Blogalogue

Blogalogue


Bart Ehrman: God’s Kingdom Has Not Come

posted by ntwright

Tom,
Thanks so much for your most recent post, which clarifies your view considerably. It is a forceful, and I would even say elegant, statement.
Before responding, let me address two minor points that you make in passing, one about my argument and the other about me.


(1) On that ole emotion issue, you indicate that “if one is making an argument, then multiplying examples of the problem doesn’t actually add to the force of that argument.“ That’s a logician’s point and (I’m afraid) suggests different investments from the ones that I have in this “debate.” My view is that the numbers matter because people matter. They all matter and they are all that matter. If the Nazis had killed only one Jew, we would not be having this conversation (we probably should be, but we wouldn’t be). They killed six million. Each is an example, and multiple examples matter, logicians (please, one might add) be damned.
(2) You suspect that I left the faith because I had an intellectualizing understanding of it. I’m afraid that’s wrong. I was dead set against understanding Christian faith as some kind of assent to propositional statements – I preached (sometimes literally) against this view frequently, for years. My faith was a relationship with Christ, and through him with God. Several people have tried to psychoanalyze my journey; most of the time they get it wrong. I can see why they try though. If I left for good reasons, they too may be left facing the void!
Those points aside, I have two major responses to your second posting.
First, in your summary statement of “the biblical” view of suffering (which is what I took your statement to be – but maybe I was wrong about that?), you overlook virtually everything the Bible actually says about the subject. That gives me pause.
I know you (intimately) know what the Bible says on the subject. But let me summarize a few points to get to a question at the end. (The summary is for the sake of the debate – not for you!)
The most prominent answer in Scripture is given by the prophets: the reason people suffer is because they have sinned and God is punishing them for it. Is this a view that you, as a biblical theologian (or anyone else?) wants to support? Just take the book of Amos, who is characteristic, in this respect, of the entire prophetic corpus. Because Israel is God’s chosen people (3:2), “therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” And punish them he does. He brings starvation (4:6), drought (4:7-8), crop failure (4:9); he literally “killed your young men” (4:10) as he did the people of Sodom and Gomorah (4:11). It’s not that these are isolated events, for Amos or for the rest of the Bible. This, for much of the Bible, is how God deals with his people! “Does disaster (calamity/evil) befall the city if the Lord has not done it?” (3:6)
I wish Amos were an isolated case, but it’s not. This is the message throughout the prophets: God hurts, torments, and kills people to get them to repent. Strikingly, this view is not limited to the prophets. In Genesis the entire world was so wicked that God drowned the whole lot of them. Every one of them. Every man, woman, and child on the planet. Drowned by God himself. Including all the four year old boys and the infant girls. (Sorry to multiply examples…) And what exactly did these children have to do with wickedness?
God also has his chosen people maim and murder others for his purposes. Why did the people of Jericho suffer? Because they happened to live in Jericho. Wrong place, wrong time. When God gave his people the Promised Land, he instructed them explicitly to take the city by murdering every man, woman, and child (and animal!) in the city. Is this a God who can be believed in, one who orders murder? Or is this an exceptional case, since after, all, those people were probably wicked and needed to be eliminated?
This view of suffering as punishment, of course, is just one biblical answer (even though it’s a dominant one). But no one should think that it is limited to the Old Testament, as is clear from the Book of Revelation. The Lake of Fire is stoked up and waiting. That will be suffering in extremis, for all eternity, for everyone who does not side with the Lamb. Those Muslims, Jews, Buddhists – even those happy agnostics – are going to get it in the end, big time.
I think I can understand why you choose not to talk about such passages – even though they directly deal with precisely the question of what the Bible has to say about suffering. Or with other passages, such as the prose narrative at the beginning and end of Job, where God allows Job’s life to be shattered in order to prove a point to the Satan – allowing Satan even to murder Job’s children to see if he can get him to curse God. At the end, God makes it up to Job by restoring all his wealth – and giving him an additional ten children. I doubt if there’s a more offensive verse in the Bible – God giving Job ten more children to replace the ones he lost. As if we can replace six million Jews from the Holocaust by having six million more born in the next generation. Sometimes you wonder what the biblical authors were thinking.
Then there is the poetry of Job, where the answer to suffering appears to be that there is no answer, that God is almighty and is not accountable to us peons, and if we dare to ask why, though innocent, we suffer, we are liable, like Job, to be squashed into the dirt by God’s all powerful presence, forced to “repent in dust and ashes” even for asking the question.
And there is the answer of Ecclesiastes (the one I personally resonate with), that life is short, there is often no justice, things often go wrong, and there is no afterlife in which all will be made right. I think Ecclesiastes has nailed it, but it does seem to stand at odds with your view.
But there is also the answer of the apocalypticists, the one that (in its Christian version, not the Jewish) ultimately you hold to. More on that in a moment. For now, I just want to push a simple question. If you see yourself as a biblical theologian, and take the Bible – the whole Bible, not just the parts you like – seriously, how can you leave out of the equation most of what the Bible actually says about the subject? Is it because you think parts of the Bible are no longer applicable? Is it because you are working – as we used to say twenty years ago – with a “canon within the canon”? Or do you honestly think that you are allowing these other voices to be heard in your synthesizing statement of “the biblical” view on suffering?
The second problem I have with your view is that by presenting a kind of overarching view of what the Gospel (and Pauline) message is, you create a synthesizing view that undercuts what each individual author actually has to say. Mark’s views, for example, are radically – not just slightly – different from John’s. It is not simply that there are a few stories here and there that cut against the grain; Mark’s views of Jesus, and of God and the kingdom and what it means – to use your terms, which are not the Gospels’ – for “God to be running the world” are decidedly not John’s views, and vice versa.
I’m not a theologian (you can thank God), but if I were, I would think that it is not good theology to deprive the voices of the individual biblical authors of their individual views by synthesizing them into a whole that is unlike any one of them.
Moreover, I would say that for a Gospel like Mark’s, it is true that God’s Kingdom is coming (which, btw, is not at all the same as saying that one can see how God is running the world!), and that in some sense it has become manifest in the ministry of Jesus. But the entire premise of the coming Kingdom (both in the actual teaching of the historical Jesus and in Mark) (though not in John) is that this is an imminent event. “Some of you standing here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God having come in power.” Rob the kingdom of its imminence, and it suddenly means something very, very different. Here I think our different views of apocalypticism are rubber meeting the road.
The kingdom never did come. You seem to think that it will. So has every generation of Christians from day one – many of them, like Matthew, Mark, and Luke (and Paul!), expecting it within their own lifetimes. Every one of them has been wrong. I don’t think this should be taken lightly. The view that the kingdom is already beginning to be manifest in the life and ministry of Jesus hinges on its actual appearance in the (imminent) days to come. If that actual appearance is jettisoned, everything is changed.
But leave aside the question of whether it is sensible to think the kingdom really, actually, is ever going to come. How does one see it manifest in Jesus? In fact, it is not simply in his “obedience” (and suffering), as you intimate. I think you are reading the Gospels through the lens of Paul, rather than reading the narratives of the Gospels themselves. For the Synoptics, for example, the Kingdom is manifest in Jesus’ life and work: in the kingdom there will be no disease, no demons, and no death. Jesus manifests this kingdom in the meantime: he heals the sick, he casts out demons, and he raises the dead. This was not a message about some vague power of God breaking in at some period thousands of years hence. It was God breaking in now (in anticipation of its imminent appearance in power).
And is he? This I think is where we differ in a major way. In my view there is nothing to suggest that the Kingdom has arrived, even provisionally, in the coming of Jesus, in the way the Gospels themselves think (that in his coming the sick are healed, the demons cast out, and the dead raised). There are no fewer sick, demon-possessed, or dying now than before the appearance of Jesus (and his obedience and death). There are no fewer people born with horrible birth defects. There are no fewer lepers, blind, and lame. The multitudes are not being fed. The storms are not being stilled (think Katrina, for example).
Quite the contrary, the world goes on as it ever did. The writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not expect this (nor did Paul). They saw the kingdom arriving with Jesus’ ministry, they saw his death and resurrection as the beginning of the end, and they expected the end to come in their lifetime – when God would overthrow the forces of evil and set up a kingdom in which there would be no more pain, misery, or suffering. Our actual history stands at odds with their expectation, our world of genocides, AIDs, malaria, unclean drinking water, leprosy, birth defects, hurricanes, Columbian mudslides that kill 30,000, Pakistan earthquakes that kill 50,000, Indian Ocean tsunamis that kill 300,000, and on and on and on.
I wish Jesus had brought the Kingdom. But the human race struggles along its not so merry way, with all its pain, misery, and suffering – biblically based hopefulness notwithstanding – world without end.
What I see as extremely valuable in your view is the emphasis on the need to imitate Jesus in a life of obedience. If Christians really would be obedient to what they see as the will of God – for example in the “two greatest commandments” – the world would be a much better place. But it would still not be the Kingdom.
I know this note sounds critical in places, but I have wanted to state my view forcefully. Let me conclude on a conciliatory note, and ask if you will agree with me on four of the leading claims of my book God’s Problem:
(1) There are in fact many and varied answers in the Bible to the question of why there is suffering, not one overarching answer common to all the Bible’s authors.
(2) Some of these answers stand at odds with one another.
(3) Some of these biblical views (that God starves, drowns, and slaughters people he disapproves of, for example) are not satisfactory answers to why there is suffering in our world.
(4) Even if we cannot, in the end, know the reasons for suffering, we can at the least have appropriate responses to it. We ourselves can feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked; we can work to solve problems of poverty; we can give money to agencies finding cures for cancer and AIDS; we can volunteer more often locally; we can give more to international relief efforts. We can, in fact, fulfill the urgent demands implicit in Matthew’s account of the judgment between the sheep and the goats, for “as you have done this to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.”



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Jason

posted April 24, 2008 at 12:36 pm


Very powerful post and it has me thinking. I would like to point out a few fallacies in his argument, however. Ehrman does not believe that the entire Bible is literal, as many fundamentalists do. He would agree that it is full of different literature, from prose to poetry, hyperbole to genealogy. Of course you are not to take it all literal. But of course, when it is convenient for him to do so, Ehrman takes the (poetic) account of Job literal. He shows the horrible punishment of God without giving a single sentence to explain how culpable they may be.
Changing tracks, imagine it’s the 1950s again in America. The McCarthy witch hunt is on to “find” communists in the American government. We are terrified of Communists and Communism. In the midst of this God reveals Himself to America on national television and says that the Kingdom of God is communistic. How well do you think that would’ve been received. Or, imagine it is January 2002, shortly after 9-11. America is full of hate for Middle Easterns. There have been a number of murders of innocent people because some Americans think they are doing what is right. In the midst of this, God reveals Himself to America on national television and says that His Son was Middle Eastern. Moses was Middle Eastern. The entire Bible takes place in or near the Middle East. Some of whom you kill may be direct descendants of Moses. I say all that to say this: God reveals Himself to people and peoples in an acceptable way at an acceptable time. He did not appear to Moses and say Oh, by the way, everything must be democratic now. Everyone gets a vote, and no 2/5ths thing for the slaves. Everyone is equal. No, He doesn’t do that. The one time He did something like that He got crucified. We just aren’t going to take things like that too well. God will always meet you where you are and take you to where He wants you. He chose to show Himself to a Middle Eastern man in the midst of tribal warfare. He showed Himself to be a conquering God. He absolutely is that, always has been and always will be. But He emphasized it to Moses. He showed Moses His justice, His love, His faithfulness, His mercy as well, but all we remember is the killings. Is that fair?



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Lope

posted April 24, 2008 at 3:48 pm


I certainly agree with your appropriate responses to suffering in this world. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is not of this world. It seems to me you are making the same mistake the Jews of Jesus’s time made, assuming the kingdom was going to be a visiable organization similar to the empires and nations of the world. My view of the Kingdom of God is that it is an individual response to our Creator. When we respond to the suffering of this world appropriately, we become citizens of the Kingdom of God. If we do not do that, the Kingdom of God never comes for us.



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Jeff Young

posted April 24, 2008 at 4:04 pm


Ehrman completely (intentionally?) misreads these passages. His reasonableness on the matter must be seriously called into question. The use of the prophets as an answer to suffering completely misconstrues the context. Without going into great detail here is an example that shows the bias and entirely unfair use of the Bible by Bart. Ehrman writes: “Why did the people of Jericho suffer? Because they happened to live in Jericho. Wrong place, wrong time.” That simply misconstrues the whole text. The people of that land suffered as a result of judgment on sin; had they repented (as Ninevah did in Jonah’s day) God would not have destroyed them. And, as far as children or any other “innocents” – one has to take an eternal perspective on this. If we are going to read the Bible, let us read it in its context; that means, that innocent children whose lives were taken would have been brought to God to be with him in peace. To a better place.
But, the greatest problem here is that Bart is rhetorically painting a picture that simply is skewed toward his argument. In essence, he is not honestly and fairly grappling with the text. As a result, this undermines every word he says. When he honestly deals with these OT texts and uses the within their proper context (both the immediate context and the whole of the OT/NT), then we can get somewhere.
This is pitifully sad that Ehrman is resorting to such straw man arguments – to justify his position. If he really, genuinely understands these contexts in this way (be it Amos, or the Jericho story or others) then his theological education was incredibly shallow and all those years he spent as a “believing scholar” – he did not spend much time reading his Bible! That, or he’s intentionally being dishonest with the Biblical text to skew his arguments.
That … is sad.



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Bart Ehrman

posted April 24, 2008 at 5:51 pm


Jeff,
I am not normally going to be replying to postings but I feel that I need to make an exception in this case. You find it sad and pitiful that I am taking the statements of Joshua 6 (the battle of Jericho) out of context, that if I had looked at the context I would see that the people of Jericho were wicked and were being punished for sin, and that if they repented like the people of Nineveh, they would have been spared.
I have read this passage (Joshua 6) hundreds of times (several times, recently, in Hebrew). And I don’t see any of what you claim in the context. There is obviously no reference to Nineveh and Jonah, but also no reference to the wickedness of the people living in Jericho and no indication that if they had repented they would have been spared. What verses are you referring to, in the context of Joshua 6? If it’s not in the context, why do you suppose you see it there? I think *you* have imported it into the context, rather than read it out of the context.
And I shudder to think that you imagine it is *ever* right to murder babies, because in the eternal view they will be with God.
If you feel sad about what I said, I think the sadness comes from what is actually stated in the biblical text itself.



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Daldianus

posted April 25, 2008 at 3:15 am


Excellent and powerful post by Mr Ehrman again. Straight to the point!
As for God making people suffer let’s not forget that he, according to Genesis, INTENTIONALLY changed the body structure of Eve in order to greatly increase her pains during child birth! The ONLY reason for this painful change is that he ‘needed’ to punish her disobedience. That’s exactly the sort of wisdom and subtlety I expect from a God …



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Robert McDowell

posted April 25, 2008 at 8:01 am


Regarding the Noah’s Ark story and the horrid suffering inflicted upon humanity, you are screening out that this was done because the world was extremely wicked and sinful. You get the sense as you read the first chapter of Genesis, that humanity itself will end if God doesn’t act.
But of course, after this story, God promises not to do away with creation and begins the long and painful process of rescuing the world through a covenant with Abraham and by establishing a people who will become a light to the nation. Israel of course, fails many times in being God’s people (they become less than human when they sin.) This connection of sin and suffering as prophesied by the prophets needs to be seen in light of God’s desire to rescue the world. Jesus, the representative of Israel (and humanity) fulfills this through his life, death, and resurrection, becoming the fulfillment of God’s redemption of the world, a foretaste of what God has in store when Jesus appears again.
Regarding the taking of the promised land by force and killing its inhabitants, God’s rescue plan for creation would not have been able to have its beginning without it. Again, one needs to look at the bigger picture of God’s desire to reclaim creation. Salvation is often messy and there are costs along the way. See the cross and how Jesus entered that suffering and see the broken heart of God, to show that God is not a distant deity who does not understand that redemption is costly.



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Daldianus

posted April 25, 2008 at 8:21 am


If God’s creation failed so badly that it needed to be wiped out preemptively then why not simply turn all those evil people into pink butterflies? Or thin air?
Why the need for a cruel punishment like a ‘global flood’? A flood that destroys landscapes and animals as well. And which sinful things did they do … ? The same goes for the human babies that were fighting for a few minutes until water has filled their lungs until they died from asphixiation?
Seems to me like your God was unnecessarily cruel. That doesn’t reflect well on him.



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GLENDA

posted April 25, 2008 at 11:07 am


Years ago someone asked me why God allowed his mother to suffer so much before she died. My thoughts are these – “if God didn’t spare His own Son from suffering and dying on the cross, then why should we expect Him to spare us suffering and dying”. Jesus never promised us that by His dying on the cross that we would have a perfect life of health, wealth and happiness. If that were the case then He would have spared all His Apostles a martyr’s death. He didn’t. Jesus promised that He would help us through the bad things in this life and promised us eternal life with Him in heaven.



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Anonymous

posted April 25, 2008 at 12:02 pm


Quite a pressing, lengthy, and compelling post by Dr Ehrman. The more I read along, the more I want to go out and by two or three of the books I have seen by him and read them, start to finish.
Dr. Ehrman repeatedly has accused the Bishop of placing a unifying motif over the entire corpus of Scripture which has led to the Bishop drowning out the voices of the individual authors and their radically different views of life and historical events (especially, apparently, the Gospels). Though I think this critique may or may not be fair of Tom in certain places, I think it would be a mistake to deny the fact that the Bible has been shaped and formed over time in communities of people for this very purpose. The Bible, as both of these gentlemen very well know, is not a jumbled book of random texts found in some hole and deemed inspired; the Bible has been shaped and re-shaped by the communities which donated the books to us. Though I do not mean to say that the Biblical books were re-written or anything like that once they entered into canonical status, they certainly were interpreted by the communities in light of the “election narrative” of the Jewish people, to name one motif that runs through the Bible. And as far as the Gospels are concerned, I certainly do think they all have different perspectives on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but Dr. Ehrman makes it sound as though they have little, if anything, in common, other than a similar narrative on which to “sermonize” their own take on Jesus. Given that the Gospels (starting with Mark, and getting successively older) were probably written no earlier than the late fifties, and that all these men were part of the same early Christian movement, and that two of the four men were direct disciples of Jesus, one was taught by direct disciples, and not to mention the whole Synoptic borrowing deal, I do not understand how Dr. Ehrman can think that Bishop Wright is forcing his own unifying narrative into the Gospels. For one, Tom does acknowledge differences in the Gospels; however, those differences do not mean the Gospels are so widely different as Dr. Ehrman would like to make it out. And, if Jesus is the promised Messiah that all of these men believed he was, than all of them would be mulling on the same Old Testament texts (give or take a few they might have read that we don’t have) and finding the same narrative coming to a climax. And, given three were Jews, this story would be especially laden with a narrative punch because it was the climax of THEIR story. So, I think the Bishop, not ignorant of differences, is simply trying to do historicaal justice to the texts (especially since what we call “narrative” has been a crucial theme of Scripture since God called Abraham and to every Jewish and Christian Bible reader after), while Dr. Ehrman is demanded of his position to find disunity and press it to a breaking point.
I want to make two points concerning the actual subject of suffering in response to Dr. Ehrman. I believe Jason’s last post touches on an idea called “progressive revelation” that, though hairy in places and not a completely satisfying answer, does help to answer some of the problems faced in the text. However, in the OT, it is not the Jews who come up with their own ideas and God simply corroborates them; God is in fact the one commanding the Jews to “leave no stone unturned” in a sense. God was the one who chose to flood the world instead of “turning people into pink butterflies.” The Bible says why this is the case, as Dr. Ehrman most certainly knows, but so many times that answer is looked over because it doesn’t sit well with us. The reason God chose such radical punishments in the OT is because, according to the text, the people receiving the judgment had become so evil in their hearts that all that could be left to do was simply destroy them or let them continue to poison the world with their wickedness. This is why God chose to judge the world in the Flood, to purge the land of Canaan via the Jews, to raze Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. Certainly most everyone would feel that a man like Hitler or Stalin or Mao would deserve a sort of death like this, so it is possible that men could deserve this sort of judgment from God.
When God punishes the Jews, is it not also for similar reasons, multiplied by the fact they they know much better? God does not just choose to arbitrarily cause drought and plague because he is bored and the Jews happened to piss Him off in some irrelevant way; he does so because they are oppressing their women and children, they are treating the foreigner like a dog, they are robbing from the poor, they are allowing their land to be used for evil purposes, they are worshipping idols and engaging in rituals that were detestable, they are stealing from the temple, etc. etc. etc. etc. In fact, you could probably say that God’s is more a consequence of evil-doing than an arbitrary sort of punishment. To use a colloquial example, it’s like the boy who wants to smoke his father’s cigar when his father told him not to. The boy does so anyway, and, when the father catches him, he sits him down and makes him smoke a whole box of them. God, in judging the Jews, has warned them REPEATEDLY of what would happen, and yet they just keep doing what they want, so He simply replies in turn, “This is what you want, then take it to its full measure.”
Yes, innocent people get caught in the line of fire, and that is sad, and we can ask “Why would God let that happen?” but I think the Bible does have an answer to that problem still. In the end, when the evil get theirs, the righteous will get theirs (such as Psalm 75). In the book of Revelation this sort of picture is painted in which all the people who are killed or died unjustly are crying before the throne of God saying “How long Lord” and he says “Just a little longer.” When God renews this world and gives His people the inheritance promised since Adam, those who died unjustly will be given their due in a unified and beautified world where evil will no longer be a problem. And if that is true, then perhaps God’s act could be seen as an act of mercy on them, removing them from a tragic and hopeless present situation so as to allow them to receive full vindication on a better earth in the future.
One last point….
Dr. Ehrman feels that Ecclesiastes is more or less agnostic in its view of evil and God’s so called “justice.” I agree that the whole book is written in that tone, but I believe that the author (probably Solomon, one of the smartest and wisest men in the world) is attmepting to make a rhetorical point throughout the whole book. The whole book ends with two verses “Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole purpose of man, for God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” Unless Dr. Ehrman would seek to say these verses are not original to the text (I have never seen anyone press that argument forward), then Solomon’s response to the whole book in which he basically says “All be damned, we are all dying anyway” is that one day, if not now, then in the future, it all will matter, so fear God and keep His commandments.



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Miguel de Servet

posted April 26, 2008 at 6:45 am


[Bart Ehrman #1] The Lake of Fire is stoked up and waiting. That will be suffering in extremis, for all eternity, for everyone who does not side with the Lamb. Those Muslims, Jews, Buddhists – even those happy agnostics – are going to get it in the end, big time.
[Miguel de Servet #1] I think there are two unwarranted assumptions here:
First, that the punishment of the wicked is everlasting (the specular opposite of Life Everlasting). But, in fact, at Revelation 20:10, this is said explicitly ONLY about the devil and his minions, whereas, about humans, who are condemned after being resurrected, at Revelation 20:14, it says that “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”, and that “the lake of fire is the second death” (Rev 20:14-15). Is it too daring to assume that this “second death” is also the “definitive death”, and that the idea of “everlasting punishment” is only a consequence of the (essentially heathen) doctrine of the “immortality of the soul”?
Second, certainly, according to Christian Doctrine, only those who have “adhered to Christ” will be worthy to live with him everlastingly. But Revelation 20:12 clearly says that “he dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books”, in full agreement with Matthew 25:31-46
[BE#2] Then there is the poetry of Job, where the answer to suffering appears to be that there is no answer, that God is almighty and is not accountable to us peons, and if we dare to ask why, though innocent, we suffer, we are liable, like Job, to be squashed into the dirt by God’s all powerful presence, forced to “repent in dust and ashes” even for asking the question.
[MS#2] However hard it is for us to accept, the best summation of the Book of Job is that “the answer to suffering appears to be that there is no answer”. I have argued (not analytically, but “intuitively”) that “a world without ‘cosmic evil’ would be incompatible with the existence of beings endowed with Free Will”. BTW, it is a HUGE misunderstanding that Elihu’s Speeches (Job 32-37)would be the “answer” to the problem of suffering. In fact, Elihu is first dismissed with annoyance by YHWH God (Job 38:2), then simply ignored in the epilogue (Job 42:7-17).
[BE#3] And there is the answer of Ecclesiastes (the one I personally resonate with), that life is short, there is often no justice, things often go wrong, and there is no afterlife in which all will be made right. I think Ecclesiastes has nailed it, but it does seem to stand at odds with your view.
[MS#3] Depends what you mean by “afterlife”. If you refer to the “life of the eternal soul”, that is perfectly true, because, again, the doctrine of the “immortality of the soul” is NOT scriptural BUT essentially heathen.
And Ecclesiastes (in particular 9, and even more specifically 9:5) does NOT preclude the final resurrection, both of the righteous and of the wicked, the former to a judgment of life everlasting, the latter to a (definitive) Death Sentence. (Just enough time to regret the waste of a lifetime).
[BE#4] … the entire premise of the coming Kingdom (both in the actual teaching of the historical Jesus and in Mark) (though not in John) is that this is an imminent event. “Some of you standing here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God having come in power.”
[MS#4] It has been suggested that, as Jesus did not know when the Kingdom of God will come (“nor the Son, but only the Father” Mat 24:36), to strengthen the faith and hope of at least a few chosen ones, the “columns”, Peter, James and John, he let them enjoy the Transfiguration as a “foretaste” of the “World to come”. I fully subscribe to this view.
[BE#5] The view that the kingdom is already beginning to be manifest in the life and ministry of Jesus hinges on its actual appearance in the (imminent) days to come. If that actual appearance is jettisoned, everything is changed.
[MS#5] I think that here you are describing a specific theological on outlook eschatology, that of Augustine of Hippo, which is, undoubtedly, merely a clever ruse, devised to avoid confronting seriously the ultimate incompatibility between the scriptural “model”, i.e. resurrection, with the heathen-philosophical-esoteric “model”, the s.c. “immortality of the soul”.
[MS#5] I But the “iam et non etiam” is a test which all Christians (true Christians, who truly believe that the Second Coming is a true promise, that will break into the “sequence of time”, NOT a metaphysical/metaphorical “myth of end times”) have to accept, with Faith, without ever giving up Hope.
[BE#6] In my view there is nothing to suggest that the Kingdom has arrived, even provisionally, in the coming of Jesus, in the way the Gospels themselves think (that in his coming the sick are healed, the demons cast out, and the dead raised).
[MS#6] I think you commit here the same mistake that you commit about the notion of “imminence” of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom is hinted at by the Transfiguration, which is NOT a “first instalment” BUT a “foretaste” of the Kingdom. Likewise the acts and words of Jesus, whereby, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Mat 11:5-6; cp. Is 35:5-6) are NOT a “first instalment” BUT a “foretaste” of the Kingdom.
[BE#7] There are no fewer lepers, blind, and lame. The multitudes are not being fed. The storms are not being stilled (think Katrina, for example).
Quite the contrary, the world goes on as it ever did. The writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not expect this (nor did Paul).

[MS#7] Significantly, you do not mention Peter. As we know 2 Peter 3:3-4 says:

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

Do we have to understand that you take it for granted that 2 Peter is a hoax and a forgery? But isn’t it strange how, as early as second generation Christians, the problem was already there, exactly as you see it now, and yet so many Christians, over two thousand years, obviously have NOT found it (unlike you) an insurmountable stumbling block?



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Steve

posted April 26, 2008 at 9:58 pm


Hi Bart,
Great to see such a lively debate. A couple of questions about your blog:
“God hurts, torments, and kills people to get them to repent.”
What do you make of the many occassions in the OT where the idea of God’s wrath is linked directly to divine absence? – ie. God removes his special protection and leaves Israel to it; hence they would face droughts, starvation, crop failure etc. For example see Deut 31:17-18. A similar idea is also expressed in Rom 1:18-25 – God gives people over to the inherent consequences of their choices. The theological reality, I imagine, is that God sustains all things, but by rejecting him we reject what sustains us.
“I doubt if there’s a more offensive verse in the Bible – God giving Job ten more children to replace the ones he lost.”
Perhaps I am mistaken, but looking at the numbers here – The number of animals Job recieves is double what he originally had – i.e. replacing the ones he lost and adding the same again. When it comes to his children however he only recieves the same number as he originally had. The reduced number is surely intentional to show that he doesn’t recieve replacements for the ones he had.



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Dick Wilkins

posted April 27, 2008 at 2:20 pm


When man fell at Eden, HE brought judgement on all of creation. Not just for any one period of time but, until the fullness of time. When Mortal shall put on immortality and the corruptable shall put on in corruption, then shall come to pass death is swallowed up in victory.
MAN IS RESPONSIBLE FOR the disorder of all things!!



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Drewman

posted April 27, 2008 at 4:38 pm


Whilst I love the intellectual stimuli that we all seem to follow here I have to come right back to basics. If God created all, he also created and decided the nature of suffering – all on his/her own! If man chose to do his own thing – against the will of God then the consequences were decided by God – the nature of suffering was Gods invention as was all else. God could have made suffering something different (answers and suggestions on a postcard please) But as much as all else was his idea; then so was suffering in all its forms. As anything God creates is found ‘good’ by him. I would argue that suffering is also approved of by God, as on day 6 (whatever that means) he had to have already built it into his design.
Now to a believer that is uncomfortable but ‘faith’ will see them through. ‘Faith’, which is not just about believing in a God that we cannot see – and who awkwardly never seems to turn up in the way of biblical precedent. But also seems to require us to ‘not-believe’ in common sense, cold reason and the things that we can see. If we manage to believe in what we cannot see or comprehend and to overlook that which we can see and very much comprehend – suffering is about as real as it gets after all – then there is indeed meaning found in faith through submission.
To the non believer, however much the idea of a loving, caring benevolent God is attractive – long live Alpha! the realities are just not answered by the Bible.
If the Bible and its God created sufferings, are worth debating at all then the only conclusion you can reach is to bury your head in the sand and approve of all God does. After all he alone is holy and therefore can do what the heck he pleases, as if you have Faith then he can do no wrong, never will do wrong and has never done any wrong – except create it!



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Rick Gibson

posted April 28, 2008 at 1:37 pm


[Bart Ehrman]Even if we cannot, in the end, know the reasons for suffering, we can at the least have appropriate responses to it. We ourselves can feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked; we can work to solve problems of poverty; we can give money to agencies finding cures for cancer and AIDS; we can volunteer more often locally; we can give more to international relief efforts. We can, in fact, fulfill the urgent demands implicit in Matthew’s account of the judgment between the sheep and the goats, for “as you have done this to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.”
Dr. Ehrman,
You are not far from the Kingdom of God. I pray that those of us who claim to be followers of Christ would take your suggestion seriously. Maybe, just maybe if the followers of Christ unified to eradicate many of the sufferings you mentioned, then the world might believe the Gospel.



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Sandra Stull

posted April 29, 2008 at 3:57 pm


Alright, everyone, put your hands up and stand away from your bibles. Especially you, Dr. Ehrman, for whom this book has become a stumbling block. One does not need a bible to have a close relationship to God. It’s nice to have this source of knowledge, of course, but what is important is how you use the information.
In times of suffering, one needs only to ask our Father to send down the Comforter. It’s amazing how fast He responds to this request, just as Jesus said He would. Yes, one can actually feel a comforting presence envelope one’s mind. It is not necessary to dig out the bible and read some sort of instructions, just ask.
Once ensconced in the Holy Spirit, one can ask for things. But be careful what you ask for. For example, how many Jewish people prayed to have a Jewish state established before one was created in lieu of the horrors of the holocaust? How many people pray for riches even though it is at the expense and suffering of millions?
Dr. Ehrman sites Ecclesiastes as giving us the lesson that “life will be short, there is often no justice, things often go wrong and there is no afterlife in which all will be made right.” Funny, I thought the lesson was, “all is vanity and vexation of the spirit.” In other words, the problems of life are all caused by people wanting to have more than other people have, and will go against what their spirit tells them in order to attain all this stuff, or power, or glory.
Dr. Ehrman, I fear that you have sorely vexed your spirit by becoming indifferent to God, and perhaps have even been enriched by the sale of your ideas. Doesn’t that make you feel dry and empty inside compared to when the Spirit possessed you? I prefer the living waters, myself, but that’s just me. I found out about living waters in the bible, but I had to put the book down and contemplate in order to realize that I already had it. The presence of the Holy Spirit is a warm, moist, full feeling.
It is not surprising that the poor and suffering realize that love is the most important thing in life. It’s all they have left. It cannot be bought. It eases pain. It’s God’s ultimate gift. And, as much as we regret having to witness the suffering of another, it may help to realize that it’s only temporary, a mere blink of the eye in God’s time. And perhaps ask yourself whose pain you want God to alleviate, yours or the victim’s? Aren’t you asking God to prolong this person’s life for your own benefit, so you don’t have to watch, so you don’t have to cry anymore, so you don’t feel guilty because you did nothing to prevent it?
Isn’t it better to allow our loved ones to be taken to heaven where they will experience unimaginable joy, than to demand that God prolong their life in this difficult world? Most of us say we would give our right arm for this or that. Would you suffer unendurable pain for ultimate joy for the rest of eternity?
Rejoice people, if you do not hunger or struggle to survive. God is showing how much He loves you. When you love Him back, you will naturally love others. Remember how nice you were to everyone while basking in the glow of your first love? You would have “taken a bullet” for that person whether the love object was aware of your existence or not. That’s what happens when one truly loves God.
We cause the suffering because we do not know this love of God.
Dr. Ehrman, please throw your bible away and concentrate on figuring out what’s true. And, while you’re at it, hand over some of that wealth to others who are suffering. Then you’ll love yourself and God, who provided you with such a fine mind which, in turn, will enable you to make others and yourself happy.
So, the truth about why God allows innocents to suffer is that He allows us to do what we want. The comment stringing the suffering in Africa to a line of bad decisions is right on the money. But the truth also is that He will provide the comfort and grace necessary to endure it all, whether caused by us greedy bastards or innocent, but bad, bacteria.
And, by the way, God is love. God is in the Kingdom. Therefore, love is in the kingdom. Don’t look to the skies for the Kingdom to come. It is here.



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Sara Wilson

posted April 30, 2008 at 1:30 pm


Thanks so much to Bart Ehrman and N.T. Wright for this informed discussion. Both of you raise questions I wish faith communities would raise and explore more often.
A friend of mine, who wanted more than anything to become an Episcopal priest, died at 43 of brain cancer. He suffered enormously for three years before his death (and with brain cancer, the suffering was both physical and mental). During his final days, as we sat in a vigil with him in his hospital room, we all sensed this presence that we could only describe as sacred, as grounded in a divine love. For us, that presence was God, or was of God.
But that presence was not what I identify as an omnipotent, almighty deity. It was more like a compassionate presence. I struggle with the notion that God is some sort of omnipotent, cosmic puppet-master who can unilaterally control the agencies and contingencies of existence.
And yet it’s been my experience that God, the Sacred, the Divine, is nevertheless and paradoxically present and real.
At any rate, I’m grateful for this discussion and the opportunity to share thoughts.



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Rev. Jay Hartley

posted May 1, 2008 at 2:59 pm


Mssrs. Ehrman & Wright:
I have used both of your books and videos in Bible studies at my church, and appreciate both of your scholarship. Two other authors I’ve used seem more helpful to me on the problem of suffering: Rabbi Kushner “When Bad things Happen…”) and Marjorie Suckocki (“Fall to Violence”). Both, along w/ all Process Theologians, are quite willing to give up the idea of an “all-powerful” God. (See Hartshorne’s: “Omnipotence and other Theological Mistakes.”) Mr. Ehrman seems to posit his rejection of Christianity as needing to reject an all-powerful God who “lets” suffering happen. If you give up the idea of omnipotence, and accept the world as it is, full of suffering, then a God who persuasive power is always working for creative transformation makes credible and biblical sense. In short, it seems you’ve given up on a particular image of God as all-powerful that is probably not the best image of God available.
I would suspect you both know about all this, as you are obviously way more educated than most of the rest of us, but perhaps you’ve missed out on Process Theology in the midst of ancient documents.
Peace,
Jay



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Jane

posted May 3, 2008 at 12:57 pm


Sounds like Ehrman is very angry.
God made us in his image. We possess two natures; good and evil.
But in due time “a Lamb rose in Jerusalem, he was the Son of the great I Am.
He gave to me the victory.” is the way someone said it in a song.
God creates evil as he said he does in the Bible. It is one of the things he he does. Whoc ares what some theologians say.
Evil could not be here unless God made it. Not allow it. He creates it. See Isaiah 45:7….And He takes full responsibility for it.
People argue about it….”God could not have created evil.” or “No, he just allows it.” No, the Bible clearly says he creates (present tense) it.
However, he also made the way to overcome the evil he makes; his very own nature in us and this can only be done in Christ.
God made a way for me not to be eaten by a shark. I stay away from them. God made a way for me not to die by my own hand. I simply won’t do it because God said..”You shall do no murder.” That settles it for me.
Ehrman wants a genie in a bottle, for God to hump out when he says and answer him. It is laughable and absurd. He is an adult and should know better.
I wrote in my blog on this, that Ehrman cannot make a universe, so who in tarnation is he to question God? It is insane.
Ehrman needs to learn who God actually is!
God creates evil, he himself made the serpent who was in the garden. Go read Genesis and find this is true.
God’s grace is greater than the evil. That is a whole lot of grace since there is much evil in the world.
Paul told us to think on things that are true, honest, just, of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.
Ehrman’s PROBLEM is he is a backslider (if he ever was saved) which I say he wasn’t. I was saved as a teenager and I have suffered much, but MORE have I been blessed. I adore God and my life has been wonderful simply because Jesus is in me overcoming the evil of my own nature, the very nature that emerged in Eden. Eve never would have eaten the fruit IF the serpent had not showed up. He was in the garden. God made him along with all the other beasts of the field. They were all subtle, but the serpent was the most subtle of all the beastd the Lord God had made.
The story of Jesus is the greatest story ever and it brings hope to a dark soul. I cried for joy when I read the story of Abraham how God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees to show him a city whose builder and maker is God.
Follow the footsteps of Yahweh as he steps from eternity into Genesis One and then follow him as he calls Abraham, to his meeting with Jacob, and on until he emerges as a man born under the law from a virgin’s womb in Bethelehem.
Then watch as he is executed by the Roman government, then the RESURRECTION.
Ehrman has sent a damaging message to only those who do not know God, who might believe Ehrman has a point.
He doesn’t. I see a angry stubborn rebellious person whose sin is actually witchcraft.
I did not buy Ehrman’s book, for I will not help the devil.
God has done EVERYTHING a just and loving God can do to save us from the evil that naturally came from his creation conerning when he found iniquity in one of his angels Lucifer.
Thank God that iniquity wasn’t found in God himself.
Yes, God makes evil even as he makes sharks, pigs, kittens, humans, planets, but he is a good God for doing all he could to get rid of it.
Jesus will return at the set time.
To God be praise and glory now and forever.
God was honest with us.
Totallt honest.
Ehrman should give God the benefit of his doubt.



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Jane

posted May 3, 2008 at 1:09 pm


One more thing…………Ehrman mentions the millions of Jews that were killed by Hitler.
Why doesn’t he mention how the Jews treated Jesus?
They rejected him, after all he had done for them.
My advice, don’t treat God as you would an old shoe.
I love the Jews and know they are chosen, but I don’t lie to myself or wish God better answer all my questions. Is is alright with Ehrman if God knows some things he doesn’t?
Ehrman reminds me a big baby crying for a lollipop.
He should be a strong soldier in Jesus and trust God instead of sending stupid messages via a book to the world.
My great concern is how many will give up or be lost because of this book of lies?
The money he makes from this book will be blood money as far as I can see it.



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shsnj

posted May 3, 2008 at 8:40 pm


Jane said:
One more thing…………Ehrman mentions the millions of Jews that were killed by Hitler.
Why doesn’t he mention how the Jews treated Jesus?
They rejected him, after all he had done for them.

Well Jane, I guess those Jews in the 20th century had it coming to them, didn’t they? Multitudes deserved to be gassed and burned — even living babies — because of something that a small number of their ancestors did in the first century. Human experiments? Serves them right!
Love really is grand, isn’t it?



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Bill

posted May 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm


Isn’t it great that God has given us the ability to reflect on his world and has let us give our take on it without extinguishing us. His patience I am so thankful for because I too have complained so many times to Him of why I’ve had to suffer and why others I’ve known and know have suffered as well.
Suffering is indeed a problem even for the person who believes in the Christian God. I invite all to struggle with the God of the OT & NT scriptures for I certainly don’t want a world in which human thought is censured for that is what makes life so free if I dare to call it free.
I don’t believe God owes us anything i.e. anything good. I have come to believe that we’re all ill deserving straight from the womb (after the fall that is). I only have to look in the mirror so to speak and what I’ve seen I don’t like. By extension I know that others are not so different than myself and that God amidst this rebellion of ours is showing us grace in many ways and through a whole lot of time. I want to know that kind of God who just doesn’t titillate us with some pleasures so we may worship him. But a God who is very real in a very real life and death world.
I don’t even claim to understand why God had to allow for disobedience to occur but I do know from Genesis that when God created everything he then gave his divine endorsement on it as “very good”. So where ever this evil came from it did not directly come from God’s but from the creatures will however you may define it.
I think when we try to answer the problem of evil or suffering in the world we are trying to some extent to be like God knowing good and evil as he knows. Rather I think we ought to be like a child who climbs up into his father’s lap and who is always awed at him. And that awe of the child never ceases because God as father will never be comprehended and so we await his comfort and peace and some answers when he so chooses to reveal it to us. I believe a lot of that revelation has been given to us ill deserving humanity and we should take comfort in that fact that we are the ones that owe God a heck of a lot and still God gives to us even though he doesn’t owe us anything. I want to know this God more than any other creature or thing and try to imitate him as best as I can to his creatures!



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shsnj

posted May 4, 2008 at 2:05 pm


I have come to believe that we’re all ill deserving straight from the womb (after the fall that is).
Bill, are you saying that a straight-from-the-womb infant who suffers greatly is simply getting his or her just due?



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Bill

posted May 4, 2008 at 9:38 pm


No, the doctrine of original sin was not my main point. I guess I should have been more careful at how I worded my thoughts. My point was simply that we live in a world of suffering and death because of the disobedience of our first parents. And we having received this state of disobedience have the capacity to bring about great amounts of evil in the world where as before the fall that propensity wasn’t at all there. I know that God has also according to Genesis subjected this earth to futility because of our first parents sin.
All I will say to your question right now is that I entrust it to a loving heavenly father to do what is right and just. I can’t answer directly to why a particular infant may suffer greatly except what I have in general said above; I don’t even have the answers for why God allowed the things to happen to me. I simply trust him that though I don’t yet have the answers, I will one day have them. Or one day all of this mess will make sense when standing before the Majesty and Glory of his presence. Or maybe to bring up my former analogy, when you were a child and something caused you to cry, you immediately went to a parent to have that pain taken away. So an all powerful God will one day make all things right.



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Marcel Popescu

posted May 5, 2008 at 12:22 pm


Great debate. Even though I consider myself a Christian (you’ll see why the weird choice of words), I might look into buying some books by Mr. Ehrman… he writes very well. That being said, I want to comment (NOT argue) on a few paragraphs, given that I haven’t seen anyone else mention this (I read all the other comments):
[quote]
The Lake of Fire is… That will be suffering in extremis, for all eternity…
But the entire… is that this is an imminent event…
The kingdom never did come…
[/quote]
You should look into the preterist position, Mr. Ehrman. (And anyone else who is curious.) There are some of us who believe that the second coming is a past event… that 70 AD marks the end of the age, the end of the first covenant, and the events described in Revelation. We are very sad that a lot of people consider Jesus a liar (or at least mistaken) because they do not understand this, and especially sad that some of them are well-known Christians, like C. S. Lewis (whom I personally admire).
I am not going to argue for this position here. Definitely not the place. I didn’t come to it quickly, it took me about five years, and I realize that it’s not for everyone. (Ultimately, it led me to Christian Universalism, which is a big no-no for most Christians… including a lot of preterist ones.) I just wanted to say that there are some people for whom the above is not considered a valid argument.



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Josh

posted May 6, 2008 at 4:55 pm


“And there is the answer of Ecclesiastes (the one I personally resonate with), that life is short, there is often no justice, things often go wrong, and there is no afterlife in which all will be made right. I think Ecclesiastes has nailed it, but it does seem to stand at odds with your view.”
You’ve missed a few fundamental parts of Ecclesiastes that deny what you’re saying here.
The writer begins stating that wisdom, like folly, is meaningless in chapter 2 at verse 12. However, he writes about the benefit and point of wisdom in chapter 7, and concludes in the end of 9 and 10 that there is, in fact, meaning in wisdom and that it is better than folly. In fact, it presented a counter argument to suffering and meaning when he states that “there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.” Then there is the whole conclusion to the matter, which completely denies your suggestion:
“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
If the wise writer truly believes all is meaningless, including wisdom and hope for justice as you suggest, then why would he assert that God WILL bring every deed to judgement? If the writer believes that a man can live an unjust life without punishment, why would he suggest that the man will find judgement? It seems that the writer does suggest an afterlife in which judgement will be wrought for those who didn’t find judgement in life. Consider the biblical use of “night” and “day” and “under the sun” to represent life, death, and the land “above Sheol”. When the writer says “never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun”, does he mean they will do nothing ever again?



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Techai

posted May 15, 2008 at 4:36 pm


In God’s Problem, Dr. Ehrman states that his view is that “this life is all there is”, p.276. While that may or may not be a move from agnosticism to atheism, it at least raises the following issues:
1. If this life is all there is, then there is no basis for saying that we “should” work for the cessation of suffering. I think we should but my world view supports “shoulds”. Consistent Agnosticism and Atheism do not support the basis of imposing one’s person views of right and wrong upon others. The “shoulds” that occur in his book are made by borrowing from other world views–ones that he denies.
2. If “this world is all there is” means Evolutionary Naturalism, then there really is no “suffering.” The strong eat the weak; the earth does things to humans but that is “natural”. It is just the way it is–neither right nor wrong. I don’t believe that but my world view is not Evolutionary Naturalism.
3. The end of his book is, well to be gracious, it is pathetic. “Our response should be to work to alleviate suffering wherever possible and to live life as well as we can.” The book is being marketed as an intellectual, profound work by a “renowned Bible scholar” and distinguished professor. Dr. Ehrman, in the introduction, presents the book as a mature, intellectual work–personal but also for an intellectually critical audience. And all he can conclude with is this cognitively unsupportable, self-help-esque conclusion? This conclusion undermines the credibility of his presentations of scholarship and his interpretations; it calls into the question the entire work.
Which raises the question of why is was written. He has nothing positive to contribute to the subject but is certainly animated to tear down the Bible. But he really has not attacked the Bible but only his idiolectic (I don’t mean idiotic) caricature of the Bible, which is of his own creation. Like a newspaper cartoonist, he has presented somethings as very large and made other things small to create a figure comic and ridiculous to communicate his personal opinion. But it is a private opinion not a public one; it is the opinion in his head and heart not the one that we can all consider and interact about.
The first thing the book could use is some world view integrity and consistency. I would propose that while he may be right that the Bible doesn’t tell us (or certainly tell us all we’d like to know about) why we suffer, the Bible, as a public document, provides a better world view framework for understanding life and suffering, giving real reasons for holding on to hope, and ultimately living out of grace, selflessness and “shoulds” than agnosticism, atheism.



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Alice Josselyn

posted May 27, 2008 at 1:14 pm


Almighty God who created heaven and earth is to be trusted no matter what…… If he created all things then he can strenghthen us no matter what we go through…. If all Christains are right, and abviously the bible is the infalable word of God, then judgement wii come, so,WILL HE AGAIN: THEN WE WILL HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS TO MUGH AND VARIED SUFFERING. BUT, if we are right then ALL have something to lose, but you say we are wrong I understand: ten we have lost nothing by trusting except ridacule which MY Jesus took all the time, praise God. He knows ore hearts, and can go from there, Just love him with all Your heart mind, soul and strength, Accept him and his Holy Spirit which leads us into ALL truth. He guides are walk every step of the way, as a shepherd leads his sheep. No man comes to the Father except through JESUS. All our questions will be answered at the great day of the Banquet table. What conversations there will be, questions answered, ( if there are still any) Paul asked (3) times to have the thorn from his side removed. ( weakness or suffering in adequises) God said ” My grace is sufficient for thee” There lies our strength. Do as we may to the least of these, and I feel we should, but we need to accept what were given, trust him, surrender completely to him. That would mean I need to give Pride, self servng efforts, and all of me to him, no one else is worthy to be given that trust. Ghanagirl2004@yahoo.com This is just my thoughts and trust in THE LIVING GOD whho is and is and will be.. Same yesterday today and tomorrow……. Who is full of love and not a vengeful God.Who only tarries coming that NONE SHOULD PERISH BUT ALL SHOULD BE SAVED



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Scott White

posted August 11, 2008 at 4:54 pm


Our view of suffering is flawed because most people today unthinkingly believe that people are basically good. Believing this they are confused as to where suffering comes from, assuming it must have an external origin (external to humanity.) By and large suffering does not have an external origin. Wherever people go, suffering and depravity follow. The human race is evil.
The suffering caused by the evil in man (I am not a humanist) infinitely outweighs the acts of God’s judgment. God’s violent acts are by and large the surgeons scalpel cutting away the worst of humanity’s excesses.
Suffering can never be adequately alleviated without the reformation of the souls of mankind – achieved only through the regenerative work of the Spirit. For unless the evil in man is dealt with his ability to create suffering for his fellow man will continue. As long as evil continues in the world there will be many who are being afflicted and so we must also work directly to alleviate suffering where we find it.
It is a waste debate the “problem” of suffering when so great a cure for the majority of human suffering is plainly laid out before us. Jesus Christ bore the judgment against us, quenching the anger of God By his Spirit he will cure our souls of the evil within. If we universally apply this excellent cure we can then set ourselves the task of understanding the reasons for the suffering that remains – if any.



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Your Name

posted December 10, 2008 at 4:50 pm


This is a good debate that would only take place between Western Christians. It is also why I left and “went home” to oriental (Eastern Orthodox) Christianity. There, experiential spirituality trumps cerebral spirituality every time (this emphasis in all oriental releigion on what is experinced is what made so many hippies go East to Buddhism and yoga, etc. I found the same emphasis in Orthodoxy). At any rate, both debaters would find Alexander Kalimiros’ essay, THE RIVER OF FIRE(type it in your browser and read it!)to be highly instructive.



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nonoylopez

posted April 18, 2009 at 9:03 pm


i am a big fan of dr. bart ehrman. i have been following his articles and debates but is only limited to that. i wanted very much to have a copy of his books misquoting jesus, jesus interrupted, orthodox coruption, god’s problem but the problem is in my country the books are not available and someone told me that they are too expensive. i am just a mere lay person interested in the bible. how i wish i could study under the tutelage of dr. bart ehrman. how i wish also tht somebody would be to stumble upon this letter and give me his used books of dr. ehrman.
in case, my address is NONOY LOPEZ
142 ILANG-ILANG ST., SAN JOSE,
PLARIDEL, BULACAN
PHILIPPINES



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Anon

posted May 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm


On one hand, Ehrman claims that he doesn’t know if there exists a greater force in/outside the universe (see: http://youtu.be/Isg6Kx-3xdI?t=1h14m32s) while on the other hand, he makes the claim to knowledge that there is no afterlife. He saith in this article:

“And there is the answer of Ecclesiastes (the one I personally resonate with), that life is short, there is often no justice, things often go wrong, and there is no afterlife in which all will be made right.”

In ‘God’s Problem’ Ehrman saith:

“In my opinion, this life is all there is.” (Page 276).

Seems like he’s contradicting himself to me.



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More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Blogalogue. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Inspiration Report Happy Reading!!!

posted 9:34:57am Jul. 06, 2012 | read full post »

How Do We Tell A True Act of God From A False One?
Dear Michael: Thank you again for this exchange, Michael; I am grateful that you took the time to teach me with such patience and tolerance. In all honesty, I can't follow your subtle discussion of the relationship between natural laws and Divine Providence. The fault is mine. I think you are sayi

posted 3:46:50pm Nov. 17, 2008 | read full post »

Do You Wonder About the Source of Meaning?
Dear Heather, I really enjoy the way you conduct a path through our disagreements. You are tough, but open to differences. As we have agreed from the first, to achieve real disagreement is a long-term task; it takes a lot of brandies sipped slowly together (so to speak) to get past the misunderstan

posted 10:51:30am Nov. 14, 2008 | read full post »

What About Other Religions?
Dear Michael: Thank you so much for your candid and probing response; it is most illuminating. Before addressing your final question, I am going to risk characterizing your presentation of religious faith. Some of our readers, if not you yourself, may find this presumptuous; if so, I accept their c

posted 4:21:02pm Nov. 13, 2008 | read full post »

Faith Is Not Just Belief
Dear Heather: There are many aspects of popular Catholic faith that have sometimes shocked me and turned me away. Yet I well remember visiting the great Catholic shrine at Czestechowa, in Poland, where once almost a million people turned out for Pope John Paul II when he first pierced the Iron Curta

posted 3:48:33pm Nov. 12, 2008 | read full post »




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