Monday, February 28, 2011
DO ALL GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN?
What Is Heaven Like?
In this series:
Seeking the Truth About Heaven
What Is Heaven Like?
Do All Good People Go to Heaven?
Death—Is It Really the End?
SOME people think that it is impossible to know about heaven because no one has ever come down from there to tell us about it. Perhaps they have forgotten that Jesus said: “I have come down from heaven.” (John 6:38) To some religious leaders, he also said: “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above.” (John 8:23) What did Jesus say about heaven?
Jesus confirmed that heaven is where Jehovah resides. He called God “my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 12:50) But Jesus used the word “heaven” in more than one sense. For example, he referred to the earth’s atmosphere as “heaven” when he said: “Observe intently the birds of heaven.” (Matthew 6:26) Nevertheless, Jehovah lives beyond the atmosphere. The Bible says: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth.”—Isaiah 40:22.
Does the “Father who is in heaven” live among the stars? The physical universe is also called “heaven” in the Holy Scriptures. For example, one psalmist wrote: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind?”—Psalm 8:3, 4.
No, Jehovah God does not have to live inside the physical universe that he created any more than a carpenter has to live inside a cupboard that he makes. Thus, when King Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem to Jehovah, he said: “Will God truly dwell upon the earth? Look! The heavens, yes, the heaven of the heavens, themselves cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) If Jehovah does not dwell in the physical heaven, what is the heaven where he does dwell?
Although men have studied the physical heavens with powerful telescopes and some have traveled to outer space, what the Bible says remains true: “No man has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) Jesus explained why when he said: “God is a Spirit.”—John 4:24.
A spirit is a form of life higher than a human. A spirit is not composed of physical material, such as flesh and blood, that can be seen and felt by human senses. So when Jesus said that he used to dwell alongside his Father in “heaven,” he meant that he used to have a form of life that is more glorious than any physical form of life. (John 17:5; Philippians 3:20, 21) This spirit realm where Jesus used to live with his Father is what the Bible calls “heaven.” What is it like? What happens there?
A Place of Happy Activity
The Bible describes heaven as a hive of activity. It mentions hundreds of millions of faithful spirit creatures who live there. (Daniel 7:9, 10) Each of these spirit creatures has his own distinct personality. How do we know that? In all observable creation, no two living things are exactly alike, so we can be sure that in heaven, there is great diversity as well. Remarkably, all these heavenly personalities work together in unity, thus providing an admirable contrast to the earth today, where people rarely cooperate well.
Notice how the Bible describes activity in heaven. “Bless Jehovah, O you angels of his, mighty in power, carrying out his word, by listening to the voice of his word. Bless Jehovah, all you armies of his, you ministers of his, doing his will.” (Psalm 103:20, 21) So a lot of work is being done in heaven. We can be sure that it is satisfying work.
Angels have a long history of happy service that goes back to a time even before the earth was created. According to the Scriptures, when Jehovah founded the earth, the sons of God “joyfully cried out together” and “began shouting in applause.” (Job 38:4, 7) One of God’s heavenly sons was even privileged to work along with God in the creation of all other things. (Colossians 1:15-17) This appealing description of happy activity in heaven may raise questions in your mind about heaven and mankind.
Were Humans Intended to Go to Heaven?
Since angels were serving God in heaven before the founding of the earth, the first man and woman were evidently not created to populate the heavens. Rather, God said to that first human pair: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28; Acts 17:26) Adam was the first of a new form of earthly life, able to know God and to serve him faithfully. He was to father a race of humans whose home would be the earth. “As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.”—Psalm 115:16.
People do not normally want to die; death is not natural for humans. God mentioned death to Adam only as the punishment for disobedience. Had Adam obeyed, he would never have died.—Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12.
Not surprisingly, then, God said nothing to Adam about going to heaven. So the earth was not to be a proving ground where people would be tested to see if they were fit for heaven. Man was created to live forever on earth, and that purpose of God will yet be fulfilled. The Bible promises that “the righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:29) Clearly, humans were not originally meant to go to heaven. Why, then, did Jesus promise heavenly life to his apostles? Did Jesus mean that all good people will go to heaven?
Young People Ask . . .
Dabbling in the Occult
—What's the Harm?
ARE teenagers really interested in the occult? A group of researchers sought to find out by surveying students in 115 middle and secondary schools. The survey yielded these revealing statistics: Over half of those surveyed (54 percent) said that they are interested in the occult and the supernatural, while a quarter (26 percent) said that they are "very interested."
Researchers for the University of Alaska at Anchorage write: "Newspaper and magazine stories about the supposed explosion of satanic cult activity . . . have proliferated in recent years." Experts say that there is little hard evidence to support claims of widespread Satanism among youths. Even so, there is no question that many young ones are interested in aspects of Satanism and the occult, even if such interest is only casual.
'What's the harm in dabbling in the occult?' some youths might therefore ask. In answer, let's look at some of the ways youths get involved in the occult in the first place.
The Lure of the Occult
An article in U.S.News & World Report observes that "children and teenagers today have access and exposure to a bewildering—often disturbing—array of imagery and information that would have been unimaginable even 20 years ago." Curiosity drives many youths to read books and magazines, watch videos, or surf Web sites on the Internet that feature occult material.
According to BBC News Online, popular TV programs that feature witchcraft and vampirism "encourage an interest in witchcraft among children, it is claimed." Some heavy-metal music likewise features violent or demonic themes. Columnist Tom Harpur wrote in the Toronto newspaper The Sunday Star: "I must issue the strongest possible warning about what is happening [in music]. . . . I have never seen anything so depraved. The songs are obsessed with madness, possession, demons, blood, curses, violence of every kind, including rape, self-mutilation, murder, and suicide. Death and destruction, prophecies of doom, the denial of all that is good and the embracing of all that is hideous and evil—these are the themes."
Does listening to such music really contribute to destructive behavior? It evidently did so in at least one case—that of a 14-year-old youth in the United States who stabbed his mother to death and then killed himself. The walls of his room were covered with posters of heavy-metal rock musicians. His father pleaded afterward: "Tell parents to watch what music their children listen to." He said that the week before his son killed his mother, he kept singing a rock song "about blood and killing your mother."
Then there are role-playing games, some of which allow participants to take on the role of sorcerers and other occult figures. Many of these games feature demonistic violence.*
Get rid of all objects
related to satanic worship
Nevertheless, the research organization Mediascope reports: "Studies show that the preference for heavy metal music may be a significant indicator for alienation, substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, suicide risks . . . or risk-taking behaviors during adolescence, but music is not the cause of these behaviors. It is hypothesized that teenagers already struggling with those issues may be attracted to heavy metal music, because the lyrics express their own troubled feelings."
Researchers may not all agree on the dangers of listening to satanic music. But could a diet of videos, music, or games that highlight violence or self-destruction be anything but poisonous? For Christians, however, dabbling in the occult presents an even greater danger.
God's View of the Occult
At 1 Corinthians 10:20, the apostle Paul warned Christians: "I do not want you to become sharers with the demons." Just who are the demons, and why is it so dangerous to get involved with them? Simply put, the demons are former angels, who have chosen to follow Satan the Devil. Satan means "Resister" and Devil means "Slanderer." According to the Bible, this former angelic son of God made himself a resister and a slanderer by choosing to rebel against God. In time, he enticed other angels to join him in his rebellious course. These allies thus became demons.—Genesis 3:1-15; 6:1-4; Jude 6.
Jesus called Satan "the ruler of this world." (John 12:31) Satan and his demons have "great anger" over their impending destruction. (Revelation 12:9-12) Not surprisingly, those who have become involved with the demons have found them to be vicious. One woman in Suriname who grew up in a family that practiced spiritism saw firsthand how the demons "enjoy torturing their unwilling victims."# Getting involved with these cruel spirit creatures in any way is thus extremely dangerous!
Beware of Web sites that
For this reason, God commanded his ancient people, the Israelites, to avoid all occult practices. "Everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah," warns Deuteronomy 18:10-12. Christians were likewise warned that "those practicing spiritism" would meet destruction at God's hand. (Revelation 21:8) Even dabbling in the occult is condemned by God. "Quit touching the unclean thing," commands the Bible.—2 Corinthians 6:17.
Breaking Free From Occult Practices
Have you made the mistake of dabbling in the occult? Then consider what happened in the first-century city of Ephesus. Many there "practiced magical arts." But some were moved by the powerful works the apostle Paul performed with the aid of holy spirit. The results? "Quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody. And they calculated together the prices of them and found them worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. Thus in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing."—Acts 19:11-20.
What does this tell us? That if a person wants to escape the clutches of the demons, he or she must destroy all paraphernalia related to satanic worship! This includes all books, magazines, posters, comic books, videos, amulets (items worn for "protection"), and demonistic material downloaded from the Internet. (Deuteronomy 7:25, 26) Discard any paraphernalia that might be used in divination, such as crystal balls or Ouija boards. Also, get rid of music or videos that feature satanic themes.
It takes courage and determination to take such bold steps. But the benefits can be great. One Christian woman named Jean% purchased a computer game that seemed harmless at first. As she worked her way through the game's levels, she discovered aspects of the game that had spiritistic overtones. Before long she began having violent nightmares! "I got up in the middle of the night," says Jean, "and destroyed the game CDs." The result? "I haven't had any trouble since."
If you demonstrate real determination to break free, you will succeed. Recall the determination that Jesus showed when the Devil tried to lure Jesus into worshiping him. "Jesus said to him: 'Go away, Satan! For it is written, "It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service."' Then the Devil left him."—Matthew 4:8-11.
Do Not Fight Alone
The apostle Paul reminds us that all Christians "have a wrestling . . . against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) But do not try to fight Satan and his demons alone. Get help from your God-fearing parents and the elders in the local Christian congregation. It may be embarrassing to confess your involvement, but it can result in your receiving much-needed support.—James 5:14, 15.
Remember, too, that the Bible says: "Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you." (James 4:7, 8) Yes, you have the support of Jehovah God! He will help you to break free from the snare of the occult.
* See the article "Young People Ask . . . Is There Any Danger in Role-Playing Games?," in the August 22, 1999, issue of Awake!
# See the article "Shaking Off the Yoke of Spiritism" in the September 1, 1987, issue of our companion magazine, The Watchtower, published by Jehovah's Witnesses.
% Name has been changed.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Have We Lost the Sense of Sin?
NOT all that long ago, churchgoers regularly heard their preacher thundering from the pulpit against what is termed the “seven deadly sins”—lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy, and pride. More often than not, the preacher would describe the dire consequences of sin and urge his listeners to repent. “Now,” says one writer, “most religious messages pass over the uncomfortable reality of sin to focus on ‘feel-good’ themes.”
Newspaper columnists have observed the same trend. Following are a few comments from the press:
“The old categories of sin, repentance and redemption are out and the therapeutic language of self-esteem and self-love are in.”—Star Beacon, Ashtabula, Ohio.
“The urgent sense of personal sin has all but disappeared.”—Newsweek.
“We no longer ask ‘What does God require of me,’ but rather, ‘What can God do for me?’”—Chicago Sun-Times.
In today’s pluralistic and tolerant society, people hesitate to make moral judgments. Doing so is not politically correct, we are told. The greatest sin seems to be to judge another person’s actions. Thus, the thinking goes: ‘What you believe might work fine for you, but you really should not try to impose your thinking on anyone else. These days, people organize their life according to differing sets of values. No one has a monopoly on moral truth. Other people’s values are just as valid as yours.’
This kind of reasoning has brought about a change in people’s vocabulary. The word “sin” is now rarely used in serious contexts. For many, it has become a topic for jokes. People are no longer said to “live in sin”; they just “live together.” They are no longer “adulterers”; they are “having an affair.” They are no longer “homosexuals”; they prefer “an alternative lifestyle.”
There is no doubt that what people are prepared to accept as “normal” or condemn as “sin” has changed. But why have attitudes changed? Whatever became of sin? And does it really matter what your view is?
Friday, February 25, 2011
How Should We Pray to God?
In this series:
"Teach Us How to Pray"
How Should We Pray to God?
Should You Pray to the Virgin Mary?
Does Praying Do Any Good?
God Does Answer Prayers
WHEN a disciple asked for instruction regarding prayer, Jesus did not refuse to give it to him. According to Luke 11:2-4, he replied: "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation." (Catholic Douay Version) This is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer. It conveys a world of information.
For one thing, the very first word tells us to whom our prayers must be addressed—to our Father. Notice that Jesus made no room whatsoever for praying to some other person, image, "saint," or even to him. After all, God had declared: "I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to graven things." (Isaiah 42:8, Dy) Prayers directed to anything or anyone other than our heavenly Father are therefore not heard by him, no matter how sincere the worshiper may be. In the Bible, only Jehovah God is called the "Hearer of prayer."—Psalm 65:2.
Some may say that "saints" act merely as intercessors with God. But Jesus himself instructed: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Also, whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son." (John 14:6, 13) Jesus thus ruled out the idea that anyone called a saint could serve in the role of intercessor. Observe also what the apostle Paul said regarding Christ: "He not only died for us—he rose from the dead, and there at God's right hand he stands and pleads for us." "He is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him."—Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25, Catholic Jerusalem Bible.
The Name That Must Be Hallowed
The next words of Jesus' prayer were: "Hallowed be thy name." How could one hallow, that is, sanctify, or set apart, the name of God unless one knew it and used it? Over 6,000 times in the "Old Testament," God is identified by the personal name Jehovah.
A footnote on Exodus 6:3 in the Catholic Douay Version says regarding God's name: "Some moderns have framed the name of Jehovah . . . , for the true pronunciation of the name [of God], which is in the Hebrew text, by long disuse is now quite lost." The Catholic New Jerusalem Bible therefore uses the name Yahweh. Although some scholars favor that pronunciation, "Jehovah" is a legitimate and long-established way of pronouncing the divine name in English. Other languages have their own ways of pronouncing the divine name. The main thing is that we use the name so as to hallow it. Has your church taught you to use the name Jehovah in prayer?
Proper Subjects for Prayer
Jesus next taught his disciples to pray: "Thy kingdom come." The Gospel of Matthew adds the words: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10, Dy) God's Kingdom is a government in the hands of Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 9:6, 7) According to Bible prophecy, it will soon displace all human governments and bring in an era of global peace. (Psalm 72:1-7; Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:3-5) True Christians therefore make the coming of the Kingdom a recurring theme in their prayers. Has your church taught you to do so?
Interestingly, Jesus also showed that our prayers may include personal matters that concern us. He said: "Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation." (Luke 11:3, 4, Dy) Jesus' words imply that we can seek God's will in everyday matters, that we can approach Jehovah about anything that might worry us or disturb our peace of mind. Regularly petitioning God in this way helps us to appreciate our dependence upon him. We thus become more aware of his influence in our lives. Daily asking God to forgive us for our offenses is likewise beneficial. We thereby become more aware of our weaknesses—and more tolerant of the shortcomings of others. Jesus' exhortation that we pray for deliverance from temptation is also appropriate, especially in view of the declining morals of this world. In harmony with that prayer, we are careful to avoid circumstances and situations that could lead us into wrongdoing.
There is no question, then, that the Lord's Prayer tells us much about offering prayers that please God. But did Jesus intend that we take this prayer and simply recite it regularly?
Further Counsel on Prayer
Jesus gave further instructions on prayer. At Matthew 6:5, 6, we read: "When you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. . . . You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you." These words teach us that prayer should not be offered in a showy, ostentatious way so as to impress someone. Do you pour out your heart to Jehovah privately, as the Bible urges?—Psalm 62:8.
Jesus gave this caution: "In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard." (Matthew 6:7, JB) Clearly, Jesus did not approve of memorizing prayers—much less of reading them from some book. His words also rule out the use of the rosary.
A Catholic missal makes this admission: "Our best prayer may be our own spontaneous thoughts when we turn to him in gratitude or in need, at times of sorrow, or in our regular daily adoration of him." Jesus' own prayers were spontaneous, not memorized. For example, read the prayer of Jesus recorded in John chapter 17. It adheres to the model prayer, emphasizing Jesus' desire to see Jehovah's name sanctified. Jesus' prayer was spontaneous and profoundly heartfelt.
Prayers That God Hears
The more we learn about Jehovah, the more we are moved to pray to him from the heart
If you have been taught to offer memorized prayers, to pray to "saints" or to images, or to use religious items, such as the rosary, the idea of praying in the manner that Jesus outlined may at first seem intimidating. Yet, the key is coming to know God—his name, his purposes, his personality. You can accomplish this through a thorough study of the Bible. (John 17:3) Jehovah's Witnesses are ready and willing to help you in this regard. Why, they have helped millions around the world to "taste and see that Jehovah is good"! (Psalm 34:8) The more you come to know God, the more you will be moved to praise him in prayer. And the more you draw near to Jehovah in reverential prayer, the closer your relationship with him will become.
All true worshipers of God are therefore urged to "pray incessantly." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Be sure that your prayers are truly in harmony with the Bible, including the instructions of Jesus Christ. In this way you can be certain that your prayers will have God's approval.
Appeared in Watchtower July 15, 1996
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Should You Believe in the Trinity?
Is It Clearly a Bible Teaching?
IF THE Trinity were true, it should be clearly and consistently presented in the Bible. Why? Because, as the apostles affirmed, the Bible is God's revelation of himself to mankind. And since we need to know God to worship him acceptably, the Bible should be clear in telling us just who he is.
First-century believers accepted the Scriptures as the authentic revelation of God. It was the basis for their beliefs, the final authority. For example, when the apostle Paul preached to people in the city of Beroea, "they received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so."—Acts 17:10, 11.
What did prominent men of God at that time use as their authority? Acts 17:2, 3 tells us: "According to Paul's custom . . . he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references [from the Scriptures]."
Jesus himself set the example in using the Scriptures as the basis for his teaching, repeatedly saying: "It is written." "He interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures."—Matthew 4:4, 7; Luke 24:27.
Thus Jesus, Paul, and first-century believers used the Scriptures as the foundation for their teaching. They knew that "all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work."—2 Timothy 3:16, 17; see also 1 Corinthians 4:6;1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.
Since the Bible can 'set things straight,' it should clearly reveal information about a matter as fundamental as the Trinity is claimed to be. But do theologians and historians themselves say that it is clearly a Bible teaching?
"Trinity" in the Bible?
A PROTESTANT publication states: "The word Trinity is not found in the Bible . . . It did not find a place formally in the theology of the church till the 4th century." (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary) And a Catholic authority says that the Trinity "is not . . . directly and immediately [the] word of God."—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
The Catholic Encyclopedia also comments: "In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word [tri'as] (of which the Latintrinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A. D. 180. . . . Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian."
However, this is no proof in itself that Tertullian taught the Trinity. The Catholic work Trinitas—A Theological Encyclopedia of the Holy Trinity, for example, notes that some of Tertullian's words were later used by others to describe the Trinity. Then it cautions: "But hasty conclusions cannot be drawn from usage, for he does not apply the words to Trinitarian theology."
Testimony of the Hebrew Scriptures
WHILE the word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, is at least the idea of the Trinity taught clearly in it? For instance, what do the Hebrew Scriptures ("Old Testament") reveal?
The Encyclopedia of Religion admits: "Theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity." And the New Catholic Encyclopedia also says: "The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the O[ld] T[estament]."
Similarly, in his book The Triune God, Jesuit Edmund Fortman admits: "The Old Testament . . .tells us nothing explicitly or by necessary implication of a Triune God who is Father, Son andHoly Spirit. . . . There is no evidence that any sacred writer even suspected the existence of a[Trinity] within the Godhead. . . . Even to see in [the "Old Testament"] suggestions or foreshadowings or 'veiled signs' of the trinity of persons, is to go beyond the words and intent of the sacred writers."—Italics ours.
An examination of the Hebrew Scriptures themselves will bear out these comments. Thus, there is no clear teaching of a Trinity in the first 39 books of the Bible that make up the true canon of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.
Testimony of the Greek Scriptures
WELL, then, do the Christian Greek Scriptures ("New Testament") speak clearly of a Trinity?
The Encyclopedia of Religion says: "Theologians agree that the New Testament also does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity."
Jesuit Fortman states: "The New Testament writers . . . give us no formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. . . .Nowhere do we find any trinitarian doctrine of three distinct subjects of divine life and activity in the same Godhead."
The New Encyclopædia Britannica observes: "Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament."
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."
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology similarly states: "The N[ew] T[estament] does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity. 'The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of equal essence' [said Protestant theologian Karl Barth]."
Yale University professor E. Washburn Hopkins affirmed: "To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; . . . they say nothing about it."—Origin and Evolution of Religion.
Historian Arthur Weigall notes: "Jesus Christ never mentioned such a phenomenon, and nowhere in the New Testament does the word 'Trinity' appear. The idea was only adopted by the Church three hundred years after the death of our Lord."—The Paganism in Our Christianity.
Thus, neither the 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures nor the canon of 27 inspired books of the Christian Greek Scriptures provide any clear teaching of the Trinity.
Taught by Early Christians?
DID the early Christians teach the Trinity? Note the following comments by historians and theologians:
"Primitive Christianity did not have an explicit doctrine of the Trinity such as was subsequently elaborated in the creeds."—The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.
"The early Christians, however, did not at first think of applying the [Trinity] idea to their own faith. They paid their devotions to God the Father and to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and they recognised the . . . Holy Spirit; but there was no thought of these three being an actual Trinity, co-equal and united in One."—The Paganism in Our Christianity.
"At first the Christian faith was not Trinitarian . . . It was not so in the apostolic and sub-apostolic ages, as reflected in the N[ew] T[estament] and other early Christian writings."—Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics.
"The formulation 'one God in three Persons' was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. . . .Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective."—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
What the Ante-Nicene Fathers Taught
THE ante-Nicene Fathers were acknowledged to have been leading religious teachers in the early centuries after Christ's birth. What they taught is of interest.
Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is "other than the God who made all things." He said that Jesus was inferior to God and "never did anything except what the Creator . . . willed him to do and say."
Irenaeus, who died about 200 C.E., said that the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus is not equal to the "One true and only God," who is "supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other."
Clement of Alexandria, who died about 215 C.E., called Jesus in his prehuman existence "a creature" but called God "the uncreated and imperishable and only true God." He said that the Son "is next to the only omnipotent Father" but not equal to him.
Tertullian, who died about 230 C.E., taught the supremacy of God. He observed: "The Father is different from the Son (another), as he is greater; as he who begets is different from him who is begotten; he who sends, different from him who is sent." He also said: "There was a time when the Son was not. . . . Before all things, God was alone."
Hippolytus, who died about 235 C.E., said that God is "the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all," who "had nothing co-eval [of equal age] with him . . . But he was One, alone by himself; who, willing it, called into being what had no being before," such as the created prehuman Jesus.
"There is no evidence that any sacred writer even suspected the existence of a [Trinity] within the Godhead."—The Triune God
Origen, who died about 250 C.E., said that "the Father and Son are two substances . . . two things as to their essence," and that "compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light."
Summing up the historical evidence, Alvan Lamson says in The Church of the First Three Centuries: "The modern popular doctrine of the Trinity . . . derives no support from the language of Justin [Martyr]: and this observation may be extended to all the ante-Nicene Fathers; that is, to all Christian writers for three centuries after the birth of Christ. It is true, they speak of the Father, Son, and . . . holy Spirit, but not as co-equal, not as one numerical essence, not as Three in One, in any sense now admitted by Trinitarians. The very reverse is the fact."
Thus, the testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter.
Published in 1989
Copyright © 2006 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.