Blogalogue

Blogalogue


Bart Ehrman: What About the Actual Suffering?

posted by nsymmonds

Thanks, Tom, for a thoughtful and interesting response. I think we both must feel how difficult it is to interact in this kind of forum, where what we want is sustained debate but have chosen to limit ourselves to brief responses. But we – you and I – must muddle along as best we can….
You are right that my goal is not to make agnostics out of people, either in my book or in my postings in this forum. This is because I am not so arrogant as to think that intelligent people should always agree with me! But I wonder if you are willing to take a similar stand, that is, whether you too would be willing to say that you also are not interested in converting people to your way of thinking or believing?


I am especially surprised that you find an appeal to emotion unworthy of the debate or irrelevant to the issues of the pain and misery in the world – as if pure cold logic (or exegesis!) is what is required when dealing with the problem of suffering. Your view strikes me as a uniquely post-enlightenment position characteristic of a particular strain of modern Protestantism, and I have to say, in my judgment, it is a stance that I find completely inappropriate (I am particularly moved, on this issue, by the “anti-theodical” positions mapped out by Therence Tilley and Kenneth Surin, which I recommend to everyone who doesn’t mind a little heavy-hitting reading on important issues). The issue of human suffering is not a logical problem to be solved or some kind of mathematical equation. It is a human problem that requires empathy, sympathy, emotional involvement, and action.
You ask if I suspect that you, and others like you, are unaware of the pain and misery in the world. No, I suspect you do know about it. But I am personally dead set against an approach to suffering that thinks that human agony is to be seen from the distance of intellectual engagement with the “issues.” It is one thing to preach from the ivory tower of the academy or the cathedral about the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God. It’s another thing to sit beside a child starving to death in Darfur and to speak of God’s glorious purposes for this world. In the time that it has taken me to write this response to your posting, there have been something like thirty thousand children who have died in this way -– by horribly starving to death — in the world. Surely you’re not saying that in dealing with this problem we should remove ourselves from this pain and misery and instead talk rationally about the exegesis of Paul’s letter to the Romans. At least I *hope* you’re not saying that (even though it does appear to be what you’re saying), because that strikes me as inhumane, and I know (since I know you) that you are not inhumane.
As to the substance of your response I am also a bit taken back by your claim that my views of apocalypticism are somehow out of date. I don’t know what you’re thinking about, as you don’t say, but I consider the study of ancient apocalyptic thought to be one of the areas of my scholarly expertise; I have read and studied apocalyptic literature for over thirty years, and am up to speed, I believe, on scholarship in the field. Your offhand comment that my views are somehow antiquated thus strike me as rhetorical rather than substantive. Still, I’d be interested in having the substantive discussion, if you want to tell me where you think I get it wrong.
I should say, in this connection, that I do not think that apocalyptic thinking stands in radical discontinuity with prophecy on the one hand, or that it should be dismissed out of hand on the other (these appear to be the two objections you have to my view). Apocalyptic views did, to be sure, arise out of prophetic views – in large measure because of the stark deficiencies of the prophetic insistence that suffering comes to the people of God because he is punishing them for their sins: if that is the reason for suffering, why then do people suffer if they follow his will? The apocalyptic answer gives a response. For apocalypticists, it was God’s cosmic enemies who are causing the suffering. This is the period in the history of Israel that Jewish thinkers began (contrary to the classical prophets) to hypothesize the existence of the Devil and demons and other cosmic powers of evil opposed to God. And as you know from reading my book, I am not at all unsympathetic with this view. It is the view I held for many years as a Christian, and if I were still a Christian, I would continue to hold on to it.
Yes, I have read your discussion of the Hebrew Bible and Abraham, and I’m afraid that I find it unpersuasive and inadequate. Possibly this is because you wanted to write a short and simple book and so had to overly simplify your views? In your book on evil you treat the Hebrew Bible as if it were one continuous narrative written by a single author with one overarching theme (with Abraham as the lynchpin). It is not that, any more than the New Testament, or even the NT Gospel literature, represents one point of view of one author. The Bible is gloriously rich, diverse, and textured. Different biblical authors wrote at different times in different situations to different audiences, and they have different perspectives and points of view, many of them completely at odds with one another. I know you know this. But why do you act, speak, and write as if it were otherwise? Your synthesizing narrative of the text (both of the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels) is precisely what I have spent most of my academic career trying to correct in my students. The narratives of the Hebrew Bible incorporate numerous sources, with varieties of perspectives, and sometimes stand at odds in terms of theological perspective from one another (on the problem of suffering, for example). All of that is completely lost in your account of “the” story of the Bible, with Abraham as the pivot point leading up to Isaiah 11 (and so on).
In the end, I think what I am most surprised about is that you don’t actually deal with the problem of suffering in your posting. You hint at the idea that you have some theological explanation for it all. But you don’t indicate what that explanation is. I would like to hear it. My view is that it is impossible to reconcile the pain and misery all about us – the millions of children in Africa dying of AIDS and malaria, the millions of others dying because they are forced to drink unclean water, the countless others dying from natural disasters (hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, famine) – if there is a good and all powerful God in charge of the world.



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timspong

posted April 21, 2008 at 12:37 pm


Wow, so even when Errhman was a Christian “scholar” he didn’t believe in the inspiration of scripture??? I find it incredible that someone can go through seminary and come out the other end without seeing the big picture. 2 Co 4:3-4 comes to mind.
What I want to know is how he was able to remain unchecked as a Christian leader/teacher for so long. I think this is a damning indictment on the state of the protestant church in the US where there is this terrible lack of accountability.
I live in Nigeria and travel around Africa often. The poor suffer terribly, but they often have an amazing hope in Christ in a country where there is only 0.04% atheism. They are joyful in this hope despite their horrible living conditions. Given a choice, I am sure they would chose to remain in Christ rather than having an opulent lifestyle if it meant giving up on their Savior. I am sure they would also be bemused that Errhman would fail in his faith on the account of their suffering and him feeling so sorry for them. That is NOT a Christian response, no matter what way you try to slice it.
Don’t feel sorry for the poor as they would probably feel even sorrier for someone like Errhman who obviously never had the indwelt spirit or the love of Christ, but was merely a walking parody of a Christian.



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Dale Campbell

posted April 21, 2008 at 5:20 pm


This is a unique opportunity for what will hopefully turn out to be a fruitful dialogue between two people who are familiar with their own positions and can articulate them well in interaction with opposing views.
It’s a huge question, that of evil/suffering. One which has a tendency to re-shape people’s view of God.
It’s natural that some/much discussion of biblical content would take place here. Some may think that the bible should be left out and that it should only be a philosophical interaction, but indeed the Biblical authors/speakers (not to mention the communities that passed down the texts, etc.) were themselves doing philosophical reflection.
It’s an issue that runs right from the simplest of minds and the tenderest of hearts, right through to the sharpest of minds and the hardest of hearts.
Here’s to heart and mind working together on this issue.



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David Kuo

posted April 22, 2008 at 1:45 am


I was in Uganda last month. While there I saw, if not hell, some of its suburbs. The stories are familiar to us all – dying children, slums beyond description, systemic brokenness that robs hope. So many of those questions popped into my head – How could God allow this sort of thing? What kind of god could allow children to live like this.
It isn’t a new question for me or for any of us. It is among the world’s oldest questions I suspect. But as I thought about it something clicked. God isn’t allowing this suffering. I am. You are. We are.
I will focus on Africa’s suffering. Africa finds itself where it does today because of a billion or more decisions that people made… individual decisions. A decision not to invest here. A decision to buy a slave there. A decision to drive an unfair trade deal here. A decision to pay diamond miners pennies. Billions and billions of decisions like this have been made over the centuries. The result? Africa today.
Is that God’s fault?
I think not. Because at every moment those decisions were made God was whispering for people to do the right thing, the just thing, the merciful thing. But we chose not to listen.
God has done his job. We haven’t done ours.
I used to think the suffering question was a serious head scratcher, a truly troubling thing – the best evidence against God. No more. I think it is largely an excuse to make ourselves comfortable in our complacency by blaming God for the suffering we aren’t spending our lives addressing.



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Derek

posted April 22, 2008 at 1:54 am


Dr. Ehrman,
I know you’re not likely to read or respond to my comment (and I wouldn’t require you to seeing as how you have other very important work) and yet I feel I should direct this small observation towards you.
Umm, I look at your response to Dr. Wright, particularly on the point of emotion and the appropriateness of speaking of the “in-breaking Kingdom of God” from the ivory Tower and all that, and I have to say I’m kind of surprised. I mean, on one level I’m not, because I’ve seen that kind of challenge before, but at another level I am simply because of how long you say you were a Christian.
I mean, I’m sure you know this, but some of the greatest and most profound moments of faith in the sovereignty (whichever way you cut it), goodness, and trustworthiness of God come in the face of the ugliness of it all. Its very possible to tell a child in Darfur dying of various illnesses and things that God is good and that He loves her and all that because it happens. People do that. As one of the posts above me mentioned, actual Africans and Indians and other 3rd world citizens who are actually living in the situations you describe hear the message of Jesus and respond even in the middle of all the suffering. (As a side note: which message do you think a dying Darfurian child wants to hear? “In the face of all these things child, there is a God who loves you, will save you, redeem you, resurrect you and bless you if you will hope in him” or “Child, there is no hope, there is no future, and your death is senseless; starve in despair.”
Also, realize, the existential, emotional argument can go both ways. There are countless stories, too many to be captured in simple statistics, of the different ways that people have found truth in the Gospel and hope in suffering, that can argue for the necessity of belief in God in the face of evil and pain. One of the pastors at my Church, a former missionary and wonderful man, lost his 1 and a half year old grandson in a car accident which crippled his daughter and wounded his son-in-law, who were on their way home from a missionary training meeting. In the face of this seemingly senseless tragedy, the hope and the faith of this entire family is staggering. They, especially the father and the mother of the child, have faced terrible and devastating tragedy and yet their trust in the Gospel and hope in God remains unshaken and quite frankly, I don’t think they would have survived without it.
Beyond all this, I find it interesting that the “problem of Evil” as classically conceived and formulated by skeptics, (even the more rawly emotional one) is more often than not, put forward by Westerners, who by and large are much more disconnected from daily pain and suffering because of the better living conditions and whatnot. In other parts of the world where pain and hardship are more a part of the daily life and existence of a people, belief in God and openness to the Christian Gospel is far more prevalent. Now, you can say that this is typically due to the advancement of Western societies, modernization and all that, but then you just turn into a typically arrogant Westerner who thinks that the 3rd world is horribly but excusably backwards. Or you can buy the Marxist-Freudian line of “belief in God as opiate or wish-fulfillment” for suffering, scared people. But, then, you run the risk of letting the “argument from evil” against God turn into the Ivory tower solution that is cruel and cold and overly-intellectual in the face of pain.
Anyways, I probably butchered whatever point I was making. But, all that to say, the blunt emotional argument can go back and forth interminably, with both sides marshalling evidence and emotional trump examples. Its the kind of debate-ground that is certainly more emotionally powerful, but far less likely to be a place where common standards against which to judge arguments can be had. It is a place where the worldview or starting point will more clearly govern the possible interpretation.
That’s all I’ve got for now.



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Damian

posted April 22, 2008 at 5:20 am


The belief that evil (and death) came into the world only when Adam and Eve sinned seems to be in stark contrast with the billions of years of death and suffering evidenced by the fossil record. If the cause of death and suffering is evil then it’s pretty clear that the earth was created evil a good three or four billion years before Adam and Eve were confronted by a talking snake.



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Icelander

posted April 22, 2008 at 1:47 pm


I will focus on Africa’s suffering. Africa finds itself where it does today because of a billion or more decisions that people made… individual decisions. – David Kuo

To reiterate a point I made in a previous comment: I see no conflict between the idea of god and suffering that results from human action or inaction. But there is a glaring conflict when you look at natural phenomena, such as infectious disease and natural disasters.
What human created the malaria parasite? Or the cholera parasite? Or the AIDS virus? What human caused the tsunami in South Asia? Or Hurricane Katrina? Or the earthquake that killed 53,000 Pakistanis in 2005?
This is the real problem of suffering. And it is something I’ve not yet heard an answer to that hasn’t raised more questions.



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David C Lewis

posted April 22, 2008 at 1:50 pm


There is an old story about a glass of water. Poured fresh from the spring it is “very good”. Then someone comes along and adds a drop of sewage. It still has all the things that once made it pure, but now it is contaminated. That’s the way the heavens and earth were created in my opinion. There has always been a snake in the water.



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Anonymous

posted April 22, 2008 at 1:51 pm


Dr. Ehrman,
Certainly Bishop Tom is not suggesting that we should ignore the pain and suffering in the world because our time would be better spent subjecting Romans to careful exegesis. I’m sure if you would like to discuss with him potential practical strategies for helping to address the problems of starvation, AIDS, etc. throughout the third world, then he would be more than happy to do that. However, the question at hand in this particular debate is not what to do about these problems. The question is, “Can we hold onto a belief in an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent god when there is so much apparent crap in the world?” And, more specifically, given the topic of your book, “Does the Bible offer a sufficient answer to this question?” Given this, I think what Paul had to say about the righteousness of God in his letter to the Roman church is highly relevant in the context of this debate.



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Jeremy M

posted April 22, 2008 at 4:41 pm


First off, thanks for taking the time, Dr Ehrman and Bishop Wright, to exchange ideas about such an important topic.
I can relate to Dr Ehrman’s version of his former Christian faith. I grew up in a fairly conservative, fundamentalist home in which I was taught about the inerrancy of Scripture, the omnipotence of God etc. I commend Dr Ehrman’s passion for dismantling and uncovering inconsistencies in the doctrine of “sola scriptura”, for in what it appears to me, a real desire to get at the truth. I also believe that the strong emotions you have about evil in the world are also signs that you posit a belief in justice and a moral law giver. It seems like what you are questioning is not a general belief in God, but in the impotence of Christian theodicy. Like Dr. Ehrman, I have left behind a fundamentalist and conservative view of the faith in my adult years as well. However, unlike Dr Ehrman, I have discovered a richer, fuller and more meaningful Christian faith in place of the former.
Dr Ehrman, you said in this recent response to Bishop Wright:
“But I am personally dead set against an approach to suffering that thinks that human agony is to be seen from the distance of intellectual engagement with the “issues.”
I admire your desire to keep emotions in the dialogue. But isn’t the fact that you’re asking the question of where is God in all this a plea for some sort of rational explanation? Interestingly, your comment seems to propose that Tom is talking about a hands off Deist god in which this god sits back in the skies and lets all hell break loose because he/she/it doesn’t care. On the contrary, all of Tom’s work, which in the irony of this very limited discourse includes tomes of critical realist historical research about the grand narrative of scripture, also encompasses standing up for the rights of the poor and disenfranchised in his diocese to defending the rights of immigrants being who are being mistreated by a government which is still run on deist principles.
I agree with you Dr Ehrman, that the problem of evil is a great one, too great to be fully treated in such a small blog posting. But the varied and multi-faceted accounts of God in the scriptures still point to a larger story of a God who became flesh, pitched his tent among us, wept over Jerusalem, overturned tables in his anger at the injustice of the system and promised to make all things new. Lest we grumble and complain as the Israelites did in the desert, we might miss out on the miraculous exodus that God provided for us in the life of his Son. The mood of the day is to be skeptical of anyone that offers an answer such difficult questions, but it’s time to realize that while the Enlightenment quest for truth has let us down, there is still good news when we remember the faithfulness of God.



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David C Lewis

posted April 23, 2008 at 11:45 am


Dr. Ehrman’s new book points out that the snake used to have legs. Makes sense to me. It’s a lot harder to get things done when you’re forced to slither on the ground. But the snake is still at work. He’s a crafty devel.



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Anonymous

posted April 25, 2008 at 2:12 pm


“What human created … the AIDS virus?”
Of this particular example one can note that had humans faithfully observed God’s prohibition against fornication, the AIDS virus would have had virtually no impact on the human population. And even now, if humans would just observe the prohibition _and_ if anyone infected with the AIDS virus would make the sacrifice of abstaining from sex, the AIDS virus would be eradicated within a couple generations. (Yes, there are other modes of transmission, but they utterly pale against the chief mode of sexual intercourse.)
Of course, instead, we humans have rejected God and convinced each other that absitinence is nothing more than a comic byword, and simply inconceivable, and so actually encourage the very behavior that transmits and prolongs the impact of the AIDS virus among human.



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Pat Milot

posted April 25, 2008 at 11:03 pm


My husband and I have been suffering terribly for 15 years with a somewhat mentally ill nearly genius 28 yr old daughter who is also a substance abuser. Even worse than that…we lost our only Son at age 23 in a horrific airplane crash in Feb. 2007. Why was our only Son who was an real angel on Earth taken away from us? We are devout Catholics and I am a Parish/ Faith Community Nurse and work at taking care of church members and also the indigent of the city. He was the type of boy/man who never ever caused a bit of trouble and we never even had to yell at him in his life…maybe only 1 time in 23 years. The night before he was killed in the airplane crash he dreamt that his fiance was pregnant with his baby. His dream was true, my dead Son and his fiance have a wonderful 6 month old baby boy named after our son. We suffer every single hour of every day over losing our Son. He was a Christian Catholic and an altar boy until age 18. That is unheard of in this day and age. My question is why would God take such a lovely Son away from us and his fiance and Baby that he only knew he was having in his dream the night before he was tragically killed. His boss forced him to fly in bad weather and his boss was a 5o some year old arrogant powerful elitist and he is responsible for the death of our Angelic son. Any comments on why God would have allowed us to lose our only Son in a manner like this??? Mike lead a wonderful life, very kind hearted and never gossiped about people, always taught the slower kids in his school years, was a track star, an All American boy. Why would god take him away from us all, expecially his baby boy who looks just like our son and has his same mannerisms. Does God like us to suffer like this? Every one is avoiding us and family and friends have deserted us. What kind of comment can you offer on this, we are christian Catholics who are raising two Grandchildren also because their Mother, our dauther is unfit to care for them..Do you think some one put a curse on our family or is it God trying to punish us. Please let us know why you think God didn’t save Mike that terrible night. The only thing that gets me through the day is that our son was so special that God simply wnted him back! Any comment on that\? He could he have but let our son be so badly disfigured and viloently killed that we never saw him again. Mike was also as handsome as a movie star, and he was robbed of his life by his boss who was negligent, arrogant, and an elitist, the opposite of our son, who was so kind hearted and down to Earth. Please comment on this…A suffering Mother who will love her Son forever and can’t wait til the day I can join him! Thank You.



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brad titus

posted April 29, 2008 at 2:57 am


To the poor woman who lost her son, I would like to point you too text that I think Dr. Ehrman would also appreciate: “The Great Divorce” by CS Lewis. Specifically, look at the first several pages of chapter 11 and consider the character described.
I dont know you or your son, but it seems that you may love him too much.



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J.D.

posted May 6, 2008 at 8:50 am


This is where the argument breaks down between Ehrman and Wright. Obviously Ehrman has a postmodern hermeneutic which excludes any metanarrative in the Bible or life.



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Eric De Telder

posted May 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm


Mr. Ehrman makes a valid and very powerful point. Suffering – in the moment – cannot be answered by mentally sound responses. This meaning that the sufferer does not seek to be mentally stimulated (and perhaps corrected), but instead, the sufferer – in his/her times of suffering – seeks to be heard, understood, and comforted. I too can become rather irritated by cookie-cutter responses toward suffering.
And yet, there comes a time when [even] the sufferer has to make the choice to no longer dwell in the experience of suffering. This is a very concious and near-supernatural act. The sufferer has to decide whether to live a life stagnated in or by the experience of suffering, or whether to live a life of fulness (and perhaps in part as a wounded healer). We all have the power of choice. And we all – if we so choose – have the source of power in and through a God who experienced suffering in person.



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Pastor Burnett

posted May 9, 2008 at 1:05 am


Let’s see Bart:
“But I wonder if you are willing to take a similar stand, that is, whether you too would be willing to say that you also are not interested in converting people to your way of thinking or believing?”
I’m not sure what kind of debate tactic that is but I know it’s designed to do one thing…shift from the real argument and help you perpetuate more WHINING about why God looked over your memo, and doesn’t do what YOU think he should.
I liked this:
“The issue of human suffering is not a logical problem to be solved or some kind of mathematical equation. It is a human problem that requires empathy, sympathy, emotional involvement, and action”
[Now how much of your anti-Christ book proceeds have you contributed to helping to end suffering? I've given so much until I've had to borrow to pay bills and God steps back in and provides...what about you Professor?]
Further off base I see:
” In your book on evil you treat the Hebrew Bible as if it were one continuous narrative written by a single author with one overarching theme (with Abraham as the lynchpin)It is not that, any more than the New Testament, or even the NT Gospel literature, represents one point of view of one author.”
[Well do tell doc...I thought it was ONE author...God himself moving upon Holy men, but you're starting to let your antisupernatural bias show through...well' we shouldn't be surprised!]
Problem of suffering…Sin entered INTO the world through ONE MAN Adam(He was a real man…not figurative allegory or whatever) That sin had an effect on ALL of God’s creation which was without the effect or stain of sin prior to that…Jesus dealt with the eternal aspects of sin and destroyed it’s power on us but the pratcical application of sin will not be broken until a New Heaven and Earth are created in which there will be NO sin and…whaaaalllllaaaa…NO more suffering…
No not a big theological discourse but JUST THE TRUTH! Stop crying professor! My question is…If ALL suffering were eliminated RIGHT NOW, would you repent of your sins?….NOT!



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zok

posted May 9, 2008 at 4:26 pm


Different perspectives. Non-Christian perspective:
“My view is that it is impossible to reconcile the pain and misery all about us – the millions of children in Africa dying of AIDS and malaria, the millions of others dying because they are forced to drink unclean water, the countless others dying from natural disasters (hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, famine) – if there is a good and all powerful God in charge of the world.”
Christian perspective:
“My view is that it is impossible to reconcile the pain and misery all about us – the millions of children in Africa dying of AIDS and malaria, the millions of others dying because they are forced to drink unclean water, the countless others dying from natural disasters (hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, famine) – if it is all completely meaningless and there is no hope of freedom from it apart from death.”



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Rebecca LuElla Miller

posted May 17, 2008 at 2:04 pm


An interesting discussion. I’m only sorry I found it so late.
What strikes me is that there seems to be a consensus here dividing Mankind into those who suffer and those who don’t. Are the people who survived the earthquake in China not suffering because their government has accepted the aid offered them while the people in Myanmar who survived the cyclone ARE suffering? Are the people in Oklahoma who lost loved ones in the recent tornados not suffering because they live in America? Is the mother whose son was innocently shot in a police action suffering less than the mother whose child dies of AIDS? Did the 90-year-old great-grandmother who was killed in a hit-and-run suffer less because she was … well, old? Did the 76 year old man who died alone in his garden of a sudden heart attack suffer less because he died quickly … and therefore suffer not at all?
My point is this. Mankind suffers. Mankind dies. It is exactly what God said would happen upon the entrance of sin into the world. To categorize suffering by listing out the thousands and tens of thousands who die because of this or that, minimizes the millions who die as a result of being part of the human race. We all will die. Death is not pretty or neat or easy. It is clearly the enemy.
And it is the enemy Jesus took on. Professor Ehrman, you were right when you understood Jesus as coming to suffer with and for Mankind, but He also did something else. He dealt the mortal blow to spiritual death.
I’m not pretending to understand this completely, but Scripture seems clear that physical suffering—at whatever level—is temporary, if for no other reason than that this life is temporary. The real concern, then, ought to be for spiritual suffering, because that will have lasting implications.
Becky



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Another Possibility

posted June 1, 2008 at 1:03 am


There are countless possibilities in responding to this idea. One of those is shown tenderly and beautifully in the film Soul Masters. It is a heart touching and inspiring film about the lives and work of Master Guo and Master Sha, two of the most extraordinary healers and spiritual teachers of our times. The seemingly impossible cases that are shown and the recovery experienced, on all levels, is truly heart touching. Painful conditions are healed, in all aspects.
Watching this film is not the usual movie experience. It is healing. It is transforming.



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Mike Bennion

posted June 4, 2008 at 3:22 am


If Jesus suffered the Atonement so that he would understand our suffering so he could deal with it. And if we are to become like him as John 17 suggests, and live the kind of life he lives, then it follows that our suffering gives us understanding so that we can comfort others in trials, temptations, suffering, sickness pain and grief.
An example:
When I was young I had terrible excema on my feet. They would itch so badly that I would rub them on the rug until I got carpet burn. They would crack and peel and itch and burn and weep and partially heal and then start the cycle all over again.
We tried all sorts of treatments, the black evil smelling coal tar salve was the nastiest. The excema eventually ran it’s course and disappeared after a number of years.
One night after I was married and had children, my second son woke up with a terrible itch. He whined and whimpered and generally caused a sleepless night for all of us. After some hours of this I almost lost my patience with him.
Then I remembered how sometimes a lukewarm bath would calm my itch when I was little. I ran a bath and put him in it and gently poured water over his itchy little body. He calmed, stopped crying and we quitely played and talked.
Suddenly, without warning, I had an epiphany. I was thnkful that I had itched, so that I would know how to help my son when he itched.



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Larry

posted June 13, 2008 at 10:31 am


Mike wrote: “I was thnkful that I had itched, so that I would know how to help my son when he itched.”
Do you also wish for a heart attack, so you can then know how to advise your son in that as well? Or perhaps, a Google search might do just as well?



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Greg

posted February 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm


Mike’s explanation begs the question, why did either he or his son need to suffer from the foot condition? So the logic falls apart. Those who suggest suffering is due to “free will” neglect the fact that many serious kinds of suffering (like a baby with cancer) has no obvious connection to anyone’s free will, just as natural disasters are not due to free will. Those who suggest it is in some indirect way, from sin entering the world (i.e. “original sin” from Adam) fail to explain any fairness in this, or why for example, little babies should starve to death, because of what one man supposedly did thousands of years ago (assuming a literal Adam, which is itself dubious). To those who claim it is jsut a “mystery” and that does not botehr you much, you are either cold, or in denial. Indeed, if I hooked all believers to a polygraph, I suspect we’d find most do find it a problem, even if they do not openly acknowledge it. As a struggling believer myself, I always knew it was. Last, if Jesus suffered in our place, and took our “penalty” for us, why do each of us still suffer and die? Jesus suffered for a few days, but many people suffer in excrutiating pain for months and years, and then die, but this does not even pay their own price according to Christian theology. Where is the logic in it? If the “price” for sin is not physical death and suffering but eternal hell, then how did Jesus pay the price, since he did not spend eternity in hell, or even a tiny portion of it? Anyway you slice it, the problem of severe pain and suffering seems to have no satifactory explanation if there is an all loving an all powerful God. As the author points out, even Biblical explanations are incomplete and contradictory. Sorry that it is the case, but it sure appears that way.



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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

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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
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