to Dr. Norman Geisler, is to “argue against heresies within Christianity.”3 Unfortunately the polemic nature of apologetics is virtually absent today due to its head on confrontational approach as exhibited in the counter-cult ministry of Dr. Walter Martin. In order to do effective counter-cult
ministry, an apologist must be bold and willing to expose false doctrine biblically; even at the expense of being labeled “divisive” or “intolerant”.
Work in the field of counter-cult ministries seems to have diminished. When one thinks about counter-cult apologetics, fewer and fewer names come to mind. There is Sandra Tanner and her hard and faithful work in ministering to those in Mormonism and likewise Robert Bowman who has done significant work in the field of cult apologetics. Ron Rhodes, author of Reasoning from the Scriptures series which covers the doctrines and practices of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Masons, Islam, and Roman Catholicism, is also a notable mention. His work has blessed me greatly in my study and work amongst the cults and I’ll be forever thankful to the Lord for it and him especially.
The question now is: where are our counter-cult apologists and ministries for today and for the future? From my observations, as one who considers himself a counter-cult apologist, the landscape is very quiet and the waters are motionless as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith teachers continue undisturbed. Where are the watchmen who are supposed to be on the wall calling out false doctrine for the sake of protecting the health and stability of the Christian Church? The need for counter-cult apologists is needed just as much now as in the days of Dr. Walter Martin. Family members, co-workers, friends, and others are still being trapped into false brands of Christianity that are leading them down a hell-bound path of idolatry and other lies concerning the Christian faith.
Let’s look at some disturbing statistics for a moment. According to the Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Newsroom, there are approximately 16,565,036 Mormons, 399 missions, 30,940 congregations, and 167 temples in the entire world.4 9,419,307 Mormons, 173 missions, 18,256
congregations, and 110 temples are in the United States alone!5Is there a need for counter-cult apologetics and evangelism among the Mormons? I think so!
More disturbing statistics show that in the entire world, there are approximately 8,695,808 Jehovah’s Witnesses with a total of 120,387 congregations6. In the United States alone there are approximately 1,242,976 members and 12,355 congregations!7Is there a need for counter-cult apologetics among the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Indeed there is.
Finally, let’s look at what is considered the booming growth of Pentecostalism-Charismatics. While Pentecostalism and Charismatics are not all bad, there are plenty of the bad in both camps to raise great concern. In Pentecostal circles there are the Oneness Pentecostals who deny the doctrine of the Trinity and salvation in Christ alone by faith. Oneness Pentecostals holds to Modalism which teaches that Jesus manifested himself as the Father in Creation, Jesus himself in redemption, and the Holy Spirit in the Church today.8The booming growth of this brand of Pentecostal Christianity should cause great concern in the Christian Church; especially among our leaders, theologians, and apologists. According to Dr. Ed Stetzer in a 2014 interview with Christianity Today, “When I meet with Pentecostal leaders, they’re strategizing about where to plant a church. They break out the maps and determine where they need to focus their attention. Never mind there are already six churches in a 10-block community. To them, there’s not a Spirit-filled church in that community until they plant one. So they are often avid planters, not just in their own area, but also around the world.”9
In addition to concerns over the rapid growth in Oneness Pentecostalism, there is the ever-increasing concern with the doctrinal and theological compromise within much of the Church of God in Christ denomination where Bishop J. Drew Sheard presides. The Word of Faith theology, espousing New Age Metaphysical doctrines such as positive confession and the
like, has gained a strong foothold in this denomination throughout the United States. This compromise with positive confession came to a crescendo When the former presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake invited Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas to speak at COGIC 110th Holy Convocation in 2017. Joel Osteen preached his usual positive confession-laden message barely referencing the bible for his topic. You can go on YouTube to hear his entire message for yourself. As you can see, counter-cult apologetics is needed even amongst those who have been known to be doctrinally sound when it comes to the essential teachings of Christianity.
On the other side of this two-headed coin we have the charismatic movement which, under the guise of Christianity, has espoused some of the most blasphemous and heretical doctrines; such doctrines as: Jesus atoning for our sins in hell, the denial of the sovereignty of God (God needs our permission via prayer to operate in the earth), the little gods doctrines (Christians are little gods), etc. In times past, these doctrines were confronted and exposed biblically by Dr. Walter
Martin, D.R. McConnel, Hank Hanegraaf, and others, but today there seems to be an uncomfortable silence in the face of such teaching. One exception is Justin Peters who has devoted a great deal of his time and resources to exposing these teachers and teachings through his seminar which originally was entitled “A Call to Discernment”, but is currently entitled “Clouds without Water.” For the sake of those we love and know who are trapped in the prosperity gospel/Word of Faith movement, we must not remain silent. Being silent will not make them go away. Our silence will only embolden those who teach such errors.
So what will we do? Will we continue, whether intentionally and unintentionally, to ignore what Dr. Walter Martin called “The Kingdom of the Cults” or will we take the necessary time to know what we as Christians believe and why? Not knowing what we as Christians believe and why is the major problem that leaves many Christians vulnerable to the deception of the cults. Walter
Martin once said that, “Within the theological structure of the cults there is considerable truth,all of which, it might be added, is drawn from biblical sources, but so diluted with human erroras to be more deadly than complete falsehood.”10 The Christian who is ignorant of the essential
doctrines of the Christian faith are easy prey for the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other cultists to deceive and carry away. The only way to counteract their attacks is to know your bible and be ready to challenge their teaching in the light of Scripture. To be an effective witness to those you know and love in the cults, you must first know what you believe and why as a Christian and then know what they believe and why for the purpose of productive dialogue.
Thus, we must return to the ministry of counter-cult apologetics like in the days of old; which honestly was not that long ago. It is of urgency that we again increase in this area of apologetic and evangelistic ministry. The vast majority of the world is still religious despite the growing number of those who do not identify with a particular religion or religion at all. Jesus paints for us a tragic picture of judgement day when those who thought they knew and followed Jesus get the unpleasant surprise of finding out they weren’t. In Matthew 7: 21-23 we read, “Not everyonewho says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Yourname, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’And then I willdeclare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ This will be the tragic fate of those in the cults. We must return to counter-cult apologetics.
Those who are well acquainted with the kingdom of the cults are very much aware that every cult organization contradicts one or more of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. The essential doctrines of the Christian faith that are most often and intentionally under attack are: the deity of Jesus, the atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the triune nature of God, justification by faith, and the authority of the Bible. In the case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses this would also include the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
According to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the Holy Spirit is not a person, as historic Christianity has always taught, but a force. The online glossary of the Jehovah’s Witnesses website defines the Holy Spirit as:
“The invisible energizing force that God puts into action to accomplish his will. It is holy because it comes from Jehovah, who is clean and righteous to the highest degree, and because it is God’s means to accomplish what is holy.”1
In other words, the Holy Spirit is simply “God’s active force.”2 But is this true? Does the Bible and reason lead to a belief in the impersonal nature of the Holy Spirit? This article will investigate the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim of the impersonal nature of the Holy Spirit and see if it can biblically and logically hold its ground. Better yet, let’s also see if their claim can hold its ground in the face of their own Bible translation: The New World Translation. If the New World Translation, alongside our Holy Bible, affirms the personhood of the Holy Spirit, then the Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine of the impersonal nature of the Holy Spirit collapses under its own weight.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ first argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, which they would also consider to be their strongest argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit “is spoken of as ‘filling people’, they can be ‘baptized’ with it; and they can be ‘anointed’ with it. None of these expressions would be appropriate if the Holy Spirit were a person” 3 Unfortunately, this anonymous writer failed to explain why the use ofthese expressions are inappropriate if the Holy Spirit is a person. We are expected to assume the writer has made a rational case against the personhood of the Holy Spirit, however, that will not suffice. Further elaboration is required in order to establish a sound case against the personal nature of the Holy Spirit.
Why isn’t it possible for the Holy Spirit, as a person, to perform acts such as filling, baptizing, and anointing individual believers with Himself? In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent (everywhere present) due to His very nature being God. God is omnipresent, and since the Holy Spirit is by nature God, then the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. It is therefore not a problem for the Holy Spirit, as a person, to perform acts of filling, baptizing, and anointing individual believers with Himself since the Holy Spirit is not spatially limited (i.e. a physical body).
Interestingly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not seem to take in consideration that even Jehovah (God) also fills all things, but yet is Himself a person. In Ephesians 4:6b God is …”who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (NKJV Bible) In this verse we are told by the apostle Paul that God is in all believers in Jesus Christ. How? Through the Holy Spirit who is by very nature God. Even the New World Translation attests to this, “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (NWT) How is it possible for Jehovah God to be in all (believers) and yet be a person? Could it be because Jehovah God is simultaneously a person and omnipresent? Of course it is. Thus, the Holy Spirit, who can perform the acts of filling, baptizing, and anointing individual believers is also simultaneously a person and omnipresent.
Another argument Jehovah’s Witnesses use against the personhood of the Holy Spirit is the personification argument. This argument posited by the Jehovah’s Witnesses states that when we read in the Bible of the Holy Spirit “speaking”, “hearing”, “bearing witness”, “teaching” or being called our “helper”, these are mere personifications; not to be taken literally. 4 Granted, it is true that the Bible does use personifications in certain instances. For example, Luke 7:35 speaks of wisdom having children, “But wisdom is justified by all her children.” Obviously, wisdom cannot bear children because wisdom is just a word, not a person. Another example is Romans 5:14, 21 which speaks of sin, death, and grace reigning. Again, it is obvious that sin, death, and grace are not personal entities, only words. Can this argument, therefore, rationally stand its ground? Three traits that can be ascribed to persons are the ability to: speak, teach, and bear witness.
In Acts 13:2 we read, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Jehovah’s Witnesses will argue that in cases where the Holy Spirit is said to be speaking, this “was done through angels or humans.”5 In this verse, however, it is not the case. The subject is the Holy Spirit and the action performed by the subject is the action of speaking. Nothing in this verse tells us the act of speaking was done through either an angel or human. The Holy Spirit spoke to certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen (verse 1). After the time of prayer and fasting, these prophets and teachers obeyed the Holy Spirit’s command and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul (Paul), prayed for them and sent them on their way (verse 3). Therefore, since there was no mediator to convey the message to set aside Paul and Barnabas for the assigned mission work, we can rationally conclude that the Holy Spirit spoke directly to the prophets and teachers. This is only possible if the Holy Spirit is a person.
In John 14:26 it states, “ But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” In the New World Translation it basically says the same thing, “But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” (NWT)
So what comes with being able to teach? To be able to teach, one must: a. have a mind; b. have knowledge which require a mind; and c. have the ability to intelligently communicate knowledge. Can an impersonal entity, such as a force, possess mind, knowledge, and communication skills? No, absolutely not, but a person can. In the New World Translation, Jesus states, “….that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” demonstrating that human persons have minds. In order to be able to bring any teaching of knowledge back to one’s remembrance, one must have a mind in order to do so. Hence, only persons have minds which can and do possess knowledge and thus can teach. The Holy Spirit is able to teach–which requires a mind and knowledge–therefore, the Holy Spirit must be a person.
Lastly, in the New World Translation, John 15:26 states, “ When the helper comes that I will send you from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which comes from the Father, that one will bear witness about me” What is it to bear witness of someone? To bear witness is to affirm or ascribe to a person’s character or philosophy of life as is the case of the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus here in John 15:26. Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to His (Jesus) character and teachings.
Can a force bear witness of anyone? No, but a person can. In Exodus 20:16 of the Ten Commandments, it says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Who is being commanded not to bear false witness against their neighbor? Human persons. Human persons are commanded not to bear false witness against their fellow human person. Only persons have the ability to either bear true or false witness against their neighbor; which indicates that a person can be either moral or immoral. To bear true witness is moral and to bear false witness is immoral. What kind of witness does the Holy Spirit bears about Jesus? The Holy Spirit bears true witness to the person and teachings of Jesus Christ because the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. (John 16:13) Since the Holy Spirit truthfully bears witness to the person and teachings of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is not only a person, but a moral person, and not just a moral person, but a perfectly moral person because the Holy Spirit is God and God is the only one who is morally perfect.
The final argument that Jehovah’s Witnesses use in opposition to the personhood of the Holy Spirit is that since the Holy Spirit does not have a personal name, then the Holy Spirit is not a person. They indirectly imply this argument by saying, “the Holy Scriptures tell us the personal name of the Father–Jehovah. They inform us that the Son is Jesus Christ. But nowhere in the Scriptures is a personal name applied to the Holy Spirit.” 6 First off, a much needed correction is to be made: Jesus Christ is not His personal name. Jesus is His personal name and Christ means “anointed one” or “Messiah”. Thus, the personal name of the Son of God is Jesus, who is the Messiah. With that said, let us continue.
Is this argument set forth by the Jehovah’s Witnesses rational and thus, valid? No, this argument is actually irrational because it implies that personhood does not exist unless one has a personal name and that is just not the case. In actuality, this form of reasoning runs into a lot of problems and absurdities. Think about it. How many people do you know have given personal names to things like animals and cars? Clara may call her dog Rex and Bill may call his car Betsy, but is Rex the dog and Betsy the car now considered persons because they possess personal names? Of course not. That would be absurd!
Being a person entails more than just having a personal name. Descriptively, a person is one who has mind, will, and emotions. The Holy Spirit has a mind (Romans 8:27), will (I Corinth. 12:11), and emotions (Eph. 4:30). An impersonal force– whether active or not–does not and cannot possess the personal qualities of mind, will, and emotions. These personal qualities are only reserved and possessed by personal beings.
Furthermore, this line of reasoning also creates an unpleasant moral conflict for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses are ardently pro-life and thus opposes abortion; which is a wonderful thing. The moral conflict for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, comes into play when applying their line of reasoning concerning personal name equaling personhood to the issue of abortion. The problem is as follows:
If one is not a person unless they have a personal name, then abortion becomes perfectly justifiable. Why? because an unborn baby does not possess a legal personal name. This personal name is not legalized until the baby is born and the personal name is printed on the birth certificate. Parents can and do name their unborn babies in advance all the time, but that personal name is useless and therefore meaningless until the baby is born and the personal name is printed on the birth certificate. Abortion would be perfectly justifiable until the baby is born and named, if we were to apply the Jehovah’s Witnesses line of reasoning concerning personal name equaling personhood. This would of course be morally horrific and I’m sure Jehovah’s Witnesses would agree. So if we cannot apply this line of reasoning to abortion (and we shouldn’t), then there is no rational reason to apply this line of reasoning when it applies to the argument opposing the personhood of the Holy Spirit. It is not a rational or realistic argument against the personhood of the Holy Spirit and it therefore should be undoubtedly rejected.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
We can conclude that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person. Through the testimony of the Bible and sound reason, there should be no doubt that the Holy Spirit consists of the traits and attributes of personhood. Unlike a force, the Holy Spirit–like any other person–has a mind, which gives Him the ability to speak and teach. He (the Holy Spirit) has a will, which gives Him the ability to willfully choose to set aside people for ministry work. The Holy Spirit has emotions and can be grieved, which only a person can express.
Despite the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim of the Bible using personified language, when it comes to the Holy Spirit speaking, teaching, and bearing witness, we have seen this to be an irrational position to take. Both our Bible and the Jehovah’s Witness bible–the New World Translation–along with the tools of logic and rationality shows that this is not and cannot be personified language, but literal language which articulates that the Holy Spirit is in fact a person, and not a force.
We have seen that even though the Holy Spirit fills, baptize, and anoint believers of Jesus Christ, He (the Holy Spirit) can still be a person because God, as a person, also fills believers with Himself. This is affirmed both in our Bible and the New World Translation. Unfortunately, the Jehovah’s Witnesses fail to give an explanation of why these expressions of actions by the Holy Spirit are deemed inappropriate. They seem to assume we will just mindlessly accept their presupposition without question; but thinking individuals like us cannot allow these claims to go unquestioned. We require them to clarify their claim in order to better understand the argument they are setting forth.
Finally, we have seen that it is logically absurd and even morally dangerous to argue that the Holy Spirit is not a person due to Him lacking a personal name. We saw how absurd it was because no one would say a dog named Rex or a car named Betsy is a person due to it having a personal name. Further, we saw how this line of reasoning puts the Jehovah’s Witnesses in a moral dilemma. If reasoned that one is not a person until they have a personal name, then abortion becomes justifiable since a baby does not legally receive their personal name until the baby is born. Thus, termination of the baby in the mother’s womb would not be wrong. Jehovah’s Witnesses would find this to be horrific since they are pro-life.
The Holy Spirit is a person. He is by very nature God Himself as the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is, as God is, omnipresent, omniscience, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the bible and because of Him we have the blessing of reading about the person and ways of God. He seals us as Christians for the day of redemption. (Eph. 4:30) He gives us spiritual gifts as He wills for service in the church; locally and worldwide (I Corinth. 12:4-11) and so much more. This is the person: The Holy Spirit of God.