Does the doctrine of the Trinity make God the author of confusion?

by Luke Wayne

In their publication "Should You Believe the Trinity?" the Jehovah's Witnesses begin by basically arguing that the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be true because it's hard to understand. They select a number of quotes where individuals have described the doctrine of the Trinity as "a mystery" or "beyond the comprehension of finite man," and argue from these that the Bible forbids us to view God this way. They assert:

"Divine revelation itself does not allow for such a view of God: 'God is not a God of confusion.' - 1 Corinthians 14:33, Revised Standard Version," (Should You Believe the Trinity?, 1984, pg 5).

First of all, it is interesting that they choose to cite from the RSV here rather than their own New World Translation. Their own Bible says:

"For God is a God not of disorder but of peace," (1 Corinthians 14:33 NWT).

Their Bible says "disorder" rather than "confusion," which negates their entire argument. The fact that their own translation reads this way demonstrates that they know full well the actual intent of this text. It is about orderly conduct in the church, not about God being such a small and simple being that human minds can fully comprehend His nature. In fuller context, the passage reads:

"If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church," (1 Corinthians 14:27-35).

Clearly, this passage has nothing to do with the doctrine of the Trinity. It is about how God's people ought to conduct themselves when gathered together. God does not desire haphazard confusion in the worship of His people. That is the point Paul is making in this verse. The way that the Jehovah's Witnesses themselves translate the verse is proof that they know this and yet chose to pull the words completely out of context from another translation just to manufacture this argument anyway. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that this is willful deception. Still, the point is worth examining a little further. Does the Bible really present Almighty God as a simplistic being that finite men can fully comprehend? No, it does not. Quite the contrary:

"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised," (1 Corinthians 2:14)

To know the things of God requires the work of the Spirit of God. They make no sense to the natural man. We cannot understand them. In fact, even God's day to day governing of His creation is unfathomable to us:

"God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend," (Job 37:5).

And what are these "great things" that we cannot comprehend? When you read the rest of the passage, it is things like snowfall, rain, storms, and other weather patterns which:

"Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen," (Job 37:13).

The Bible recognizes just how limited man's comprehension really is. Even mundane things, rightly considered, are too marvelous for us:

"There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the sky, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the middle of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid," (Proverbs 30:18-19).

Jehovah's Witnesses complain that we say we cannot comprehend God when the Bible says we cannot even comprehend a ship navigating the sea or a snake sliding across a rock! The truth is that there are plenty of things far too extraordinary for us to fathom, even though we believe in them. I know what it means that the nearest star I see in the night sky is 25 trillion miles away, but I cannot actually comprehend that distance. Space so vast is beyond my ability to truly grasp. The same is true of the unimaginably tiny size of a single atom, or of the immense power in its nucleus. I understand that these things are true, but such smallness is beyond my mind's limits, and such vast energy in one invisible point is more than I can conceive. Indeed, the scriptures tell me that I do not even comprehend my own heart (Jeremiah 17:9)! These things are all beyond the limited mind of finite man, even though we can meaningfully discuss them, study them, and affirm their truth.

Likewise, God's nature is incomprehensible. We cannot fathom it. We can understand and accept the truth of what God says about Himself in His Word, but that doesn't mean we comprehend those truths. The Trinity is a meaningful and, in a sense, easily understood truth about God. One can explain it in such a way that even a child can understand what you mean. I myself understood as a child what my Christian family meant by "the Trinity." Yet, God's triune nature is marvelous and beyond our comprehension. Like God's eternity or His omnipotence, I can understand what is meant by the words, but I cannot truly fathom it. I cannot picture it or get my mind around it because I am so finite and limited, and so is all of creation that I see and experience around me. If I cannot truly comprehend common weather, floating boats, or the human heart, how much less can I expect to comprehend the nature of the eternal and infinite God! Indeed, if you have defined God down to such limits that you can fully fathom Him, you are no longer talking about the biblical God. Your god is something even more finite than you are.

I know that God is a Trinity the same way I know that He is eternal, immortal, omnipotent, and good. God has revealed all of these things about Himself in the Bible. I attain such knowledge by faith and take God at His word. Outside of the testimony of the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit in those who belong to Christ, none of us could truly know these things at all. And so I echo with Paul:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God," (Ephesians 3:14-19).