Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Deity of Christ–Part 1

In each of these posts, it is my intention to focus on one point, helping to lay out specific arguments to deal with the contention that Jesus is not God.  As I do this, my aim will be to refute the Jehovah’s Witness position that Jesus is a created being rather than a member of the Triune God (which they deny).

Is Jesus a False god?

In Ron Rhodes’ excellent book Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he points out a very basic fact that needs to be kept in mind.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses will make the claim that Jehovah God is God, but Jesus is also “a god” (they attempt to distinguish between “mighty god” and “Almighty God”, but more on that in the future).

When confronted with this, a very simple question can set the stage for our conversations with them (and remember, our goal is to help point these people toward Jesus, not to try and win an argument or embarrass anyone…our goal is to love and help them, if possible).  The point can be conveyed in the following way:

Start by asking them to read John 17:1-3 (from NIV):

1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

In reading this verse, John clearly says that the Father is “the only true God”.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses you are speaking to will agree with this.

Once you get agreement on this verse, take them to John 1:1 (NIV), which says:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The New World Translation (NWT) will read differently than this verse.  It will say:

1 In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

NOTE: instead of saying “the Word was God”, their version says “the Word was a god”.  This points out the mistranslation of the NWT as I previously mentioned, but for our present purpose even their translation works (we’ll deal more with John 1 in a future post).

The obvious question that comes up at this point is to ask “who is John referring to as ‘the Word’?”  To see that, we only need to read a bit further in the chapter itself.  In verses 14 & 15, John says the following:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[d] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”

Clearly, John is telling us that ‘the Word’ is Jesus Christ himself (and the Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t deny this).

So we’ve seen two things:

  1. John 1:1 says that Jesus (the Word) is God (or “a god” according to the NWT)
  2. John 17:3 says that God is “the only true God”

This leaves our friends with a dilemma.  According to orthodox Christianity, Jesus is literally God.  But according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus is not God, but only “a god”.

According to Christian teaching, there is no contradiction between John 1 and John 17.  But if the Jehovah’s Witnesses want to claim that Jesus is not God (they believe he’s the archangel Michael…more on that in the future), then the following question becomes relevant:

“If John 17 says there is only one true God, and if Jesus is not God, then does this mean Jesus is a false god?”

According to the theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is no escape from this dilemma.  Either one of two things is true:

  • Jesus is the true God…but this means Jesus IS GOD
  • Jesus is a false god

The Jehovah’s Witnesses will certainly not want to claim that Jesus is a false god, but they also have to acknowledge that there is only one true God.  Even the NWT admits this!

Again, the goal here is not to harm others, or to try and simply win arguments.  Instead, the goal is to help these dearly loved people to see that their theology is not sustainable.  And while they may not ever turn away from the JW faith, as Christians who love and care for the lost it’s our duty to provide them things to think about when considering whether their faith is true or not.

Next time, I’ll continue to address this issue of the deity of Christ since it’s such a central theme to both of our faiths.

Until then…

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