Bart Ehrman: How the Problem of Pain Ruined My Faith

For most of my life I was a devout Christian, believing in God, trusting in Christ for salvation, knowing that God was actively involved in this world. During my young adulthood, I was an evangelical, with a firm belief in the Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of God. During those years I had fairly simple but commonly held views about how there can be so much pain and misery in the world. God had given us free will (we weren’t programmed like robots), but since we were free to do good we were also free to do evil—hence the Holocaust, the genocide in Cambodia, and so on. To be sure, this view did not explain all evil in the world, but a good deal of suffering was a mystery and in the end, God would make right all that was wrong.


In my mid 20s, I left the evangelical fold, but I remained a Christian for some twenty years—a God-believing, sin-confessing, church-going Christian, who no longer held to the inerrancy of Scripture but who did believe that the Bible contained God’s word, trustworthy as the source for theological reflection. And the more I studied the Christian tradition, first as a graduate student in seminary and then as a young scholar teaching biblical studies at universities, the more sophisticated I became in my theological views and in my understanding of the world and our place in it.
Suffering increasingly became a problem for me and my faith. How can one explain all the pain and misery in the world if God—the creator and redeemer of all—is sovereign over it, exercising his will both on the grand scheme and in the daily workings of our lives? Why, I asked, is there such rampant starvation in the world? Why are there droughts, epidemics, hurricanes, and earthquakes? If God answers prayer, why didn’t he answer the prayers of the faithful Jews during the Holocaust? Or of the faithful Christians who also suffered torment and death at the hands of the Nazis? If God is concerned to answer my little prayers about my daily life, why didn’t he answer my and others’ big prayers when millions were being slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, when a mudslide killed 30,000 Columbians in their sleep, in a matter of minutes, when disasters of all kinds caused by humans and by nature happened in the world?
I read widely in the matter. I read philosophers, theologians, biblical scholars, great literary figures and popular authors from Plato to Sartre, from Apuleius to Dostoevsky, from the Apostle Paul to Henri Nouwen, from Shakespeare to T.S. Eliot to Archibald Macleish, from C. S. Lewis (with whom I was very taken) to Harold Kushner to Elie Wiesel.
Eventually, while still a Christian thinker, I came to believe that God himself is deeply concerned with suffering and intimately involved with it. The Christian message, for me, at the time, was that Jesus Christ is the revelation of God to us humans, and that in Jesus we can see how God deals with the world and relates to it. He relates to it, I thought, not by conquering it but by suffering for it. Jesus was not set on a throne in Jerusalem to rule over the Kingdom of God. He was crucified by the Romans, suffering a painful, excruciating, and humiliating death for us. What is God like? He is a God who suffers. The way he deals with suffering is by suffering both for us and alongside us.
This was my view for many years, and I still consider it a powerful theological view. It would be a view that I would still hold on to, if I were still a Christian. But I’m not.
About nine or ten years ago I came to realize that I simply no longer believed the Christian message. A large part of my movement away from the faith was driven by my concern for suffering. I simply no longer could hold to the view—which I took to be essential to Christian faith—that God was active in the world, that he answered prayer, that he intervened on behalf of his faithful, that he brought salvation in the past and that in the future, eventually in the coming eschaton, he would set to rights all that was wrong, that he would vindicate his name and his people and bring in a good kingdom (either at our deaths or here on earth in a future utopian existence).
We live in a world in which a child dies every five seconds of starvation. Every five seconds. Every minute there are twenty-five people who die because they do not have clean water to drink. Every hour 700 people die of malaria. Where is God in all this? We live in a world in which earthquakes in the Himalayas kill 50,000 people and leave 3 million without shelter in the face of oncoming winter. We live in a world where a hurricane destroys New Orleans. Where a tsunami kills 300,000 people in one fell swoop. Where millions of children are born with horrible birth defects. And where is God? To say that he eventually will make right all that is wrong seems to me, now, to be pure wishful thinking.
As it turns out, my various wrestlings with the problem have led me, even as an agnostic, back to the Bible, to see how different biblical authors wrestle with this, the greatest of all human questions. The result is my recent book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer. My contention is that many of the authors of the Bible are wrestling with just this question: why do people (especially the people of God) suffer? The biblical answers are striking at times for their simplicity and power (suffering comes as a punishment from God for sin; suffering is a test of faith; suffering is created by cosmic powers aligned against God and his people; suffering is a huge mystery and we have no right to question why it happens; suffering is redemptive and is the means by which God brings salvation; and so on). Some of these answers are at odds with one another (is it God or his cosmic enemies who are creating havoc on earth?), yet many of them continue to inform religious thinkers today.
My hope in writing the book is certainly not to encourage readers to become agnostic, the path that I took. It is instead to help people think, both about this biggest of all possible questions and about the historically and culturally significant religious responses to it that can be found in the most important book in the history of our civilization.

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Jeff Young

posted April 18, 2008 at 8:34 pm

Professor Ehrman wrote: “A large part of my movement away from the faith was driven by my concern for suffering…. To say that he eventually will make right all that is wrong seems to me, now, to be pure wishful thinking.”
While I am acutely aware of suffering, both personally (having suffered tragedies in my own life – lost my father at age 11 and my sister about 12 years ago to the AIDS virus) and on a larger scale (having done evangelistic work in the 3rd world), I find this as a reason for rejecting God, and the God of the Bible, a flawed one.
Either the story of Jesus as the risen-from-the-dead Son of God (put forth by the NT documents) is true or it is not. Dr. Ehrman’s textual issues fail to undermine the trustworthiness of these documents and their historical testimony is very solid for the resurrection. Certainly if one chooses not to believe that is one’s choice. But, the historical testimony to the resurrection and the eyewitness accounts are strong evidence – sufficient for belief.
If what the NT documents say about Jesus is true, then, as we are wont to say, it is what it is! And, we have the promise that “the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed” – a promise based not on “wishful thinking” but on the resurrection from the dead.

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posted April 19, 2008 at 12:29 am

It has long been my contention that if Jesus rose from death – so what? What is the significance of the resurrection? Doing it just to prove it can be done does not impress me any more than climbing Everest with bare feet. But every Easter I have to come to terms with this story and why it was told and repeated. What I come up with is that it gives testimony to the power of Jesus’ earlier lessons. The Sermon on the Mount, the Parable of the Prodigals Son and the Good Samaritan are given that much more credibility because of the power of the resurrection. So THAT in turn means we have to take those lessons all the more seriously than other opinions and even visions.
I do not believe in magic. Nor do I believe that there will be some cataclysmic divine war, in which God will be victor because God is God. I do believe the battle is every day when I have to bless peacemakers, the meek and the mourning, and everyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness (and food and water). I have to favor justice over laws, kindness over fairness, and humility over my ego. I have to care for strangers and people different than me and receive the people who otherwise seem to have offended or even betrayed me. And I have to trust that God cries with us in sorrow and laughs with us in joy. Stuff happens – and I have to help people deal with it. Meaninglessness is no more useful than hyper-meaning.
I guess I take seriously Jesus other name, Emmanu-el, God is with us. Not fixing the messes or using super powers to defend the weak, heal the disease ridden, or mend all the breaks in the world. God is with us as we deal with it. But strengthened by that word alone, I can help people face some pretty nasty things, as well as some astounding things.
Looking only at pain is looking at only half of the equation. What is the opposite? Happy is too pale and joy is too sweet. So where is God in our relief? I wonder how the scholars would work through this other side of the equation.

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Jeff Young

posted April 19, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Indeed his resurrection has practical implications for the teachings. But, it’s more than climbing Mt. Everest. Climbing Everest, even before it had ever been done, was an attainable goal. Dying by being slaughtered on the Cross and then coming back to life – in perfection without pain – three days later is different. It is testimony to what he claimed for himself and what he accepted: that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. I would add to the “so what” just what Jesus indicated his resurrection meant and what his disciples indicated. After his resurrection, Jesus said, “all authority has been given unto me in heaven and on earth” – his declarations are authoritative. And, the disciples viewed this to mean that he was and is now reigning as king in the midst of his enemies – that he is both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:32-36).
The eyewitness testimony, particularly of the apostles but not exclusively so, to the resurrection was foundational for anyone choosing to come to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.

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Jim Rigas

posted April 19, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Dear Dr. Ehrman, you are probably my favorite theologian. I have most of your books and some of your tapes, but I did not buy this last book, nor do I intend to do so. The problem of theodicity, why does an omnipotent and all good entity allow people to suffer, has only two answers. One was given in Job: “You humans are too stupid and inferior to understand my greatness,” and presumably his actions. The other answer is that the original premise is wrong. God is not omnipotent: he himself is subject to the rules of the universe he created; if he sometimes interferes he can only do it by stretching the probabilities in events that we call synchronicities.
Jesus’ words help explain the problem: “God is your father,” he said. “He loves you and cares for you and will answer your wishes.” Indeed, when we were children we looked up at our father (and mother) as wonderful creatures, all powerful, who could do miraculous things beyond our capability and understanding. But as we grew up we found that our parents’ abilities were limited. It is true that they could give us a medicine when we were sick, which despite its usual bad taste would make us well again, but there were other times when they could not help.
Your approach of rejecting our celestial father because he cannot fulfill ALL our needs is similar to rejecting our earthly father because he cannot either. It is like saying, “My God or no God,” an approach that has already splintered the Christian Faith. Perhaps God is not all we want him to be; but this does not prove that he IS NOT. (I discuss this in greater detail in my latest book, “The Way of the Butterfly: A Scientific Speculation on God and the hereafter.”)
Jim Rigas

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posted April 20, 2008 at 9:12 am

Human suffering will not be alleviated, nor prevented, by clinging to fairy tales, such as Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Zeus, etc. I say fairy tales, because, despite what was written above, there is no 3rd party confirmation of the “resurrection.” All accounts of it were written long after the event, by people who were not witnesses, and who were Christian themselves, so had a vested interest in promoting the idea. No contemporary Jewish, Roman or other non-involved accounts have ever been found. There are Roman references, written 100 or so years later, to a “Chrestos,” as having been the founder of a sect, but they refer to him as an executed slave. Nothing about him having gotten up again.
The reason I bring this up in this context is simply this: If Christianity is wrong about the most fundamental core of it’s exsistance, how can it be so sure about the periphery? If it can pronounce the “reality” of the resurrection, which cannot at all be proven, then how can it be certain that it has it right on other, secondary topics, such as the “reason for suffering?” This lack of authority is what leads people like Mr. Ehrman and others to question the validity of Christian dogma.
If, in the end, it all depends on “faith,” then people who look at religion one way, and those who look at it another, both are equally valid. 1+1=2; George Washington was our first President, the sun rises in the east-these are all provable facts which cannot be denied. Resurrection 2000 years ago, Allah bringing the Koran to Mohammed in a cave, Dionysus being shipwrecked, are all non-provable, so the person who chooses to believe is no better than the one who chooses not to.

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posted April 21, 2008 at 2:47 am

>Your approach of rejecting our celestial father because he cannot fulfill ALL our needs is similar to rejecting our earthly father because he cannot either.
But our earthly fathers aren’t supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent, are they?

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posted April 21, 2008 at 9:44 am

The moment I hear the phrase “more sophisticated in my understanding,” i’ve pretty much heard all I need for complete understanding.
Ehrman’s problem is simple: He has the childish view that God should turn people into robots so that no one suffers. Actually, let me correct that. He believes God should turn OTHER people into robots, so that no one suffers. Ehrman, himself, of course, should be free to exercise his own choices without restriction.
Ehrman abandoned Christianity for some other reason than the existence of human suffering. That’s just the excuse he uses. I’m sure if you actually read his entire book, he’ll eventually tell you the real reason, and it is probably something along the lines of: God doesn’t run the world the way I would.

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posted April 21, 2008 at 10:19 am

I immediately go to Ehrman’s appearance on “The Colbert Report”, in which Colbert threw Ehrman well off-stride by asking him, “Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls?”

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posted April 21, 2008 at 10:20 am

Ehrman’s problem is simple: He has the childish view that God should turn people into robots so that no one suffers.

I share Ehrman’s opinion about suffering and god, but that’s not it at all. Most of the things that Ehrman cites aren’t caused by people at all. No human caused the tsunami in India. No laboratory created the malaria parasite. No president, not even George Bush, caused Katrina. God, assuming it exists, allowed or caused those things to happen.
I have no problem with the evil caused by humans, but the destruction caused by “acts of god” are far worse than what humans were capable of until a few decades ago.

God doesn’t run the world the way I would.

That seems to be a perfectly valid reason to abandon belief in god. If I can see the injustice in killing thousands of Columbians in their sleep by drowning them in mud, why can’t god?

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posted April 21, 2008 at 10:22 am

Will there be freewill in ‘Heaven’?

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posted April 21, 2008 at 11:05 am

The “problem of evil” is the reason I stopped believing so I’m interested in this dialog. I will say that if God exists the problem of evil means that God isn’t good, otherwise God would have made things much worse that they are. It just indicates a limited God.
The abuse of free will is often brought up as a solution to the problem of evil. I think that falls short because natural evil is far deadlier than the human created kind.
The natural evils such as disease and disasters have killed more humans than all warfare. For example the 1918 flu pandemic alone killed at least 50 to 100 million people which exceeded the death toll from World War one by at least 10 million. The 2004 Tsunami killed more than 225,000 which exceeds the total death toll of the Iraq war.

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posted April 21, 2008 at 2:19 pm

What we fail to understand is that we have created all of our own suffering, including what we call natural disasters (the problem is that thought is to big for us to accept). What we need to remember is that we are all one with God (all 8.5+ billion of us – that’s a lot of thought power and most of it is very unhappy!). He does not wish to see us suffer or continue to experience the suffering that we have created. It is our collective thoughts that bring about all of our suffering, she is merely granting what we have asked for (ask and you shall receive). If we want peace in the world, we must first make peace with our thoughts and then with our neighbors. When the collective conscience is at peace and one with God then Nature will always be gentle, because that is its nature.
For 2000 years we have known that God is unconditional love and that we are all one with our God. We also know that we have gotten everything we have ever asked for and still there is no peace in the world. Maybe it is time to ask for something different.

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David McCarthy

posted April 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm

A father buys a house as a gift,and signs over the ownership of the property to his son. The son is subsequently arrested and convicted of dealing drugs from the premises, and the house is duly confiscated. In this case, by placing complete trust in his son, the father has relinquished all legal right to the property, and is obliged to acknowledge his loss to the new owner. By analogy to Christian theory; God transferred ownership of the world to Adam, who subsequently “lost the farm.” Meet the new boss – much worse than the old boss. In which case, the mystery is not God’s apparent permission of continued evil and suffering in the world, but rather that He continues to allow any good to persist in the completely legal tenancy of an evil landlord, which, in observation of his own perfect ethical standard, God is obliged to acknowledge.

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Jim Rigas

posted April 21, 2008 at 6:57 pm

That is an interesting explanation, David. Its inherent assumption, however, is that there is an entity in the world over whom God has no power: there are more gods than one, and Yahweh is not the most powerful one. Else, in your example, the father would order the police to leave their hands off his son’s house; unless, of course, he wanted him punished for his misdeeds, and his grandchildren to live in the streets.

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David McCarthy

posted April 22, 2008 at 1:01 am

No Jim it’s not that God does not retain ultimate power. It’s just that the abuse of God’s absolute trust in His delegate, Adam, had morally limited Gods power in the temporal frame to the same level as that of the temporal being who had sold him out. This compromise restored power to the other most-powerful created being who had previously sacrificed the stewardship of creation to his own ego, in exactly the same way Adam sold out his stewardship through mis-placed sympathy for his fatally-compromised alter-ego (Eve.) God will not reduce his standard of righteousness to indulge his own will, or for the sake of his own convenience. Legally compelled by his own moral discipline, God continues unwillingly to observe Satan’s delegated ownership of the world, until the Evil enacted by Adam, and the subsequent reversal of that Evil enacted by Christ, reach their simultaneously self-canceling historical culmination in the person of Anti-christ.

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posted April 22, 2008 at 10:43 pm

Ever wonder what this world would be without
God? There would be no hope to rebuild after an earthquake, there would be no volunteers arriving in New Orleans to help total strangers. There would be no donations, blood drives, people who stack food pantries and furnish shelters. Doesn’t anyone remember The Footprints In The Sand? God carries us and sends his love through eachother to lean on. If there were no death, then how would we know life is so presious? I suffered years of pain with cancer 2x and now dibilatating pain everyday but God gives me so many people who help me, love me and who are there for me. I am there for someone else. We all band together in times of great disasters. If there was no God who cared about suffering, we all wouldn’t notice or even care about others. He taught us that and He supplies the love we send to eachother. No one knows what “powers” has, it’s assumed He can control weather and seas and disease, but don’t forget about evil and all its power too. We don’t know the answers and thats where faith comes in, right? Stop blaming God or anyone else and just love who you can support your causes and do for those who cannot. We need to hold on to eachother in all our suffering because suffering is for the living, death is releif.

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The Apostles were conservative Christians

posted April 22, 2008 at 10:47 pm

I’m not over the hill yet, but I’m looking at the rise in front of my next few steps. My life has had some pure misery and and some incredible heartache. And much joy. I have read the Bible and many, many books that represent a religion. I was an atheist for much of my young life. I became a Christian, I lived the life. I spent time not living the kind of life a Christian should. I am still a Christian, even though I haven’t written a book.
The God of the Bible is the authentic, real God of the universe no matter what I have done, good, bad or indifferent.
I’m not trying to make anyone a Christian like me, but they should believe in the Son of God on their own accord. Or, like Jesus said to His disciples . . ., they can reject the Gospel.
It’s all about choices, weighed from experience.
I’m still a Christian.

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posted April 23, 2008 at 2:18 am

I understand your view. How can an all loving God who is also all powerful let babies be born deformed? How could the Holocoust have occured if God was all love and all power. Did you know babies were thrown up into the air for target practice idea being shoot them airborne in the right area so that they fall into the pre-dug graves that as a rule adults just walked in and then shot.
Well i hate pain i can literally feel others pain as well as my own a kind of empathy of control. I do not accept the biblical answers at least most of the ones you mentioned. I beleive the bible is a holy book but is not infallible for the simple reason it was written by fallible humans. I do however beleive suffering and pain are an integral part of the refinement of a human being whether it is one’s own pain or one’s child’s or one read about in the paper. We can not understand God because we are not god but i do beleive suffering is a part of god’s plan. I also beleive we make God too small I don’t know what to compare it to. We see tiny glimpses of God but not all. In my heart I knew deep inside i am quite sure before I attended a sunday school that there was a power much bigger than me and I could submit or not. I chose to submit. I also “knew” that I had once been connected to this higher power but it had been broken possibly through birth. I also knew and have known on occasion i’ve been here before .
Maybe the question isn’t suffering per se but our response to it?
some things are just known I know a higher power exists. guttereal answer. I think pain is horrible whether the holocoaust or a child being mercilessly teased and picked on. I also think god hates it but it is necessary for one reason or another.

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Richard W. Chadburn

posted April 23, 2008 at 7:14 am

Mamacaca: Humankind simply does not need “God” to be moral. I think that you miss the main point about suffering that Ehrman makes. Richard

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Richard W. Chadburn

posted April 23, 2008 at 7:28 am

Lisa: Your response to pain misses the point that Ehrman makes. Combine Ehrman’s “The Problem Of God” with the arguments for intelligent design. ID advocates fail to see that nature is purposefulless in terms of traditional theodicy. Classic theism ingores the contradictions of such things as the opportunisticness of micro-organisms in creating suffering. Please explain the design in virulent diseases that kill larger forms of life. Suffering for me is incombatible with an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent “God”. Perhaps, there is a limited “God” as Rabbi Kushner writes about, but that position is not without its problems if there is a “God” who really cares. Richard

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posted April 23, 2008 at 9:30 am

life=suffering. buddhism=means to cope with suffering

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posted April 23, 2008 at 9:45 am

This is one of the best statements I’ve read on Beliefnet. I’m going to share it with my Education for Ministry class.

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posted April 23, 2008 at 10:10 am

I have been reading Mr. Ehrman’s works for several years now and I must say I was relieved to hear that he was no longer a Christian.
My journey out of Christianity, while not entirely similar to his…certainly reflects a certain element of searching for answers that are just not there. It took me a long time to make the decision to leave because I knew how it would affect family and friends but when I finally made that last step, I understood true freedom for my life was established on my journey through Christianity and out of it. I however started where Mr. Ehrman ended. The suffering in my own life and in the lives of others impacted on me from an early age. Hell loomed after a life of suffering and it seemed totally incongruous with a god of love who wanted every person to find salvation but who was completely unable to make that happen (because of “free will”….the power to overcome god’s grace and prolong our suffering for-ever?). So Hell for me was the first thing to go. Even so I remained faithful, but after that pillar fell, it was only a matter of time, under my sincere scrutiny, until I found no pillar for Christian belief to stand on.
Mr. Ehrman’s books helped me answer a lot of those questions in the last few years of my life as a Christian and I began to wonder how he could know what he did and remain a Christian. He could, but the suffering issue forced him to face the truth of what he knew and I was happy to hear it. I know how hard it was for him to leave. Perhaps harder than it was for me since I was no longer that involved or known by anyone as the sincere Christian of my youth. But no one could read “God’s Problem” and not relate to the problem that suffering presents to any reasoning person. The God of the bible is not god as I understand it… continue to accept the bible as definitive, for me, is impossible.
I’m pleased that Mr. Ehrman finally caught up with me and I thank him for all the help he gave (albeit unknowingly)to me along the way.

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posted April 23, 2008 at 10:52 am

Erhman’s post reminds me of some lines from a Newsboys song, “Lost the Plot:”
Out among the free range sheep,
While the big birds sharpen their claws.
For a while we stuck with the shepherd,
But, you wouldn’t play Santa Claus.

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posted April 23, 2008 at 6:08 pm

Actually, I saw that show and it appeared to me that Dr. Ehrman is the one who came out on top in that interview. Colbert was surprised at how quick Ehrman responded and I believe, if memory serves, Ehrman made the interview even funnier because he bested Colbert with terrrific answers to his wacky questions!

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Jeff Young

posted April 24, 2008 at 10:38 am

You are missing the point. First, the Bible essentially declares that God has allowed the world to go its own way – and that the world we have now – disease and disaster – is not a product of design, per se, but it is a product of God giving to humanity what we have asked: to be left alone by God; to live life our own way; to rebel. God has essentially said (and this is quite evident throughout the early chapters of Scripture as well as other passages even into the NT): “Okay; you wish to be left alone; here is the world without my continuing close presence within it.” That not only results in individuals harming others because they have no moral foundation (the natural result of disbelief and of a world without God) but also a world in which Nature is filled with disasters.
But, the Bible also declares that God has not fully left man alone. That God has, in fact, continued to work to redeem those who “seek him” (Acts 17:25ff), who long for his presence, and that is through Jesus Christ – who will bring about a New Creation; a New heaven and earth; who will bring about a resurrection from the dead and restore creation to it’s peaceful, productive and joyous state (Romans 8:18-24; 1 Cor. 15; 2 Pet. 3:10ff; Rev. 21-22).
The evidence that supports this declaration is not one’s personal experience; nor a “feeling” within that there is a God in my life; the evidence is in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. “Having furnished proof to all my by raising him from the dead” (Paul in Acts 17:31); and Peter and the apostles declared: “This Jesus, God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). The eyewitness testimony of these individuals is the case – it is the point at which Christianity stands or falls.
Are there anomalies and questions for which I have no answer? Absolutely. But, we have enough evidence to put our trust in Scripture and follow Jesus – even when we can’t find an answer to all our queries. As Peter said, when many had left Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

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posted April 24, 2008 at 9:22 pm

I can certainly understand Ehrman’s waking up and just not believing. As a graduate student, I’m required all the time to be responsible for my thoughts. Often, I find myself feeling like I know pretty well how the world works. Ehrman seems to have provided theodicy ex post facto as the reason for a long move away from his Christian faith. I would be curious to know if he experienced little moments of cognitive dissonance before his realization that his faith was lost.
My assumption from reading his conversion to rationalism in the New Yorker several years ago is that he was raised in the middle class. It strikes me as odd that so many that have so little personal contact with massive suffering on other continents see human suffering as the most substantive challenge to the Christian God. My several months in the waning days of the Soviet Union certainly shook my faith in humans, but I didn’t find that massive suffering was illogical. It did make me think that sociological movements, and not just one or two individual decisions, can account adequately for human suffering. The faithful Christians I met there were the few that seemed to stand outside blind forces of history.

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posted April 25, 2008 at 11:52 am

The Problem of Evil has posed a dilemma for many a person, in my opinion, because one begins their analysis by asking the wrong question, “Why does an all loving God allow evil and suffering to exist in the world?”
This question assumes that mankind is deserving of goodness and not evil. This question absolves mankind from accepting any responsibility regarding the ongoing evil that occurs in this world. Furthermore, the question deems God as Omnipotent, being able to do something about the evil (not allowin it) while simultaneously blaming Him for not doing anything about it. Perhaps one is angry at God because He can do something about it, but yet chooses to do nothing about it, or to allow it as He sees fit at certain times and not at other times. If this is the case, then one must suggest that it is also God’s prerogative to do as He pleases regarding the matter of Evil.
But still I have not offered the question that should be asked. The one that I believe corrects are thinking regarding the Problem of Evil. Instead of asking, “Why does an all loving God allow evil an suffering to exist in the world?” we should begin to ask ourselves, “Why does God allow goodness to enter into a world that is comprised of evil people?”
The latter question acknowledges that goodness does exist in the world and not evil alone. We celebrate the life of a newborn child, a cure from a disease, material possesions, friendship, and love. Where does this goodness come from? Is it mankind who creates such things, as it were, taking lemons and making lemonade? If we embrace mankind as the author of goodness, we must also accuse mankind for the perpetuation and existence of evil.
We understand that there is a dualism at work here, but is it necessary? Is it necessary for evil to exist with goodness? One needs only to turn to the Laws of Nature to answer this question…(Yes). So is a world without evil really a better world at all? No Evil = No Goodness. No Evil + No Goodness = No Existence

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posted April 25, 2008 at 1:44 pm

“No president, not even George Bush, caused Katrina.”
True enough. But men, not God, decided to build and populate a major city in what amounts to a large, below-sea-level bowl, right next to a gulf already famous for hurricanes. You do the math.

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Tom Paine

posted April 25, 2008 at 5:47 pm

I am glad that Mr. Ehrman takes the suffering in our world seriously and doesn’t soft peddle it. But I am sorry it has come at the cost of his faith. What a sad place the world must seem to him. He focuses on the empty part of the glass so much that he misses the full part. What of all the happiness and joy of life that so many enjoy (both poor and rich). People fight with a passion to survive. This life surely has something to offer.
Why God allows evil and suffering is surely difficult. But could it be that he allows it with the expectation (dare I say hope) that we will grow and respond spiritually? Instead of asking why God allows all this suffering a more proper question is why do we?
For people of faith, this life, good or bad, is not all there is. The good souls that suffer do not do so for eternity.
There is a reason why so many people believe and have done so historically. And it isn’t because they are unintelligent or have not asked this very same question. But for most, Ehrman’s answer (to simply stop believing) is no answer at all.
Instead, it is to focus on addressing the evil and suffering in the world in both micro and macro ways and asking for God to help us in the process. If we do so, our world might not only become a better place but we might be a better people.
God bless you Mr. Ehrman. I hope you find what you lost.
Tom Paine

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Pat Arnold

posted April 25, 2008 at 10:59 pm

Let me preface my comments by saying that I am a fan of Mr. Ehrman’s work and recently cited him as a progressive thinker in my latest book, Crossing an Unseen Bridge. I also am a huge fan of common sense spirituality, so I am curious why I rarely encounter theological or scholastic debate that gives God the benefit of the doubt.
Mr. Ehrman’s scholarly works clearly demonstrate that what we know as scripture isn’t flawless, so why would we draw any conclusions about what God is and what God does from this text? Or do we believe it’s the gospel truth?
The fearsome God we met at church–the one that resorts to genocide and other inhumane acts to solve problems–is a poor caricature of the Almighty. That God inflicts pain and suffering, and demands that humans be put to death for infractions as innocuous as being a stranger who walks near a temple. The God in scripture is limited in ways that are distinctly anthromorphic: “He” has gender, frequently can only be in one place at a time, and doesn’t know everything. Did the omniscient God really not know where in the world Adam and Eve were when “He” returned to the Garden?
Scripture tells us that God plays favorites, is diabolically controlling and can be violently angry and unforgiving. It makes sense that we would deduce that a God like that will impose or allow suffering. But is that really God?
As one of the ministers in my church says, “There’s a lot of truth in the Bible, but everything in the Bible isn’t true.” Mr. Ehrman, Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong and a number of other intelligent theologians have given us a wealth of evidence affirming this. Even casual readers can see that scripture claims that Jesus was born in different locations and died on different days. Noah and a conflicting number of wild animals queue up to get on the ark–AFTER they’re already on the ark. And there’s no mention of the bloated bodies of the entire human population and animal kingdom that polluted the world’s water supply after a conflicting number of rainy days.
Why would we draw the conclusion that scripture has accurately portrayed the real God? My goodness, it says that God loved the smell of Noah’s live sacrifice! Is that why that animal’s life was spared?
If we know that the text is flawed, why don’t we give God the benefit of the doubt? If God is Love, would Love do the things that we accuse God of doing? Can we consider the possibility that there are other causes of human suffering? It might be convenient to blame God for creating it or not stopping it, but is it logical?
We know so much more than the ancients; why do we still confine God to the Zeus mold? Can we consider the possibility that God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, rather than the petty, vindictive, misanthrope described in scripture? Can we defend God’s divinity with as much vigor?

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tanya from sacramento, CA

posted April 26, 2008 at 8:58 pm

I thought this is a Christian website, what are you posting this guy’s anti-Christ thoughts for! Please……… we need encouragement whether we suffer or not it is in the big Scheme of life, and for him to brag about being agnostic is HIS PROBLEM! not ours…… I am offended that you would even place his opinions on this website. This will be the first time and the last time for me…………….

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posted April 26, 2008 at 10:44 pm

This is a spiritual website, not a Christian one. Beliefnet has members from pretty much every religion I’ve ever heard of – and some I haven’t – as well as atheists and agnostics.
I’m not Christian, and I bet some other people who have been commenting here aren’t either.

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Sam Nicolosi

posted April 26, 2008 at 11:45 pm

I am struck by this summary of the Christian faith that Mr. Ehrman ennunciated:
“I simply no longer could hold to the view—which I took to be essential to Christian faith—that God was active in the world, that he answered prayer, that he intervened on behalf of his faithful, that he brought salvation in the past and that in the future, eventually in the coming eschaton, he would set to rights all that was wrong, that he would vindicate his name and his people and bring in a good kingdom (either at our deaths or here on earth in a future utopian existence).”
I am struck by this summary because I too am a Christian, but I don’t believe any of these things in any literal sense. To my mind, seeing these things as “essential to Christian faith” helps me to understand why Mr. Ehrman found it necessary to depart from such a faith. Perhaps if his comprehension of Christianity had been more metaphoric, and less literal, he would still count himself a Christian. Perhaps not.

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Bertram Cabot, Jr.

posted April 27, 2008 at 9:07 am

Bart is a personable guy, and I saw his lecture in Lawrence, Kansas a couple of weeks ago.
Until someone crossses him with a tough question, then he gets visibly angry although he maintains a calm tone. This thing is, I simply don’t believe the reasons he gives for “no longer” being a Christian.
Of course, this is just my opinion, but something is amiss here.

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posted April 27, 2008 at 10:46 am

“Why does God allow goodness to come to a world of evil people?”
This is the opposite of the more common “Why does a good God allow evil?” The thing is, they both encompass the same issue, which is: Why does the Font of all Goodness allow Evil? The premise being, that if God is “all powerful,” and desiring of good for creation, why is their still evil and suffering? Does God just turn away, and ignore it? Does God somehow “use” suffering for some greater good? Does God allow suffering, and then skim off the ones who can heroically overcome, while leaving the rest to their fate? Is it some other purpose?
What bothers most of us who are not “sold-out believers” is that there cannot exist a being who is Infinite Love and All Powerful, who yet stands by while innocent suffer. I am not talking about people in prison, who committed a crime and are there because of it, but babies born with only 1/4 a brain, or good people who get bone cancer, or poor people who are brutalized by the police in 3rd world nations, or slum-dwellers living on the side of a muddy hill, when it rains.
How can a good God allow these things? How can a good God allow ALS, which slowly paralyzes and suffocates? How can a good God allow MS, which strikes in early adulthood and causes the nerves to shred? How can a good God allow BTK to live among us for decades, become president of his church counsel, and take one of his victims’ corpses to that very church at night, to do obscenities?
Nobody, not theologians, not evangelists, not philosophers, has ever been able to come up with one, compact, succinct answer. Had they, then this debate would have ended centuries ago. This being the case, those of us who do not look blindly upon God cannot be said to be somehow blasphemers or heretics for posing the question, yet again. And because of that, because the ultimate answer is “faith,” those who do not share such faith cannot be said to be wrong, for not believing in something which is unbelievable in the first place.

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Karen Keil

posted April 28, 2008 at 1:42 am

Prof. Ehrman,
In your introduction to your book, you spent a great deal of time expounding on your impressive credentials and education, and your practice of religion. It looks like you did all the “right things.” I read all about you, but I read nothing about God, or your relationship with God during those same years. There was nothing about things that you learned from Him, changes He made in your life, challenges that you faced together, times where He revealed Himself or yourself to you, answers to prayer…. What about the relationship? Where was God in all those impressive achievements? What did HE do in your life?
(I inadvertantly made this comment “to” Mr. Wright’s side of this debate, so I’ve copied it here.)

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posted April 28, 2008 at 11:09 am

I have a daughter who has suffered for four long years with an icurable illness. Recently, I was diagnosed with cancer. I have thought a lot about suffering and have personally have experienced it.
I appreciate Mr. Ehrman’s honesty. I’ve read much of his new book. Like him I have a lot frustration with the Bible’s response to suffering. However, unlike him, I have concluded that faith is not the absence of doubt or frustration, but faith is living in conflict with things we can’t explain or reconcile. Faith is accepting the mystery and ambiguity of God, while still following him. Faith as a Christ follower, is accepting personal suffering while fighting for justice to end all human suffering.

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posted April 30, 2008 at 3:04 pm

This may be very simplistic in the words but if you really think about it why does the news only really report the bad in the world? Then again how much do you hear of the good in the world? What’s the point?
If the bad is so bad that it gets front page I think there are more good things happening in our world that we don’t hear about. God has saved the unborn, fed millions, built houses, healed diseases etc. Some suffering has been eased. Why some and not others? I don’t know.
It’s so typical for us to be drawn to the bad reports, bad weather, horrific crimes and what not. Isn’t that what the dark side wants, to shake our faith?
Isn’t it just what the people expected Jesus to do? Run through the streets yielding his sword and killing and reigning over everyone with an iron fist? That’s what we would have done. Now that would have been news worthy right? Instead we got love. Not really news worthy is it? But then again……something has to overcome our sinful nature and so far in the history books, on the news and in most other places it’s only Jesus.

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Daniel Howell

posted May 1, 2008 at 4:09 pm

I do appreciate the honesty of Prof. Erhman. I think that before any meaningful dialogue can take place we must be willing to lay down the arms of religious rhetoric and the barricades of theological cliché that attempt to guard our beliefs or traditions but end up blockading our souls from encountering reality.
I must admit. I do not deserve to join in this conversation since I have never suffered. To speak of something that I have not experienced or witnessed is dangerous, thus I write with caution in hope that I may learn from those who have suffered.
Perhaps it is because of my lack of suffering, that I have not come to the same conclusions as Prof. Erhman. Or perhaps it is simply the embarrassing realization that I have not seriously contemplated the gravity of this question.
I hope to bring more questions than answers at this point. And so my q’s are thus: 1) In light of the undeniability of evil, how could one not believe in an omnipotently loving God? What else would there be to hope in? What hope does my sister (who was born with 1/2 a brain) have if this is the only life she gets? Not to mention the countless children who die in infancy. 2)Why are we more furious with God over the issues of genocide and catastrophe on a human level then we are with the rebellion and apathy of man toward God? Why am I more outraged when some one has hurt me than when they have hurt somebody else? Or why am I even less hurt when somebody offends God?
Just some thoughts.

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Matt Westbrook

posted May 1, 2008 at 8:38 pm

In case Dr. Ehrman is unable to respond, I would like to suggest a flaw in your logic. If Dr. Ehrman is now an agnostic, it doesn’t make much sense to ask him how “God” did anything in his past. For him to have an answer you would find acceptable would represent quite a level of cognitive dissonance on his part.

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Karen Keil

posted May 2, 2008 at 1:41 am

The flaw is not in my logic. I have full expectations of the answer I will receive, if I receive an answer at all. In fact, I expect “logic” to apply but I prefer to not anticipate that reply with further comments in line with those (or any) expectations as I believe that would be presumptuous (by definition.) If Prof. Ehrman is unwilling or unable to respond within a reasonable time (and I have not yet determined my definition of “reasonable”) perhaps I will revisit your comments to make my point. Thanks for your comment while the professor is busy.

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Daryl Underwood

posted May 2, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Before we go further into a difficult debate we should ask if our premise that God is in control is the only alternative. Perhaps God was wading through the mess, aligning with Israel as a solution, until it became futile to continue. I suggest that we ask why we are so convinced that God is in control.
Address our assumptions.

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posted May 3, 2008 at 11:37 am

I was one of ‘a million children born with birth defects’. I have cerebral palsy. I attended a segregated school where some of my friends died of disabiliities. Ten years ago I underwent a series of failed operations that put me in a wheelchair and took away my independence. I have thought a lot about why God allows suffering.
First of all suffering is endemic to the process of creation. Life eats life. Humans suvive by eating and animals. We all inevitble die. The air we breath retuens to the air cycle. The water, which forms 90% of our bodies, returns to the water cycle. Our bodies decompose and return to the soil to become food for new life. God does not rescue us from this process of creation.
Science report that life on this planet could ony exist because of a delicate balance between the forces of creation. Yet, the believe that the universe developed from random chaos that arose from an abyss: a black hole. This is too magical for me. How could such a delicate balance and order arise from the random chaos of an abyss. Instead it make more sense to me that creation arose from order or potential for order. This oder or potential for order I call Wholeness or God.
I believe there are connections to creation that humans choose to ignore. Just this morning I heard on the radio that when children have a chance to explore unmanicured nature they are less prone to mental illness. Prior to my operation, I had a dream that I was deliberate jumping off a cliff resulting in no longer being able to walk. If I had not dismissed this dream as paranoia, I would have avoided damaging operations. A patient, in the bed next me, had a heart attack and later found out that her twin sister was killed in a car accident at exactly the same time. Paul says “God is Love”. I see God as the ordely connect that bind creation together. If we paid more attention to our connection to creation and to each other there would be less suffering. The Holocaust wouldn’t have happened: the poor of New Orleans would not have been forced to live in a flood area.
We would find ways to eliminate climate change and prevent the starvation of others.
When I was in hospital, most of the patients and nurses were self-absorbed in their own pain. Even my surgeon was too caught up in his own ego to take the time to be present to me. However, there were some Christians who were patients, (by no means all)who were able to graciously accepted their own pain and could reach out, listen, and be present to the pain of others. When I talked to them, they said they felt deeply connect to God. Regardless of whether or not, this belief was an illusion, it did enable them to be gracious. I wanted this.
Fundamentalism doesn’t work for me. My observation is that it just as likely to lead to self-righteousness as it does to compassion. I decided to investigate to see if there was something else. It seems that there is a Devine Connection between each of us and is present thoughout all creation. Our task on earth is to be fully conscious of this Wholeness or Connection. Ironically, it is often through suffering that we are led to that awareness.

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Karen Keil

posted May 5, 2008 at 1:35 am

Since Prof. Ehrman hasn’t been able to answer, I guess the time has come to explain my questions about what part God had in his life. What I find in the introduction to his exploration of suffering is that the professor did a great many things during the time he claimed to be a Christian. I believe he did them all sincerely and that he believed he was doing them for all the right reasons.
While I’m sure he was sincere, etc., what Mark Westbrook and I both see from different angles is a strong likelihood that God was not involved in the professor’s religion. This would place the professor in a group who are described in Scripture as saying, “Lord, didn’t we . . . in Your name?” The Lord replied to them, “. . . I never knew you.” Whatever the professor’s religion, he seems to have missed the relationship that makes Christianity more than “Ianity.”

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Eric De Telder

posted May 6, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Hello, I am intrigued by Mr. Ehrman’s evolving experiences. I too am a sufferer. I suffer physically from a condition that reminds me daily how imperfect, incomplete, inadequate my body is. This suffering could set me on two paths. One path commonly traveled is the one demanding answers to the questions as to why I have to suffer this way. It will often lead to the creating of a chasm between God and those who demand such answers. Yes, suffering is a mystery at times… and we are not necessarily called to understand it. The other path is one that could identify my needs for having a Savior, a Great Healer and Comforter in my life. It is a path which is riddled with questions… perhaps without answers. And yet, the latter path – which is the path I choose to adhere to – holds in itself a much deeper meaning than the first. It places the focus from self upon others. That is, through it I am enabled to present more wholesome responses to the sufferers around me, and show them that God does care about their suffering. Equally so, I am delighted in and through the hope that one day there will indeed be a full restoration which all of us may experience. I have little understanding of who God is. He is a mystery. But I trust much that He knows who I am.

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posted May 6, 2008 at 11:02 pm

what a shame for someone to throw away all that bible knowledge..its Mr.Erhman’s problem,that is the fact he cannot understand basic bible…hello!!!! we live in a fallen world…we are waiting for Christ’s return…read Revelation and of course the 4 gospels…either that or he’s only in it for the money and money he has made…i wonder how much he has given or used to help ease the suffering in the world.John

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posted May 7, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Did Ehrman not read the part in Paul’s letters about the “Thorn in the Flesh”?
2 Cor. 12:7-10:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Sometimes pain is necessary to keep a person from being too full of themselves. I know because I am in pain 24/7 (I have fibromyalgia). And yet I do not “blame God” for it. I figure there’s a reason for it, and while I’m trying to find a “cure”, so far nothing has worked.
Sounds like Ehrman didn’t consider all the facts when losing to pain. I dunno where he got this false dichotomy that either a) wahhh wahhh God’s being mean or b) wahhhh my pain won’t go away, therefore God doesn’t exist.

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posted May 7, 2008 at 3:42 pm

As I have perused these comments, I once again realized why I no longer attend church.

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posted May 7, 2008 at 8:25 pm

Life is not a bed of roses. It is a fallen world, and as such, perfection is unattainable (and suffering is present). Pain is, more often than not, a TEST. And apparently some people failed the test.

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posted May 7, 2008 at 9:23 pm

That sounds an awful lot like out-thinking one’s self by trusting too much in the understanding of man. I heard of a fellow once who spent his whole life studying all the great thinkers and religious men only to find that they each had a different idea on correctness and how to find God.
In the end, he was still confused. I think he must have become bitter and disallusioned because I don’t think he ever found that inner peace these great thinkers and religious scholars said was there. I suppose he just thought he was the problem and that somehow God was never going to show him the way. I think he did everything everyone told him to do except the thing everybody said he should not do. That one thing that said that God would talk to him directly and provide a confirming witness if only he believed God would do it. And all he had to do was be sincere with child like faith and be willing to put into practice what God would reveal to him through the power of the Holy Ghost. It would be that still small voice that would confirm to him in the quiet yearning of his heart, if he just asked.

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Bart Mitchell

posted May 8, 2008 at 12:29 am

I’ve read through the list of comments, and most of the points I would make have been clearly stated. I just wanted to let MAMACACA know: I am a lifelong atheist. I send money and aid to natural disasters whenever I hear about them. When the happen close by, I’m typically one of the first volunteer responders. I carry first aid and tools in all my vehicles, and have stopped to render aid countless times. The last time I was on one of the rare ‘date nights’ with my wife, I stopped to help a stranded mother and her two kids.
I have spent my life placing the needs of others before my own, in an effort to make this world a better place. When you make the claim that there would be no hope, and no help, without your god, I feel you throwing dirt in my face and spitting on my for every good deed I have done in my life.
And in spite of this, I will continue to help others when ever I can.
Bart Mitchell

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posted May 8, 2008 at 3:24 pm

The Christian responses to Bart Ehrman’s post run the gamut of Christian apologetics. None pass the test of rationality.
From Jeff Young we are offered the proof of Jesus’ resurrection. What proof? What eyewitness testimony? Later, Jeff says that God left us alone to go our own way, but then He didn’t really leave us alone. Can’t God make up his mind?
Jestrfyl, if God is not going to fix anything, what is it good for?
Next we get the sensible answer from Jim Rigas that Jesus loves us so much that he is not going to do anything for us.
Frgough says Bart is a childish liar.
Paul says it is all our own faults. We have been thinking bad thoughts, and that makes her (God) angry.
David McCarthy agrees with Paul, showing in his parable (followed by additional gobbledygook) that evil is all our fault (beginning with Adam).
Then MAMACACA comes up with the classic canard that without God, morality is impossible.
To the person who is still a Christian, I’ll give you the opposite of the line Christians give me, “You were never a real atheist.”
Then Lisa assures us that suffering is part of God’s plan. I’ve never heard that before! lol
From B. Paul we get the classic accusation that we are angry with God; and we are asking the wrong question. I agree that we are asking the wrong question. Any question assuming the existence of a god is the wrong question.
From Tom Paine we get sympathy. Sigh.
Pat Arnold tells Bart that he has the wrong God. Is Pat a Muslim?
From Tanya we get the most prevalent Christian response, anger that anyone would question the existence of her God.
Sam Nicolosi gives us the liberal Christian response.
Bertram Cabot, Jr. calls Bart a liar.
Karen Keil gives another vote for, “You were never a real Christian.”
Another classic response from Mark, “Don’t ask questions, just believe!”
Diane tells us to just ignore the bad stuff and everything will be ok.
Eric De Telder, if I were God, I would cure your suffering, but I do not have the power of God. What’s God’s excuse?
John’s post is a case of the blind leading the sighted.
OfficialPro uses the time-tested Christian approach of arrogant mockery. How much real third-world type pain have you suffered OfficialPro?
At the last comes the best from JLFuller, the deliberate ignorance approach. Ignorance is bliss.
There you have them, brief summaries of most of the Christian explanations for evil in the world and how to deal with evil. None of them make a lick of sense, but they have become accepted Truth by constant repetition.

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Karen Keil

posted May 9, 2008 at 1:19 am

For the professor, the possibility that he never was actually a Christian may well be good news. After all – if the Bible is correct, and he was saved, then he will be stuck for the rest of eternity in a relationship with a God that he now rejects! Far better that he should never have been saved so that he gains the opportunity to spend eternity in a place where God will not inflict Himself on the professor.
As for “our” arguments excluding rationality – the argument that God can’t exist because bad things happen is based on a logical fallacy known as an appeal to pity. Its purpose is to exploit the pain of the people Bart Mitchell stops to help and to manipulate the emotions of the people with whom you and he argue. What rationality is there in that?

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posted May 9, 2008 at 8:56 am

I think that it is really tough for people to understand how God can be both good and omnipotent, yet pain and suffering continue unabated. Part of the problem is that we are not content that God should know some things that we don’t know. The Bible reveals that we currently live in a fallen world. This “falleness” is due to sin. Paul states that the whole world is “in labor, groaning”. As Christians, we hope and pray that when Christ comes back, He’ll straighten everything out as He promised. God has given a plausible outline as to 1) why the world is currently in labor, groaning,2) promises of comfort and power in this present evil age and 3)hope that He will totally restore that which was lost when sin entered the world.

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posted May 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

Karen, that is a big “if.” And since there is absolutely no credible objective evidence for the existence of the Christian god, it is not an “if” worth considering. And now the professor is “saved” from superstition. It is interesting how many intelligent people who have studied the Bible intensely have been led, not to belief, but un-belief.
Also, even previously saved or unsaved and even now, he is still in trouble with Allah, and his followers as well.
Do I detect a not-so-subtle threat to the professor here? Could that place where God will not inflict Himself on the professor possibly be (whisper) Hell? Are you suppressing your glee that he might soon be roasting on a spit for eternity?
Is the “appeal to pity” the fallacy of the day? I’ve noticed more and more Christian apologists claiming that every argument against belief in a God is a fallacy. Without detailing how an argument is a fallacy, the claim is about as valid as the claims for ID.
My argument was not a fallacious “appeal to pity.” What I did not say explicitly but clearly implied was, if God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipresent, he is responsible for any bad thing that happens:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”
Epicurus – Greek philosopher, BC 341-270
If God is not omni-everything, then he is no more powerful than Donald Trump.
If God is omni-everything, how is it that the Devil has freedom to do what he wills and how is it compatible our freedom of will? Christianity, especially the fundamentalist variety, revels in these and other irreconcilable paradoxes, e.g. the trinity. (Is God schizophrenic?) They are the great mysteries of the faith. For the rational mind mysteries are for solving, not for celebrating.
Gordon, did you receive the information in your post from God by email?
Oh, I know, Bible email. Unfortunately it is more that 1600 years late, out-of-date, and garbled. Besides it’s spam.

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Karen Keil

posted May 10, 2008 at 1:50 am

You protest that you aren’t appealing to pity, then you trotted out the same old argument that artificially limits the possibile answers. There can be (you claim) only two answers to why God allows evil. Either He is uncaring or He is incapable – period. That, too is a logic fault. Even the professor adds the possibility of punishment. Try justice. Try wisdom. Try love. Consider how cruel the best parents are to their children, or the best teachers are to their students, or the best drill instructors are to their recruits, or even the best writers are to their readers, or the best trainers are to their athletes. If such a variety of humans can allow suffering for good purposes, it’s possible that there is at least one more reason for suffering. Doctors inflict suffering. So do police officers and judges. Are they universally uncaring or incapable?
As for implied threats and glee – why would I be gleeful at the professors relegation to Hell? I’m not his enemy and I’m not the one who chose his direction or destination. I certainly don’t benefit from it and I happen to believe that I’d benefit far more if his chosen destination was heaven. For the professor, the far greater threat is heaven, where he’d have to endure with the presence of the God he’s currently rejecting.

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posted May 11, 2008 at 12:49 am

You completely ignored my first paragraph. And you haven’t told me if Bart is in trouble with Allah. And you haven’t explained how I have committed the fallacy of appeal to pity. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipresent, how have I artificially set limits to your answer? Or does He not have all of those characteristics?
And how is this omni stuff compatible with freedom of will?
Then you conflate evil with punishment, justice, wisdom??, love??!!, and suffering.
Of course you imply threats and glee about punishment and added to them with threats of the presence of God as well as his absence. Of course you would benefit if Bart went to Hell. You would have the smug satisfaction of knowing that you had been right. You would be able to say to Bart, “I told you so. You’re getting just what you deserve,” just like Lazarus who saw the rich man in Hell. You are making these threats through your continuing the invention of a mythical god of JUSTICE.
Just because the lies of religions have been repeated over and over by millions for thousands of years, that doesn’t make them true. Have you heard the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes?

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Karen Keil

posted May 12, 2008 at 3:47 am

As for your first paragraph, I didn’t intend to ignore it – I temporarily took the point of view that YOU were accurate in YOUR claims that YOU don’t use appeal to pity. I blame the hour at which I tend to visit the blog for that lapse.
I maintain, however, that whether or not you intend it to be an appeal to pity it is, in fact, an appeal to pity because the argument centers on “bad things” happening to “good people,” as the professor makes apparent in his book. In fact, he seems nearly to boast about how he opened the eyes of his students to the extent of the “bad things.”
(As yet another aside, I fail to see any real difference between the exploitation of children in various states of undress and the exploitation of the victims in his book beyond the minor point of medium of communication. The intent is still the same – to profit/gain/”win” from their display.)
If the argument (whether or not it is your intent) is not an appeal to pity, why use emotionally-laden language? “Evil,” “suffering,” “malevolent” “bad” and “good” are not emotionally neutral. The very wording (whether or not you intend it to be) evokes emotional responses. The question is never “Why does God allow things to happen to people?” The whole weight of the argument falls on “bad” things happening to “good” people. If someone rejects the adjectives – her morals (most often) and/or intellect (less often, by better debaters) are questioned. In either case, it is the emotions to which the appeal is ultimately made, your intent not-withstanding.
There are other difficulties inherent in your philosophical quote, but again due to the hour, I’ll have to postpone their discussion.

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posted May 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm

I don’t see where pity has anything to do with my argument. It’s a question of responsibility. If God is omni-everything then, he is responsible for evil. Besides that, the idea of an omni-everything God contradicts the concept of human freewill. If god is not omni-everything, then the limits of his power is arbitrary depending on who is defining him/her/it.
Religious apologists have been dancing around this problem for centuries without coming up with a coherent explanation because there is no explanation for a logical contradiction. They have produced obscurantism ad nauseum and enforced their views through threats in this and in an imaginary afterworld, as you have.
I have a hard time making sense out of your second to last paragraph. Nevertheless, an omni-everything god does not allow things to happen. They happen because God knows they will. If you take this concept of God to its logical conclusion, then there is no evil in the world, only God’s will.
By the way, have you used the pronoun she for God, or did I misread, or was it a typo? Not that I object. I just find it odd in your posts.
And you still haven’t told me how Allah fits into our world. And you haven’t answered the other difficult questions.
All of the contradictions and disparate theologies lead to the glaringly obvious conclusion that God is purely the invention of mankind for a multitude of nefarious and altruistic reasons. When are you people going to awaken from these delusions, just as Bart did?

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Karen Keil

posted May 15, 2008 at 1:07 am

Your “not seeing” what pity has to do with your argument does not mean that pity has nothing to do with your argument – it just speaks to your own limitations, which I will grant at this point and move on to something you may better understand.
Just as you ascribe vindictive maliciousness to me with regard to the professor without being personally acquainted to me, you ascribe maliciousness to God without being personally acquainted with Him. In your mind, apparently the possible reasons why God might choose to allow evil come down to two: incompetence or maliciousness. Are those the only reasons why you would allow anything to happen to – for instance – your children? Consider the maliciousness of so-called “good” parents. They move away from their child, promising some manner of prize (themselves, a toy, a treat – whatever) but only if the child moves in a manner that is beyond its skill – otherwise known as walking. They similarly withhold some promised reward until the child makes some specific noise, whether “Mama” or “Dada” or the noise that approximates tha name of the thing desired. As soon as that task is performed, the parent demands more advanced performance – the addition of “the magic word,” the addition of the same magic word at the end of something resembling a sentence – and then at the end of a grammatically correct request. Not long after that, the poor child is required to begin to put its requests in writing to someone the child has heard about but never seen – someone described by the parents as bringing toys only as a reward for having been a “very, very, very good” boy or girl.
Now, does this mean that parents are either malicious or incompetent, with no other possible explanation of their behavior?
Put another way – on what basis are you claiming to know that the only possible reasons for God to allow evil? Could this not once again represent a failure to see on your part, rather than a failure on God’s part? Or – is your knowledge so perfect?
Cutting someone causes him to suffer. Breaking into someone’s home causes her to suffer. Restricting someone’s freedom causes suffering. Why is it, then, that we praise surgeons, firefighters and police officers when they perform surgery, break into somone’s home to rescue a child (or even a pet) or arrest a criminal? Why don’t we punish parents who strap children into strollers, but leashes on them or even hold their hands? After all, they’re restricting the children’s freedom – malicious creatures that they are. Why would we even think to put locks on cupboard doors to keep kids from eating the stuff under the sink?
Have you ever chosen to so something because you “knew” it to be the “right” thing to do but also knowing that someone (usually, but not always a teenager) would be offended and text everyone they know to broadcast just how terribly cruel and/or stupid you are?
Further – on what basis do you claim to know that your definitions of “good,” “evil,” “suffering,” or even “omnipotent” matches God’s definition (or even mine)?

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Karen Keil

posted May 15, 2008 at 9:03 pm

Where to begin? If I used “she” in reference to God, it was a typo. Actually, I’m one of those who wishes that English had a neutral pronoun other than “it” because God is spirit, which is neither male nor female. Still, I admit that I tend to stick with the conventional.
Why don’t I answer each of your points? The paragraph above gives an example of why. It wasn’t enough to say, “Must’ve been a typo.” I describe my style as “Baroque.” Think of Handel’s Messiah and Handel’s tendency to use “93” notes for one word, so that by the time you get done hearing the word, you are no longer sure what the word was. I use lots of words. Were I to address each of your points, I would probably not have time to work to support myself, and you would not have time to work to support yourself if you read them.
One point I didn’t address is how Allah fits into all of this. It seems to me at the moment that he is serving you as a means to attempt to distract the discussion from some other point.
Now, let me as you some questions: are you acquainted with personality types? I have a friend who claims to be either agnostic or atheist (depending upon her mood and how many pages of material I’ve given her to read within the previous 24 hours) and I’ve noted some similarities between her discussion style and yours. Obviously, any personality type can reject the idea that God exists, but I’m curious (and a little amused.)
Lest you find yourself tempted – “rational” is not a personality type. Besides, just because you pronounce yourself rational and/or me delusional does not in fact make you rational or me delusional. If I state that atheists are blithering idiots; degenerate immoral monsters or arrogant buffons, which one would that make you? The answer is – none.
Oh, but wait a moment – now I understand completely! I am delusional because I disagree with you! How can you possibly be wrong? You are omniscient! I also have to echo you: “When are you people going to awaken from these delusions,” just as C. S. Lewis and Blaise Pascal did?

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John S Morgan

posted May 17, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Are we not examining misfortune from our experiential perspectives?
Let us think out of the box. Suppose it is God’s goal, as Jesus articulated, to love God and mankind. Perhaps this achievement would be needed in paradise.
What better opportunity to learn the importance and value of others than to be put into a cauldrin of difficulty and struggle. Perhaps real, meaningful learning comes through experience, as painful as that can be.
Moreover, with stubborn people like me, with too much blindness of heart, such an endeavor through several lifetimes might indicated.
Hurricanes and stormes, and earthquakes are an intrinsic part of our world. In our world, many animals eat animal food. The meal of one means death and pain to the other. When it is your turn to design the world perhaps you can find an alternative that lets both creatures prosper — but for how long. Would their death then be an intolerable evil?

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posted May 24, 2008 at 11:11 am

What makes Bart think that some of us have never reflected on the questions he is raising? What makes him think that we do no wrestle with God yet we refuse to be drawn into agnosticism? For there are a lot of questions that humanity, pain, misery, happiness and joy, the list is endless that some of us have yet agnosticism is not the way for some of us. Bart is not raising anything new; the answers he is trying to articulate have long been debated in philosophical concepts. So long Bart, some of us do admire your new quest of de-evangelising, but your converts will not be as many of those getting converted to Christianity within their pain of suffering…

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Karen Keil

posted May 30, 2008 at 1:56 am

It appears that NGreer has left the field of battle, so I will return to questions for the professor:
The professor now claims that God is a figment, not of the his own, but of someone else’s imagination. Should the professor and those who hold the same opinion not then apologize to former presidential candidate Dan Quayle? After all, Mr. Quayle was ridiculed – and his political career was effectively ruined – because he stood in moral judgment over the figment of someone else’s imagination – a figment named “Murphy Brown.” How is what the professor is doing effectively any different – other than the professor’s choice of victim bringing a guaranteed profit?

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Sally Morem

posted October 23, 2008 at 11:27 am

Hi Bart,
I appreciate your struggles with the existence of suffering. You are addressing the old question of the Christian and Jewish concept of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God who permits dreadful natural and man-made disasters to occur. My resolution of the problem was similar to yours: stop believing in that God and the Problem of Evil goes away.
When we stop thinking of our “world” (read “universe” here) as a “made” object and start thinking of it as an ongoing emergent process, the existence of evil events makes a great deal of sense. Earthquakes, hurricanes, epidemics, starvation, war, etc. occur as the result of unplanned, unguided, self-organizing processes, just as the good things in life do–abundant food, solid shelter, peace, and prosperity.
As we humans learn more about the nature of Reality, we learn how to generate the good things in life through our science and technology. We don’t pray; we do. And things gradually get better.
I’m asking Christians on this thread to stop thinking of events in the universe as “messages” to them from on high. Please stop anthropomorphizing the universe. It doesn’t think or care. Nor does any god. Humans are the only beings we know who do. ]
Thanks for reading and thinking about my message.

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Sally Morem

posted October 23, 2008 at 11:34 am

“I immediately go to Ehrman’s appearance on “The Colbert Report”, in which Colbert threw Ehrman well off-stride by asking him, “Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls?”
No, an agnostic is an honest atheist.
I’m a philosophical agnostic. I call myself that because I’ve thought through the problem of what limited human beings can know and decided we can’t possibly know anything that might lie beyond the universe. We are all agnostics when we are honest about our own limits.

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posted November 9, 2008 at 9:16 am

CS Lewis’ “Problem of Pain” is the best answer in 2000 years of Christian thinking. This is not an easy question or answer. Read the book.

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posted November 12, 2008 at 12:46 am

I believe there are many different types for suffering and to lump
all suffering together and ask why? is overbearing and does not give
justice to the dynamics of human beings and the world we live in. Be
it through natural disasters(god formed the earth and that too needs
to go through its creation cycle), suffering caused by evil (forces
working contrary to god), suffering caused by man( mans freewill and
man making the wrong choice). I believe that all of these has its own root.
Suffering is a byproduct of life on earth. Either you are the one
suffering or are a witness to suffering. The individual that is
suffering has a personal choice in how they deal with that suffering
(i.e. faith, science, etc.). On individual suffering, I personally
would rather recognize an all powerful being supporting me through my
suffering than to go it alone.
If you are a witness to suffering, than I think its important to focus on what we as human beings can do about others suffering. In this regard, if you believe in an all powerful creator that is going to judge the lives of men at the end of their time on earth, than I think the actions of individuals or lack there of would be significant. In other words an all powerful creator would be interested to know what is in the hearts of the beings he created that have witnessed suffering and have the ability to help.
Take Suffering from natural disaster. When a Tsunami hits and you are just out of harms way, what will be in your heart? Will you worry about yourself only? Will you risk your life to save others?
Every hour 700 people die of malaria. Where is God in all this? my
answer to this is Where are all the human beings that god created that can provide a cure in all this. We as human beings are clouded in judgment. Each year 2,000 to 2,500 people return to Britain with
malaria, which they have contracted abroad, and, of these, an average
of 12 die. God already gave us the technology to cure Malaria but yet
people are still dying of Malaria. Why should god do what he has given man the capability in doing. This is our fault as human beings and not gods fault. We can pray for a cure for AIDs too. Why shoud god give a cure for aids when people are still dying of Malaria. “He who has little, More be given”.
The example that Christ set through his own suffering is all I need to accept that in this imperfect world we will all have to endure
suffering. The regenerative process that Christ offers to society and individuals through his life,death and resurrection is the solution to suffering. Even if you thought that Christ was just a man take Mahatma Gandhi quote concerning Christ, “A man who was
completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of
others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It
was a perfect act.” I can not think of a better example of how to
treat others and deal with suffering than the life and teachings of
Furthermore, you can not find a better system that offers hope to the
poor, dark in spirit, and suffering people, than the system created by god through christ. And the beauty of following his example is that weather you are rich or poor, it offers the same benefits regardless of how much money you have. Id like to see you come up with another social system that is as comforting to the human soul and does not cost anything except an open heart.
My question to agnostics who have reached “self enlightenment” is…
What hope do you bring to the world through your point of view? Are
people going to be better off from following your philosophy? Does
your philosophy have the power to convert sinners to righteousness, to allow individuals to overcome incredible adversity, give purpose to peoples lives, motivate people to help others?

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posted November 12, 2008 at 11:08 pm

For Matt, Karen, Jeff Young, Marilyn, MAMACACA, and many many others who present his/her apologetic message. I learn something from you guys comment. Thank you and GBU.

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posted December 9, 2008 at 12:36 am

“My question to agnostics who have reached ‘self enlightenmen’ is…
What hope do you bring to the world through your point of view?”
Agnostics tend to argue that theirs is the most logical and sensible path and thus most convincing. The fact many agnostics do good in the world and our guides for others suggests yes, they can “allow individuals to overcome incredible adversity” etc.
As to having an all powerful being supporting you, this is your call, but the agnostic would wonder how much “support” will be provided given that said being put you (and your suffering) here to begin with. It is akin to me breaking your leg and helping you during recovery. Or, to be more crass, a wife beater being there supporting the woman harmed, and likely somewhere down the line to set up another chance for her to get hurt. And, supply support. etc.
This to some agnostics is of limited benefit.

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jay hall

posted December 10, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Well, it all simmers down to Doestoevsky, as usual: “If there is no God, then ALL is permissible.”

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Your Name

posted January 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Absent from your journey that you delineate is the empowering of the Holy Spirit in your life. You have suffered through a long process that many have taken that has ended in disappointment. Thinking that through much study and adhering to the method by which all subjects are mastered you could have your questions concerning Christ answered. What a royal waste of effort. For it is not by anyone’s excretions that one receives the Spirit. Being a little christ is being endowed with the same Spirit which came upon those at Pentecost. Learning every fact and nuance that the world may contain does nothing towards one being a Christian. Knowing about Jesus is not knowing Jesus. Those who are His know Him and know that they know Him. Their spirit and His Spirit are of one accord. You can justify your actions with whatever charge you wish to level at Him. Yet I tell you, on your last day your charge will be without merit. Repent now! Pray Jesus will send His Spirit upon you that you may be given sight and your blindness healed.

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posted March 9, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I heared Bart’s talk with terry I was surprised how his account of jesus was similar to what prophat Mohammad (pbuh)has said 1400 years ago. On bart’s religous tendency at present though I have to say he has depended too much on his rational ability. Like Rumi says the feet of the rational ones are wooden(have disability. I suggest to Bart to do one prostration and repeat the islamic prayer of prostration while his head is in that humble position almighty will fill his heart with guidance. otherwise the devil will rack hawak

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Sally Morem

posted April 22, 2009 at 10:50 pm

The problem with evil is IMHO a subset of a much more serious theological problem: The asymmetrical relationship between Big God/little man.
Under the theological construct of the universe offered by Christians for our consideration, God makes all and controls all, and yet human beings are always to blame for the snafu. On a much smaller scale, that’s akin to the boss who has dictatorial control over his employees always blaming them for lost sales, shoddy products, etc.
I’ve read theologians comments on this, saying such things as “God didn’t want to create robots, so he gave us free will.”
Unfortunately, that solves nothing. A maker always has responsibility for the doings of his creatures, robots or not. I personally solved the problem by mentally modeling the universe as a freely evolving process, not as some artifact, dumping the theological mental model in the process, problem of evil and all.
I use two classic science fiction stories to illustrate this mismatch in power. Check out my essay, “The Star, the Star Maker, and the Scripted Universe” at

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posted May 12, 2009 at 10:56 pm

This perspective gives one pause and permission to question. The wonder of God is amazing, and tolerant, and it invites inquiry. While at the same time disseminating immense love, compassion, and truth. It takes courage to examine one’s self this way.

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Christian MD

posted May 16, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I don’t believe that Professor Ehrman turned away from God due to his questions about suffering. I have no idea why God permits suffering to occur, but I do know he has given us the capacity to help others. Events such as hurricane Katrina, tsunamis, mudslides, malaria, and HIV necessitate a human response. We all have the capacity to act as living vessels of Divine mercy and love, and we perhaps we have fallen short of our duties to work as God’s agents to bring love and healing to others. If Professor Ehrman was so concerned about suffering, one would think that he should be seen more prominently offering aide at such tragedies, rather than driving around an expensive car, and living in an expensive home …. I say this as a physician who works with the poor, uninsured, and underserved.

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Kel williams

posted May 21, 2009 at 6:34 pm

There are some significant typos in the new “Jesus interupted” book.
Page 37 sites Luke 1:23, but it should site Luke 3:23.
Bart, email me for other insights. Overall, the book is thought provoking in the political motives of Bible writers etc.
email me

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posted May 24, 2009 at 11:41 pm

“Either the story of Jesus as the risen-from-the-dead Son of God (put forth by the NT documents) is true or it is not. Dr. Ehrman’s textual issues fail to undermine the trustworthiness of these documents and their historical testimony is very solid for the resurrection.”
What eyewitness accounts do you refer to, Jeff Young? Are they written in the first person?

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posted May 25, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I am sure that it was Calvinists that made Ehrman lose his faith, since he says he lost his faith due to the “problem of evil.” In other words, the Calvinists wouldn’t shut their Satan worshiping mouths and let him enjoy the joy of his salvation……oh no, they had to convince him that God is the cause of evil, and they eventually convinced him that there is no way for God to exist and not be the cause of evil, and therefore, he became an agnostic. Stay away from Calvinists. When they start their spiel about God being evil, just say “Shut up you Satan worshiping heretics” and walk away.

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posted May 27, 2009 at 11:54 pm

I am glad to have read comments like that one by Marilyn and Eric de Telder. I can hardly suffer those others that insist on the story of a fallen world where people are basically evil, those who rely on “Satan” as a supposed adversary of God etc. I haven’t gotten to the point where Dr. Ehrman is, of leaving the faith behind and becoming an agnostic, but certainly any sensible understanding of God has to surpass the nonsense of the fear-mongering literalists that abound in these forums.

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posted June 3, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Suffering occurs primarily because God will never shave the Truth: good truth, bad truth, any truth, because truth. Now you can and SHOULD ask, “Can’t God MAKE any ‘truth’ He likes?” Of course, the answer is YES (ignore the Calvinists here, who always put shackles on God and denude Him of His Sovereignty).
So then: would Truth be WORTHWHILE, if it were sliced, diced, pared, or otherwise manipulated? Or is truth worthwhile, only if FREE? And of course we want to say “Yes, only if FREE.” Okay, then: it must be FREE TO BE BAD, too.
That means free to FAIL. Satan’s essential Trial argument is that God is unfair to make Truth be FREE. And we humans echo Satan’s argument. Yet think: God’s commitment to FREEDOM resulted in Son taking on Humanity and adding it to Himself to PAY for essentially the opportunity cost of creation. (I try to cover all these big questions in my “Thinking series” webpages.)
Now, the ultimate reason for suffering is like Paul states in Philippians 3:10, to know Him and have the fellowship of His Suffering. For think: how could Christ in His Humanity fully become One with Father UNLESS He was made sin, yet not sinning Himself? So for us, suffering acts like a flashback, a way to identify with Christ on the Cross, to know better what it was like for Him, to have more RAPPORT with Him, to learn His Love better. So then suffering is never pointless. Deeper in Him (so to speak), results.
Now, that suffering question is totally apart from Verbal Plenary Inspiration VPI. VPI is provable; it’s NOT the monopoly of those stupid religious councils of Constantine’s time or any other time. VPI is so provable, even the foreknown copyist errors give you valuable doctrinal information. Just use 1John1:9 and ask God about the textual problems you think you see. Very simple, really.
This comment format is hard to use, hope the text turns out okay.

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posted July 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I think Bart’s specialty is raising good questions. His ability to come at these hard and difficult questions from within a christian framework (as he used to be a believer/pastor/evangelical) is unique I think in the world of higher criticism.
However, after listening to the audio of this debate between Bart and Tom, I am struck at how pedantic and trivial Bart’s rants on suffering seem to be (though, not to minimize his own experience of it). Listening to Bishop Wright, I feel as though I am watching a master artist brush into existence a magnificent work of art that is substantial and meaningful. Bart on the other hand comes across with a sort of paint by the numbers approach (at least on this subject – which seems out of his range frankly).
On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that Bart does not raise excellent questions or issues. And I do appreciate his honesty when he states “I have answers. But, their not very good ones…” The problem is, that he isn’t methodologically agnostic, that is to say he doesn’t appear to have a crisis of faith that good could not possibly be the result of a good God, just that evil cannot be. That particular commitment seems to me to falsify a truly agnostic method, which is why I am so puzzled that he ends up at an “I don’t know” destination. On his worldview, I think that he ought to be arguing that there is no God, and that if there is a God – he must then be a capricious and malevolent being who uses us as pawns in his cosmic game. I am surprised that he is so civil, and still trying to hang on to objectivity in his conclusions. I would think he would be coauthoring the sequel to “The God Delusion” with Dawkins, but it is precisely that he is not that intrigues me about him.
Thanks to NT Wright for a bigger canvas and a better explanation of the already but not yet tension that we live in today.

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posted August 31, 2009 at 3:36 am

it makes me sad to think this issue can put people off God.
evil and suffereing can only exist if there is good and love in the world. Otherwise it wouldnt be suffereing… it would be normal.
We may not know why God allows some people to die and some to live but if we could figure it out, it would mean that we are above God, and that we are smarter than Him. God will always have one up on us. And not knowing is not a bad thing. its humbling.

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posted September 12, 2009 at 12:58 am

A Christian, I too am troubled by the problem of suffering. But when you quoted the statistics about children dying every 5 seconds of starvation, the answer came to me, perhaps too quickly to be a real answer, but it’s something at least to chew on. I say this knowing that my answer is more theoretical than practical, and that in the midst of pain, I too might, like Job or Solomon, shake my fist at the sky and demand to know why. But I also say it having lived in Nigeria, a great nation disentegrating, a rich nation mired in poverty. There is so much suffering, and yet there is also joy.
When we quote statistics about HIV, about poverty, about the “third world” vs the “first world,” all seems dark. But when you know human faces, hear the jokes that spring out of the most morbid situations, find yourself shaking with laughter under a table as an armed robber roams by you with a gun, see the way people comfort each other in silence and with singing when yet another young person has died without warning after a “brief illness.” There is so much pain. It beats you down. But the hope, the laughter, the spirit in our eyes, where does it come from?
I don’t understand why suffering occurs. I think it superscedes all the theodicies we come up with to soothe our need for logical explanations. But I find comfort, oddly, in reading Job and Ecclesiastes, in seeing how, in the midst of our questions and our disbelief and in the impossibility of finding an answer, there is a breath of something that warms us, a brief waft of fragrance, hints of something we cannot yet grasp or see, but yet IS. This is my hope. Maybe someday I will not find it sufficient. But it’s what has kept me going this far despite all the ambiguity… May you find what you are seeking. There is truth in it.

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Jonathan Emerson-Pierce

posted October 2, 2009 at 6:29 pm

I was with Dr. Ehrman, leaving my faith. However, I found no answers in agnosticism either. So, I ended up back in the Church, but with a process theology. A much more adequate world-view than any other I found. The bonus is that it even enabled me to interpret scripture in a way that actually made much more sense than traditional approaches.

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Jon S

posted October 6, 2009 at 11:29 am

Far too much focus on human suffering. The world is based on suffering.
“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored.
In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” – Richard Dawkins

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Nathan P.

posted October 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

I can’t agree, and do not like the Richard Dawkins quote…n a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
No, what we would expect to see in a world saturated with sin, where man is a fallen being, is exactly what we have…A perfect and righteous God with a fallen creation taking a hands off approach…he is perfect and can not, or will not intervene for whatever reason which I believe is out of our human capacity to contemplate…God does not create suffering, we as humans do in alliance with our sin nature. God allows it, because when we 1st sinned he took the back seat and let us have our free will…This is a big struggle for myself as well because for all the harmony in the world and beauty, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for any of it. This hands off approach is the only way I can make logical sense of it…thoughts?
who said believing in God is for the weak and fragile…Quite contrary

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Nathan P.

posted October 20, 2009 at 3:27 am

I can’t agree, and do not like the Richard Dawkins quote…n a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
No, what we would expect to see in a world saturated with sin, where man is a fallen being, is exactly what we have…A perfect and righteous God with a fallen creation taking a hands off approach…he is perfect and can not, or will not intervene for whatever reason which I believe is out of our human capacity to contemplate…God does not create suffering, we as humans do in alliance with our sin nature. God allows it, because when we 1st sinned he took the back seat and let us have our free will…This is a big struggle for myself as well because for all the harmony in the world and beauty, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for any of it. This hands off approach is the only way I can make logical sense of it…thoughts?
who said believing in God is for the weak and fragile…Quite contrary

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Brock C

posted October 22, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Just because people suffer, doesnt mean God does not exist. If people are starving in other countries, why don’t we just feed them? It is that simple and logical. Same goes to the sick,poor, blind,
etc. Why should God help them when we are too selfish or have the means to help them?

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Your Name

posted November 27, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Jeff Young
April 18, 2008 8:34 PM
Professor Ehrman wrote: “A large part of my movement away from the faith was driven by my concern for suffering…. To say that he eventually will make right all that is wrong seems to me, now, to be pure wishful thinking.”
While I am acutely aware of suffering, both personally (having suffered tragedies in my own life – lost my father at age 11 and my sister about 12 years ago to the AIDS virus) and on a larger scale (having done evangelistic work in the 3rd world), I find this as a reason for rejecting God, and the God of the Bible, a flawed one.
Either the story of Jesus as the risen-from-the-dead Son of God (put forth by the NT documents) is true or it is not. Dr. Ehrman’s textual issues fail to undermine the trustworthiness of these documents and their historical testimony is very solid for the resurrection. Certainly if one chooses not to believe that is one’s choice. But, the historical testimony to the resurrection and the eyewitness accounts are strong evidence – sufficient for belief.
If what the NT documents say about Jesus is true, then, as we are wont to say, it is what it is! And, we have the promise that “the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed” – a promise based not on “wishful thinking” but on the resurrection from the dead.
What historical testimony and eyewitness accounts are you referring to? There are notoriously none to speak of outside of the NT. So the NT speaks this into existence?

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posted November 30, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I am a 16 year old, living in the North of America who is growing up in a strong christian family. (I mention North America because the majority of the North have atheistic views, or so many people assume.)
Although I am so young, age is not the indicator of understanding. I have read and studied the Bible and ministries to grow in my faith, and have learned the hard way the one answer to your questions, which are all talked about in the broadcast.
I am grieved to hear that you have already gave up on faith because, as it says in the Bible, when you have questions like that- as I did- that is an indication that you are growing in your faith.
I do pray for your revival and renewal of a passion for God.
Please. I encourage you to listen to this broadcast.( If you go on iTunes, search under Podcasts, Walk in the Word with James MacDonald, and then find the one Titled: When I am broken )It will only take 20 minutes or so.
…if you are really struggling for answers and value your faith, the best place to turn is the Bible. And you were wrong; God does answer all prayers- He even answered those in the Holocaust. Just because His answer to them, was not “Sure I will exempt you from this suffering immediately,” that does not mean that he didn’t answer them. His response was, “For a little while now you are going to suffer. And because you are being persecuted for your faith, their will be riches in Heaven stored up for you. Endure this pain in the name of the Lord as my son Jesus did- as innocent as he was he endured far worse pain than you are. Hold on my children. Their day will come.”

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Asutosh Regulagadda

posted March 8, 2010 at 1:36 am

Hmm! I will not immediately jump to conclusions about your own experiences and what it was that drew you away from the Christian faith. But, one thing I have consistently observed in many people who at one time have claimed to be Christians, but have since walked away from the faith, is that they want to make sense of everything rationally and intellectually, which by the way is not in and of itself wrong, and more often than not, the thing they want to make perfect sense of is the problem of evil, that age old problem which continues to challenge mankind.
The problem though, is that not everything in the world can be explained by natural, scientific precision in an empirical fashion. Reminds me of the scientist who tried to find where the life of a bird was. He wanted to find out exactly where in the bird’s body it’s life originated. So, he started slowly dissecting the bird, and lo and behold, in the process the very life he went searching after vanished for he killed the bird. And so it is with people who try to rationally and intellectually approach faith, for the very essence of faith is trust which goes not against logic and reason, but beyond.

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posted March 25, 2010 at 10:03 pm

To anyone dealing with these issues or thoughts, I suggest reading or even rereading the Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. While Lewis is but a man, he offers very logical reasons and explanations as to why God may allow pain. While deep and complex, I encourage everyone to read it.

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posted March 25, 2010 at 10:09 pm

From Romans 8
18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

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Fred S

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:48 am

Nathan P. “No, what we would expect to see in a world saturated with sin, where man is a fallen being, is exactly what we have…A perfect and righteous God with a fallen creation taking a hands off approach…he is perfect and can not, or will not intervene for whatever reason which I believe is out of our human capacity to contemplate…God does not create suffering, we as humans do in alliance with our sin nature. God allows it, because when we 1st sinned he took the back seat and let us have our free will…This is a big struggle for myself as well because for all the harmony in the world and beauty, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for any of it.”
Sin does not cause earthquakes, unless you believe they are God’s punishment – suggesting God is not “hands-off” when it comes to wreaking vengeance. Sin does not cause congenital blindness nor musular dystrophy. If God created the world, he could have created it more stable and earthquake-free (is he not all-powerful?). If God is completely “hands-off” that is contrary to the view of most Christians that prayer is worthwhile. When you say that something is out of our capacity to understand – that is an irrational explanation of the logical contradiction of an all-loving and all-powerful God.

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posted April 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm

As a former Christian I can relate to much of what Mr. Ehrman has written and I especially enjoyed reading Misquoting Jesus. I too studied the Bible extensively and also explored other religions to see how they differed from Christianity. I first struggled with unanswered prayer, the contradictions in the Bible, and the slow realization that practicing Christians were no different than non believers as far as their behavior was concerned. Shouldn’t Christians be an example to others if this is truly a “special, one true religion”? Over time I came to believe that much of what I had been brought up to believe was wishful thinking. I am now an agnostic and I fully appreciate my life living in the here and now. Giving up the “magical thinking” has freed me in ways I could not have imagined.

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posted April 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm

What good is a god who cannot or will not eliminate all disease? The entire universe is geared to destruction…..galaxies collide and destroy each other, stars explode, black holes suck up all energy, etc. And the fairy tale of humans who chose the KNOWLEDGE of good & evil made all of this destruction happen? I don’t think so. The bible doesn’t say they created good & evil, it says they chose the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil which means it would have existed outside of themselves. The bible says of god that he created good and evil, life and death…..this bible god is no better than pagan gods if you really read the old testiment and see what he did there. I don’t know if there is a god or not, but a god who does less for its creation than its creation tries to do for itself is nothing to follow. Doctors try to cure disease, they don’t just sit there and say “Oh, let me sit here and suffer with you”. If there is an almighty god it/he/she can eliminate all disease and chooses not to do so. I won’t follow something that seems to have lesser ethics than its creation.

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Preston Cain

posted June 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm

I would encourage any of you, especially the original writer, to read the book directly related to this subject. In fact the book was written by the author C.S. Lewis, whom you have said you enjoyed to read. The book is simply titled, The Problem of Pain, as you have so aptly named this blog post. I have read it recently and reviewed it on my blog. However, something tells me that you would gain much more from actually reading C.S. Lewis’ work. I actually would love to hear your criticism after you have read it! So check it out all of you! Thanks!

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posted July 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Suffering in no way disproves the existence of God. God created the world He chose to create. He could always create a better one. If He were compelled to create the best of all possible worlds, (Liebniz’s error) He wouldn’t be God.
One must first address the existence of God using one of the traditional arguments ( Kalam, Aquinas’ 5 Ways, The Big Bang, Argument from Conscience,etc.), then go back and address the subject of gratuitous evil. Maybe it is not so gratuitous after all.
Finally, one should ponder St. Paul’s words about filling up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.

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posted July 7, 2010 at 10:57 am

Dr Yasir Yaqoob

posted July 12, 2010 at 8:43 am

When Prof Bart Ehrman talks about the starvation,earthquakes,hurricanes,holocast,malaria,tsunamis and on and on the one thing which is common in all of these is death and death is considered a suffering.Prof Bart who is a distinguished historian very correctly does not establish anything as history unless he finds any convincing evidence in support of any story.I fail to understand what proof has one got to prove that death is a suffering.May be it is a blessing! How can we be so sure if we did not taste death or if we do not have any original MANUSCRIPTS written by people after their death to testify for that.
Also Prof Bart Ehrman does not mention anything about the plants and animals which we kill each day and cook them for our food in the kitchen.We never say that there is suffering in my kitchen because i killed 5 onions , 5 tomatoes and 1 chicken .Well before we try to understand why there is suffering in the world we must be able to explain why there is suffering in the kitchen.If death is a suffering why am i becoming an accomplice by eating plants ,animals and birds.
When we solve domestic problems then we can move to solve global ones.
If i have the right to take the life of an animal for my own benefit without having created it,does the Creator who created an animal have no right to take away the life of its creation??

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posted September 29, 2010 at 12:15 am

Nathan P. “This is a big struggle for myself as well because for all the harmony in the world and beauty, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for any of it. This hands off approach is the only way I can make logical sense of it…thoughts?”
Perhaps your struggle is because you’re attempting to reconcile something that is not reconcilable and your mind is extremely conflicted. As a “once a upon a time religious” person, I can tell you that letting “it” go will cure that problem like penicillin to “you know what”. It’s scary, no doubt. However, once you let it go, you will truly feel the freedom.
Look. I am not saying toss the “Book”. The Bible is a great mythology to “explain” the human condition but not the causality of it – just as what you might find in the Native American folklore. Just because a folklore mentions the underworld where animals (including human) came from, are you going to start excavating?

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Daniel Squires

posted January 2, 2011 at 12:44 am

What an incredible conceit for Bart Ehrman and all of the people who agree with him to put themselves in the place of God to be able to know what is good and what is evil. Even Jesus would not choose equality with God as something to be grasped even though He was by very nature God (Phil 2:5-6). This set the second Adam (Jesus) apart from the first who with Eve did choose equality with God ‘as something to be grasped’ (Gen 3:5). In fact when the rich young ruler came to Jesus and addressed him as ‘good teacher’ Jesus chastised him that there is none good but God (Luke 18:18-19). The knowledge of good and evil that was obtained in the fall was not discernment but rather experiential. That man thinks it is discernment is part of the God delusion that relates to primary reason for the fall that ‘we will be as God’ (again Gen 3:5). In Bart Ehrman’s dismissal of Christianity he pontificates from the delusional God-perspective of fallen man about matters as though his opinions were equal – and maybe even superior – to God’s. Bart: have you never read the book of Job? Did God’s response to Job in chapters 38 to the end escape you? Who are you to speak as you do to challenge Him?
In Job 40:2 God challenges Job “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Job answered in humility: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.” Job’s response was to put his hand over his mouth – in other words to ‘shut up’ – and therein is a wise prescription.
Bart: while you may think you could do a better job than God and therefore you have rejected Him, you can’t. And to think otherwise is a foolish conceit.
Isaiah 55:8-11 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (All references are from the NIV)
I pray that God is able to reveal His truth to you before it is too late.

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posted January 12, 2011 at 7:24 am

Excellent read about Bart Ehrman: How the Problem of Pain Ruined My Faith
– Blogalogue!

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posted January 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm

My brother,
Ever so briefly; I can point to times and places in my life where it appeared an answer came in the nick of time. This strengthened my faith in an unseen Provider. Again, when I later encountered others’ suffering beyond my wildest imaginings, I had to ask myself, did this invalidate my earlier experiences? Were my “answers to prayer” random happenstance?
I’ve decided: no. For you see, the sh!t hit the fan in my life also, after a fashion. I lost my marriage and my home and my job. I am reduced to privation. Yet without fail I can keep up the rent on my little one-room. It is an inverse sitch. The much I lost, the little I have. I cannot explain it. I only know I am being cared for by the Unseen Providence.
I try to do my little bit for the world doing volunteer work and giving charitably. I know I could much more. But there it is; my poor answer.

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Mike Gantt

posted January 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Dr. Ehrman,
I hear you say that you don’t want to take people to agnosticism and that you only want them to think, but that is hard to square with the authoritative way you disparage the reliability of the Bible. How can you be objective about the Bible if you use the weight of your credentials to discourage people from trusting in it?
I wonder if you yourself are thinking hard. For example, I viewed a debate you held on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection. In your concluding remarks, you laid out your naturalistic explanation for how the resurrection accounts came to be in our Bibles. I’ve written you an open letter with some questions abour your views and I hope you will answer it:

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Barry W Heckman

posted February 11, 2011 at 11:03 am

The question is not where is God in all this pain but where is Man in all this pain?
We have the capabilites to put an end to starvation, alleviate much pain through illness, put a stop to wars and genocides, etc. I am not a Godless humanist.I believe that God has given us all a conscience. It is our responsibility as His children to act on that conscience and not just blame Him for the condition of mankind while turning away from His existance. All the theological and philosophical arguing in the world has never stopped pain. The promise as seen in Revelation 21 is ours. The promise of Salvation through Christ is ours. These are God’s solution to a fallen world. A gift of Grace.But it is “how we should then live” which demands response. Too many of us are satisfied to live our materialistic self gratifying lives and turn our backs on dealing effectively with the issues that can be solved.
Now , for a moment, let’s just do the argument. If He created automatons- people who were good- and if He created a world without illness- and if He created a world were only life existed and never the pain of death- what would that world be like? I give you Revelation 21! Except everyone in that new world chose to be there. None were forced. That is the better or higher way. That is where it is all going.
I think about the departed. Their life pain is no more than a distant memory long forgotten for them. The pain that remains is for those left behind after their departure- and again I say- what are we doing about that pain as men?

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Rick Solomon

posted February 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Dr. Ehrman,
Your questions are both thought-provoking and painful. I have heard them asked by many people in many circumstances. An intelligent man, like yourself, should not be surprised that these questions arise from our compassion for our fellow man. The problem we sometimes create in our thinking is a product of our intellegence and study. We eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and then question God. It’s interesting that that is the one tree we were told to avoid, yet as intellectuals that’s the first buffet we attend. Our questioning then falls into the same category as that of Job. Unfortunately, or fortunately, God’s answers will always be the same. Where were you when… The answer to your question is actually found in the very first chapter of the greatest Book ever written. In Genesis 1 we are told that God gave MAN dominion over His creation known as earth. ALL OF IT! You accuse God for not correcting things since He is sovereign. That arguement is, at best, immature, and at worst ignorant. I am not saying this to be adversarial, but honest. God, in His sovereignty, gave mankind dominion over this orb we call earth. God, in His sovereignty, established the consequences, good or bad, for any decisions we make. God, in His sovereignty, will ALWAYS do His job; He will not, however, do ours. God said whatever we do to the least, or for the least, will have consequences for us. The world is fallen because of man’s choices and will only be restored and lifted up because of man’s choices. If you see pain in the world YOU do something about it. Don’t presume to use God as a scapegoat for your inactivity. Use your fame and position to make a difference for mankind. God placed you where you are. Demonstrate His glory and love to the world. Take your rightful place as a leader in this battle.
In Christ,
Rick Solomon

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Randy K.

posted February 24, 2011 at 7:46 am

Voltaire, Goethe, Darwin, and all of us have lost loved ones to disease, bad weather, earthquakes, accidents,wild animals, and human anger -cruelty – evil – war. Even though living in the US for the past few decades has made life easier for most, we cannot ignore what has happened in history by the above mentioned killers, most of which are not human summed-up exponentially. Disease is by far the big killer even during war-time. And so we wonder why should we let this place go on this way for ourselves and future generations if we really care about this problem. Philosophizing is just the beginning. Action is needed. That is why I promote a couple agendas, one geo-political, and the other religious with the credential of being human first, then degrees in biology-geography-philosophy (political and economic), and theology-ministry seeking truth and wisdom. The first agenda would be to start a reduction in suffering by reducing the number of people who would have to suffer to less than one million people on earth by only allowing the freedom to have “a” child, 1-child families, or 1 child per person with financial incentives to have zero, and large prices for having 2. I also believe that the narratives and testaments of the Bible are so unique and different that there is something to them, probably true. When looking at all the higher and lower textual criticisms and so-called problems with the books of the old and new testaments – so-called problem-verses, I have found disagreements to be sketchy, with no real valid evidence. When I look at all the other religious books like the Quran, Vedas, etc., they just seem like man-made attempts at either regurgitating Bible themes, or just human attempts at trying to explain life and history. They do nothing for me. I speculate that there was a time when the earth and it’s inhabitants became violent, a fall into sin sort of speak as described in Genesis. I wish I could understand it deeper, but maybe it is impossible for me to understand as a human. When the Bible talks about the Lord Jesus coming for His bride, the church, and that we should try to perfect ourselves for His coming, it looks more like a gradual fall into a Sodom and Gommorrah here in the US. If we can try to become good, righteous, holier, less angry, patient, more forgiving people that will humble ourselves, confess we are not perfect and accept Christ’s perfection and gift of life, while trying to have wisdom by having less children so we can live without so much disease, starvation, susceptibility to disease and nature (better built homes away from flooding, quake damage, weather, the elements, etc., then we may see the end of all this suffering. PS Look for my website soon for a new Reconstruction Movement.

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Dr Yasir Yaqoob

posted February 26, 2011 at 4:09 am

Just imagine a pain free world .A world with all humans having no pain .No tyrant is able to inflict pain on the oppressed people of the world and no one dies in pain.Justice was done by God.
But after that you prepare a bottle of milk to feed ur baby ,it is very hot but u did not feel any pain when u touched it ,the baby also did not feel any pain when he started to suck the bottle a few minutes later baby got a mouth and stomach full of rupturing and bleeding blisters, his burn wounds got infected draining pus which he kept swallowing but he never complained of pain .He died from infection of burn wounds.
U want to wash ur clothes with hot water.The hot water peels of the skin and then u know that it was hot but still no pain.
A nail pricks someones foot and goes deep inside, the guy died of tetanus weeks later because he did not take medical help. He felt no pain in a pain free world.
A man had a perforated ulcer in his stomach and whole abdomen got infected he died and at autopsy we found that he died from infection but he did not call for help because he felt no pain.
A man has a small fracture in his chest rib after a small trauma. He felt no pain so he kept working normally and suddenly he collapses and we find a bone protruding through his chest and he dies from air leak from lungs.He felt no pain.
A man was offered sulfuric acid instead of mineral water. He drank it but felt no pain .U can guess what happened after that.
Thank u my Lord Creator that u created pain. I can feel the pain.

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posted February 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Why doesn’t God answer the prayers of His people? Because He cannot override the free will of those who seek to come against His people. As a Christian, you give up your right to your life. It is in the hands of God and those who wish to take it as their own. People are terrified to put the words ‘God’ and ‘can’t’ in the same sentence. The truth is, God cannot encroach upon our free will and still remain the same God of love. He loves the most wretched human being just as passionately as the most virtuous, and allows the wretched man just as much free will. Suffering breaks His heart, but he will not force love into any one’s heart. It is an offer.

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posted March 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I have serious questions about the concept that God gave us “free will” as an explanation for the evils committed by man. Let’s deal with the position of belief that God knows all there was and all there will be. If this is the case, then God knows what everyone will do in their life the second they are born, and actually, even before they are conceived. And if God is our creator, he created our being and is thus responsible for all of our actions as he made us, because he knows what we will do in our lives.
So, do we really have “free will” when our actions have already been predetermined, as they must be since God already knows what we will do in our lives before we even live? Does this not also make God responsible for all evil because he created those people that will do, or have done evil, and knew they would do evil at the time he created them?

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Dr Yasir Yaqoob

posted March 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm

U were given a free will to reserve some time for entertainment and some time for studies while u were a student at high school.The teacher predicted that u will fail the exams based on his knowledge aquired by observing ur behaviour at school.He wrote in his note book that this particular student is going to fail. U appeared in the exams and u did fail as the teacher had predicted about u ,but u did not fail because the teacher had predicted so, on the contrary the teacher predicted so because u were going to fail.
Predestination is the set of predictions of God about us which always come true whether the actions were voluntary based on our free will or involuntary beyond the controll of our free will. People conveniently call the predictions of God as their fate.
If God knows that i am going to do evil than why did God allow me to do it is same as that teacher who knows that his student is going to fail yet he is ready to teach him and show him the right path.
If God voluntary goes out of his way to put u to right path by force, in that case we do not have any free will and as such we r not humans but in that case we will be angels who have no free will. The point is that God created us as with free will and named us as Humans and He created Angels without free will and named them as Angels.
Hope that answers ur question Mr Dave.
Prof Bart Ehrman is asking God that why did God create human race having free will in addition to creating the angels who have no free will and God answers him by saying that God creates what God wills to create not what Bart Ehrman wills God to create.

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Hilary Hakkinen

posted March 10, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Pretty nice place you’ve got here. Thank you for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to them. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.
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posted March 30, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Dr Yasir Yaqoob – that statement is incorrect, according to the bible:

He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, “You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” [Psalm 139:16] God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes. He has a reason for everything he creates. Every plant and every animal was planned by God, and every person was designed with a purpose in mind. If God has a divine plan for each of us, then he had a divine plan for Hitler too. It is when you stop to think about it deeply that the contradictions hit you.
God planned a few trusted fellow christians to hurt my whole family by sinning and being deceiteful and planned me to become an atheist.

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Dr Yasir Yaqoob

posted April 1, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Hi cjmybad
How would u answer Mr Daves question?

I think that the quotations given below from “Psalm” are in perfect harmony with what i have said .I don’t see any contradiction.I cant imagine an all knowing God who does not know what is going to happen next in our lives.An all knowing God must have the advance knowledge of the unseen. What we call “future” is just “history” in the eyes of God. But having said that we are still accountable for all of our voluntary actions. According to Bible everyone will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. God does not hold himself responsible for the actions of those that God sends to Hell.


Psalm 139:16 (American Standard Version)
16 Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance; And in thy book they were all written, Even the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16 (New King James Version)
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

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posted April 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

If he was really kicking and screaming about losing his faith, did he ever try something like fasting or praying about it? I’m just confused that he thinks that God is the problem and not our sin nature? And the children in Africa, does he ever do anything to help them out? Or, does he just sit there and complain about it? I know there’s nothing you can do about the Holocaust, but what about sending money to the children there.

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Dr Yasir Yaqoob

posted April 14, 2011 at 3:36 am

Bravo! Dear Brandon
What u have mentioned is exactly what God wants us to do. He is giving us an opportunity to help those in need so that we can earn a handsome reward from God but those who take photographs of the misery of poor African people without doing anything to help them are indeed selfish people.But the irony is that they do not blame their selfish nature for the suffering of those in need of help ,but they want to blame God for that.
How selfish is man indeed.

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posted April 18, 2011 at 5:52 am

I don’t think we’re in a position to judge God. We see something happen and gasp at how senseless it all seems, but how quickly forget the OTHER part of the gospel, the part that isn’t such good news, that sin leads to death. You can move mountains Jesus said by having faith, and yet mountainlike obstacles remain. War, poverty, disease and death are all still with us. I think Bart Ehrman’s God, or the God he once had, was simply too fundamentalist, too extremist to make sense, even in the Christian context in which it arose. Ehrman’s God never appears to have been the God of the bible; the God who brings wrath down upon unbelievers and strikes even the faithful with severe tests (I.E. Abraham, Job, pretty much everyone in scripture) of loyalty. Ehrman lived in a human centered world where our suffering was inexcusable, where God remained unjustly silent or absent, and you know what? By becoming an agnostic/atheist, he remains staunchly human-centered. When I hear preachers wax poetic about God’s over-riding concern for us, I shudder. Because the path from that preacher to atheism is a short one. The God of the bible is central, man is not. Man at best occupies the fringes, in fact Job himself implied this when he said, “We have seen the fringes of His ways, and but a whisper there has been heard of Him!” When Jesus said we’d move mountains, He added in the same breath that this would be true only if it was in accord with God’s will. The biblical God is not a fairy godmother granting wishes, He is the Supreme Lord with a purpose we only begin to fathom. The God of scripture is the perfect embodyment of Love, yes, but also of Justice, Wisdom, and Power. So the next time you decry an “act of God” (nonsensicle word, by the way) is unjust, remember that without God Justice has no meaning. Justice becomes whatever we choose to make it. If God doesn’t exist, thousands drowning in mud is just fine, it’s nature’s process at work. Children dying every 5 seconds? Well that’s just natural selection weeding out the vulnerable and unlucky. I choose to believe in the biblical God because He is the only thing that makes sense. Trying to get wisdom and justice from a godless world is like trying to get wring blood from stone.

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posted April 25, 2011 at 5:38 am

Dear Dr. Ehrman, you are probably my favorite theologian.I like some of the comments as well although I would prefer we all keep it on topic in order add value to the subject. :)

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Dr Yasir Yaqoob

posted June 22, 2011 at 10:20 am

I liked ur comments very much especially that “without God justice has no meaning at all”,but while reading ur post a question came to my mind that if God is going to do justice on the judgement day even then those who believe that Jesus paid for their crimes will roam freely in paradise no matter what crimes they commited. Adolf Hitler meeting Mother Teressa in paradise and saying to her “Well Mother Teressa what difference did it make in the end”!

Criminals lived in luxury in this world and they r being promised the same luxury in the next world if they believe that someone died for their sins 2000 years ago.

I do not see any justice in that at all.

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Austin Foreclosures

posted August 17, 2011 at 7:16 am

I started playing Final Fantasy IX and from then, I always buy new games every Final Fantasy release new one. It is indeed the best game on the planet. I think I will never stop playing this lol.

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posted September 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm

God is not silent about why this world must end and it will suprise you but He wont be a second off on His timing , He counted it GOOD when He created man knowing of the suffering and trouble it would take to end evil once and for ETERNAL! Thats why He said it was good and everyone will have a chance , first be enlightedend of everything once santan is done away with FOREVER, and then still will get to choose, nobody will go into eternity against their own will,this is the purpose of the resurection of the just and the unjust, this will include all who have not been risen or gathered at the first resurection, man will bring into eternity unspeakable joy and thankfulness final stages of the development of eternal NEW earth. Yes there are a lot of misinterpitatons in the bible editions, however using concordances and original languages and a lot of time studying past usages of where aword has been used before we can get a very good clear picture of what God is accomplishing and what Jesus Christ did by voluntarily giving up His life for us. We like Him can have a chance to enter the Eternal Kingdom which was off limits because of the enterance of the knowledge of good and evil. Suffering is a problem to man and to God but it will have an end and will be just because every living soul will have knowledge and freedom of will before the last curtain call which God cannot make clear to man until satan is done away with and he will be done away with and it will be forever and the joy of the eternal kingdom cannot even be compared to the best joy we have available to us in this kingdom. Remember Romans 8 : 18 (King James Version)For I (Paul)reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” goes on in the following verses to explain that there is a waiting period of groaning suffering waiting for the final redemtion. I guess that is what faith is you either beleive that God loves you or you dont, but unless there is another reason besides lack of faith like a deliberate decision to serve satan and you are stubborn enough to hang onto your own ideas even after you have been shown the truth we will be togehter in eternity and by the way hopefully as a previous bible student you know these verses, Revelation 7 :17For the Lamb Which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them , and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters:and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”, and Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;and there shall be no more death , neither worrow, nor crying , neither shall there be any more pain:for the former things are passed away.”So one of the problems that God has had to deal with from the beginning is suffering and such but unlike what you have come up with to beleive He does have it covered!!!!! His intentions are only good for us however there is this other force in the world for God to deal with and He is dealing with it I choose to trust Him that He has it covered, have any other ideas of how to get rid of all pain and suffering forever? All satan does is try to deceive man( who God does love) to think badly of God and even says to Job, curse God and die.Thats what satan wants he is jealous of humans and hates God and wants to hurt Him the most possible and if you are a parent ,( I should say a loving parent) the worst thing that could happen to you would be that your children would curse you and die . Please dont give in to satan, dont forget english was not one of the original languages, by using the oldest available manuscripts, and the original languages you still can study , however before that final end there will be a period of time when satan will rule without hardly any interference exept from the few witnesses, but God has determined a time when it will be past finding out , that will be the time when He will begin the last stages for all of it will lead to eternal redemption! AMEN Hopefully I will be calling you brother in the eternal Kingdom, otherwise you wont be there of your own choice, hope that does not happen, so does God with all His Heart but He wont force or trick you or lead you against your will. Studying is our way to try to come as close as we can to understandoing Gods Word, and most importantly recognizing when something does not fit by studying context .Peace to you.

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Dental Handpiece

posted September 26, 2011 at 1:51 am

I am really enjoying the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility problems? A number of my blog readers have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any advice to help fix this problem?

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Hotels in Amsterdam

posted September 30, 2011 at 1:56 am

Thank you so much for the post, I just wanted to ask if you can allow me to post this on one of my blog, can i?

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Door Knobs in UK

posted September 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for very interesting post. I have a high regard for the valuable information you offer in your articles. I really believe you will do much better in the future.

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posted October 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Dear Bart,

I too have had many issues with the idea of pain…and of suffering.

I believe I read some posts of folks offering the resource of “the problem of pain” by C.S. Lewis. I am currently reading it now…it is quite intriguing.

*NOTE – I preface my statement below with the idea that I am NOT throwing a plug for our music. I believe the song we wrote could also be a resource for you, or others*

I also play guitar for a local music group called ‘Attalus’ (we are based out of Raleigh, NC). We just released a new song (as a preview for our upcoming album, ‘Post Tenebras Lux’) yesterday. It is called ‘The Problem of Pain’. I would love it if you could please take a listen. Any critique of the ideas would be much welcomed!

You can find the song at:

We must question all things…thanks for being open and honest.

In the arms of Grace,

John S

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posted November 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

all these internet discussions suck

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Neta Appello

posted November 17, 2011 at 12:00 am

This is the best site for anybody who desires to find out about this topic. You notice so much its nearly onerous to argue with you (not that I truly would want…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a brand new spin on a topic thats been wrote about for years. Nice stuff, simply nice!

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Robert Sullivan

posted February 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I do not believe God is working in the world of course absent His intervention in quantum physics. Instead, Our free will has a much greater influence than does God’s as witnessed in the state of our planet.
I believe God is omniscient and has clear understanding of our every thought witnessed by the “POD 15″ supercomputer capable of 150,000 calculations per second for every human being alive today, which is a lot faster than our every thought and experience at least quantitatively.
All creation expresses God’s greatness and understadably not considered by our most brilliant scientists who have faith that it all is here accidentally. Think for a minute how funny that is.
God is letting His creation progress on its own to the point where we collectively and individually see clearly the consequences of our actions and how evil choices were the cause. At that time when the deck is completely loaded we will individually be asked to make a choice “To voluntarily forfeit our free will to choose evil” and spend eternity in the cooperative way all of this was designed. A short life span is nothing to eternity.

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posted February 25, 2012 at 6:54 am

Being daunted by the vast amount of suffering seems to me to be akin to being daunted with another troubling issue, the vast number of souls who never have nor ever will hear with physical ears the Good News.

Very tentatively, and alas all too briefly and inadequately, the message I come away from Lewis’ book is this: God deals individually with each soul as though it were the complete human race, and visa versa. The cell is not more important than the aggregate organism, but not less crucial. It is all one. Each human is a surrogate for the species. This is the only way I have found (thus far) to make the concept of widespread suffering something I can at least confront.

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P.M. Barry

posted March 21, 2012 at 11:43 am

This is a well written and interesting blog. I am glad I came across it and I am happy to read something quite controversial yet very respectful.
Likewise, I would like to say, with all due respect, that your loss of faith may be in correlation with the fact that the truth made known to you all those years became too much to handle. However, when the going gets tough (especially concerning the mysteries of faith)the best thing to do is to keep to the mindset that despite all the suffering in the world, God DOES exist and you must remain faithful to Him. There are some things that, when studied extensively, can bring the human mind to utter confusion. As a professor in Theology, I too have been troubled with this same question of suffering and I have found that sometimes the best road to take, though simple and naive, is to place all your trust in God knowing that He died a gruesome death for you and that the path to Heaven is not an easy one, but one filled with sufferings. After all, God looks with fondness on those who love Him with a simple, child-like love. This does not mean that we should blindly follow, it means that we must always hold to the fundamentals that we knew from childhood when our faith was so simple and so true, and remember this when our extensive research starts to get the better of us.

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posted April 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Perhaps we are counting on God for too much. Perhaps Confucius, Jesus, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Mohammed and many others primarily from the Axial Age tell us that “truth” and perhaps “God” is within us; even that we are God, and that we should take action to relieve pain and suffering in the world. So, in a way, your indictment is an indictment of yourself, and me, and everyone for doing too little too late.

I do not think God suffers or loves or hates, or despises, excepts through us if we are indeed God or God’s extension. We anthropomorphize God to the extent that “he” becomes a “super hero.” Not so.

My story parallels yours to some extent, although I didn’t study theology, I studied math and science, and I still call myself a Christian (my own definition of “Christian” of course.) I start from the fact of evolution, biological and cultural, and the facts so far turned up by scholars in the field in the so-called “holy land.” The Bible turns out to be very inaccurate in its history, contain many fables that pose as facts, and contains a multitude of errors and statements and concepts that directly conflict.

Judaism, Christianity, and in fact all religions are human-made with God not directing any of them. We have made Jesus and God in our own image, with Christians having a totally incorrect understanding of who Jesus was.

I could go on and on, but will stop here.

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posted May 29, 2012 at 10:22 am

may i share to you what i believe in even if you do not agree but atleast you read my post i am contented with it.
i am 31yo now but half of my life i dedicated to self study the bible.this is what i believe in as i analyzed the biblical world.
yes, there is god but he is not omniscience.did god said he is omniscience???no he didn’t but the humans,the characters of the bible, said it.
god completely abandoned us. why??? because in the exodus god so angry with the israelites that he said to moses “i will never go with you in your travel to the place i am giving you because i might kill you all!!!!” he was so angry because despite of what he did still the people did not believed and still a stubborn people.
god sent angels good and bad alike(he doesn’t care if what kind of angels did he sent)to govern the israelites after they reached the promised land.
after sending angels he instructed them to prophesies that his only son is coming to save humankind.
when jesus came he only preached the good news and wait for the judgment day.
now why are you so doubtful that there is no god because he did not intervene to the cruelty happens in this world???
we are only his creations and we have no big difference to the animals, we are the same at god’s sight.
god completely abandoned us even before the 1st temple is constructed because of the stubbornness people are.he never intervened to the cruelty happenings but patiently waiting for the judgment day.
now you neglect god because he did not intervene??? what can i say to you sir is you don’t understand the bible well because you thought he is omniscience.
our universe is so vast that he is so busy working in it so that no meteors will fall that can wipe-out life on earth…doesn’t you think about it???

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posted June 25, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I too was a Christian for over 20 years, and I truly lived the Christian walk. As my Christian life went on I suffered the deaths of both parents, a sister-in-law and my 2yr old dog in the span of 4.5 years. I struggled with these losses, but ended up choosing to believe that God knew what he was doing.
My brother, upset that I hadn’t been going to a proper Bible-believing church and made a statement about the type of God I was learning about in the Methodist church. I said it was teaching me about a loving God, he retorted that he worships the “angry Jesus”. This stunned me and we ended the conversation.
Over the next several weeks I attempted to figure out why Jesus/God was so angry. The more I dug, the more God began to appear childlike in his expressions and his reactions to perceived slights by mankind. To understand better I used an analogy where I would compare God to an artist.
God/artist creates a work of art (mankind).
The work of art isn’t perfect (as it has the option to disobey and is tempted to do so from another of God’s/artist’s creations).
The God/artist blames the artwork for it’s failure to be perfect and do what it was intended to do.
God/artist punishes the artwork.
If the artist has a flawed creation ruin the new creation, why get mad at the creation? The failure belongs to the artist, not the creation. Therefore God has no reason to be angry at mankind while having one of his other creations (Lucifer) going unchecked and spoiling the new creation (mankind).
The argument throws the whole idea that God has a justified right to judge us on our sinful behavior straight out the window.
I applaud Dr. Ehrman to be able to critically think for himself.

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posted June 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

in fact I quite understand why we suffer – the way Dr.Ehrman discuss the matter is very superficial we are not in the paradise – this is the law of this life we had to suffer sometimes to enjoy our lives other times – suffering or not every thing at last comes to the same end -supposing that God must respond to every prayer is a great mistake – simply because we don’t know what is better for us and God only decides what to do _ it is only up to Him whether to respond or not – there is a very deep wisdom behind what God do – this life is very short and looking only to the matter of suffering is a great delusion consider also all these countless gifts and think how our lives would have been without sight hearing speaking tasting moving freely fact there is so much to say -one can make a whole book giving so many answers for this question no one of them is the free will which I wonder how it could be accepted in Christianity- and in fact – the question of free will in Christianity is in more need to be discussed than why we suffer –

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posted June 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm

this life we live is a continuous testing – God does not test us only by suffering ,but also through every gift , we must remember God in every minute and thank Him for his great ultimate generosity with us- it is not enough to say thank you God but to succeed in that test we must be helpful for those who suffer – God could have created all of us wealthy – healthy enjoying but he test someone by poverty or disease and the other with heath or money , there is a maximum difference between the look of a God this whole world represents nothing to Him as every thing will come to an end and we all have nothing to keep but our belief deeds and behavior in this world – and the look of a human being considering only the moment he lives not regretting what good deed he did not made in perfect time – but weeping for every thing he thought he would have gained -thou loosing at the end for every thing is certain – the cause of the problem is that we do not know why we are here , why God created us – what mission in this world a human being so distinguished from every other creature has to carry

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posted June 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm

moreover considering these sufferings as a base to judge whether there is a god or not is greatly not logic- suppose there is a god an ultimately capable- of an absolute will that couldn’t be opposed and this god is not merciful or loving I don’t speak about the Bible’s God , making people suffer so much is what pleases him so much what prevents this to be the fact of that god why you suppose that a God must be kind and loving? once more I do not speak about the Bible we are not in a situation to chose the characters of the God – we have only to accept what the God is like , if we believed in the power of such God over us can we dare to disobey Him ? or say I am not going to worship you because You are not the god I like ? what I think about God that He is all merciful – kind and loving despite all sufferings but what I want to say that considering these suffering as a measure to judge whether a God do exist or not is ultimately faulty and misguiding considering God existence or not can be only made on considering this very complicated world we live in , could it be brought to existence without a creator? could it be a matter of chance – evolution -this in fact a very important matter to consider and discuss realizing that we have only a very limited chance to do so -a chance that depends upon what remains of our very short life and moreover a chance that if we left to pass the bill may be absolutely expensive

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posted June 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Omar, I respectively disagree with the idea that god is merciful, kind and loving. The OT god is temperamental, cruel, manipulative and ultimately homicidal (the great flood).

The reason I say this is simply that right out of the gate he sets us up to fail. Lucifer is running amok, there is a forbidden tree placed in our path and yet he still blames us when we fail to obey. Consider this…the gulf between man and god is on par with man and an ant…now imagine the gulf between man and an angel (Lucifer). Say for giggles it is equivalent to the gap between a monkey and an ant, or a dog to an ant. At what point did we stand a chance to outwit Lucifer in the temptation department?

After being a Christian for so many years I do find it hard to believe that we are an accident, but nor can I ascribe a godlike status to the creator, as the creator does not intervene on our behalf. I see the creator more as a scientist and the universe is his experiment. Are we relevant? I don’t think our problems, concerns, “sins” or what-have-you actually concern him, and that is why there is so much suffering.

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posted June 28, 2012 at 9:14 am

Thank you for your reply
In fact David I am not a Christian ,I am a Muslim ,have very different Idea about both the OT and NT God . according to us , the God had created us to worship Him ,not because He is in need to this worship , but because this is His will (if the need is the motive for every behavior we make because we are human this is not the case with God ) worshipping means obeying the God’s orders , avoiding His forbidding ,accepting whatever He decides for us , as I mentioned before we are in continuous testing by bad and good , God had sent His messengers from Adam who we consider also a respected prophet to Mohammad who we consider the last of them passing by Noah Ibrahim Jacob Joseph . Moses , Jesus who we consider only as a very celebrated prophet Just a human being with unordinary birth not the son of God , and many other prophets all of these prophets carry the same holy mission, which is calling for the one God with no partner or son the One that deserves to be worshipped , all these prophets were the top of morals, the living and moving teachings of God the best examples to be followed , not like those in OT the first to make all kinds of sins

The concept of the sin of Adam is totally different than both in OT and NT and as the forbidden is only the exception of the allowed, the forbidden tree was the exception of the trees of the garden , it was not absolutely the tree of good and bad or right and wrong , that was just a tree that Adam was not allowed to eat from , like other forbidden kinds of food this was the first test and in order to give someone a test he must already be able to distinguish between right and wrong and that was what Adam like , a person completely responsible for his deeds, the God told Adam that if he or his wife ate from the tree they only not their descendants would be subjected to punishment , the sin is the matter of that who did it only , nothing is called inherited sin , moreover the God had warned them against the devil telling them that he is their very hateful enemy and that Adam carry the responsibility for himself and his descendants about the place where all of them will pass their lives : in this garden a place on earth where God promised no hunger . thirst , nakedness or suffering from the sun heat , outside the garden they may suffer all these ,and that if the devil succeeded in tempting him they will go outside the garden where there is suffering , when Adam failed they came out of the garden because it was stated unchangeable decision , but for the sin itself , God taught Adam how to repent when he do sins and God had accepted his repentance and the sin was over for Adam himself and his wife and it was a God gift for all of us to have the opportunity to return to God when we do sins .
In fact in the garden not like in OT Adam was not naked , nakedness occurred only when he ate from the tree to make him know that he made a sin, the way the devil tempted Adam is mentioned in the Quran and the sin was just an experience to know how the devil behaves and tempts humans and how he hates them trying to send them all to hell , coming out the garden and these sufferings from lake of our necessary needs shows us what awaits us if we allowed the devil to tempt us , we will lose the paradise and suffer more .

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posted June 28, 2012 at 10:32 am

As for the great flood , according to us it was not at all a global event , it was meant only and intended for the people of Noah, who lived in a certain limited place of earth , contrary to the OT Noah was not only just a righteous man who himself worshipped God , not regarding others, but a prophet who spent hundreds of the years of his life calling those people to worship God , following every possible way to convince them , day and night secretly and in public , reminding and attracting their attention to the gifts of God , and His great signs in front of them , promising them what they will find if obeyed , and warning them of what awaits them if they refused ,and the response was that they used to put their fingers in their ears and cover their faces with their closes till he became desperate and asked God to punish them , God told Noah that He pre knew that no other one would become a believer and so He will make this flood to drown them and it was
Here I find God very fair , patient and merciful , God never punishes except after sending a messenger , not taking the innocent for the guilty , if He pre knew that there was a chance for only one single person to be a believer , He would have awaited for him
In the Quran there is nothing about the covenant of rainbow , it is nonsense God never forget ,never has this very poor trust in his memory , we forget because our memory has a limited capacity , but what for God that directs every minute detail of this vast world for every minute unit of time , if He forgets , this world would have come to an end long ago , it is not only a matter of global blood neither we accept the story of sacrifice , God never regret , regretting is only the state of a very ill presighted creature like us , the problem is that we cannot imagine how God is ultimately different from His creatures , we suffer from projection off all kinds of our lake of everything on the great creator of the world

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posted June 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm

In the Quran there is nothing about the covenant of rainbow , it is nonsense God never forget ,never has this very poor trust in his memory , we forget because our memory has a limited capacity , but what for God that directs every minute detail of this vast world for every minute unit of time , if He forgets , this world would have come to an end long ago , it is not only a matter of global flood neither we accept the story of sacrifice , God never regret , regretting is only the state of a very ill presighted creature like us , the problem is that we cannot imagine how God is ultimately different from His creatures , we suffer from projection off all kinds of our lake of everything on the great creator of the world
As for God’s mercy I do believe in it and see in everything my eyes fall upon , according to us God extends His hands to accept the repentance of day and night sinners never punishes someone but if he is only totally responsible , not a child , mad or obliged , as for one gift of God like sight whatever I worship God it is nothing worthy this gift, you have to close your eyes for seconds to feel how you are disconnected from the whole world and what kind of connection you regain when you reopen them , it is something that cannot be descried, all the writers and poets of the world are unable to transfer the feeling of one color like green to an eye who never experienced , yes I see God all merciful , kind loving and patient

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Matthew Roberts

posted July 4, 2012 at 9:07 am

I agree with everything Bart has stated here. I simply cannot reconcile the wretchedness of human misery and suffering with the concept of a benevolent God. Very young children kidnapped, raped and murdered or dying of a painful cancer while their parents watch on in agony. No end can justify these means. I will curse God for the misery and pain we humans must endure. It is too much for us to bear!

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posted September 25, 2012 at 1:15 am

I am so very sorry for you pain, for every ones. I am a bleeding heart as they say, but I will not stand and deny God or pretend He does not care on account of it. I have seen God move in my life and the lives of others and I have watched so many who deny God self destruct under the weight of their own inner battles. If their is no good or evil why on earth should that happen? And if there is good and evil I have not heard a better explanation of the war that I feel within my self and see in the eyes of others, but more than that. I experience God. Sometimes more and sometimes less when I want more but I know that I know He is there and that if I listen to His word I am guided away from so many choices that will bring me and others pain, and my soul will find restoration as His word speaks to me. I mourn for you and others who have given up their faith in Jesus. It’s not just the ones who were present at His death that spat on Him and His sacrifice, so many today do so with all their might. And why? Because He would have you not cheat your neighbour and love God with all your heart. The world chooses the darkness it lives in and worse still it actually likes it. I have to be wary myself not to cling to my own darknesses that would bring pain to many in my life. I hope that you keep searching for truth and one day find it again. Indeed it is my prayer for you and for my brother also who lost his faith in a similar manner. Pain is horrendous, but a life lived outside of God increases rather than diminishes pain as we suffer the deep loss of who He is and the wonder and joy and hope and motivation to do good that He brings to our lives. My condolences to you.

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term papers for sale

posted November 26, 2012 at 6:26 am

Many pet owners are moving toward the homemade diet, knowing the food they just prepared is going directly from countertop to canine. With salmonella poisoning and pet food recalls making the news recently, a little peace of mind goes a long way. Thanks.

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Rich Bohnsack

posted June 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

God sometimes does take action to prevent suffering, but he also sometimes allows it to happen (free will). Suffering provides the opportunity for those who are otherwise non-players to step forward and do truly wonderful and good deeds in the process of helping others or allaying misery. As for the pain that some people suffer on earth in this life, that is almost a non-event, a flash-in-the-pan experience, compared to the eternity of paradise that they will experience by being with God in heaven.

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posted May 29, 2014 at 11:42 pm

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Nicholas H

posted September 26, 2014 at 2:35 am

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posted October 25, 2014 at 4:19 am

I wish I could believe. I wish there could be justice to all the poor and starving people of the earth and to those who suffer from the catastrophic calamities that befall innocent victims. We are adrift in misery and we must have compassion for other humans who suffer through no fault of their own. For us who struggle to know God but gave up but still want to support those who try to help those in need – we must help in whatever manner we can. The indifference of the plutocracy we live in must be combated to find justice for those in want. Indifference and apathy to those who suffer must be our cause for change and we must ally with all people of goodwill to smash the citadels of those who use their offices to hurt ordinary people with political lies and their economic greed that they justify with the misdirection that they protect liberty and freedom by hurting those who want to support their families and themselves. Too many Christians are big at slighting those in need and think God will put it right in the end. We are here to help one another and not to amass endless wealth and to protect it at all costs. When you serve this master you do not do anything for humanity. To all you champions who fight for greed under the guise of freedom and liberty – you are charlatans of belief for you only want the selfish pleasure of life without the responsibility of helping others who need it. Those like Paul Ryan who profess Christianity but have no charity for the poor but want the rich to amass endless amounts of wealth and justify it by their Christianity and have Christian followers – who serve only the false god of wealth but they are triumphing and have countless Christian followers. Why do they still believe and go to church – they might as well worship their real god – the almighty dollar and its followers. They have no real love for the Jesus they profess to believe as they do not practice his ethical teachings in the least bit. What a sham! Go on and be Christians in name only. For you want that disguise but worship money like all good plutocrats. Money is your sole goal and end.

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posted November 17, 2014 at 12:04 am

I want to address just one item, something that runs through much of this discussion. This bit illustrates it:
– – – – – – –

posted April 27, 2008 at 10:46 am

What bothers most of us who are not “sold-out believers” is that there cannot exist a being who is Infinite Love and All Powerful, who yet stands by while innocent suffer.
– – – – – – –

There is an assumption that an entity possessing power will necessarily use it. Indeed, the assumption is that the entity will use it regardless of any commitments or promises! This is remarkable, as it shows that our society has no concept of honor or integrity, only of the use of power.

The answer to why a good God would let evil run rampant through Creation is simple: “By Myself I have Sworn”, says the LORD. When God makes a decision, unlike human beings He will not go back on it. This is, indeed, one of the aspects of the God of the Bible which makes Him worthy of awe: once He decides, He will not be moved.

According to Genesis, the book of Beginnings, God handed dominion over the new Creation to the human race. Once that race, our race, blew it, and thus subdued us all to the possibility of suffering, God was not going to break His word, but keep it. If He intervened all the time — that is, if He broke His word all the time — He would then not be worthy of awe or obedience or loyalty, because He would have shown that He isn’t true to Himself… and if anyone is not true to himself, he cannot be true to others (dependably, anyway).

It is this concept of integrity, of honor, of someone making a promise and then refusing to change regardless, that is missing in the discussion of evil. With the very biblical concept, it becomes evident that the very presence of suffering with no grand intervention is a testimony that God can be counted on to stick to His promises. The “problem of pain” is an arrow pointing to One Who is trustworthy above all others, because regardless of what it costs Him, He will… not… be… moved.

From there it is simple to recognize that whatever agony I or any other human may go through at the news of any disaster which inflicts pain and death on people, it inflicts far more on God. We speak of omniscience, and other omni-s, but we forget one that is essential: omnipathos, suffering with all. We have these feelings of agony because we are made in His image; He, too, experiences that agony, and even more, for He feels all the agony we feel, and then His own agony on top of it because we should have agony at all. The God of Creation is a god of suffering, experiencing every pain of every creature with it, and more on top because He meant none to suffer.

And then we meet Jesus, God the Son from all eternity, God become material, become flesh, become MAN. This Jesus we meet is a Man Who suffers, just as we do through life, and at the end suffers as only very few ever have. He is the Suffering Servant of whom the prophet spoke, His suffering serving us by taking human suffering and making it part of divine suffering. The Man-God Jesus suffered, and that suffering was infinite, because God is infinite.

To embrace Him is to embrace suffering. Dr. Ehrman rejected suffering, and thus rejected Jesus.

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posted November 17, 2014 at 12:06 am

I want to address just one item, something that runs through much of this discussion. This bit illustrates it:
– – – – – – –

posted April 27, 2008 at 10:46 am

What bothers most of us who are not “sold-out believers” is that there cannot exist a being who is Infinite Love and All Powerful, who yet stands by while innocent suffer.
– – – – – – –

There is an assumption that an entity possessing power will necessarily use it. Indeed, the assumption is that the entity will use it regardless of any commitments or promises! This is remarkable, as it shows that our society has no concept of honor or integrity, only of the use of power.

The answer to why a good God would let evil run rampant through Creation is simple: “By Myself I have Sworn”, says the LORD. When God makes a decision, unlike human beings He will not go back on it. This is, indeed, one of the aspects of the God of the Bible which makes Him worthy of awe: once He decides, He will not be moved.

According to Genesis, the book of Beginnings, God handed dominion over the new Creation to the human race. Once that race, our race, blew it, and thus subdued us all to the possibility of suffering, God was not going to break His word, but keep it. If He intervened all the time — that is, if He broke His word all the time — He would then not be worthy of awe or obedience or loyalty, because He would have shown that He isn’t true to Himself… and if anyone is not true to himself, he cannot be true to others (dependably, anyway).

It is this concept of integrity, of honor, of someone making a promise and then refusing to change regardless, that is missing in the discussion of evil. With the very biblical concept, it becomes evident that the very presence of suffering with no grand intervention is a testimony that God can be counted on to stick to His promises. The “problem of pain” is an arrow pointing to One Who is trustworthy above all others, because regardless of what it costs Him, He will… not… be… moved.

From there it is simple to recognize that whatever agony I or any other human may go through at the news of any disaster which inflicts pain and death on people, it inflicts far more on God. We speak of omniscience, and other omni-s, but we forget one that is essential: omnipathos, suffering with all. We have these feelings of agony because we are made in His image; He, too, experiences that agony, and even more, for He feels all the agony we feel, and then His own agony on top of it because we should have agony at all. The God of Creation is a god of suffering, experiencing every pain of every creature with it, and more on top because He meant none to suffer.

And then we meet Jesus, God the Son from all eternity, God become material, become flesh, become MAN. This Jesus we meet is a Man Who suffers, just as we do through life, and at the end suffers as only very few ever have. He is the Suffering Servant of whom the prophet spoke, His suffering serving us by taking human suffering and making it part of divine suffering. The Man-God Jesus suffered, and that suffering was infinite, because God is infinite.

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posted November 17, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Apologies for the double post — when I submitted it the first time, nothing happened except the page went blank and came back, so I didn’t think it had gone through.

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