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God's Problem : How the Bible Fails to Answer our Most Important… (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Bart D. Ehrman

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6352615,256 (3.78)24
Member:danhammang
Title:God's Problem : How the Bible Fails to Answer our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer
Authors:Bart D. Ehrman
Info:New York : HarperOne, c2008.
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Tags:Spirituality

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God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer by Bart D. Ehrman (2008)

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» See also 24 mentions

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Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman considers a question much-debated by religious believers: "If there is an all-powerful and loving God in this world, why is there so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering?" Personally, I've always thought that the exploration of this question makes a good argument for atheism. Ehrman more or less agrees: it was precisely this question that led to him abandoning his once-deep Christian faith. These days, he considers himself an agnostic, saying that while he does not know whether or not there is a god, he's pretty sure that the all-powerful, all-loving interventionist deity he was taught to believe in doesn't exist.

This book is most definitely not an anti-religion screed, however, and while Ehrman presents his point of view and the reasons why he thinks as he does, he's not exactly rubbing his hands together and cackling gleefully at the thought of destroying anyone's belief system. What he is doing is carefully examining how the various authors of the Bible explained the existence of human suffering, putting those explanations in their proper historical context, and then commenting on the problems he sees with them.

Ehrman's writing is very clear and easy to understand. It's not exactly lively, though, and does get a bit repetitive in places. And, to someone like me for whom the best and most sensible answer to "If God exists, why do we suffer?" clearly seems to be that the premise itself is faulty, it often starts to feel a bit angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin pointless after a while. Still, I found much of it interesting and useful, if only for the perspectives it gives about ideas on sin and suffering that are still prevalent today, and just how deep the roots of some of those ideas go. I also appreciate how careful Ehrman is to keep himself grounded in the reality of human suffering, never reducing it to an abstract philosophical point. And I do think his conclusions are absolutely spot-on. ( )
1 vote bragan | Oct 30, 2014 |
You know the old saying about what happens when you assume ...

Let's look at the subtitle of Ehrman's book and unpack the assumptions: "How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer".

- Assumption Number 1: Our most important question is, "Why do we suffer?"
- Assumption Number 2: The Bible was written to answer the question "Why do we suffer?"

"Why do we suffer" is clearly Ehrman's most important question. In an autobiographical first chapter he describes how this question led him to dismiss the evangelical Christian faith he was raised and educated in. In his words, "The problem of suffering became for me the problem of faith" (3).

Reading this book from a Christian perspective, the first chapter evoked pathos and a desire to walk with Ehrman through his intellectual and faith struggles. Unfortunately, his use of tragedy for shock value combined with an air of intellectual superiority quickly undermined any sense of empathy.

Ehrman brutally describes human suffering. From the Nazi concentration camps to children dying for lack of clean water, nothing is exempt from his eye. While it's critical in a book like this to state the depth of human suffering, he uses graphic suffering to bludgeon carefully nuanced and sincere attempts towards an answer.

The bulk of God's Problem consists of chapters which describe how different biblical authors wrestled with the question of suffering:

1) People suffer because God judges sinners
2) Suffering is a consequence of sin
3) Suffering is the path to redemption
4) Suffering makes no sense
5) God will even out the scales in the afterlife

For Ehrman, these views are often mutually exclusive. His historical method precludes any systematic understanding of the whole canon. In the end, he accepts the view of Job (without the prelude and conclusion)—that suffering simply makes no sense.

Let me offer one more implicit assumption—that we should be able to fully comprehend the biggest mysteries of life including, should he exist, the mind of God and the nature of suffering. This was the sort of theological arrogance that God challenged Job about.

I'll be honest. I don't know why a good and powerful God allows evil to exist. I do know that Ehrman's disdain of any attempts to reach towards an answer is no help on the journey. ( )
1 vote StephenBarkley | Mar 24, 2014 |
A biblical scholar looks at the problem of evil. If there truly is an all powerful, all loving God, how can there be evil? He examines the different biblical explanations for evil, including punishment for sin, redemptive power of evil, free will, and just because (the last is my phrase, not his). The book is well written, accessible, and not laden with jargon. It is a thorough look at biblical explanations for evil, and includes some more modern manifestations of these arguments, as well. The author dissects each argument in turn to see whether it holds water or not. The book loses a star for the section in which the author explains why he calls himself an agnostic and not an atheist, showing that he is unfamiliar with the way most atheists use the term, and that he is apparently unfamiliar with (or unwilling to grant any credence to) the atheist literature. In his attempts to establish his own humility, he comes off as somewhat smugly superior to both believers and non-believers. In addition, I will have to say that evil is not a good reason to reject belief in the existence of a god; it might be a good reason to reject belief in a particular manifestation of a god, and a good reason not to worship any particular deity, but the mere presence of evil in the world does not negate a creator god. While his position does not render his thesis bankrupt or even suspect, it is disheartening to see someone playing so handily into the trope that non-believers reject God because they are angry at him. Otherwise, a fine work. ( )
1 vote quantum_flapdoodle | Dec 27, 2013 |
I have found all of Ehrman's books (and lectures published by the Teaching Company) to be readable, thought-provoking, fascinating, and a welcome antidote to the mindless religio-babble coming from many so-called Christians, especially of the television variety. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
A Bible scholar looks at attempts to deal with the problem of suffering in the Bible. Ehrman says in this book that he moved from evangelical Christianity to agnosticism because he could not reconcile Biblical explanations of suffering with what he sees and experiences. This is a fascinating book but it doesn't, to my mind, address the problem of suffering in all its complexity. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
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added by Christa_Josh | editJournal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Edward P. Meadors (Jun 1, 2009)
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bart D. Ehrmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ganzer, L. J.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Jeff Siker and Judy Siker--Fuzzy and Jude--who have had their share, but remain as beacons.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061173975, Hardcover)

One Bible, Many Answers

In God's Problem, the New York Times bestselling author of Misquoting Jesus challenges the contradictory biblical explanations for why an all-powerful God allows us to suffer.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Renowned Bible scholar Bart Ehrman discusses the contradictory explanations for suffering put forth by various biblical writers and invites all people of faith--or no faith--to confront their deepest questions about how God engages the world and each of us.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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