Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

I LOVE Jehovah’s Witnesses. Love ‘em. Mormons, too. I really do. And I’m not being sarcastic or disingenuous in any way. They amaze me. They work so hard and are so dedicated to their message. I think we “real” Christians have a lot to learn from them. About once a month, they knock on my door and invite me to their temple or to a conference and I’m just delighted to let them in. Their eyes light up as they are offered a likely rare welcome into a home.

As a former door to door salesman, I know the feeling. I used to knock on about 100 doors every day in whatever weather and when someone was kind enough to invite me in, I let out a “Thank God!” every time (and in the JW’s case, they actually mean it).

But there’s a problem: I can never get them to stay for more than ten or fifteen minutes.

For starters, they always catch me in the morning aka when I’m in “Bible mode” (probably not much of a coincidence since it’s the only time of the day that isn’t hot as a literal Hell). They step through the door with such pep and eagerness, only to be offered a seat at my kitchen table filled with theology books. They reluctantly sit down as I get them something to drink. I tell them what an honor it is to have them as guests, crack open the Greek Interlinear Bible and tell them, “Let’s talk Jesus!”

Now, as excited as I am to have them speak with me, they rapidly lose their zeal. As often as they come by, this is really frustrating for me. I genuinely want dialogue with them, but am disenchanted beyond measure with their ability to simply explain their own theology to me.

I usually have three questions for them:

  1. Was Jesus God?
  2. Did you knock on my door today because your salvation depends upon it?
  3. How is God love if you reject the Trinity?

They usually go to Colossians 1:15, among others, as a “proof” text. Well, I break out the Greek and ask them to justify their interpretation. They then criticize that by saying I’m playing “word games” (which I’ve found to be almost a natural law of conversation for the JW).

They then begin to rise from their chair, prepping for an exit as swift as their entrance, while I rush to question two, but it’s usually too late for any further dialogue. They’re ready to go.

Until today.

I usually hold onto the Trinity question for last because, as far as I’m concerned, it is the dagger to their theology. Save the best for last, etc.

I FINALLY found a way to get them to stick around, and it has nothing to do with question one or two. Question three seems to be the clincher.

There are a two key advantages to the Trinity question. First, we both affirm that God is love. Not that he is loving, but that love is the very core, the utmost bottom line nature of God. Their scripture, while varying slightly from Orthodox translations, affirms this. The New World Translation of 1 John 1:8 says, “Whoever does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.” This is identical to Orthodox theology and can be a grand help in conversing with any JW who, like most Christians, generally don’t know their own scripture.

Let’s face the music. Most Christians, whether Catholic, evangelical or a separate sect such as JW or Mormons, are blindly fed their theology hand to mouth by their leaders. Original Greek and Hebrew, genre, context, audience, and other background hermeneutical information simply freaks them out. But when we agree that God is love, we find common ground. We’re talking, at least from their perspective, about the same God.

The second advantage is that this question is a purely philosophical objection. There’s no false “word game” accusation to be made. I don’t need a word from anyone’s Bible in order to make my point. It’s a genuine logical dilemma for ANY Unitarian belief system, whether it be a Jehovah’s Witness, a Muslim, or even an Orthodox Jew.

It can be laid out in essentially the same form as the traditional Euthyphro Dilemma. For those who are not aware of this objection, it originated from Plato’s “Euthyphro”, and goes like this: What is piety and is it pious because it is loved by the gods or is it loved by the gods because it is pious?

So if you run this through a Unitarian-Monotheistic framework, the dilemma becomes something like this: “Are morally good acts willed by God because they are morally good, or are they morally good because they are willed by God?”

I like the way that William Lane Craig describes it when he wrote, “ . . .either something is good because God wills it or else God wills something because it is good. If it is good just because God wills it, then what is good becomes arbitrary. God could have willed that hatred and jealousy be good, and then we should have been obligated to hate and envy one another. But that seems implausible; at least some moral goods seem to be necessary. But if we say instead that God wills something because it is good, then whether something is good or bad is independent of God. In that case, it seems that moral values exist independently of God . . . If God were not to exist, then objective moral and values would exist anyway.”[1]

Now, in Trinitarian-Monotheistic theology, this is clearly a false dilemma. We have a third option: God is  the Good and all other morally positive attributes flow necessarily from His nature, which is love. While the Unitarian, in this case the Jehovah’s Witness, claims that God is love, this position is logically impossible.

But why is it not a false dilemma for those who adhere to the doctrine of the Trinity?

In order to answer that question, we must first present a general definition of the Triune God. While there are many variations of the doctrine, a broad description can be defined as such, “The basic feature of this doctrine (Trinitarian) is that there are three persons within the Godhead- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- and that these are to be regarded as equally divine and of equal status.”[2]

When I challenge the Unitarian, who claims that God is by his very nature love itself, to consider this dilemma, I ask them a simple question: What is required in order to actually be love, not just to have the attribute of being a loving being? The answer is simple: He must have another to love. And this subject of love cannot be outside of Himself, or the dilemma is still intact.

In other words, a God that is love must be multi-relational in His nature as one being (as the concept of multiple maximally great beings is incoherent) and this is exactly what we find to be true in the doctrine of the Trinity. Any other concept of God isn’t worth calling God at all.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are many forms of the Trinity, mainly various forms of one-self theories or three-self theories (I tend to lean towards a Trinity Monotheism, within the school of three-self theory), and I’m now quite inclined to begin a series on the matter, but the objective of this writing is not to parse out each theory; it is to show that the Jehovah Witnesses’ God of love is rationally intolerable. But this can be addressed.

So when you hear that knock on your door, find common ground. It’s there. And remember, truth doesn’t need defending, but people need help understanding.

[1] Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3rd Ed. Crossway Books. Pg. 181. 2008, Print.

[2] McGrath, Alister. Christian Theology: An Introduction. 3rd Ed. Blackwell Publishing. Pg. 23. 2001, Print.

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