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.

Interpretation

Side One: infiltrating the mindset, of the evangelical/Tea Party political movement

While waiting out faithfully for Jesus to return
we’re conveniently ignoring his being foreign born
because we know dark and dirty ain’t going set us free
the preachers have promised us that could never be

Now our Lord doesn’t believe in government taxes
but some swear of his emailing and sending faxes
we know he righteously did heal and then tout
“I’m a miracle worker, all because I lack doubt”

That crap about his rolling with harlots and whores
it’s a campaign of hate by poseurs and bores
from those Beezlebub purveyors of the 666 code
come Judgment Day they’ll burn and explode

Crowds will swarm the bonfire, making it most large
reveling in the special appearance by Madame DeFarge
but for heaven’s sake ’cause there’s no good reason
Lord, please make it a-f-t-e-r the football season

Flip Side: A stream of consciousness

The Fox folks at their extra best idiot savantin’
while the radio fatboy spouts pure Oxycontin
they’re all parading around like virgin whores
who long ago played the quit card in keeping score

Yes, the drawing and quartering of commonsense
a perimeter of ignorance led by the willfully dense
declining sharpening tools for their dullest of minds
continuing to belly up to the buffet where haters dine

As war is now a status quo component of modern life
with huckster marketers waving the profitable flag of strife
as bodies appear double-stacked in the old tombstone corral
more enemies are created to boost our slipsliding morale

Now some are saying corporations are just like people
and they can’t wait for the Sunday sermon prequel
causing the hounds of whoredom to eagerly bay anew
as our religious speakeasies divest of the Golden Rule

The dirty little secret not taught in our purest of schools
challenging conventional wisdom – no that wouldn’t do
it’s ‘apostate heretics’ fighting to change the ties that binded
but was it Gailleo or the Church oh so woefully blinded?

Late Brother MLK brimming full of sacrifice and desire
sparking the kindling, setting off the holiest of fires
yes the powerful must eventually stand solitary nude
despite the rush to clothe them by the apologetic lewd

yessiree, of thee I do sing of the need for a USA spring

Faith

leap of faithTruth being a dimly lit wick submerging falsehood
a blind eye gospel foiling all ifs and coulds
wordy credences offering low rent relief
sin’s tithe sipped from the chalice of belief
gobbling the wafer of the approval portal
swings the chariot low for the demons’ removal
but unlike a temple’s blend of mortar and bricks
reality and comfort are a manna unmixed
for life consists of pinball tender hard
wearing velveteen slippers and walking on shards
dodging volleys of fire just to drink from the well
guided by the peal of grace’s often indifferent bell
burnished shrines serve not as flotation devices
as the inevitable dark river of egress rises
embracing intestacy for all seeds ever sown
alongside a fearless faith in the unforeseeable unknown

Essence (for the Catholic Church and many others)

An idea initially begats a movement
that the anointed soon have to protect
What was once blasphemy becomes orthodox
until its morality turns crosswired and murky

For individual divinity is too anarchistic
personal communion threatens the hierarchy
So the newest heretics become the shunned
while authenticity is infected and cannibalized

So strip away all layers to bare essence
do not bow to dogma’s weighty rule
Be pious for love, beauty, justice
with truth as the lamppost, never the institution