Remember Glen, the JW missionary who knocked on our door not realising we lived at a theological college and with whom we became quite friendly? I met two of his colleagues yesterday. Note that we’ve moved states in the meantime – these guys are active!
Last time, I noted a couple of impressive things about Glen’s approach: his emphasis on pastoral care and the way his vocational choices make room for his missionary work. At least the first one was true of these guys today as well. They were giving me a ‘personal invitation’ to their convention, which would help me to ‘better understand life’. There were two other things about their approach that stood out to me.
1. Strategic timing. It’s was Sunday morning, which means that most Christians are at church; clearly, the target group are non church-goers so it’s a smart time to door knock. And it’s a rest day, so people are home and perhaps have unstructured time. (That said, I was still in my PJs, and was trying to get a sponge cake in the oven, having just got my baby down to sleep, so it wasn’t that convenient for me!)
2. Playing down differences. I told them straight up that I was a Christian. ‘Oh good!’ the guy said, ‘You have a faith and we just want to talk to you about the Bible and about life.’ Every JW I’ve met has used this strategy as a way of trying to get me on-side, appearing like we believe in the same God. To clarify, I said to him, ‘Yes, well, unfortunately I believe in the Trinity.’ His counterpart turned to go at this point – he knew it was a serious doctrinal difference (and, I suspect he’d worked out that I knew more than the average punter about the difference between JW and orthodox Christian belief!) But the main guy was not deterred: ‘We can still have a conversation about life; leave the controversial stuff to the side!’ See what he did there? He took a major thing – who God is – and made it sound trivial.
I suspect for many Christians, even the really committed ones, the doctrine of the Trinity does seem kind of irrelevant. Most of us don’t understand it or are embarrassed by it. So when a JW caller says that it’s a mere controversy, we’re inclined to agree on some level.
So what’s the deal with the Trinity? Why is Jesus being God (not just like God as the JWs say) worth holding to? Why does it matter? Is it just an esoteric doctrine or does it make a practical difference to life? I’ll explore these questions over the next few posts.
How do you feel about the doctrine of the Trinity?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.