trary to human reason, plus Russell’s “Scripture Studies,” which “are not merely comments on the Bible, but…are practically the Bible itself…” To read the Bible without these “Studies” is to “go into darkness.” But to read these “Scripture Studies” and yet “not read a page of the Bible” is to “be in the light . . . have the light of Scripture” (Watch Tower, Sept. 15, 1910). To limit oneself to the standard of Scripture (Is. 8:20) means to cast oneself into outer darkness, but to accept Russell’s ramblings and never read a page of the Bible means to be in the light! But the most fundamental error of Russellism lies not in the field of eschatology, nor in the introduction to theology, but in theology proper, and there at its most essential point, namely, the doctrine of the trinity. Russellism ridicules the idea of the trinity.
Russellism prefers the defeated heresies of Arianism and Socinianism to the time-tested Athanasian and Nicene creeds, which, though of centuries’ standing are not old. The truth is never old. The lie comes with the boast of antiquity, but garbed with a halo and the latest styles. Russellism is a modern dress of old Arianism. However, Russellism is not, as one might suppose, consistently Unitarian. It seems to prefer a duality, rather than a trinity. For the “pastor” in hisMillennial Dawn states, “We learn that Jehovah, who alone possessed immortality originally, has highly exalted His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to the same divine, immortal nature; hence he is now the express image of the Father’s person (Heb. 1:3). So we read, ‘As the Father hath life in himself’ (God’s definition of ‘immortality’—life in himself—not drawn from other sources, nor dependent on circumstances, but independent, inherent life); ‘so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself’ (John 5:26)” (Vol. I, 211). If this immortal life is independent and inherent in and alone possessed by the Father, how could it be communicated to the Son? If the Son, a mere creature by Russellite standards, was exalted to the Godhead, God’s “same divine, immortal nature,” how could the Son then be independent of the Godhead? And if the Son is lifted to the nature divine, having the same inherent immortality which God alone has, then there are two separate Gods! They are independent of each other, each has inherent life “not drawn from other sources” and not “dependent on circumstances,” yet as Russellites have it, the one God created the other God! They have no trinity, but they have a kind of duality, as one absolute independent plus one absolute independent equal two absolute independents. With this their “rationalism” goes down the drain.
Russellites cannot properly be said to ridicule the trinity, for God is not mocked; nor the doctrine of the trinity, for they are practically ignorant of the same. What they ridicule is the idea of a trinity. In their tract “The Trinity—Divine Mystery or Pagan Myth?” we find the question, “How can there be three Gods and yet but one God?” To whom do they direct this question? To trinitarians? Then they may expect no answer. For the Trinitarians never thought there were three Gods and yet only one God. The truth is, they stand out in the cold and direct their question to a straw man. The tract goes on, “How can there be three Omnipotents?” How, indeed! But Trinitarians never thought there could be three omnipotents, nor does Trinitarian doctrine necessarily imply the absurdity. But apparently “Pastor” Russell thought there could be two absolute independents.
It is perfectly true that “the term ‘trinity’ is not found in the Bible,” but neither are such terms as “independent” or “inherent.” Yet the term trinity rather well defines the biblical doctrine of God. The statement that “the trinity . . . was a part of the popular pagan philosophy of Plato” does not come documented with reference, so that we have no way of checking into what sort of trinity Plato may have been dabbling. Certainly the idea of the ontological trinity never came from Plato, nor from any other of the heathen philosophers. But speaking of what is not found in the Bible, consider the whole of Russellism; or merely consider Russellism’s strange doctrine of Christ’s second coming. This is the queer idea that Christ returned in 1874. “The harvest of this age began with the presence of the Lord at the beginning of earth’s great Jubilee in 1874 . . . and ends with the overthrow of Gentile Power in A.D. 1914 . . .” (Millenn. Dawn, Vol. I, 156). Is this claim supported by Scripture? Russell not only doubts it but denies it. “The reader . . . must not expect to have passages of Scripture pointed out in which these matters and dates are plainly written. On the contrary, he must bear in mind that all these things have been hidden by the Lord in such a manner that they could not have been understood or appreciated, until the due time had come, and then only by his earnest, faithful children, who esteem truth more precious than rubies” (ibid., Vol. II, 171). By the words “until the due time had come” is meant, until Millennial Dawn had beenwritten. God was pleased to reveal the date of Christ’s return, not in the Bible, but in these ramblings of Russell! To find intellectual satisfaction in this amazing stretch of imagination the reader need only take Russell’s word for it.
The Watch Tower tract goes on to say, “According to the historian Hislop: ‘The recognition of the trinity was universal in all the ancient nations of the world.'” No documentary reference is provided at this point, either. But Hislop, certainly, would appreciate being honestly quoted. This is what he really said: “While overlaid with idolatry, the recognition of a trinity was universal in all the ancient nations of the world, proving how deep-rooted in the humanrace was the primeval doctrine on this subject, which comes out so distinctly in Genesis” (The Two Babylons, 18, emph. added). What Hislop, himself a Trinitarian, really taught was that the Bible doctrine of the trinity was mimicked by the heathen religions of the world, and that “all such representations of the Trinity necessarily and utterly debase the conceptions. . .in regard to that sublime mystery of our faith” (ibid., 17). The idea of God’s unity (which Russellites think they know so much about) is also found (perverted) in heathenism, but Hislop says of this, “So utterly idolatrous was the Babylonian recognition of the Divine unity, that Jehovah, the living God, severely condemned His own people for giving any countenance to it . . . (Is. 66:17)” (ibid., 16). The doctrine of the trinity was not borrowed from the heathen religions, but the heathen religions have their own perversions, a tri-theism, or one form or other of the errors of Christendom, that of a modal trinity or a “dispensational trinity.” This is all far afield from the biblical, essential trinity.
Russellites like to inform us that I John 5:7, one of the “trinity texts,” has been rejected as spurious by all modern Bible authorities.” This is not all that modern Bible authorities reject. What haven’t they rejected? Admitted, too, is the fact that this text is not found in some of the authoritative manuscripts. But the reader is referred to John Gill’s commentary at this point, where he will find that there are other in fact, all kindsof trustworthy and authoritative support for receiving this text, which we do, unhesitatingly and wholeheartedly; although we do not need to appeal to it in proving the Trinitarian position. Nor have Trinitarians ever tried to prove the trinity from John 1:1. It may contribute something to the argument, but what it proves is the essential deity of Jesus Christ the Son of God. How puerile, then, to charge, what Trinitarians never claimed, that this text would not prove a trinity. At best, says Russellism, it proves a duality. But we have no dualism within our doctrine of God. Russellism itself has the duality, for it translates, “the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” (preferring the New World Translation). The Father, a God, and the Word, a god, supplies Russellism’s two gods. This religion, like Modernism, regards the doctrine of the trinity as “arithmetical absurdity.” We are charged with that absurdity since, they say, we add: 1 plus 1 plus 1 and get 1. No, we add that sum, and as everyone else does, come up with 3, which illustrates our point that there are three Persons in the Godhead. But who says we are to add (1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 3)? Why not multiply, thus: 1 x 1 x 1 equals 1.
This article is not intended to examine Russellism in any comprehensive way, but to refute it along the lines of its most fundamental error. Space, then, permits only one argument in favor of the doctrine of the trinity. “Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called: I am he; I am the first, I am also the last” (Is. 48:12). Who is the speaker here? Who is this first and the last? Is he not the Almighty God who says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8)? Isn’t he God, the one who is the first and the last? Furthermore, does not the Son of God claim to be the first and the last? Russellites, please answer. Did not the Son say, “I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17) and claim “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Rev. 22:13)? Then isn’t the speaker in Is. 48 the Son of God? Now glance down at verse 16, where we read, “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this . . . from the time that it was, there am I . . .” Who utters these words? Who is it here claiming to be “from the beginning”? Who else but the same speaker, not another, but the one who spoke all the words from verse 12 onward, the one who is the first and the last? Notice what follows: “and now the Lord God and his Spirit hath sent me.” To whom does this “me” refer? Certainly none other than the same speaker throughout, the first and the last. Well, now, he states, “the Lord God,” (certainly you recognize Adonai Jehovah!) “and his Spirit,” another Person (God, at that! Acts 5:3f), “hath sent me,” Me, the First and the Last! Mark this, it was Jehovah, the first Person of the trinity, together with the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the trinity, who sent the Son, the second Person of the trinity, into the world to be born of the Virgin “from the womb: from the bowels of My mother” (Is. 49:1). This is solid proof that the God of the Bible is the triune God. Until Russellism disproves this doctrine, it cannot demand our attention to other of its many shocking incongruities.