The term god is not a name but rather a position or title (Exodus 6:7). The majority of time, the title is used to denote a false deity, but it describes anyone said to hold a position to issue judgment and to declare good from evil. It was to this place of power that Adam sought for himself (Genesis 3:5). In the legal realm, this position of judgment is inherent to being a king (Psalms 95:3). As such, God sometimes called judges and kings “gods” to denote their position of judgment (i.e. Psalm 82). These gods, however, were never to be worshipped or honored as deity. It would be blasphemous for such gods to say, “believe in me,” “die for me,” “confess me,” or “abide in me.” In fact, to allow others to reverence a judicial god as divine could invoke Jehovah’s wrath (i.e. Acts 12:22-23). Yet, the question can be asked, “What makes Jehovah uniquely qualified to be God of all gods and King of all kings” (Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:2)? In other words, what validates the God of gods’ testimony when it comes to declaring absolute morality?
Abraham Lincoln once wrote concerning the bible, “All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book … All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it”[i] Lincoln’s perception of the bible is not alone. In fact, many scholars have written books explaining why Hebrew scripture and the New Testament are the authoritative word of God. This author also writes under the conclusion that God inspired the Bible, and that Scripture describes values for morality and criminal justice. However, validating the bible to be God’s inspired word does not answer the question about the validity of God’s testimony.
Even when the bible is demonstrated to be a trustworthy record of God’s word, why is it then not enough to simply say, “God said it and that settles it?” The reason is that even though a court may establish that a person said something, it is a separate matter to establish that what was said is positively true. In addition, even if a Supreme Being has the might to force and hold everyone to what He says is right, power does not make his sense of righteousness an absolute moral value. Why? Because, if something is good or bad only because a Supreme Being said so, then right and wrong become arbitrary values. Why? Because the Supreme Being could have said something else and may say something different in the future. The Koran, for example does not represent Allah as having an unchangeable essence from which absolute morality springs, but rather that right and wrong are only such because of Allah’s decree. Scoffers and corrupt theologians also may espouse this view to argue against absolute right and wrong. For example, they may argue that God could have just as easily said, “Adultery is okay and fidelity is bad.” However, the bottom line is that even though a god or civil government may have the power to declare and enforce its morality upon lesser entities, such say-so does not equate to possessing consistent morality. How then do we know that what God proclaims as “right” is indeed an absolute value of righteousness and not an arbitrary whim? Additionally, if God’s statement of rightness is absolute, then how can it be validated? Both Socrates and Jesus touched upon these questions.
In 380 B.C., the Greek philosopher Plato wrote Euthyphro, depicting a conversation between his mentor, Socrates, and Euthyphro – a man preparing to prosecute his own father for the murder of a household servant. Socrates initiated an argument by asking, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” Socrates pointed out that if right actions are pious only because the gods love them (emotion), then moral rightness is entirely arbitrary. On the other hand, Socrates argued that if the gods love right actions only because they are already right, then there must be some external source of values that we can come to know independently of the love of the gods.
Euthyphro’s dilemma stems from the fact that he told Socrates that an action is pious or righteous if the gods love it. Socrates systematically refuted Euthyphro’s suggestion by first pointing out that since questions of right and wrong often generate disputes, the gods are likely to disagree among themselves about moral matters. Thus, Socrates reasoned that arbitrary moral standards are assigned by the gods through compromise or coercion. Socrates correctly identified a weakness inherent in polytheistic religions. Whether the philosophy is Shinto, Wicca, Hinduism, Mormonism, or secular humanism, such world views have no solid ground from which to dictate standards of morality. Why? Because if their gods dictate standards of morality, their plethora of gods prevents their religion from justly claiming absolute moral values. Likewise, in the case of secular humanism, values based upon a pluralistic society cannot be justified as morally binding.
Since Socrates’ arguments with Euthyphro center on the distinction between accidental properties versus essential qualities, Socrates’ ultimate question should have been, “Is holiness, righteousness, and piety an accidental property that can change or is it an essential quality that can be defined?” Accidental properties are not necessary or required for a thing to exist. For example, orange may be the accidental property of a flame, but the flame is still a flame even when the color changes from orange to blue. On the other hand, essential qualities are indispensable aspects to whatever they comprise. You cannot remove an essential quality without changing the thing that it constitutes. For example, heat is an essential quality of fire; thus, you cannot have fire, without having heat. As such, a flame will continue to possess the essential quality of heat whether the flame is orange or blue.
For any moral system to lay claim to standards of absolute right and wrong, it cannot be based upon accidental properties. For example, self-made and self-applied measurements cannot justifiably be applied across the world as moral standards, regardless of their source, because they are accidental properties, not essential qualities. Such self-righteous standards lose significance because they are not immutable and have not always existed (self-morality cannot legitimately dictate the behavior of other people, but absolute moral values would be binding upon humanity even if you had never existed). When atheists speak of right and wrong, for example, they are being self-righteous and their perspective is accidental, not essential. As such, atheists have no foundation from which to justly advocate any universal form of morality
One view raised by Socrates is that there is an absolute standard of goodness and righteousness outside of God. Proponents of this view can be found among well meaning Christians. Some misinterpret Psalm 138:2, “… for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name,” stating that God’s absolute truth is above Him. In this viewpoint, definitions about absolute morality are the ultimate authority, not God Himself. In other words, the Scripture or prophecy becomes the ultimate authority, not the God that existed prior to the prophecy or statement. This view ultimately leads to the conclusion that God’s holiness and righteousness is justified upon God not violating any statement in the bible or fulfilling everything He proclaimed. Under this view the Heavenly Father’s character could not be established prior to a moral standard existing outside of Him. Then, after the standard existed, God’s character would forever be in a state of probation as He keeps Himself from violating any Scripture. In effect, this view makes God a servant to His own word. Why? Because this view of God makes absolute standards separate and external in relation to God Himself. For example, Israelites sometimes took little heed regarding their misbehavior because they took it for granted that God would bless them as He had said He would. However, they failed to take into consideration that God is not necessarily bound by what he said he would do because He is alive: He is able change his intended path to react negatively to sin. The absolute standard of rightness does not exist outside God to bind him to a certain path.
In contrast to the previous views, the biblical view of righteousness describes absolute morality as an essential quality emanating from the very essence of God. In other words, absolute morality flows from the God’s inner character. Because God’s essence is an essential quality, God would not be God if His unchanging righteous character did not exist. A description of God’s unchanging righteousness can be found in the Bible, and the Bible’s description of right and wrong is based upon God’s immutable character. However, even this biblical view presents potential problems that must be addressed. For example, it does not explain how the Heavenly Father can know for certain that He is indeed of a righteous and good character.
If the Bible is inspired by God and contains reliable written descriptions of piety, holiness, and righteousness, and if His very nature is unchanging, then one of the following must be true:
· Scenario 1: The Heavenly Father is inconsistent regarding the bible’s description of morality. Thus, He is not good, because He does not always live up to the biblical value that He previously said was right. Scripture, however, rules out this possibility. It states that there is no inconsistency in God’s character or nature: i.e. James 1:17 informs us that there is no variableness or shadow of turning in the Heavenly Father’s nature. Speaking of the nature and character of Jesus, Hebrews 13:7 informs us that Jesus’ essential qualities of character are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, according to scripture this scenario cannot be true.
· Scenario 2: The Heavenly Father consistently violates the bible’s description of morality. Thus, in this scenario, God is a hypocrite who says one thing but always does the opposite. This scenario can also be ruled out by what is described in the bible concerning God.
· Scenario 3: The Heavenly Father consistently fulfills what the bible describes as righteous behavior. Thus, in this scenario, the Heavenly Father exemplifies what He has moved men to write down in the bible as being good and right behavior. The biblical record authenticates this scenario as being a true representation of God’s character. Thus, if God was tempted by Satan to do evil, the opportunity to choose evil would be real since His choice is not guided by a pre-scripted future, but He would always choose righteousness because his nature would have it no other way. In one sense, God has a choice because His responses are not preprogrammed, but in another sense, God has no choice because He cannot fail to be true to Himself. God is not merely committed to righteousness - He is righteousness. As such, Satan’s effort to tempt God would only serve to validate God’s righteous character. Likewise, Satan’s ploy to tempt Christ helped validate the moral character of Jesus as being righteous.
Even though the Heavenly Father’s actions are consistent with His recorded Scripture (scenario 3), the question can still be asked, “How does the Heavenly Father know that He is good if He is measuring Himself by Himself?” Even Jesus said of himself, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true” (John 5:31). In fact, this principle of needing supporting testimony runs like a thread through Scripture, and it was at the heart of one argument that the Pharisees hurled at Jesus: “The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true” (John 8:13).
Simply put, the validity and veracity of testimony is not established by a solitary witness, but always upon the testimony of at least two or three witnesses (Witnesses includes forensic evidence; i.e. Deuteronomy 17:6-7; 19:15). For example, when Jehovah went to witness for Himself the wickedness of Sodom, he was accompanied by two witnesses who could render testimony of the acts they saw (Genesis 17). The Apostle Paul understood this concept of needing witnesses and used it against self-made standards of morality. Paul stated, “They measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). In addition, Paul emphasized that two or three witnesses are required to establish a matter, especially regarding questionable morality. Such stipulation was not newly made by Paul for Christians. It had already been a part of judicial proceedings, valid for everyone, not just for an elder or pastor:
· “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (2 Corinthians 13:1b)
· “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” (2 Timothy 5:19)
· “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)
Jesus echoed the understanding that two or three witnesses are required to validate an accusation or testimony to establish a fact. Regarding judicial proceedings within church discipline, Jesus stated, “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matthew 18:16). Jesus also stated that He would send two witnesses to corroborate His testimony against Israel during the time of their tribulation and purification:
· “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:3)
A unitarian god cannot establish that it is indeed good and righteous. Unitarians, including Jehovah Witnesses and Muslims, have gods whose testimony of behavior in eternity past cannot withstand a courtroom examination. Put on trial, they cannot establish absolute morality. If accused of being a hypocrite or a fraud, they cannot refute such allegations. Why? Because their gods do not have any corroborating witnesses. Created beings cannot render eyewitness testimony regarding what took place before they were created. As such, when religions portray Christ as being a created angelic being or reduce the Holy Spirit to a mere force, they rob them of the ability to validate behavior that took place in eternity past. This means that Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, and other unitarian religions cannot set absolute morality nor validate righteousness because their heavenly father has no character references prior to creating things. Why cannot Allah or the god of Jehovah Witnesses establish absolute morality? Because their concept of a supreme being falls victim to problems of establishing absolute morality and validating absolute goodness upon one’s sole testimony – a problem that Jesus answered by pointing to the required testimony of two or three witnesses to establish the matter.
Lacking a firm moral foundation also means that unitarian gods cannot demand your death for any moral transgression. In other words, their god has no moral authority to condemn anyone to death (which means they cannot delegate such authority). Why not? If a person can be put to death only upon the testimony of two or three witnesses, a standard of godly judgment, then a unitarian god falls short on witnesses required to establish that you violated an absolute moral standard. The best that unitarian religions can offer is the old cliché’ that might is right. Even the appeal that a creator has a right to do with his created beings as he wishes, is a plea to system of a morality that unitarians cannot validate (If a moral standard cannot be validated, they cannot justify any action). As a consequence of building morality upon a god of force and might, a unitarian system of morality is arbitrarily based and thus ultimately immoral (Because you can do the right thing for the wrong reason, any sense of morality within such religions is an illusion much like tares that give the appearance of being wheat).
With the requirement for two or more witnesses to establish a matter, how then does the Heavenly Father know that He is good? How does Jehovah of the bible establish His character as never changing and morally pure? The Heavenly Father is able to soundly establish that He is indeed righteous - and do so without self-contradiction, by introducing the Trinitarian view of God. In philosophical terms, God exists as one “what” and three “who,” or one God manifest as three distinct personalities. A statement contradicts itself when it says something exists and does not exist at the same time and in the same manner. However, the Trinity is one God existing in three different manners at the same time: one what, three who. Therefore, there is no contradiction within the concept of a triune or Trinitarian God. Each personality (who) of the Godhead simultaneously possesses the essential qualities required of eternal deity (what). Having the same everlasting essence yet being separate persons allows each to render testimony regarding the other members of the Godhead. Therefore, if a core aspect of being God is the ability to authenticate absolute morality, then the lowest threshold in which God can possibly exist is when two eternal witnesses validate the word and actions of a third eternal being, all sharing the same unchangeable moral essence: this is how the Heavenly Father can establish that He is righteous. This is also why the title, “God,” can be given to each person of the Trinity – they have established each other as possessing an eternal absolute moral character that is identically among them.
Again, how does the Trinity validate the testimony of God? The Heavenly Father’s testimony concerning His behavior in eternity past cannot be validated except by having witnesses to His behavior. Otherwise, how could it be established that the Father’s moral character has not changed over the course of eternity? Only the Son and the Spirit can testify of the Father’s conduct throughout eternity past since they were not created. Second, absolute moral values must originate from the eternal character and essence of the Godhead, they cannot be accidental properties or arbitrary values. Third, if God the Son and God the Holy Spirit can both testify that the Heavenly Father’s moral values have always been righteous, just, unchanged throughout eternity past, and such is His essential nature, those values can then be validated as an absolute standard. Forth, the Son and Spirit can then testify that the Father has forever consistently behaved according to His stated moral values and has never been a hypocrite. Fifth, only the Spirit and the Father are able to bear witness of the Son’s character throughout eternity past. When Jesus became sin for us upon the cross to suffer our shame, God the Father and God the Holy Ghost bore witness that Christ was obedient to the Father unto death. In contrast to the Trinitarian God whose testimony of right and wrong is backed up by co-eternal witnesses, there will someday come a god whose standard of right and wrong will be based upon his own say-so whose testimony is backed only by his forces of might and testimony of created beings. He is known as the Anti-Christ.
When religious leaders accused Christ of blasphemy for making himself to be God, Jesus shrewdly pointed to Moses and the elders being called under the title of gods (Exodus 4:16, 7:1, 22:28) and pointed out that they were called such for having received the word of God. How much more valid could such be said of the Word of God itself become flesh and sent into the world? To substantiate his claim of being sent from the Father, Jesus immediately pointed to his deeds as a witness testifying that the Father was in Him and He in the Father (John 10:30-38 cf.1:1-14). In His other arguments, Christ borrowed principles from criminal justice procedure to establish His righteous identity. As if in a court case presenting his opening statement, Jesus pointed to witnesses that can testify on his behalf. Jesus taught that his miraculous works bear witness to the legitimacy of his ministry, that the Scriptures confirm His ministry, that Moses wrote about him, and that the Heavenly Father authenticated his ministry. Such things and more are offered throughout the Scriptures for the judicious mind to consider:
· “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth … But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me …. Search the scriptures … they are they which testify of me … For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:31-47)
· “Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true …. my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me …. I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.” (John 8:14-26)
· “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26)
· “Though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.” (John 10:38)
Jesus rendered testimony of the Father, and of the Spirit. Likewise, the Father testified of the Son, and such testimony is recorded throughout Scripture. Perhaps one of the best known and direct examples of this is Matthew 17:5, “While [Jesus] yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” In short, the testimony of the Father – Son relationship is summed up in Philippians:
· “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
Jesus occasionally drew attention to his divine character. For example, when someone called him good, an absolute standard, Jesus shrewdly asked, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18). With such, Jesus contradicted a self-righteous person for carelessly calling someone else good. However, Jesus did not deny His own absolute goodness, but rather drew attention to why he is the good Sheppard. In Matthew 22:41-46, Jesus challenged the understanding of the Pharisees by asking, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” They responded, “The Son of David.” Jesus then said unto them, “How then doth David in Spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?” The Pharisees did not want to reply, so they decided not to ask Jesus any more questions. Jesus also made demands and declarations that would have been blasphemous had any angel, judicial god, or other Jewish leader said all of them: “believe in me,” “come unto me,” “follow me,” “obey me,” “die for me,” “confess me,” “abide in me,” “my grace is sufficient,” “I am the true vine,” “I am the good Shepard,” “I will build my church,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” “heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,” and “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me?” Most Christians know the quote, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” but they don’t know what came right before it. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). In other words, if you do not worship Him by abiding in his word, you do not know the truth. Incidentally, Jesus said such things after he became flesh and humbled himself! No wonder Jesus was eventually charged with blasphemy and crucified at the urging of his enemies.
Though the concept of a Trinitarian God is embedded in Old Testament passages, the clarity and demonstration of the concept was not as pointed and clear as in New Testament Scripture. One reason for this is that the character and credibility of Jesus had to be emphasized to firmly establish that he was absolutely good and righteous and thus the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Another reason is that with the Son living among men, the concept of a Triune God could finally be displayed in action and Jesus could testify directly before men.
In summary, Jehovah does have his witnesses, but they are the other two members of the Godhead – the only possible witnesses of his righteous character throughout eternity past. Because judicial principles require multiple witnesses to establish a matter, a Triune God is able to establish that the Heavenly Father is indeed good and righteous. As such, God’s unique position as Creator and Supreme Being are not the only reasons that His morality is the only morals worth universal acceptance. God’s morality has alone existed in an unaltered state throughout eternity. God’s morality alone claims three eternal witnesses. God’s morality alone would still exist and be validated by witnesses if no thing had been created. It is into God’s moral system that all created beings subsist. More pointed is the fact that we are all born under God’s absolute moral system and held accountable for violating its eternal character.
[i] Lincoln, Abraham, Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore, Sept. 7, 1864, in CWAL, vol. 7, p.542