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.