In this post I’m detouring from my normal practice of recording recent experiences so that we can pause and consider the doctrine of the trinity. How do you discuss this subject with a Jehovah’s Witness and make any sort of headway, rather than spinning out in a swirling eddy of Watchtower indoctrination? It’s tricky, but it can be done.
First, lower your expectations. Don’t count on convincing your JW friend of the truth of the trinity doctrine any time soon. He has experienced a lifetime, or at least some years, of constant (probably weekly at least) indoctrination against the trinity. Plan on sowing a small seed or two, with the intent of getting him/her to think outside of their automatic dialogues and role plays from their training.
Second, thought-provoking mini-statements rather than lectures or arguments. Get him or her to interact with something in scripture that they have never noticed before, or a line of reasoning that they have never considered.
Here’s a sample dialog, which is really a composite of a number of conversations that I have had with my JW friends.
JW: “The word trinity is not found anywhere in scripture.”
Me: “That’s right, just like the words Governing Body, Theocratic, Circuit Overseer, Pioneer, Publisher, and Kingdom Hall. But you believe that those things are scriptural, don’t you?”
JW: “Yes, even though those words aren’t in scripture, the Bible teaches those concepts.”
Me: “I know that you believe that the Bible teaches those concepts, even though the specific word is not used. In the same way, I believe that the Bible teaches the concept of the trinity, even though the specific word is not used. Actually, I don’t like the word trinity.”
JW: “You don’t?”
Me: “No, I don’t.”
JW: “But you said you believe in the trinity.”
Me: “Yes, but I don’t think that’s the best word to describe the concept that I believe is taught in scripture. The word trinity makes it sound like we believe that there are three gods.”
JW: “But you do believe that there are three gods.”
Me: “No, I don’t. I believe that there’s only one God, but that he manifests himself in three distinct persons. And I think that a better word to express that scriptural concept would be the word tri-unity, rather than trinity.”
JW: “But that’s crazy. How can you believe in three persons, isn’t that just the same as believing in three gods?”
Me: “Well, let me ask you this. Jesus died, and was resurrected, and went back to heaven. So who is he now in heaven, Jesus or Michael?”
JW: “Both. he has two names. Many people go by two different names.”
Me: “So is Jesus-Michael a human now, or an angel now?”
JW: “He’s Michael the Archangel.”
Me: “So he’s no longer a human, he’s just Michael. Jesus died, so he ceased to exist, according to Watchtower. He’s just Michael the angel now. There is no Jesus any more.”
JW: “No, he’s still Jesus, but he’s also Michael. Michael has the memories of Jesus too.”
Me: “So it sounds to me like you believe that he’s two kinds of persons, an angelic person, and a human person, existing as one being.”
JW: “Um . . . ”
Me: “So I take that one step further, from a bi-unity to a tri-unity, that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all together one God, existing in three persons.”
From there your friend will either interact with that subject some more, or will change the subject slightly or completely. But you have given them food for thought. Pray that they will think about it later that day or evening, and that Holy Spirit will not allow them to get away from it. You have led them down two paths they have never explored before: (1) The legitimacy of using non-biblical terms for biblical concepts, and (2) The legitimacy of a single being existing with more than one manifested nature, or types of persons. You have given your friend something to think about and interact with mentally rather than just thoughtlessly taking in doctrine. And that’s good for them, and good for your relationship with them.