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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.

Topics: Jesus, The Bible, Ethics, Miracles, Suicide, Murder, War, Gospel, Redemption, Philosophical, and Essays

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061744402
List price: $11.99
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Well argued, clear and well written discourse on why suffering exists if a god also exists.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I think this is the best of Ehrman's books. It asks the question that I ahve often asked- how can a loving God allow so much apparently needless suffering? And Ehrman, coming from a completely different religious background to me- evangelical compared to atheist/agnostic- has the courage to say that what he found has caused him to lose his faith. I suppose he was preaching to the converted in my case, but I have asked myself the same questions and it was nice to see him trawl the Bible and discuss its various appraches to this question. I dont want to offend believers so I wont go any further in this review than to ask that people ask, the next time a disaster happens and some survivor praises God for saving them- Why didnt God save the others too?read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really like Bart Ehrman's writing. He is a knowledgeable scholar, and he asks important questions and doesn't settle for easy answers. This book talks of his life as a Christian... growing up in mainstream Christianity, then having a born-again experience and devoting himself to evangelical Christianity, then becoming a Biblical scholar in order to understand the texts of the Bible. His scholarship is incredible... not only can he talk knowledgeably about the various texts of the Bible we have, but about the Bible's textual scholars from the early years of Christianity on. In this book, Ehrman talks about why and how he lost his Christian faith and became an agnostic, and it has to do with the question of human suffering. The problem boils down to this... God is all powerful, God is all loving, but suffering exists... deep relentless suffering of the innocent as well as the not-so-innocent. Ehrman discusses the viewpoints of suffering in the Bible itself. The majority of the texts are from the prophets for whom suffering is the consequence of sin and the punishment for it. He also talks a lot about the apocalyptic vision in which, for some unknown reason, the adversary of god has become powerful and causes human suffering, and that suffering is to be relieved when God decides to stop it. Problem was, it was pretty clear that every generation saw the time of the Rapture as coming NOW. Ehrman himself comes closest to the view of Ecclesiastes, which is that suffering and joy are both quite real, and a mystery, but we should help alleviate suffering and enjoy that which is good.I realize this summary does not do justice to the book and its depth and complexity of argument. Ehrman isn't interested in glib answers. He talks about the strengths and fallacies of all the arguments. For example, many people tell him that suffering is a result of God's allowing his creation free will. Ehrman just doesn't believe that answers why so many suffer in natural disasters, just and unjust alike, and why so many suffer from the time they are born.Excellent overview of a complex and important topic.read more
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Well argued, clear and well written discourse on why suffering exists if a god also exists.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I think this is the best of Ehrman's books. It asks the question that I ahve often asked- how can a loving God allow so much apparently needless suffering? And Ehrman, coming from a completely different religious background to me- evangelical compared to atheist/agnostic- has the courage to say that what he found has caused him to lose his faith. I suppose he was preaching to the converted in my case, but I have asked myself the same questions and it was nice to see him trawl the Bible and discuss its various appraches to this question. I dont want to offend believers so I wont go any further in this review than to ask that people ask, the next time a disaster happens and some survivor praises God for saving them- Why didnt God save the others too?
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really like Bart Ehrman's writing. He is a knowledgeable scholar, and he asks important questions and doesn't settle for easy answers. This book talks of his life as a Christian... growing up in mainstream Christianity, then having a born-again experience and devoting himself to evangelical Christianity, then becoming a Biblical scholar in order to understand the texts of the Bible. His scholarship is incredible... not only can he talk knowledgeably about the various texts of the Bible we have, but about the Bible's textual scholars from the early years of Christianity on. In this book, Ehrman talks about why and how he lost his Christian faith and became an agnostic, and it has to do with the question of human suffering. The problem boils down to this... God is all powerful, God is all loving, but suffering exists... deep relentless suffering of the innocent as well as the not-so-innocent. Ehrman discusses the viewpoints of suffering in the Bible itself. The majority of the texts are from the prophets for whom suffering is the consequence of sin and the punishment for it. He also talks a lot about the apocalyptic vision in which, for some unknown reason, the adversary of god has become powerful and causes human suffering, and that suffering is to be relieved when God decides to stop it. Problem was, it was pretty clear that every generation saw the time of the Rapture as coming NOW. Ehrman himself comes closest to the view of Ecclesiastes, which is that suffering and joy are both quite real, and a mystery, but we should help alleviate suffering and enjoy that which is good.I realize this summary does not do justice to the book and its depth and complexity of argument. Ehrman isn't interested in glib answers. He talks about the strengths and fallacies of all the arguments. For example, many people tell him that suffering is a result of God's allowing his creation free will. Ehrman just doesn't believe that answers why so many suffer in natural disasters, just and unjust alike, and why so many suffer from the time they are born.Excellent overview of a complex and important topic.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
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I'm a Bart Ehrman fan but this is not my favorite book. This IS a good book on the subject, but its just wasn't my thing. Ehrman doesn't try to solve the problem of suffering. That is not the point of the book. Instead he shows how the Bible fails to answer the question of suffering. This topic was very personal for Ehrman, and the one topic which helped pave his path toward agnosticism.

Most of the book quotes or summarizes stories from the Bible which deal with suffering; interesting enough, you get a review of the entire Bible. Ehrman reads some of these stories verse by verse while others are summarized. Ehrman's does a great service by providing the historical background of these stories. However, I would have preferred to hear more about Ehrman thoughts on the subject matter, rather a hearing all these stories in detail again. For me, the second half of the book fairs better than the first part.

Bart shows the Bible's explanation for suffering is inconsistent and at times repulsive. In the Old Testament he shows how god uses suffering to bring his people (Jews) back to him by murdering people in various cities. Ehrman asks the question, is it really necessary to murder an entire city of non-jews to make a point? Why should innocent people be killed for the actions of the disobedient Jews? Why did god save the Jews in the past, but didn't help them during the Holocaust in WWII? Doesn't the Bible say we should not kill? Why does the entire human race have to pay for the "sins" of Adam and Eve? What was the purpose exterminating most of the animals in the flood? If this were a person in the real world, we would say this person was sadistic and try them for murder. As Ehrman states this is a god to be feared, yes, but not a god to be idolized and worshiped.
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If there is a God why does he allow or initiate suffering? This is the profound question of this book and the Hebrew and Christian faiths.
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