Saturday, September 12, 2009

Featured Debate: What Does It Mean When the Bible calls Jesus G/god?


It was Socrates who once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Christian apologist, Dr. Norman Geisler, later adapting Socrates statement and said, "The unexamined faith is not worth believing." I believe that both Socrates and Geisler are correct.

As painstaking as it can be, we must be willing to examine truth claims, regardless of the consequences. This is just as true for the atheist, Christian, humanist, or Jehovah's Witnesses. After all, who wants to knowing believe a lie?

Keeping this in mind, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus was not God Almighty. Consider the following, taken from an article entitled Is Jesus God Almighty?, found on the Jehovah's Witnesses official website:

"Obviously, the Father and the Son were not equal before Jesus came to the earth or during his earthly life. What about after Jesus’ resurrection to heaven? First Corinthians 11:3 states: “The head of the Christ is God.” In fact, the Son will always be in subjection to God. (1 Corinthians 15:28) The Scriptures therefore show that Jesus is not God Almighty. Instead, he is God’s Son."
[1]

However, Christians believe that there exists One True God (John 17:3), but that He exists in 3 separate persons in one divine essence. This is known as the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is like a triangle: a triangle has three corners but it is still one triangle. Admittedly, it is impossible for us as finite humans to fully comprehend the Trinity, and while the Trinity may transcend our reason, it does not contradict our reason.

Obviously, both of these views cannot be correct. In other words, to say that Jesus was not fully God and that Jesus was fully God at the same time is obsurd. Either Jesus is God or He is not!

Such was the subject of a recent interaction I had with a Jehovah's Witness on the blog. I presented the following argument in an effort to sustain Jesus' deity:

"According to John 17:3, how many true Gods are there? The answer is one, Jehovah. Now, I believe that we both can agree that whatever is not true is false, correct? Then, if there is only one God, all other gods must be false gods, right? According to the NWT translation of the Bible (in which I reject), Jesus is a god. I believe you would agree with this, yes? So, is Jesus a true god or a false god? He can't be a false god, since that would mean the apostle John was guilty of falsely honoring Jesus as a god. Therefore, he must be a true God. But, you say, "Jehovah is the only true God!" I agree; therefore, Jesus must be Jehovah."

The Jehovah's Witness replied as follows:

That's a false dichotomy. I could ask you, is Moses a true God or a false god?"Consequently Jehovah said to Moses: 'See, I have made you God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your own brother will become your prophet.'" (Exodus 7:1)"


[PLEASE see the link to the comments section for the entire interaction]

So, his basic claim was that in other places in the scriptures, creatures are called "gods" without any reason to believe that they are 'false gods.'

Common texts often quoted to 'prove' this are:

"So the Lord said to Moses: "See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet" (Exodus 7:1).

"Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, "You are gods"? (John 10:34).

"For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords)," (1 Cor. 8:5).

"I said, "You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High" (Psalm 82:6).

"For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:6).

Further, things begin to get interesting when one also considers that the Bible clearly states that there is only "One True God" (John 17:3).

So, the argument presented by the JW's goes like this:

1. Elsewhere in Scripture creatures as called "gods"
2. They are not considered "false gods."
3. Therefore, Jesus is not to be considered a "false god."

However, when all the data is considered, does this argument hold up? I submit that it does not.

One True God

The verses that I listed above use the plural "gods" are clearly not speaking of Jehovah because John 17:3 tells us that Jehovah is the "Only True God." With that in mind, these verses could not be understood to be referring to creatures as "God" in the usual sense. Regardless of what "sense" that is, clearly it is not the same "sense" in which Jehovah is God.

Thank...Moses?!

Now, the JW's is quick to quote Exodus 7:1 as saying that Moses was a god; however, is that what it says?

Consider the verse, quoted from the New World Translation:

"Consequently Jehovah said to Moses: "See, I have made you God to Phar'aoh and Aaron your prophet."

So, the verse actually says that Jehovah made Moses "God to Pharaoh." In other words, Moses was going to be enabled to exercise godlike powers over Pharaoh.

But then the question must be asked- "Why doesn't the NWT translate this verse "make you a god to Pharaoh?" Clearly, this verse is saying that Moses was standing in God's place. So, Moses wasn't "a god," but he was simply representing the Only True God (Jn. 17:3). Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is called "God" in this representative sense also. For example, in John 20:28, when Thomas calls Jesus "my God."

However, in John 1:1, where the NWT calls Jesus "a god," that can't be a "representative" sense. Jesus is called "a god" because he has godlike powers and qualities(this agrees with the Greek). But, Moses wasn't "a god" in the sense that Jesus was; meaning, Jesus alone, the JW's claim, "has godlike powers and qualities." Is there anyone else in the Bible besides Jesus Christ who is called "a god"-in the sense of having godlike powers and qualities-who wasn't a false god? The answer is no.

But someone might still wonder, "Why can't Jesus be called a god in that sense? He alone was with God at the beginning of the world, assisting Him in the process of creation."

Put simply, the Bible says there is only One True God (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6-8; 1 Cor. 8:4; 1 Tim 2:5; James 2:19) and that there is no one who is "godlike" (Isa. 40:18, 25; Jer 10:6-7). The Bible even denies that powerful rulers (Exe. 28:2, 9; 2 Thess. 2:4) and spirits (1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 4:8) are gods. [1]

However, after drafting the above response, I sent it to a few friends for input and Mike Felker, of The Apologetic Front, pointed out the following to me:

"As for your primary question in implementing John 17:3, I would be careful in limiting the range to two possibilities: true or false. The reason being, there certainly are "gods" who are such only in a representational or figurative sense. Exodus 7:1 is a good example of this. Obviously, there is nothing about Moses' nature that somehow makes him more human than you or I. Therefore, he is not "god" in any sort of ontological sense. Instead, he represents God, and therefore can be "God" in that most limited sense.

However, as you pointed out, Jesus is not merely "god" in a figurative or representational sense. He is actually "God" by nature. In this case, he is either true or false, since the "figurative" category is easily ruled out."

Moreover, Mike directed me to a debate that he had with a Jehovah's Witness entitled, "What Does It Mean when the Bible calls Jesus G/god?" After reading Mike's opening statement I realized that I admittedly could not provide the same in-depth answers that Mike can. Mike studied with Jehovah's Witnesses for two years and attended the meetings. Our desire here at Truthbomb Apologetics is to provide the best answers to important questions.

So I have decided, with Mike's permission, to post his debate here at Truthbomb for those who honestly desire to investigate what the Bible actual means when it calls Jesus G/god.

The debate can be found here.

For Jehovah's Witnesses that may accuse me of using other peoples arguments, please keep in mind that when Witnesses come to my door, they are usually armed with some of the following:
  • Awake! Magazine- Watchtower Publication
  • The Watchtower Magazine
  • Reasoning from the Scriptures
  • The New World Translation of the Bible, created by the Watchtower Society
So, let us not waste our time discussing the who of the argument, rather, let us spend our time discussion the truth of the arguments.

Finally, Mike has graciously agreed to interact with reader's who have questions via the comments! Thank you Mike!

I pray you'll take advantage of this learning opportunity!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Resources:

1. Is Jesus God Almighty?, appeared in The Watchtower, appeared in The Watchtower, Sept. 15, 2005, Emphasis mine. This article can also be found online here.

2. [This argument was adapted from an article that appeared in the Christian Research Journal entitled, "Is Jesus a True or a False God?" by Robert M. Bowman, Jr.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gen 1:1 says "...beginning, God created..." where God is Elohim, a plural form of the word.

Now JWs say that Jesus is not Jehovah, that he is a created, different being. Using an analogy, if Jehovah is a pen then Jesus can't be a pen because he is different in nature and substance, so he would be a pencil.

But Scripture uses the plural form Elohim, or pens, which doesn't make sense if there was a pen and pencil present in Gen. 1:1.

Further down, "Let US make man in OUR IMAGE'. You have plural, plural, singular. If Jesus were a different being, it would be 'images'...this is a no-brainer.