Saturday, 16 September 2017

What Does the Bible Really Teach about the Trinity?

This article is intended to mimic the style of the Jehovah's Witness book 'What Does the Bible really teach?' in order to potentially reason through specific ideas about the Trinity.

You might like to print this page so you can read through it together with them, discuss it, and see whether you can come to any agreements on what has been taught. You can even use their own New World Translation of the Bible to reference the Scripture.

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What is the Trinity?

The trinity, better referred to as the tri-unity, is a core doctrine of most denominations of Christianity. The most basic and common description is roughly as follows: The Father, The Word, and The Holy Spirit are three eternal persons, but one being in one essence.
This description can understandably be quite difficult to comprehend, as there is nothing in the world that can be accurately compared to it. Usually when we see three people, we immediately recognise three entirely separate beings. But God is not human, or animal, or even biological, so the same assumption need not apply to him.

Q. How can we most simply describe the doctrine of the trinity?

The way we have come to know of this doctrine is through the teaching of the Bible. Throughout the New Testament in particular, three truths become readily apparent. They are as follows:
  1. There is only one God.
  2. Three persons are described as God.
  3. The three persons are distinct from each other.
These three statements describe the tri-unity.  We shall soon look into how the Bible presents this information to us, but first it may help to clarify some of the common misunderstandings of what the doctrine is.
The doctrine of the tri-unity is the combination of the three statements above. If a belief is not all three of these together, then it is not the tri-unity, and is considered a false teaching.
Say, if we were to remove the third statement, we would be left with "1) There is only one God" and "2) Three persons are described as God". These two statements when taken alone do not represent the tri-unity. These two alone would describe something called Modalism, where for example God at some point in time ceases to be the Father, and becomes the Word, and then changes back at will. This can be compared to a human male who while at home is in the role of the father to his family, but at work is in the role of doctor. The simple reason to reject this doctrine of Modalism, is that we often read about interactions between the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16, John 14:26, Acts 10:38). This could not happen if one person was switching between roles.

Q. Why do we reject Modalism?

If we were to remove the first statement, we would be left with "2) Three persons are described as God" and "3) The three persons are distinct from each other". This doctrine is known as Polytheism, or more simply: the belief in many gods. You will be hard pressed to find Christians who believe that there is more than one god, as the Bible could hardly be clearer that Jehovah alone is God (Isaiah 46:9, Mark 12:29).

Q. Why do we reject Polytheism?


If we were to remove the second statement, we would be left with "1) There is only one God" and "3) The three persons are distinct from each other". These two statements go some way to describe a doctrine known as Arianism. Arianism denies that Jesus or the Holy Spirit are described as God, but are at best, subordinate divine beings. The view was first proposed by Arius, a priest in Alexandria in the 4th century, but was denounced by the Council of Nicea in 325AD who affirmed the tri-unity. They referred to Jesus as "God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made (not created), and One in essence with the Father."
The view of the Council was that the doctrine of the trinity had been passed down to them from the earliest disciples through the church fathers. In the second century Tertullian wrote: "unity in trinity, interrelating the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  They are three, not in dignity, but in degree, not in substance but in form, not in power but in kind.  They are of one substance and power, because there is one God from whom these degrees, forms and kinds devolve in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (Adversus Praxean 23; PL 2.156-7).
Irenaeus, who was a student of Polycarp who himself was a student of John the Apostle, wrote "to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow," (Against Heresies X.l)
In the first century Ignatius of Antioch wrote " There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible,- even Jesus Christ our Lord" (Epistle to the Ephesians).

Q. Did Tertullian, Irenaeus, Ignatius, and the Council of Nicea believe that Jesus was God himself?

Despite it having been condemned as a heresy soon after it was first proposed, there are a number of groups who hold the Arian belief today, but we shall go on to see what the Bible tells us. Could it be that the Council of Nicea got it wrong? 

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES
  • Jehovah is the only God. (Isaiah 46:9, Mark 12:29)
  • The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit interact with one another. (Matthew 3:16, John 14:26, Acts 10:38)

Does the Trinity Make Sense?

One of the issues that many people have with the doctrine of the tri-unity is that it is very difficult to understand. In and of itself, this is very true. It is extremely hard to fully grasp the concept of three persons in one essence, and even more troublesome to explain it.
However, although the doctrine itself is not easy to explain or comprehend, it does make sense of what the Bible teaches us, as well as a number of logical issues to do with the nature of God.

For instance, Jesus is very often referred to as the Son of God, or indeed the Son of the Father (Luke 3:22, John 1:34, Romans 1:4). When a human has a son, that son is also human. When a cat has a son, that son is also a cat. Therefore, if God has a son, that son should be God. We know from the Old Testament that Jehovah alone is God. We also know that the description of Jehovah is that he is eternal (Genesis 21:33), without an equal (Isaiah 44:8), and perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4).

Q. What are some of the attributes that make Jehovah unique?

Now, if God had a son who began to exist at a certain point in time, then he would not be eternal, so he would not be God's equal, and so he would not be perfect. If God's son was none of these things, he would not be God. This is exactly what Arianists believe.
If God's son is not God, then Jehovah being the Father of Jesus could be compared to a human becoming father to a cat. God as creator of all things of course (Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:11-13) was the original designer of humans and cats alike, but Jesus is described as being begotten not made. 'John 3:16' refers to Jesus as God's 'only-begotten son'. The Greek word for 'begotten' in this passage is 'monogenes' (μονογενής). We will see more about the word 'begotten' later, but here we can see that the choice to use the phrase 'only-begotten' is designed to contrast with the words 'created' (Greek: 'ktizó' (κτίζω))  or 'made' (Greek: 'poieō' (ποιέω)) used for the world and humankind (Matthew 19:4, Colossians 1:16).

Q. Who created all things?

In 'Hebrews 11:17' we see that the phrase 'only-begotten' or 'monogenes' appears again. However in this instance, it describes Isaac as being the only-begotten of Abraham. We know that Isaac was in fact Abraham's second son, after Ishmael (Genesis 16:16, Genesis 21:5). Because we know that Isaac was born to Abraham, and not created by him, and we also know that Isaac had a special relationship with his father that Ishmael did not have, (Genesis 17:19-21) we can see that 'monogenes' has a very particular meaning.
The word 'monogenes' comes from the Greek root words 'monos' (only) and 'genos' (kind), so the most accurate meaning would be something like "one of a kind". So just as Isaac could accurately be described as a 'one of a kind' son to Abraham, Jesus is also described as a 'one of a kind' son to Jehovah. Some have said that the root word is not 'genos' but rather 'gennao' ('born'), however, as we have seen, this translation does not fit with Abraham's story. Isaac was not Abraham's 'only born' son.

Q. What does the Greek word 'monogenes' mean?

As Jesus is God's one of a kind son, who was begotten and not created, it makes sense that these two persons are of the same essence. It could be said by way of analogy that they are of the same species, and that each member of the species 'God' has the attributes of being eternal, unique, and perfect.
Of course, humans and angels are sometimes referred to as 'sons of God', however, Jesus' position as 'only-begotten', or 'one of a kind' certainly sets him apart from any other being as something truly unique.

Q. Who is God's unique, one of a kind son?

Other aspects of God's nature brings us to a second problem with not accepting the tri-unity doctrine. God is the embodiment of love (1 John 4:8). God is also self sufficient (Acts 17:24-25), which means he needs nothing. He has everything he needs within himself. On any non-trinitarian type of monotheism, this makes for a contradiction.
If God is a being of love, then he would need someone to express that love to, and also someone to receive love from, or else he would suffer frustration from missing another person to share his loving nature with. The doctrine of the tri-unity allows God to have a loving relationship within the three persons of the Godhead without any need for extra beings outside of himself.
A monotheism that does not have three or even two divine persons within a Godhead, would therefore need something, and so would not be self-sufficient. God would have to create another being before he could express and satisfy his loving nature. He would need there to always be at least one other being in existence to be complete.

Q. If God is self-sufficient would he ever need anything outside of himself?

Even though the tri-unity may seem to be a confusing doctrine, we can see that it makes sense of God's unique nature. In 'Isaiah. 55:9' God declares, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts". We should not be surprised if our limited minds are not fully capable of understanding God and his infinite and eternal being.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES

  • Jehovah is eternal (Genesis 21:33), without an equal (Isaiah 44:8), and perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • Jehovah created all things alone. (Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:11-13)
  • Jesus is Jehovah's one of a kind son. (John 3:16)
  • Jehovah is self sufficient. (Acts 17:24-25)

Is Jesus God?

The question of Jesus' identity is central to any Christian theology. Trinitarians believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and so the infinite value of his life covers the uncountable sins of all mortal humans. Others believe that Jesus was a man who lived a perfect life, and his sacrifice simply repaid the balance against the sin of the first man Adam, who caused the fall of mankind.
God's word is our ultimate authority on the truth about Jesus, and so we must trust it to inform our own knowledge and beliefs. It has been preserved for us as the Holy Bible. Other than God himself, there is nothing we should trust more than his Bible.

Q. What is the ultimate authority on the truth about Christianity?

The New Testament is where we discover most of our information about Jesus. While the Old Testament contains several prophecies about the coming Messiah, the New Testament Gospels are historical accounts of his life and teachings according to his disciples, while the Epistles offer some further information about him and what he taught.

Within them we see that Jesus had several conversations with Jewish leaders and authorities who opposed him. In 'Mark 2:5-7' Jesus forgave the sin of a paralysed man, and as he did so, the Jewish scribes remarked that only God has the right to do that. A number of events like this including in 'John 5:16-18', 'John 8:58-59', and 'John 10:30-33', caused the Jewish leaders to believe that Jesus was claiming to be equal to God. In some cases they reacted violently and tried to kill him.

Q. What did the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders think Jesus was claiming to be?

This raises some questions. If Jesus was not God, but a perfect man, would he intentionally deceive the Jews to make him think that he was equal to God? Or would he behave in a way that would not cause them to react with anger and violence? Jesus' death on the cross was handed to him on the charge of blasphemy (Matthew 9:2-3, Matthew 26:62-65, John 19:7). According to 'Leviticus 24:16' "the abuser of Jehovah's name should be put to death without fail". So to the strict Jewish leaders, Jesus' blasphemy against God himself meant that he deserved the death penalty.
To a trinitarian, the reading of these passages is that Jesus rightfully said that he was God, and equal to the Father. The Jewish leaders who did not believe it became angry and wrongfully executed him for blaspheming against Jehovah.
The only reading of this for someone who does not believe that Jesus was God, is that Jesus allowed the Jews to be deceived in order to get himself crucified. It would seem that the perfect man who lies is something of a contradiction (1 Peter 2:21-22).

Q. Can Jesus lie?

Jesus was executed by the Jewish Sanhedrin (leaders) charged with the blasphemy of claiming to be equal with God. Either Jesus truly was equal to God, and the Sanhedrin were mistaken, or Jesus was not equal to God and the Sanhedrin executed him justly according to their laws because he claimed to be so. Could it really be the case that Jesus deceived the Sanhedrin?

Jesus can not lie. He is 'the truth' (John 14:6). He explains in 'Matthew 13:10-15' that those who do not understand him are ones who are closed minded and unwilling to hear anything that doesn't match with what they already believe. He uses parables and illustrations to tell the truth, but only those with open minds and hearts will grasp what he is saying. He does not lie, so if people believe the wrong things about him, it is because of their own presumptions.
So we see the conundrum. Either:
  1. Jesus truly is equal God, and the Sanhedrin refused to believe it and had him executed. 
  2. Jesus led the Sanhedrin to believe that he was claiming to be equal to God when he was not, and they justly executed him for blasphemy.
For option (2) to be correct, Jesus would have had to have said something that was completely true, but that he also knew that the Sanhedrin would twist the meaning of, and then take it to be blasphemous and false. So he would be using truth as a form of deception. But we know from '1 Peter 2:22' that deception was not found in his mouth. In this case then, it would seem that option (2) is completely out of the question.

Q. Would Jesus intentionally deceive anybody?

According to Old Testament prophecies, it would seem that the trinitarian reading makes more sense of these claims. 'Isaiah 9:6' for example reads "For a child has been born to us... His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace". This verse is an obvious reference to Jesus and is very clear from a trinitarian point of view. But for those who deny the tri-unity, it raises problems. Would a created being be referred to as 'eternal'? Would a perfect man be called 'God'?

Some Old Testament passages are used in a similar way to tell us who Jesus really is. Psalm 102 is a prayer to Jehovah which speaks of his immortality compared to the mortality of mankind. Read 'Psalm 102:24-27' here: "I said: “O my God, Do not do away with me in the middle of my life, You whose years span all generations. Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth, And the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; Just like a garment they will all wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will pass away. But you are the same, and your years will never end."

Q. Who does Psalm 102 say laid the foundations of the earth and will never perish?

We find this passage quoted in the New Testament book of Hebrews Chapter 1. Read 'Hebrews 1:5,8,10-12' here: For example, to which one of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; today I have become your father”? ... But about the Son, he says: “God is your throne forever and ever, and the sceptre of your Kingdom is the sceptre of uprightness"...  And: “At the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; and just like a garment, they will all wear out, and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as a garment, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never come to an end.

Qa. Who is being quoted in this passage in Hebrews?
Qb. Who does Hebrews 1 say laid the foundations of the earth and will never perish?

Writing here about Jesus, Paul quotes Jehovah, who is himself quoting a passage from a Psalm which clearly speaks of God. If Paul is right, then that means that Jesus is Jehovah God.

It is of interest to note that in other translations 'Hebrews 1:5' is translated as 'I have begotten you', from the Greek
'gegenneka' (γεγεννηκα). Previously we saw how the word 'begotten' is often translated from the Greek word 'monogenes' meaning 'one of a kind'. In many other places the English translations use the word 'begotten' in place of the Greek word 'gegenneka'. However 'monogenes' and 'gegenneka' mean different things, so in this case the English translations can cause unnecessary confusion. 
The 'Hebrews 1:5' verse is a quote from 'Psalm 2:7', the only difference being that Hebrews was written in Greek, while the Psalm was written in Hebrew. The word translated to 'gegenneka' from the Hebrew is 'ildthi·k' (יְלִדְתִּיךָ) from the root word 'yalad' (יָלַד). The basic definition of these words is 'to generate'.
In 'Zephaniah 2:2' the word 'yalad' is translated to mean 'takes effect' and refers to a decree. So in this context, the decree generates an effect. In 'Job 38:28' 'yalad' is translated to ask who 'fathers' or 'begets' the rain. Obviously nobody does, because it is a naturally generated effect, or seeing as God is the creator of nature, then it could be fair to say that he generates it. 'Proverbs 27:1' uses the word 'yalad' to describe the events that a day would bring forth.
The use of the word 'yalad' gives the impression of one thing coming naturally from a first, but with a sense of union. You can not separate events from a day and you can not separate rain from the clouds.
As this Hebrew word 'yalad' and Greek word 'gegenneka' mean 'to generate', it is not entirely accurate to translate them in a way that suggests birth or fatherhood. The words more accurately describe how a flame begets smoke. As long as the flame exists, it will generate the smoke. In the same way it is said that God the Father generates the Son. The Son is a separate person, but they share their essence in one being and one entity.

Q. What does the Greek word 'gegenneka' mean?

We see from these passages a number of ways that Jesus is identified as God. We have also seen that the Sanhedrin believed that Jesus claimed to be equal to God, and that the church fathers in the following centuries also taught the tri-unity. We have even seen a quote from Jehovah himself stating that Jesus is God.

It should be no surprise then to find that Jesus' apostles and disciples recognised that Jesus was Jehovah.

Paul tells us in 'Colossians 2:9' that "in him all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily". Could 'all the fullness' of divinity exist in anybody but God himself? In 'John 20:28', the apostle Thomas after receiving proof that Jesus was raised from the dead calls him "My Lord and my God!". 'Peter 1:1' refers to Jesus as God and saviour. In 'Acts 2:24', Peter also tells us that it was impossible for Jesus to be held by death, but we know full well that men can die and be lost forever (Matthew 10:28). So if Jesus was merely a man, death would have been a possibility.
'John 1:3' reads "All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence". As we know and have previously seen from 'Isaiah 44:24', it was Jehovah who created all things, so John clearly identifies Jesus (the Word) with Jehovah.

Q. Is it possible for a created being to have created all things that were created?

The passage in 'Isaiah 40:3' is about a voice calling out in the wilderness announcing the coming of Jehovah, as verse 9 confirms "Here is your God". This passage is later referenced in each of the Gospels where we find that John the Baptist is the one calling out in the wilderness as he announces Jesus coming after him (Matthew 3:3,11, Mark 1:1-3, Luke 3:2-4,15-16, John 1:15, John 1:19-28).
If John the Baptist was truly the 'voice calling out in the wilderness', yet he was announcing the arrival of Jesus, then it is clear that Jesus is 'your God' from Isaiah 9.

Qa. Who's coming is being announced in Isaiah 40?
Qb. Who's coming is being announced by John the Baptist?

Within God's Bible it is clear that the leading apostles were convinced that Jesus was Jehovah himself manifest in the flesh. The reason for their belief was that Jesus himself taught them this as fact.
He did this through various actions that his followers knew could only be accomplished by Jehovah. We have already seen how Jesus forgave the sins of a paralysed man (Mark 2:5-7), but there are several other examples too.
In 'Mark 9:25-29', Jesus commands a demon to come out of a child. The disciples tell him that they were not able to do it when they had tried, so Jesus told them that only God was able to perform such exorcisms. In light of Jesus having performed the exorcism, and then telling his friends that only God could do such things, would that not be a hint at who he identified himself as?

Q. What things did Jesus do that only God could do?

Jesus also accepts the worship of his followers. In several passages (Matthew 2:2, Matthew 2:8, Matthew 2:11, Matthew 14:33, Matthew 28:9, Matthew 28:17, John 9:38, Hebrews 1:6 etc) we see that not only his followers, but even angels worship Jesus. 'John 9:38' reads "He said: "I do put faith in him, Lord." And he did obeisance to him.". But in 'Acts 10:25-26', Peter receives the same treatment and tells the man who bowed to him that he should not do so to other men. The word translated from the Greek to 'obesiance' is 'proskyneō' (προσκυνέω), and is often translated elsewhere as 'worship' usually in regards to Jehovah (e.g. Luke 4:8). In 'Revelation 19:10' John the Apostle bows to worship an angel, (again using the word 'proskyneō') but like Peter, the angel tells him that worship is only for God.
Unlike Peter and the angel, Jesus never warns his disciples that they should not worship or bow to him. He accepts what they are doing on every occasion. If Jesus was truly the Messiah and saviour, and nothing more than God's perfect man, would he accept the worship and respect that only God deserved (Exodus 34:14)?

Q. Does God allow his followers to worship or bow to other gods or beings?

Jesus also makes his identity known by claiming certain titles that can only truly be applied to Jehovah.
In 'Isaiah 44:6' and 'Isaiah 48:12' Jehovah claims the title 'the first and the last'. This is quite obviously a title that could only be held by one being. It is impossible to have two firsts or two lasts in this context. The title is a way of portraying his eternal nature and also his being the source of all other things.
However, in 'Revelation 1:17-18' and 'Revelation 2:8' Jesus unmistakeably uses the title 'the first and the last' to refer to himself.

Qa. Who is 'the first and the last' in Isaiah?
Qb. Who is 'the first and the last' in Revelation?

The title 'the first and the last' also appears in 'Revelation 22:12-16' and once again refers to Jesus, who is speaking about himself. In this passage 'the first and the last' is identified as being the same as 'the Alpha and Omega', which carries a similar meaning. In 'Revelation 21:6-7', we see that God is the Alpha and Omega. There could not possibly be two infinite, all encompassing beings, yet here in God's word the Bible we have Jesus claiming the title that only Jehovah has a right to.
This scripture tells us that Jesus is God. There is no other plausible way to interpret this information. If Jesus is 'the first and the last', and 'the first and the last' is the 'Alpha and the Omega', and the 'Alpha and the Omega' is Jehovah, that can only mean that Jesus is Jehovah.

Qa. Who is 'the Alpha and Omega' in Revelation 22?
Qb. Who is 'the Alpha and Omega' in Revelation 21?
Qc. Is it possible for there to be more than one Alpha and Omega?


In 'Revelation 19:16' Jesus is referred to as the 'king of kings and lord of lords'. Once again, these are titles that simply can not be shared by two beings. So to a trinitarian, it is no surprise to read Jehovah claim the title 'lord of lords' in 'Deuteronomy 10:17' or 'king of kings' in '1 Timothy 6:15-16'.

Qa. Who is 'the lord of lords' in Revelation 19?
Qb. Who is 'the lord of lords' in Deuteronomy 10?

Famously we know of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Through Jesus our salvation from sin has been assured (Acts 4:10-12, Titus 2:13). However reading through Isaiah once again tells us that it is Jehovah himself who is our Saviour (Isaiah 43:11-12, Isaiah 45:21-22). God makes it perfectly clear that he alone is the Saviour. No one else could ever take on that role.

Qa. Who is our saviour as described in Acts and Titus?
Qb. Who is our saviour as described in Isaiah?

Finally we regularly see in our English translations Jesus referred to as 'Lord' or the Greek 'kyrios' (κύριος) (Matthew 7:21, Matthew 12:8, Matthew 15:22, Mark 16:19, Luke 5:8 etc). This title is also used for Jehovah, most notably in 'Matthew 22:44' where the same word is used twice, first in reference to God, and secondly in reference to Jesus. The verse, which reads "Jehovah said to my Lord", is a quote from 'Psalm 110:1' which reads "Jehovah declared to my Lord". In the Psalm, two words are used instead of the single one. 'Jehovah' is from the tetragrammaton 'YHWH', while 'Lord' translates from the Hebrew word 'Adonai'. The tetragrammaton never appears in the New Testament Greek texts, and is always translated either 'kyrios' which means 'lord' or 'theos' (θεός) which means 'God'. It is curious that in this instance, the word 'lord' is used for both Jehovah and Jesus rather than including the word 'theos', which might indicate a clearer distinction between the two, if there was meant to be one. 'Lord' or 'kyrios' is obviously a title, and not a proper name, so it can be given to two people, but it does suggest that the two being referred to hold the same rank. As 'kyrios' is a title and not a name, it is inaccurate to translate it as 'Jehovah', though in the cases where it refers to him, this translation choice can be understood.

Qa. What does 'kyrios' mean?
Qb. What does 'theos' mean?

In '1 Corinthians 8:6' we see the Father referred to as 'God' (theos), while Jesus is referred to as 'Lord' (kyrios). However this verse comes within the context of Paul explaining the difference between the Greek polytheistic religion and his own monotheistic religion. His goal is to discourage worship of idols, and to focus on the one true God. So if Jesus is not God, then for Paul to mention him in this passage would be confusing to his readers.
The verse '1 Corinthians 8:6' is also one of a number that refers to Jesus as 'the one Lord' (Jude 4, Ephesians 3:1 then 4:1,5). We could at this point remind ourselves that Jehovah was called Lord by Jesus himself in 'Matthew 22:44'. If there is only one Lord, and both Jesus and Jehovah receive that title regularly, this indicates that they are one.

Q. How many 'Lord's are there?

At the very least we can see that the word 'kyrios' can very easily refer to either Jehovah or Jesus. In order to correctly translate the word so that it represents the correct person, checking the context of the word becomes of high importance. In many of Paul's letters this task can be quite difficult as he often seems to use the titles of God and Jesus interchangeably (e.g. Romans 14:3-9). For a trinitarian who sees Jehovah and Jesus as one and the same Lord and God, this is not a problem. For a non-trinitarian whose belief is that Jehovah and Jesus are completely separate, then clarifying which 'Lord' is being spoken of at any time is vitally important.
In one particular place there seems to be a very concerning error in the 'New World Translation'. A read through of 'Revelation 1:1-8' tells us that this section is the introduction of the book which follows. In verse 8, the NWT translates 'kyrios' to 'Jehovah God', but the context of the passage would strongly suggest that this a mistake. Not least because we know that 'kyrios' is not God's name, but simply the title 'Lord'.
Verse 1 informs us that Revelation is a direct message from Jesus Christ given to the apostle John, passed on after God 'theos' gave it to him. Verse 7 has John exclaiming that Jesus is coming. This is unmistakably Jesus both in light of verse 1 and because it describes him as being 'pierced'.
The very next verse after John announces the arrival of Jesus is speech: "I am the Alpha and Omega, ... the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty." The speech is said by 'kyrios'. The word 'theos' does not appear in the Greek, so it seems the NWT has added this. The Greek text simply tells us that this line of speech was said by the 'kyrios' or 'Lord'. It does not say anything like 'YHWH theos' which would certainly reference Jehovah. As the text simply says 'kyrios' or 'Lord', we then must use the context of the passage to decipher who the 'Lord' is.
From the very apparent clues of Verse 7, it should be extremely clear that Verse 8 refers to Jesus. He is announced, and then he speaks. Verse 7 says 'he is coming', while Verse 8 says "I am... the One... who is coming". It is a perfect match. We should also recall that in 'Revelation 22', Jesus was named 'the Alpha and Omega'.
So, given the clear context that reveals 'Revelation 1:8' is Jesus speaking of himself, we also learn that Jesus claims the title 'the Almighty', which undeniably is a title that only Jehovah himself may claim.

There are many more examples of passages which indicate that Jesus shared titles, attributes, and abilities with the Father, but this selection should be more than enough to make it a very reasonable conclusion that Jesus was God himself manifest in the flesh.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES
  • The Sanhedrin and Jewish leaders believed that Jesus claimed to be equal to God. (John 5:18)
  • Jesus can not lie. (1 Peter 2:22) Neither can God. (Titus 1:2)
  • Jesus is eternal. (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Jesus did things that only God could do such as forgive sins and drive away demons. (Mark 2:5-7, Mark 9:25-29)
  • Jesus laid the foundations of the earth and will not perish or fade away like a garment. (Psalm 102:24-27, Hebrews 1:5,8,10-12)
  • Jesus created all things. (John 1:3)
  • Jesus' disciples believed that he was God. (John 20:28)
  • Jesus accepted worship. (Matthew 28:17, John 9:38, Hebrews 1:6)
  • Jesus is called 'the first and the last', a title only God can hold. (Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 1:17-18)
  • Jesus is called 'the Alpha and Omega', another title exclusive to God. (Revelation 21:6-7, Revelation 22:12-16)
  • Jesus and God share the titles 'lord of lords' and 'king of kings'. (Revelation 19:16, Deuteronomy 10:17, 1 Timothy 6:15-16)
  • Jesus and God both are the one and only saviour. (Isaiah 43:11, Acts 4:10-12, Titus 2:13)
  • Jesus is Almighty. (Revelation 1:8) 

If Jesus is God, why does he say the Father is greater than he is?

One of the main hurdles to accepting the equality of Jesus and the Father is that there are several examples in the New Testament of Jesus telling people that the Father is greater than he is. Despite the overwhelming Gospel evidence that tells us that Jesus is equal to the Father, these passages seem to contradict that conclusion. Here are a few examples:
  • "Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." -- Matthew 24:36 
  • "Most truly I say to you, the Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing." -- John 5:19
  • "I am going to the Father, for Father is greater than I am." -- John 14:28
So we see from Jesus' own mouth that he tells us that the Father is more powerful and more knowledgeable than he is. When we read Scripture, we must keep in mind that it is all God's word, and that it does not contradict itself. Every verse must harmonise with every other verse.
These verses seem to present a contradiction. We have seen that Jesus certainly is God, yet in these passages it seems that Jesus is something less than God. Can these facts be harmonised?
The best way to interpret Scripture is to allow the clearer passages to inform our understanding of the less clear passages. In this case, it might be tempting to simply admit that the weight of evidence
tells us that Jesus is God, and the contradictory verses are a mystery. But we do not have to do this. There are other passages in Scripture that explain this apparent contradiction clearly and remove the mystery altogether.

Read 'Philippians 2:5-8' here: "Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and became human. More than that, when he came as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, yes, death on a torture stake."

In this passage Paul speaks of Christ's existence before he became human, and explains the transformation. He tells us that Jesus was in the form of God, (theos) which is a strikingly clear statement that Jesus is equal to the Father. He then tells us that Jesus did not cling to his equality with God. Instead, he 'emptied himself' and became a servant and a human. In other words, Jesus, who was God, gave up his equality, and became human so that he could die.

Jesus himself confirms this in 'John 17:5': "Father, glorify me at your side with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was". This simple statement speaks volumes about who Jesus is. He claims equal glory to the Father, when we know that God shares his glory with nobody, (Isaiah 42:8). He also claims to have existed before the world. The Greek word for 'world' here is 'kosmos' (
κόσμος), which actually refers to the entire system of existence, and so he would have been present 'in the beginning'.

We see it echoed again in 'Hebrews 2:9-10': "But we do see Jesus, who was made a little lower than angels, now crowned with glory and honour for having suffered death, so that by God’s undeserved kindness he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that the one for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
Jesus, who was fully God, had been made 'a little lower than angels' so that he could die to bring about the salvation of everyone.
 
This also shows us how God has proved his love for us by his own standard. 'John 15:13' reads "No one has greater love than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends". If God himself died for us, then he has shown us the greatest love there is.

Although Paul explains Jesus' becoming human adequately, it is the opening section of John 1 that gives us the clearest picture of what happened.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. 2 This one was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence 4 by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men ...9 The true light that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into existence through him, but the world did not know him ... 14  So the Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father; and he was full of divine favour and truth... 18  No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is at the Father’s side is the one who has explained Him."

The first verse has a footnote next to 'a god' reading "or 'was divine'". This seems to be another mistake on the part of the translators. The words translated to 'God' and 'a god' are both 'theos', so both should simply be 'God'. 'Divine', which
is an attribute that only belongs to God anyway, is a slightly different Greek word, which does not appear in this verse. 'Divine' would translate from 'theios' (θεῖος). But even so, 'theios' is word derived from the word for God 'theos', and are impossible to separate.
Verse 2, tells us that the Word (or the Logos) existed 'in the beginning with God', once again affirming that they share an eternal existence.
Verse 3 reminds us that the Word created all things, but we know that Jehovah created all things alone (Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:11-13)
Verse 4 is another strange translation choice. The Greek simply reads "In him was life", so the translator here has added a phrase which does not appear in the original ("What has come into existence by means of him"). This translation also makes less sense than the Greek. If Jesus had life within him, then he could gift that to mankind. But if Jesus created life, how was it that he was alive beforehand to do so?
So in Verses 1 to 4, we see that Jesus is God, and existed eternally, created all things, and is the source of life.

Q. What does 'John1:1-4' tell us about Jesus?

Verses 9 and 10 give us another title for Jesus, namely 'the true light', and also tell us that he was coming into the world. So the light which created all things, is the one coming into the world.
Verse 14 tells us that the Word became flesh and lived among us, and so it becomes very clear that the same being who created us and gave us life, is the same one who came to Earth for our salvation.
Verse 18 finally tells us that nobody has seen God, but the 'only-begotten god' who became flesh and lived among us, is the one who has explained him to us. There is again a curious choice in translation in this verse, as the phrase 'only-begotten god' does not appear in the Greek. The Greek reads 'monogenes huios' (μονογενής υἱός) which mean 'only-begotten son'. However, as the Son is God, this choice is not an issue.
So from verses 9 to 18, we see the the Word became human and lived in the world so that he could teach us about Jehovah.

Q. What does 'John 1:9-18' tell us about Jesus?

Altogether the plain reading of the text informs us that Jesus, who is God, who created all things, brought life to all things, and exists eternally, became a human being and walked the Earth so he could teach us.

These passages paint a clear picture of who Jesus is and what he did. He was fully God, but he emptied himself of his divinity and became a man. God can not die, and God can not be seen by men, but Jesus was able to do these things. Jesus died (John 19:33) and was the image of God (Hebrews 1:3). God is an infinite being, while man is extremely finite. Jesus, in becoming a man, limited himself in several ways. So while God the Father remained infinite, omnipotent, and omniscient, Jesus was restricted to the limitations of the human body. He was still God, but had self imposed handicaps. It is because of these limitations that Jesus can be God, and yet also say that the Father is greater than he is.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES
  • The man Jesus was in some way lesser to God the Father. (John 14:28)
  • Jesus was God before he was a man. (John 1:14)
  • Before becoming a man, Jesus was equal to God the Father. (John 17:5, Philippians 2:5-7)
  • Jesus emptied himself of divinity. (Philippians 2:7)
  • Jesus was made a lesser being so that he could bring salvation to his people. (Hebrews 2:9)
  • When Jesus became a man, he became obedient to God the Father. (Philippians 2:8)
  • Jesus came to Earth to serve, not to be served by others. (Matthew 20:28) 
  • After completing his work on Earth, Jesus will again share the glory of his Father. (Matthew 16:27)

Is the Holy Spirit God?

As we have firmly established that Jesus is Jehovah, we can now understand that despite being a complicated idea, it is true that God can be multiple persons while being one essence.
The Holy Spirit is said to be the third member of the tri-unity. He is given equal standing alongside the Father and Son, in some vital passages.

'Matthew 28:19' reads: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit".
This passage alone tells us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share a holy name. Notice how 'name' is singular. The name they share of course is 'Jehovah' (Isaiah 42:8, Matthew 6:9, John 17:11, Philippians 2:9).

The identity of the Holy Spirit is slightly more difficult to grasp than those of the Father and the Word. We know that the Holy Spirit is a person from verses such as 'Acts 13:2' in which the Holy Spirit issues commands, 'John 14:26' in which the Holy Spirit teaches, 'Ephesians 4:30' in which we learn it can feel sadness, and 'Hebrews 10:15' in which we learn it will be a witness for us.


Q. How do we know that the Holy Spirit is a person?

'Ephesians 1:13-14' reads: "After you believed, you were sealed by means of him with the promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of our inheritance". We can also remember that John the Baptist told his disciples that Jesus would "baptise you with holy spirit"(Matthew 3:11).
So from these verses, we can gather that when we come to believe in Jesus and Jehovah, we are baptised with the Holy Spirit, which is a sign of God's promise to us. 'Titus 3:5' then adds that the Holy Spirit makes us new, which 'John 3:3-7' compares to like being 'born again'.
In 'John 14:16-17' Jesus tells us that if we follow him, he will send us a 'helper' who will remain with us and in us. This 'helper' is the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). From this we gather that the simple explanation of who the Holy Spirit is, is that he is the person God sends to live inside us.


Q. Who is the Holy Spirit?

The passage in 'Romans 8:9-11' is another example of Paul seemingly using the names of Jehovah and Jesus interchangeably. He speaks of God's spirit and Christ's spirit as though they are one and the same. "you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God's spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ's spirit, this person does not belong to him."

In 'Acts 5:3-4' Peter scolds Ananias for lying to the Holy Spirit. In his next breath he tells him that he has lied to God. Clearly Peter is treating the Holy Spirit and God as the same. He does this once more in '1 Peter 4:14'. Paul also equates the two in '2 Corinthians 3:17-18'. In 'Romans 8:11' he credits the Holy Spirit with the resurrection of Jesus. 

We have this further confirmed in multiple ways as the Holy Spirit has a number of attributes that only Jehovah has. In 'Romans 8:2', the Spirit is referred to as the one who gives life. In 'Job 33:4' we see that it is the Spirit who made men, and of course 'Genesis 1:2' informs us that he was present at the creation in the beginning.

These straight forward passages, as well as many others, tell us all that we need to know to conclude that the Holy Spirit is a third person, equal to the Father and Son, who are all Jehovah.


Q. How do we know that the Holy Spirit is equal to Jehovah?


WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES
  • The Holy Spirit shares the holy name with the Father and Son. (Matthew 28:19)
  • The Holy Spirit is a person. (Acts 13:2, John 14:26, Ephesians 4:30, Hebrews 10:15)
  • The Holy Spirit is our personal seal guaranteeing our promise from God. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
  • The Holy Spirit dwells within us. (John 14:16-17) 
  • The Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher. (John 16:13)
  • The Holy Spirit is our creator. (Genesis 1:2, Job 33:4, Romans 8:2)
  • The Holy Spirit is Jehovah. (Acts 5:3-4, 2 Corinthians 17-18) 

From the Father, Through the Son, By the power of the Holy Spirit

Understanding what is taught about the tri-unity in the Bible gives us an idea of the roles the persons of the Godhead play. Much of what they do can be summed up by the phrase "From the Father, Through the Son, By the power of the Holy Spirit". This phrase is a slight adaptation of what we learn from 'Ephesians 2:18'

We can take creation as a prime example. All of creation came from the Father (James 1:17), through the Son (John 1:3), by the power of the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104:30).
In a similar way salvation came from the Father, through the Son (Jude 25), by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38, Romans 8:2).
The Son was sent from the Father (1 John 4:14), to earn our atonement through his death (Hebrews 10:10), and renew us by the power of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14, Titus 3:5).
Our judgement is from the will of the Father through the Son (Romans 2:16), by the power of the Holy Spirit within us (John 16:7-11).
And the Gospel message came from the Father, through the Son (Mark 1:14-15), by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Is Jesus the Archangel Michael?

In a previous post, I explained how it is indubitable that Jesus is God.  I did this by showcasing just some of the Scripture that affirms that Jesus and the Father (and the Holy Spirit) share certain qualities, attributes, and abilities that can only belong to God. So even though the doctrine of the Trinity is pretty confusing, it's very clearly there.

Jehovah's Witnesses try to do something similar with Jesus and the Archangel Michael. What strikes me as particularly odd is that they can see using these handful of passages a connection between these two, yet they can't see the glaring, obvious, repeated, blatant connections between Jesus and God!
To be fair, some of the passages that are said to connect Michael to Jesus are at first glance fairly interesting, and you can see how the case can be made. However, many just don't hit the mark at all, and have to have the Michael theory read into them.
The simplest rebuttal to the Michael being Jesus claim would be in showing the Trinity. If Jesus is God, then he is not one of the angels. But when looking at things like this I prefer to be objective and not start with my conclusion. I'd rather look at the case for Jesus being Michael without the baggage of already knowing it's false. So I have to pretend I don't know, and try and perhaps even see it from the JW perspective. We can let Scripture speak for itself.

I could even entertain the thought that Jesus may also be Michael, given that Jesus manifest himself as a human. Why couldn't he not also sometimes manifest as an angel? Saying that, we know that Jesus did manifest as an angel a number of times in the Old Testament. However, he was never referred to as Michael in those passages, he was always called The Angel of the LORD.
So maybe, maybe Jesus is Michael as well as God, but that remains to be seen.

So let's look at the case for Jesus being Michael.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Quick Answers to Problems of Evil and Suffering

I'm responding to these assuming you're not familiar with some of the things I'm saying, so apologies if it seems patronising. I'm also going to try and be brief, so there might be some skimmed details.

If God is good, why is there Hell? Infinite punishment for a finite crime.

I imagine you have a particular something in mind when you say 'Hell'. The movies tend to use the medieval imagery of fire and brimstone with goat legged devils with pitchforks tormenting sinners day and night.
That's just not what the Bible teaches.
I personally am an annihilationist, which means I believe that when the time comes, God will bring the saved to the new Heaven and Earth, and the unsaved will cease to exist - much like how atheists think they will end up anyway.
But I think the most common belief among Christians is that Hell is a prison locked from the inside. God gives everyone a choice of whether or not to be with him and follow him. It's not a case of follow and love me or be punished, it's follow me or do what you want without me.
But the outcome of that is by your own free choice, you will have to live somewhere that God has closed off to himself. And that place will naturally be really awful, seeing as God is the source of goodness. He doesn't want you to go there, but if you choose to go there, he won't stop you.

If God is good, why does he let people die and suffer? And all these disasters happen?


Sunday, 26 February 2017

How Do We Know The Trinity Is True?

There isn't a passage in the Bible that specifically says anything like "Oh by the way, The Father, The Son a.k.a. The Word a.k.a. Jesus, and The Holy Spirit are three persons who make one being - Galapagos 13:69". In fact the word 'trinity' doesn't appear anywhere. But that doesn't mean that this doctrine isn't a clear truth of Christianity. The word 'trinity' perhaps came later to be a simple description of a recurring theme throughout both the Old and New Testament.
But still there are a large number of Christians who think that God and Jesus were separate beings, and have no idea what the Holy Spirit is about.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. -- 2 Corinthians 13:14
Here we'll take a look at some of the several reasons that the Trinity is pretty much indisputable.

Firstly, without even looking at specific Scripture, let's take a moment to think about the atonement from the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Basically, any human that sins must die. Sin can not enter heaven, so a human carrying it will not be able to go to heaven. That means everyone. Every human has a debt to pay. They owe a life for their sins. Potentially, one sinless human could pay the debt for them. If the sins of one human create a debt of one life, then the life of a sinless person could balance it out. It would have to be a sinless person, because if the second person had their own sins, they would have their own debt.
So given one sinful human, and one sinless one, either one could die for to pay the debt. One for one.
But if we have two sinful humans, and one sinless one, and the sinless one offers his life to save another, he can only pay for one. So we're still left with one debt not paid off.
So if Jesus was just a man who lived a perfect life, surely he could only give his life to save one other person. Maybe his favourite disciple.
But if Jesus was God, that means he has an infinite, eternal life, which is worth a whole lot more than one human life. His death, which cuts off eternity, is an easy trade off for however many humans (with an average of around a 70 year life span) have ever lived, with change to spare.
So Jesus in his infinite nature as God, having lived a sinless life is the only one who can afford to pay the debt of humanity.
Of course, everyone still dies, so it might seem confusing that Jesus died to save us all from dying, when we all still die. What Jesus' death saves us from is sometimes referred to as 'the second death'. So when our bodies die, our spirit can live on, until it is given a new body for the New Heaven in the future. But without Jesus' sacrifice, we would have no right to be given that new body and be brought back from death. The second death as described in Revelation is the destruction of the souls who are still carrying their own sin.

I simply can not see how Jesus being only a man and not the incarnation of God could work in this scenario.

No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him, for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever, that he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay. -- Psalm 49:7-9
One more point that shows that the Trinity is a necessary aspect of God without diving into Scripture. God is defined as the embodiment of love. (1 John 4:8 -- Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.) God is also described as having aseity, which means he exists fully without needing anything. (Acts 17:25 -- And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.) But how could God be capable of loving, sharing love, and receiving love if he was alone? He would need someone else. But seeing as God does not need anyone else, and can embody love whether or not humans exist, it must be that the shared love is contained within himself, in his multiple persons. If he was alone, he would not be sufficient to embody love, but as three in one, he can be just that. A God who is not self sufficient, and needs something or someone else, is not the God Christianity describes. The Trinitarian God is sufficient, but a unitarian God is not.

But let's go on and look at the Scriptural support for the Trinity.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. -- Matthew 28:19 

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Self-Contradicting Worldview of Atheism


That title alone is bound to set off some triggers. Which is a shame, because it would be nice to get into the meat of this without having to first lay down some grounding to explain where we're coming from.

That well-rehearsed scripted cry rings in my ears as I write, "Atheism isn't a worldview! It's just an answer to the God claim!"

I take this to mean that the atheist saying it is really an agnostic non-theist. As such, they are sat on the fence with an "I don't know if God exists or not and am withholding judgement until more evidence comes in".
An atheist on the proper definition either believes, or feels certain that the claim "God does not exist" is true.

Following from the belief in that claim is an obvious basis for a worldview. An atheist who believes there is no such thing as God, must necessarily believe that everything in existence operates without need for one. While a theist believes God created, moulded, designed, sustains, and has plans for the universe and everything in it, an atheist requires other explanations. Hence, worldview.

Going back to the agnostic non-theist for a moment. It would be smart for them to consider the logical implications of an atheistic worldview. Rather than solely look at the claim "God exists", they should study and apply similar scepticism to the alternative claim "God does not exist". Perhaps they'd then see a clearer picture of which worldview makes more sense.

So. The following will be going through various claims made by atheists about their worldview. These are common claims made by many. We will see that a number of them are incompatible. Fortunately not every atheist holds to all of the claims, and so not every atheist is living with incompatible beliefs, but for those who do spout these contradictory ideas, they should really re-examine their worldview, and at the very least, choose between the contradictions.
If you ever find that you believe two statements that are in contradiction with one another, you have no choice but to drop one.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Which Bible Is The Right Translation?

Like most people in my non-denominational group of Christians that I know, my go to English translation for the Bible is the NIV, the New International Version. It's easy to read and does a decent job of staying true to the text. And like most people in my non-denominational group of Christians that I know, as well as a wider spread of other Christians of various denominations that I do and don't know, none of us ever use The Message. 

But at other times, I prefer some of the translations in the ESV, the English Standard Version. There have been a fair few times where I think this one has nailed a verse, where the NIV doesn't quite hit the mark.
But then, other people have a fondness for the KJV, the King James Version. I personally like the old timey language with the thee's and thou's and such, but there are some things in this translation that put me off using it generally.
Sometimes specific denominations have their own preferred translation. Jehovah's Witnesses tend to stick to the NWT, New World Translation. Or it might be that a certain church pastor has their own favourite so that's what they keep in their pews.

But when you have all these different versions floating around, and various people saying they like this one, or that one, to an outsider it can look like the Bible is in a mess. How can we read and trust the Bible, if we don't know which one is the right one? Of all these versions surely we need to figure out which one is the one to stick to and then ignore the rest?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Why does God allow evil?

Here's a thing. The Problem of Evil is a terrible terrible argument philosophically. It's terrible. Rubbish. Just awful. It's an emotional knee jerk reaction to stuff people don't like. It hasn't got any actual weight as an intellectual problem. 

But people are hung up on it. And we shouldn't be surprised about that. People in general do favour their emotions over rationality.

It's human nature to put our feelings first, even when reason points in a different direction. When you do philosophy, you have to get in the practice of switching off emotion for a while, otherwise you can cloud your judgement. It's not always easy, and in tricky subjects like the worldwide suffering of humanity, it can seem cold and heartless. But them's the breaks.

Quite often, the Problem of Evil won't even be presented as any kind of logical philosophical argument or syllogism. It'll usually just be the question "Why does God let bad things happen?"
You don't have to have studied philosophy for long to know that a question is not the same as an argument!
A question is looking for an answer. You don't know how to explain something, so you ask someone else if they can. An argument is an attempt to make an explanation that you already have stick.
So given that there's this big question casting a large dark shadow of doubt over people, we should wonder if there's an answer.

And this is a thing that plagued me before I began my journey into Christianity. There were so many questions like this that were in common knowledge, yet nobody seemed to even have the beginning of an answer. We'd say "If God exists, why do bad things happen to good people?" and then shrug our shoulders and move on thinking "I guess we'll never know".
There was a time where I thought it was perfectly reasonable when I heard people saying stuff like "I think it's likely that there was a man in history called Jesus who was a good teacher, but I don't know for sure."
But then I discovered these things called 'reading' and 'research' and 'critical thinking'. It was amazing the results that I got. Answers are out there. Just go have a look.
So, after that lengthy sidetrack, let's get on with the question of the day. "If God exists, why does he let bad things happen to good people?"