Just finished Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem: How the Bible fails to answer our most important question–why we suffer
The book was intended for a popular audience and not a scholarly one, he says in the beginning. He explains that a dissertation style journal is available on his website or through his people. It seems reasonable to assume any gripes I have with God’s Problem might be answered in that journal. I haven’t read it. Plus, I don’t have gripes.
Bart Ehrman did a fine job drawing together different outlooks on suffering and its various causes throughout the narrative of the Old and New Testament. Sprinkled into the historical context of the Bible are references to modern day disasters and the relatively recent horrors of World War II for the sake of perspective.
Ehrman excels as a gripping author with a staggering grasp of ancient literature. He holds a PhD in New Testament studies and his familiarity with various Christian traditions (secular, conservative, fundamentalist, catholic etc.) allows him to be very precise in ways Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins failed. The latter two men made mention to Christianity’s history with an obsessive focus on Catholicism and European influences. After railing on Catholics for several chapters Hitchens or Dawkins would interject something about Rick Perry or Sarah Palin or George Bush and the American South’s Christianity. This was only a minor flaw if one at all, but nonetheless I personally prefer the accuracy with which Ehrman goes after targets.
The book seems for the most part very academic but very personal at times when he recounts a teen committing suicide (a member of his church decades ago) and other instances in which his faith in God’s goodness was challenged.
I give the book five stars because its breadth and readability make it perfect for the serious skeptic who might want to understand how Christians defend God allowing disasters. It’s too easy to just call Christians stupid and blind. Ehrman shows compassion and respect for the learned faithful who are loyal to their interpretations of God’s goodness.
Shame on my ego for thinking this, but I wish I could debate some of these authors and play Devil’s advocate. (I capitalize God so I figured I would capitalize Devil there). I suppose that would be playing God’s advocate. Many of the secular advocates I have read or heard in person would do well to spar with me. It’s not that I am some kind of wunderkind genius theological mind, but rather my life has made me into a walking junk drawer of Biblical tedium. I am not an expert in any one Biblical area but as a whole I feel like I might have been able to combat Ehrman’s main premises.
Ehrman shows how suffering is understood by prophets and laypeople in Scripture. He talks about the prophets and even Jesus by the end and always tries to keep the focus on their individual circumstances and context without appealing to later interpretations. I wish he spent more time on the Isaiah 53 and 58 comments but it’s a small drop in the bucket.
Definitely worth reading. His conclusions are very thought provoking.