Book review: “God’s Problem How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer?” by Bart D. Ehrman

The following is a look at Bart D. Ehrman’s book “God’s Problem How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer?”

University of North Carolina Professor of Religious Studies Bart D. Ehrman, among many other things, is a former fundamentalist and currently a fallen Christian. Agnostic would be a more accurate term.

Despite an early-on devotion to fundamentalist Christianity, he began experiencing doubts about his faith during graduate school. As he writes here:

“…If there is an all powerful and loving God in this world, why is their so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering?…”

“…for many…life is a cesspool of misery and suffering…”

“…the darkness is too deep, the suffering too intense, the divine absence too powerful…”

“…Ultimately, it was the reason I lost my faith…”

“…I realized I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life…”

Ehrman then explores the often contradictory and multiple reasons/justifications detailed throughout the Bible for such horrible afflictions in life. Among those:

  • suffering is a consequence of sin
  • suffering is a test, a down-the-line reward for passing
  • it eventually bolsters the recipient
  • it is the just the nature of things so accept it and God will bring hope and justice and eventually correct wrong
  • that the why of such is simply beyond knowing

Ehrman also points out conundrums in such misery: God’s flood killing countless animals as well as the actions of Adam and Eve not injuring others.

He states that if God can see into the future and is all powerful and loving, then his actions/inactions are not worthy of worship, but fear.

Simply put, he cannot understand or explain the prospering of the wicked while innocents suffer, believers among them.  Why  aren’t genocides prevented? Birth defects eliminated? Cancers stricken? Natural calamities deterred?

For Ehrmann, there is no fully satisfactory answer.

Not necessarily as a side note, he also writes about the element of Christian and Jewish apocalypticism and provides a pair of instances where Jesus offers that the end time would come very soon:

“Truly I tell you, some of those standing here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God having come to power” (Mark 9:1)

“Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place” (Mark 13:30)

Yet we’re still here. More grist for the proverbial mill besides the suffering conundrum.

Mark W. Bartusch offers in-depth insight in his 2011 God’s Problem How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer?” review. Do take a read.

Film Review: “Frank Serpico” the documentary

A genuine hero from back in my teenage days, former New York Police Dpeartment officer and detective Frank Serpico wanted to do what was right: help people. But dirty cops and various police hierarchies and politicians had no use for civil servants such as him. One would think doing what is moral would be welcomed in most if not all settings but not necessarily so.

Coming away from this documentary, one element that remains muddied is why no police officers, including Serpico’s partner at the time, called in an officer shot code on the night Serpico was shot in the face. The incident is raised when Serpico meets with his former partner during the film but never fully answered. Some drilling down pn this most critical of questions is missing. Give Serpico credit as I wouldn’t be meeting with any former co-worker who failed in life-saving efforts during my gravest time of need.

Do see this for two reasons. One, it’s refreshing to witness someone with scruples in action and, two, Frank Serpico is quite the interesting character.


“‘Never Run When You’re Right’: The Real Story of NYPD Whistleblower Frank Serpico”

Here is another similar situation of doing the right thing not just going unrewarded but actually punished:

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

With all  due credit to Christopher Hedges and his beacon of honesty.

I was sent off to war
to settle a petty score
’cause the pols said
we want those bastards dead

They were once our friends
but that all now depends
on doing our private bidding
or else — no f-ing kidding

Shipped over to the sand
then marching overland
trying not to misstep
a basic danger we must accept

Some look forward to the kill
taking human life as a thrill
but it’s different you see
when you’re sitting in D.C.

Splattered with guts and blood
whether of an enemy or close bud
changes you deep inside
a pain some can’t abide

The desert she bleaches you
hallowed through and through
I just wanted to do some good
like most everyone would

After three lengthy tours
I’m not the same anymore
I did my best with pride
but it’s in a shell I now reside

Jen’s settled for what she’s got
the kids scared what war has wrought
tears and terror map out me
I’m tryin’ like hell so none can see

Now I don’t dare explore
what’s left of my brittle core
the mirror says it’s me there
shut down in my lonesome lair

So blare the trumpet solitary
and invoke the patriot fairy
my most ominous of fears
is that “Taps” I’ll never hear

I was being all that I was
charging forward just because
now my soul is never more
in case the Pentagon is keeping score

Yes, I’m still somewhat alive
maybe cursed to have survived
but I gave my life too
for it’s not the me I once knew


My parts and my pieces, never a fit
a jigsaw puzzle borne of bewilderment
from pillar to post, through kindness to jibes
focused on locating survivors of my lost tribe

Nimbly surviving on generous winks and nods
emitted from a charming and personable facade
always traversing terrain as a velvet infidel
silent on sharing, firm on don’t ask nor tell

Despair in my cup plus a diet of regret
but a fading vision still beating in my heart’s locket
seeking rainbow’s end, not continual storm
my destination always shifting place and form

But guided by virgins learned and sinners graceful
scouting for footprints of angels who will tell
on the outskirts of freedom, my simple epiphany
‘I am one, I am all, they are one, they are me’