Poor Bart Ehrman. His problem is that he fails to believe the Bible’s answer on suffering.
Author Bart D. Ehrman’s impressive background is available to anyone with an internet connection; therefore we will not need to review these details, important as they are. I intend instead to focus attention on the scores of errors found in his new book.
God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer has been available in bookstores for several months. I anticipate that the catchy title will cause it to be a best seller. Add to this, there is ample fuel found among atheists, agnostics, and other skeptics willing fill up the bus under which the ex-preacher man will toss biblical Christianity.
Ehrman’s premise is that Holy Scripture does not, to his satisfaction, explain the problem of evil and suffering, and the good book must therefore be flawed or deficient. To some, his thoughts on the subject may be profound in its simplicity.
Unpretentious Ehrman may be, but insightful he is not. Anyone can present an intellectual challenge the human mind is unable to solve. Many an amateurs have argued that an error has been uncovered in the traditional explanation of the given difficulty. For example, every so often junior math students pull out the I-know-a-problem-you-can’t-solve card on their professors. Say you’ve just learned that PI is an irrational number. Armed with a sufficient education that can find problems but no solution, students contend that this so-called “fact” is not a fact at all but a theory. Although the theory has been assumed as fact for as long as we can recollect, and because no one has resources to prove that the number’s digits by no means repeat at some point billions of digits later, there must be something untrue about the traditional definition of irrational numbers. In an attempt to find their place in this world, on-the-up math students are keen to exhibit their own brilliance by sharing with both lesser and greater minds that the number PI cannot be mathematically proven as an irrational number, although it is generally understood as such as far back as Hippasus of Metapontum (ca. 500 B.C.). Hippasus’s rival, Pythagorus, believed in absoluteness and disagreed with Hippasus, not accepting the existence of irrational numbers. When Pythagoras could not disprove Hippasus’s discovery through logic, legend has it that he had him drowned.
Ehrman wants to throw the Almighty overboard, too. Believing his own genius and God’s revelation do not agree on suffering, Ehrman assumes the Bible has failed us all along. Ehrman’s believes that there must be something wrong with Yahweh (and the Scripture He gave us) if the suffering in this world cannot be explained in neat and tidy, or operative terms that Ehrman can understand. Bart reckons that since the Creator does not function intellectually on the same plane as he, God may not even exist as the rest of us believe. Because he cannot square the suffering in this world with a just, holy, loving, benevolent God no one else can either.
Dr. Ehrman has made at least four erroneous conclusions on the topic of suffering. These miscalculations are 1) Ehrman identifies specific problems that exist in this world, but he offers no solution to these problems. He himself is unable (or unwilling) to do anything about the evil and suffering in this world so he therefore reckons God is unable or unwilling to do anything about suffering either; 2) he blames God for man’s sin; 3) he has made significant errors in interpretation of the text; and, finally, and most importantly 4) Ehrman does not understand evil and suffering in the context of Scripture so he assumes no one else, including God Almighty, does either.
Ehrman’s first problem is The Problem itself. He has uncovered a “hidden” crisis but is helpless to do anything about it. Ehrman writes as a frustrated intellectual on the row of Bertrand Russell or Jean-Paul Sartre. Sophisticated men like these can do little about this problem or that problem, yet they see their role in this world as to mince their hearty observations, along with small doses of pure wisdom, in a watery form so the rest of us can spoon-feed upon their intellectual knowledge and brilliance. These men serve the populous a steady hoard of insights on the everyday struggles of human existence, but in the end lack a real solution – or, yet, a willingness to step forward and be part of the solution. He has freshly uncovered a significant error previously undetected by the rest of us.
In this book we are alerted to Ehrman’s discovery of his genius early in life. Fearing the pains of hell, Ehrman reasoned he should find religion, and soon after happened upon a Bible difficulty – called suffering – that his reasoning faculties could not resolve. Since the traditional explanations of suffering offered up by others are unacceptable to him, Bart supposed at first that God is not in control of His cosmos – or perchance He does not care. Finally Ehrman concluded God does not exist at all. What is more, how does one explain the wealth of undeserving men who prosper while the saints fail? This paradox proves, so Ehrman postulates, that God does not cause His people to prosper. Claims Bart that if God does not intend to make good on His supposed promises to reward “good” and bless the “bad” (page 131) then He is incapable of delivering on any of His promises.
The Bible has an altogether different explanation which Ehrman has somehow missed. Moreover, instead of helping those suffering in the world by sharing some of his new-found wealth, Ehrman dispenses an ambiguous hope full of “joys and dreams … living life to the fullest…” and “working hard to make the world a pleasing place” (pp. 276-277). Until a more permanent solution can be found to end the world’s suffering, Ehrman is welcome to send his book proceeds to the poor in order to hasten this utopia. Sending his “bottled water, French wine, micro-brewed beer, and on-demand diet Coca-Colas” to the needy would speed up the “joys and dreams” too (ibid.).
I put forward that he should spend more time in the poor inner cities instead of drinking a “Pale Ale or two” while watching his sports (p. 200) to gain keen insights into the root of poor people’s problems. Ehrman should encourage mass participation in his program by setting an example, but, instead, he fails to admit that God has blessed his own house so that he could share his wealth with those less fortunate. Ehrman complains instead that God is not willing to help “the hungry child dying every five seconds in this world” (p. 6). His personal wealth and resources are readily available and can be dispatched through whatever system atheism uses to help the needy – without delay – to work out these very problems. To relieve himself of these hypocrisies, Ehrman chooses to indulge in “fine Scotch, smoking fine cigars, and talking about life” with his friends (p. x). Ehrman’s book is a mere diversion invented to hide the culpability of his crimes, or perhaps justify his religious unbelief.
Secondly, in numerous instances Ehrman faults God for the action of evil men. Instead of accepting the punishment God placed upon ancient Israel for their unbelief and disobedience, Ehrman argues that they should be pitied (pp. 27, 31). Instead of recognizing the Creator as our Provider, he insists that God “starves people, destroys their crops, and kills children” (p. 40). One only has to read the context to learn that it was the pagan Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III and his successors who were truly responsible for these atrocities.
Next, it should not surprise us if Ehrman’s exegesis of Holy Scripture is fraught with error. After all, he has been trained by the modern Princetonians who, generally speaking, are a tribe of unbelievers. Ehrman’s mind is filled with the same enticing miscalculations and deep-seated unbelief that caused Charles Templeton and some others to abandon all hope once they had entered there. Why would we expect Ehrman to believe the Holy Scripture when he was educated by those who don’t?
Finally, Ehrman does not understand so he assumes others cannot understand. It seems odd to me that the identical Scriptures which cause Ehrman grief and confusion, bestow many others great consolation and wisdom. In the same way, Count Bezukhov wondered why Prince Bolkonsky read and became more enlightened while others studied and became more confused.
Bert Ehrman’s arguments refuted by William Lane Craig