Dr. John Ankerberg: Every one of these groups that we’ve talked about disagrees on one specific thing, among others, and that is the Trinity.
Dr. Walter Martin: Yes.
Dr. John Ankerberg: They do not want to hold to the concept of the Trinity. Let me start off with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and read from the Watchtower Society’s own booklet. They say, “Such doctrine is not of God.” They say that it is of Satan. “Satan is the originator of the Trinity doctrine. Sincere persons who want to know the true God and serve Him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish looking three-headed god.” Now, others would say the same thing. Let’s talk about, how would you handle these folks? What is the proof scripturally that there is a Triune God?
Dr. Walter Martin: When you’re talking to a Jehovah’s Witness, or for that matter a cultist, about the Trinity, the simplest thing to do is to say, “Look, the nature of God is beyond our understanding. Everybody knows that.” I’ve said it many times. It’s true. “If you could understand how God was God, you’d be God.” He doesn’t ask us to do that. He simply says, “This is my Word and in there I have revealed myself.” So in the Word of God you have the Father declared to be God in 2 Peter 1:17, God the Father. You have the Son declared to be God in John 1:1. You have the Holy Spirit declared to be God, Acts 5:3-4. Then the Bible says, “And these three persons are the One God.” Why? Because there’s only one God. [Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29] So you don’t have to be a great logician to figure out that if the Father is called God, the Son is called God, the Spirit is called God, and there’s only one God, then the Father, the Son and the Spirit are the One God whether you understand it or not. That’s where they break down. They will not take the leap of faith that if God says it, that’s sufficient.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Okay, and specifically, let’s take an example of the Mormons here. I’m quoting from Journal of Discourses: “In the beginning the head of the gods [plural] called a counsel of the gods and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world.” Or, “God Himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man.” Or, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s, the Son also, but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones but is a personage of spirit.” Or, “God exists and we had better strive to be prepared to be one with them.” Tell me what’s going on here.
Dr. Walter Martin: Joseph Smith is a supreme interpreter of Mormonism, obviously, historically. Joseph Smith said he would always preach on the plurality of gods, and then he said, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three gods.” Now that’s the difference between Mormonism and Christianity. Mormonism is tri-theistic. It believes in three separate gods. The Bible says there is only one God who manifests Himself to us as three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is a complete difference. And Mormonism adds to that the doctrine that you can become a god. So in Mormon theology there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which are three gods; then you become one, that’s four; Brigham is one, that’s five. And keep adding and by the time you get finished, you’ve got 5.2 million Mormons, so you can probably figure on at least a million or so gods coming out of that.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Alright, let’s jump to Mary Baker Eddy. This is what she says. “The theory of three persons in one God, that is a personal trinity or tri-unity, suggests heathen gods rather than the one ever-present I AM,” from Science and Health, page 152.
Dr. Walter Martin: Yes, Mrs. Eddy took the Hindu trinity and other pagan ideas and said, “Well, it’s all the same thing. The Christian Trinity is the same thing. Therefore, it suggests pagan gods.” Again, it’s the ignorance of Mrs. Eddy because she was not a scholar in comparative religions and she didn’t understand historic Christian theology. Christian theology never said that there was more than one God. It always affirmed that there was one God and simply said, “He manifests Himself as these three persons.” Now, God never anywhere explained to us how He did it. All He said was, “This is how it is.” Mrs. Eddy refused that.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Give me a verse that backs that up.
Dr. Walter Martin: Well, if you check the three verses that I gave you before, 2 Peter 1; John 1; add Acts 5, you have the Father, the Son and the Spirit all affirmed as God. Then you go to Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Dr. John Ankerberg: Or Matthew 28:19.
Dr. Walter Martin: The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are clearly taught there.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Unification Church: kind of complicated. First of all, they say, “God cannot exist without him, as man cannot exist without God.” What are they talking about here?
Dr. Walter Martin: Well, that’s a good question. I don’t think Mr. Moon knows what he’s talking about most of the time theologically.
Dr. John Ankerberg: But he calls God “parents,” doesn’t he?
Dr. Walter Martin: Yes, the God-family idea. But you have to understand something about Mr. Moon. He came out of a Presbyterian background, had an allegedly Pentecostal experience, and then a personal interview with Jesus Christ, who explained these things to him and then subsequently he talked to Muhammad and Buddha also. His theology reflects all of these backgrounds. So with Mr. Moon you are not dealing with Christian theology at all.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Okay. Garner Ted and his father, Herbert W. Armstrong, say that there’s only two, not three Gods. Dr. Walter Martin: Yes. The Father is God and Jesus is God. But Garner Ted and his father very carefully omit a discussion of their literature. They say it on television. For instance, Garner Ted will look at you on television and he’ll say, “Jesus Christ is God, now you understand that. That’s what the Bible says.” Well, then you write to the Worldwide Church of God and you say, “Send me some information on Jesus Christ.” You get pamphlets. The pamphlets say, “Jesus is God and you can become God, too, just like Jesus;” well, now there’s three; and keep on adding.
Editor’s note: In 1983 we asked Dr. Walter Martin, author of The Kingdom of the Cults, to comment on what various groups believe about The Bible, God, Jesus, Salvation, and a number of other topics. This article is excerpted from that interview. Some groups mentioned may have changed names, disbanded, or modified their beliefs since this interview took place.