Is the Trinity a Heretical Doctrine?


Ankerberg: We’re doing a program with former Jehovah’s Witnesses: the man who used to answer the questions at the Watchtower Society and then came to know Jesus Christ much differently than what he had been brought up with all of his life; and his wife, who lost a million dollars because she left the Watchtower Society. Joan and Bill Cetnar are here with us tonight, as well as Dr. Robert Countess, who is a Greek scholar, did his Ph.D. work in Greek and has written a very unique book on the New World Translation, the Greek and Hebrew Bible of the Watchtower Society, and very interesting research that he has done exposing some of the fallacies that are in that translation.
We would like to start this week with some questions. What do the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about God and in this area of the Trinity? Obviously, they say it’s a lie of Satan; it is something that the Christian church picked up in the 4th century AD, and they say that we are completely deceived. Now, you used to say that. What do you say now as a believer in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
Bill Cetnar: We were taught as Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus is really not God and that this is a false doctrine which started in the 4th century. Really, just the opposite is true: the Arian doctrine started in the 4th century. Polycarp, the apostle Paul, John, Irenaeus (by the way, that’s my middle name) who fought the heretics in his day, none of them believed that Jesus was Michael the archangel. In fact, that a Chaldean doctrine that Jesus is a God and all the false prophets teach it, including the spirit mediums.
Ankerberg: Okay. Coming back to this thing, if you believe something differently, what is it that brought you to that? What is the evidence? Because people have different beliefs, you know, I believe this, I believe that. What’s the evidence?
Bill Cetnar: The first Scripture that really interested me and that really helped me to find out who Jesus really is in Revelation 1where Jesus is called “the Alpha and the Omega,” the first and the last, and He’s everything in between. And then in the last chapter, the 22nd chapter of Revelation, it says that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. There cannot be two Alphas and Omegas and therefore that was the first Scripture that brought light. The next one was that Jesus is the I Am. He claimed to be the same thing that Yahweh claimed to be in Exodus 3. John said that Jesus is God. Isaiah said that Jesus is God. Paul said that Jesus is God. God said that Jesus is God in Hebrews 1. We have to accept this or not believe the authority of the Scriptures. When we found out that Jesus is Yahweh, we were so excited we could hardly see straight.
Ankerberg: Jehovah’s Witnesses say you never find the word “Trinity” in the Bible. What do you say to that?
Bill Cetnar: Neither will you find the word “theocracy” in the Bible. Neither will you find many other words Jehovah’s Witnesses use. That is not the point. The point is, who is Jesus? In the Bible it doesn’t say if you don’t believe in the Trinity you are going to die in your sins, it says, “If you don’t believe that I Am you’re going to die in your sins.” [John 8:24] That’s important. However, in order to understand quickly, to be able to exchange ideas among Christians, we have come up with the word that perfectly describes the Bible doctrine of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 28 it says, “Go therefore and baptize people in the name….” The word “name” means power, according to Acts 4:7. “Baptize them in the authority [of whom?] of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” [Matt. 28:19] That’s God.
Ankerberg: Yeah, one name, one persons. Right. “Trinity” is just a Latin word trinitas, it is “tri-unity.” And we have the one God in three Persons. Jehovah’s Witnesses sometimes look at Christians and give our doctrine wrong. They’ll say we believe in three Gods. We do not believe in three Gods.
Bill Cetnar: Jehovah’s Witnesses have everything wrong about Christian doctrine, and it’s because Satan is deceiving them via their false prophets. The false prophets are getting these ideas and they are being promulgated through the false prophets. First John 4:1 says to “test the spirits to see if they are of God.” Why? “For false prophets have gone forth.” So the false prophets are teaching doctrines of demons.
Ankerberg: Okay. We’ve got a question here.
Audience: One thing that disturbs me more than anything is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are truly respected because they go and witness so much. Please explain why they are so driven to do this.
Bill Cetnar: Paul says that they have a zeal, but it is not according to knowledge. [Rom. 10:2] Jesus also gave us a picture of what is going to be happening in the last days in Matthew 25. He says there’s going to be ten virgins. Five of them are going to become fools. But He says that the foolish virgins will be going out first and wake up first and then after the foolish virgins run out of oil, then the wise virgins wake up. So the wise virgins are now waking up. You’ll see many, many Christians going from house to house today, and one of their problems is that people think they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons or one of the false prophets.
Ankerberg: Bill, we need to also answer that. There’s a reason why they’re so zealous. You are also working your way to heaven. It’s not given away as a gift. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t know that they are going to be in heaven. What is salvation? What’s the plan of salvation for a Jehovah’s Witness?
Joan Cetnar: John, let me read it from their own book here. “What is God’s will for Christians today? It is for them to do a similar preaching work as what Jesus did and the apostles. A true Christian today will follow Jesus’ example. He will preach at every opportunity. This is God’s way. By endurance you will gain the reward of eternal life. He that does the will of God remains forever. It’s the will of God that you get out and preach.” That is the endurance that we have to do if we are going to get this eternal life.
Ankerberg: To vindicate Jehovah? To get His name propagated and so on?
Bill Cetnar: I think it’s wonderful that Jehovah’s Witnesses go from house to house. We have a chance now to witness to them. There is nothing wrong in working for God. James tells us that if we do believe, if we are believers, we will work. It will be the product of believing. We don’t do it for salvation, because that’s a gift. You can’t work for it. But we do it as Christians because we love God and because we are so….
Ankerberg: What would you say, Bill, to some Christians that might say, “You know, we shouldn’t talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses. We shouldn’t let them in our house. The Bible says that.”
Bill Cetnar: I’d rather listen to Jude. He says, “Snatch them out of the fire.” [Jude 1:23]
Ankerberg: Okay. How 2 John?
Joan Cetnar: Second John 1:7-10.
Ankerberg: Explain that.
Bill Cetnar: Second John 1:10 says, “Not to let them into the house.” Now that might be good advice for some people who are not familiar with the Word and they’ll just go right in. Now what John was writing was to the Christian church, to the Elect Lady. And there were men and women inside the church who were coming up with doctrines that Jesus is not going to come in the flesh. Now he says, “Don’t associate with them, don’t even greet them, don’t let them into the house.” It doesn’t say your house: there are some translations that say “your house,” that’s interpreting. It’s the house and….
Ankerberg: Meaning the church.
Bill Cetnar: Yes. They’re forbidden to give false doctrines in the church. So it doesn’t matter whose house…
Ankerberg: In other words, we couldn’t witness to people.
Bill Cetnar: That’s right.
Audience: Joan, what is the main fascination for somebody that joins the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why do they join? What’s the main reason?
Joan Cetnar: They are given a really beautiful picture of a new world wherein dwelleth righteousness, where you can live forever. You’ll live with your children forever, and this looks good to the flesh. And they show you that this living forever, what you have to do in order [to get that], here it is: the truth that leads to eternal life. Who doesn’t want life? And if you don’t do this, you’re going to die at Armageddon. So it’s really a brainwashing tool. Any books on brainwashing will show you pull with the desiring thing, and you’ll push with “If you don’t do it, you’re going to die at Armageddon.” So, it’s pulling toward a desire we all have to live forever, but we’re not doing it the right way.
Ankerberg: Also, you know you wrote in your book about a couple of fellows that I’m thinking about, in terms of this thing of loving and caring. Because you went to the Watchtower Society believing that this was a group of people who actually loved, and you’d see the most love up there. But you saw just the opposite. I’m thinking of the fellow that worked there so many years and then he died on a park bench?
Bill Cetnar: I think you’re referring to Charlie DeWilda, yes. Charlie DeWilda, who wanted to get away from the army officials because he ran away from the army way back there. He was walking down through the streets of Brooklyn and he got a job for $20 a month at the Watchtower headquarters. They converted him into a Jehovah’s Witness and said “You have to go to the meetings if you want to work here.” So they gave him a job. He worked there for over 50 or 60 years, and then he wanted to marry. But you know the Watchtower in 1938 said that JW’s are not allowed to get married, and so he was forbidden marriage. It’s in an interesting article “Fill the Earth.” How are you going to fill the earth without getting married? But he was forbidden to get married by N. H. Knorr, who was the President. But in 1953 the President got married and he wanted to know why he got married and he (Charlie) wasn’t allowed to get married. He said, “If you want to you, you can leave.” So Charlie packs up his $14 and his briefcase and he walks out and soon runs out of money. I loaned him some money and the President notified me that I wasn’t supposed to give him any money. And I said, “Don’t tell me who to give money to.” And after we were married in ‘58 and left the Watchtower headquarters, and later we learned that he died on a park bench in Brooklyn.
Audience: If Jesus was God, how could He die on the cross?
Bill Cetnar: Jesus is Son of God and Son of man. He was a perfect man and perfect God. He was Immanuel, God with us. Jesus, the man, died on the cross. He was buried and His spirit was resurrected. He was made alive, the flesh died, and His spirit left his body. For three days He preached to the spirits in prison and released those that were in prison. And what was resurrected was that same body, the same one that Thomas touched. And He showed them the holes and He showed them that He could eat, that He wasn’t a ghost, He wasn’t a spirit. Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that what was resurrected was not the body but Jesus was changed into a spirit, Michael the archangel. Where Jesus said that He’s not a spirit, He could eat. Jesus’ body went to heaven. Man was raised in this body to heaven and He’s sitting at the right hand of God in heaven today. It’s a bodily resurrection. No Jehovah’s Witness believes that.
Audience: But I’ve heard Jehovah’s Witness say, quoting John 10 that “The disciples said to Jesus, If thou be God, why do you make us to doubt so long. If you are God, tell us plainly.” And why is it that Jesus did not come out plainly and tell people in fact that He was God, without any equivocation? And when He was asked, “Are you God?” He always said, “Well, you have said it.” He did not plainly declare openly that He was God.
Bill Cetnar: At the time that He was on earth He plainly did say that He was the Son of God. Are you the son of a man?
Audience: Yes, sir.
Bill Cetnar: Therefore, you are a man. If you were the Son of God, then you are God. And since He claimed to be the Son of God, He made Himself equal to God, and that’s what John said in John 5:18.
Ankerberg: Not only that, but Peter, His disciple, gave a testimony to that fact, that you are the Christ. [Matt. 16:16]
Bill Cetnar: He made himself equal to God because He called himself the Son of God.
Joan Cetnar: I don’t think you could get a much plainer declaration of who Jesus said He was as John 8:58-59. He said, “Before Abraham was, I Am,” and to show that the Jews understood that He was claiming to be Yahweh, they picked up stones to throw at Him. For what? For blasphemy.
Bill Cetnar: All the Jews in those days knew that when He said “I Am” that He was talking about being God.
Ankerberg: Because the “I Am” is the title that goes back to Exodus 3 where Moses was standing at the burning bush and he says, “Listen, God, you’re sending me over to Pharoah and over to Israel and they’re going to say, ‘Who sent you?’ What’s your name?” And the answer in Exodus 3:14 is “the I Am has sent me to you” and so on. And Jesus appropriated that title to Himself in John 8.
Audience: Why did Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to salute the flag or be inducted into the armed services of our country?
Bill Cetnar: Usually, Jehovah’s Witnesses and all humans have two reasons for doing something. One is a good one and the other is the real one. Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you not to salute the flag because it is an image. That’s false. Every tribe of the nation of Israel, the word is degel in Hebrew, every tribe in Israel had a flag. God told them to have flags. In fact, in Numbers He said for them to meet at their degel.
Now, what’s the real reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses told people in 1930 not to salute the flag? The president of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to isolate Jehovah’s Witnesses from your relatives, your friends, your neighbors, your community. They must do that. It’s essential that they do that in order to keep these people in a particular position of activity, working thoroughly for the Watchtower morning, night and noon. As soon as a person in your family becomes a Jehovah’s Witness, you will see him isolated from the family. You’ve lost a member of the family.
Now, one way to isolate them is to forbid them to salute the flag. That keeps you away from every occasion where a flag may be: a ball game; it might be at the union hall; it might be at your concert at the high school. It totally isolates you from social activity with your friends, and they need that, or have to have, that isolation. And that’s the same reason they forbid all other holidays, is so that if you forbid Christmas – and they used to celebrate Christmas, Judge Rutherford used to celebrate Christmas even at the Watchtower headquarters. He used to celebrate birthdays, but now he forbids that – that cuts you off from your grandma who wants to give you a piece of cake and a gift on your birthday. Job celebrated birthdays. In the first chapter of Job he had a birthday party for all of his sons. In fact, they had such a good birthday party they had to sacrifice to be sure that they didn’t offend God. So, the real reason is isolation, turning their people away from friends, neighbors and relatives.
Audience: What about induction into the armed services? Why do they refuse to be drafted?
Bill Cetnar: They tell you that you are a minister. Most of them don’t know what the Beatitudes are. But they are forbidden to join another army. Now, they won’t even let them be conscientious objectors. And the reason for that is that in order to become a minister you must put in a lot of time preaching. So they force them into going 100 to 150 hours a month from house to house. Now, you’ve got a choice: either go to jail or sell books. Most of these young men who are technically draft dodgers would rather sell books than go to prison. So they become Pioneers and then the Watchtower Society will protect you. They will not let you be a conscientious objector. They’d rather see you in jail first. So to make the decision clear, they say you become a minister and sell books 150 hours a month or go to jail.
Ankerberg: I have a question about where does the Holy Spirit come into the theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do they do with Him?
Bill Cetnar: The Holy Spirit is a radar beam. It’s an electrical current; God’s force or power. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is God. If you have lied to the Holy Spirit, you have lied to God. [Acts 5:3-4] When they said to Jesus, “You’ve got a demon,” Jesus said back, “If you said that to the Holy Spirit, you’d be dead.” [Matt. 12]
Ankerberg: Okay.
Audience: The question I have, I’m sure you know, Bill, that if you were to get into a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness about hell, they’re definition for “hell” would simply be, “the common grave for mankind.”
Bill Cetnar: That’s a lie.
Audience: Okay. What I’d like to know, they do use a Scripture here at Acts 2:31, and I’m going to use their Bible, the New World Translation, and it says here: “He foresaw and spoke concerning the resurrection of Christ that neither was he forsaken in Hades or neither did his flesh see corruption.” So they said that even Jesus went to hell. And that’s the thing I don’t understand. Can you answer that?
Bill Cetnar: Hades in Greek, and I’m sure our Greek professor would agree, is synonymous with Sheol in the Hebrew. This is the place of disembodied spirits. There is only one Sheol. All the disembodied spirits go to this place. The grave is the keber, that’s where the body goes. Jesus’ body did not see corruption even though it did go into the grave, and His Spirit went to Hades, and that’s where He preached for three days.
Ankerberg: Right along this area here, the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe that man has a spirit. They do not believe that Jesus when He came was both God and man. He was not incarnated, there was nothing that came from Heaven, it was just a perfect man.
Bill Cetnar: That’s a natural corollary to the statement or to the doctrine of demons that there is no hell. If you have no spirit, then you have nothing that can be punished. When Jesus says “Don’t fear him that can kill the body, but fear him that can kill both,” [Matt. 10:28] that’s two things: your body and your soul.
Joan Cetnar: Jesus said, “Father, into your hand I commend my spirit,” [Luke 23:46] and the same with Stephen, he gave his spirit to Jesus. He prayed to Jesus. [Acts 7:59-60]
Bill Cetnar: They translate spirit or pneuma as “breath….”
Joan Cetnar: Right. “Spirit.”
Bill Cetnar: So Stephen looked at Jesus and said “Here’s my bad breath, Jesus.” Which one?
Ankerberg: In Luke in their translation that I’m reading, they couldn’t translate it any other way but spirit. And it’s the same word in Matthew and in Luke.
Bill Cetnar: But they say it really means “breath.”
Audience: How did this doctrine of no literal burning hell come about?
Bill Cetnar: How? It started with Satan, because God said there is something to shun. If you want to be a Christian, you must seek heaven, shun hell. There’s going to be punishment, eternal punishment. It’s bad. And that’s what Christianity is about, warning people that there is eternal punishment if you don’t accept Jesus, the Word, the Seed that He is your God. Now, Satan says that there is no hell; doctrines of demons says there is no hell; there’s no punishment, you just go to sleep.
Ankerberg: Bill, I’d like for you to tell us, what is the good news? Jehovah’s Witnesses fight awfully hard for what sounds like bad news; maybe they would fight and search the Scriptures more if they knew what the Good News is. What is different that you have now that you didn’t have in the Jehovah’s Witnesses about Jesus?
Bill Cetnar: Mark 10 says something interesting. Two things they do not know: They do not know who Jesus is and they do not know what the Gospel is. And Jehovah’s Witnesses go from house to house saying that they are the only ones preaching the Gospel. They don’t know that the Gospel is written in 1 Corinthians 15 and the great good news is that Jesus died for all mankind. God gave His own blood for us, so that we could be saved from death and gain eternal life, and that we would have everlasting life when we have Jesus in us. He says, “If you honor the Son equal as you honor the Father, you are going to have everlasting life.” [John 5:23-24]
Ankerberg: Would you say a prayer for all the folks that are looking in that might be Jehovah’s Witnesses or even other folks that do not know Jesus as the I Am, as Yahweh. Lead them in a prayer that they could say just like you one day, as the man who answered the questions for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you said this prayer. And I’m going to ask all those folks looking in right now if they would like to, they can invite the I Am, the Lord Jesus, to come in and forgive them and empower them and to cast away the fear that they might be experiencing. Bill, please pray for us.
Bill Cetnar: Jesus, we bind together all Christians and we pray for those who have been deceived by the false prophets. Jesus, we want to thank you for warning us in Matthew 7:15 that there would be false prophets. Jesus, we are so happy that there are false prophets on earth because that makes you the true prophet. Jesus, we know that you are the only true God, and Jesus, you said that you were knocking at our door, you are knocking at the door of our heart, you are calling to us, and that we have the opportunity of accepting you, of asking you to come into us so that we could become spiritual men. Jesus, we just pray right now that you would come into our hearts and that you would create us, born anew, as spirit, alive in the spirit. Jesus, we believe that you are God. We believe that you died for us, and that you rose on the third day, which guaranteed salvation and smashed Satan’s head. Jesus, help us that we may be able to come to the sincere, precious people who have been lied to by false prophets, who have changed your Word, who have lied about You. Father, we pray that everyone who loves the truth may come to know you as the only true God. Amen.

About our Guests:

Bill Cetnar. For more than 25 years he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He worked in the Brooklyn headquarters of the Watchtower Society and used to answer all the questions for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in our country south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Joan Cetnar. Wife of Bill Cetnar. She too was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and has worked at the Watchtower Society.
Dr. Robert Countess. He is a military chaplain; has a Ph.D. in Greek; has a published work, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament.

Read Part 5


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