Preparing for the Discussion By Reading the Catechism.
Inevitably when dialoguing with the Jehovah's Witnesses the subject of the Trinity needs to be addressed. In most cases, Jehovah's Witnesses will want to discuss this subject early. Usually it begins with them addressing the question about the divinity of Christ. In addition, the Jehovah's Witnesses in most cases have little knowledge about what the Trinity doctrine actually teaches since the Watchtower Society oftentimes greatly misrepresents the doctrine. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses have published a booklet entitled Should You Believe in The Trinity? This booklet misquotes various scholars out of context and is filled with at the very least incompetent scholarship and at worst academic dishonesty.
So, in order to effectively dialogue with the Jehovah's Witnesses on the Trinity, we, as Catholics need to be well-educated on what the Church teaches about the nature of God. Fortunately, we have the Catechism of the Catholic Church to assist us in this. So before engaging in any discussion of the Trinity with a Jehovah's Witness, I would recommend reading paragraphs 232-267 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is the best explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity that I have ever read.
Secondly, I need to stress that the Watchtower accuses all Trinitarians of being modalists. Modalism is the belief of some that God is an actor. In other words, there are times that God will act in the mode of the Father and then at other times He will act in the mode of the Son, and other times He will act in the mode of the Spirit. So, God is one person who acts in different modes.
Trinitarians reject this understanding of God's nature as heretical. Make sure you stress to the Jehovah's Witness that the Catholic understanding is that the persons of the Blessed Trinity are separate or as the Athanasian creed states: "Now this is the Catholic faith: We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal"
The Jehovah's Witnesses View of God
For the Jehovah's Witnesses, Almighty God is God the Father whose name is Jehovah. The Jehovah's Witnesses go to great pains to emphasize this including using the name Jehovah in their translation of the New Testament (The New World Translation) over 200 times even though there is no textual support for this. In other words, the name Jehovah is not found in the original Greek text of any of the New Testament books.
Jesus for the Jehovah's Witnesses is the first creation of Jehovah. They teach that Jehovah created Jesus first and then Jehovah used Jesus to help him create the angels and the Universe including man. When Jesus came to earth, according to the Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus was merely a perfect and sinless human and not God. The pre-human Jesus is identified as Michael the Archangel for the Jehovah's Witnesses. Some Jehovah's Witnesses will say that Jesus is divine only in the sense that he has some of the attributes of God but not all of them. So they will say that Jesus is a mighty god but is not the Almighty God.
The Holy Spirit for the Jehovah's Witnesses is not even a person. For the Jehovah's Witness, the Holy Spirit is a force like electricity that Jehovah uses to accomplish his will.
Using the New World Translation
The Jehovah's Witnesses use their own translation called the New World Translation which has removed some but not all of the references to Jesus' Deity. When I was leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses I used this translation primarily and it was, ironically, the use of this translation that convinced me that the Trinity doctrine was true.
Step 1: Is Jesus Michael the Archangel?
The answer from the Jehovah's Witnesses own Bible has to be "No!". Note the following:
1 God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, 2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things. 3 He is the reflection of [his] glory and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power; and after he had made a purification for our sins he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in lofty places. 4 So he has become better than the angels, to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs. 5 For example, to which one of the angels did he ever say: “You are my son; I, today, I have become your father”? And again: “I myself shall become his father, and he himself will become my son”? 6 But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: “And let all God’s angels do obeisance to him.” Hebrews 1:1-6 New World Translation
Notice how their own Bible says that Jesus is more excellent than an angel. And, that no angel has been referred to as the son of God in the manner that Jesus has.
So, if Jesus is not an angel then what is he? Hebrews 1:3 in the New World Translation states that he is the "exact representation of his [God the Father's] very being." This means that Jesus is made out of the same "stuff" as God the Father. Paul backs this up in the following scripture as rendered in the New World Translation:
"8 Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry YOU off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; 9 because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily."-Colossians 2:8, 9
Note that St. Paul says that Jesus has in him "ALL of the fullness of the divine quality". I usually set up this scripture by asking my Jehovah's Witness friend if it would be true to say that someone who has all of the qualities of God could be said to be fully divine. I then ask if someone is considered to have all of the qualities of God would that not make that person God? Then, I read this scripture in their own Bible which clearly states that Jesus is completely divine and therefore, completely God.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
In general, most people would agree that a person is someone who has the characteristics of intellect and will. Since the Jehovah's Witnesses deny the Holy Spirit is a person, do we see any evidence in their Bible that the Holy Spirit is a person and displays these characteristics of intellect and will? The answer is "YES!"
"1 Now in Antioch there were prophets and teachers in the local congregation, Bar´na·bas as well as Sym´e·on who was called Ni´ger, and Lucius of Cy·re´ne, and Man´a·en who was educated with Herod the district ruler, and Saul. 2 As they were publicly ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: “Of all persons set Bar´na·bas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then they fasted and prayed and laid their hands upon them and let them go." -Acts 13: 1- 3 New World Translation
Here is one example where the Holy Spirit demonstrates the characteristics of intellect and will by choosing (something without intellect and will would have a difficult time choosing anything) to send Paul and Barnabas to a special job. Notice, the Holy Spirit even refers to himself with the personal pronoun "I". I often tell my Jehovah's Witnesses friends that if the Holy Spirit thinks himself to be a person as demonstrated by this verse then that is enough proof to me that He is a person and not some impersonal force.