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346 of 368 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Plug For The Book Of Ecclesiastes
I was subjected (through age 20) to more than my share of fundamentalist preaching, yet inquiry about the world and the value of evidence were stressed in our home. Ehrman's approach to the Bible is more to my liking than reiteration of a dogma I've already heard, documented by passages of scripture preselected to prove that certain view. His forte is presenting the rest...
Published on March 2, 2008 by The Spinozanator

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147 of 163 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Incomplete
First, it must be said that this book is slightly mistitled. The problem is the subtitle, which tells us that this will be a book about "how the Bible fails to answer our most important question." Actually, the entire book is about exploring the various (and multifarious) answers the bible gives in answer to why suffering occurs. Instead, the subtitle should read...
Published on June 2, 2008 by Kevin Currie-Knight


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346 of 368 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Plug For The Book Of Ecclesiastes, March 2, 2008
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I was subjected (through age 20) to more than my share of fundamentalist preaching, yet inquiry about the world and the value of evidence were stressed in our home. Ehrman's approach to the Bible is more to my liking than reiteration of a dogma I've already heard, documented by passages of scripture preselected to prove that certain view. His forte is presenting the rest of the story. In any Christian book store you will find shelves full of books discussing the problem of suffering, but you will not likely find another one like this one.

In "God's Problem" Ehrman presents the Bible's version (and a few versions from various philosophers and email correspondents) of why God allows - even mandates - suffering. With a God who is all knowing, all powerful, yet completely loving and benevolent to His creation; why are there genocides, natural disasters, wars, epidemics, and such suffering involved in living and dying? Interestingly, believers are statistically no more exempt from disasters than society's many "cheaters." One only needs to look around to find that evil people often thrive and the righteous often suffer. How can this be?

The problem bothered Ehrman continually for decades, as he relates in this very personal book. He had a minor epiphany during his seminary training when an honest analysis of the Bible caused him to stop taking the Bible so literally. But that wasn't the insight that caused him to lose his faith. It was the problem with suffering that did it, although he admits "I went kicking and screaming".

Scattered throughout the Bible are the justifications for suffering. The first (and main) rationale in the Old Testament is that suffering is God's punishment for sin, starting right out with Adam and Eve. God makes His people suffer when they don't obey and not just a little slap on the wrist. The major and minor prophets - and most of the other OT books - spend a lot of time documenting droughts, pestilence, war, famine, and destruction. God is punishing His people for disobedience.

The second rationale is man's inhumanity to man - caused by man's sinful nature. Good behavior naturally produces good consequences; cavorting and sinful acts cause bad consequences, but with plenty of collateral damage to others. God doesn't inflict this one personally, but he allows it to happen, despite many prayers and supplications to let this cup pass from our hands.

The third rationale - for some biblical authors, suffering has a positive and redemptive aspect to it; i.e., suffering builds character. Sometimes God brings good out of evil, such as in the compelling story of Joseph who is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. At the end of Genesis, through Joseph's suffering, God saves His people.

The fourth rationale - suffering can be inflicted by God as a test of your faith. Job is the prime example of this but this story requires a little elaboration. Satan and God have a disagreement as to whether or not Job can keep his faith in the event of personal catastrophies - and test him like a lab rat. God allows multiple rounds of suffering. Satan eventually destroys all Job's property, kills his 10 children, sends three "friends" over to relentlessly tell Job how sinful he has been - therefore asking for these tragedies; finally, Satan afflicts him with painful sores all over his body - OVER A BET! God himself acknowledges that Job was innocent and didn't deserve the treatment, but rebukes Job when he dares to question Him. In the end, God rewards Job's faithfulness by restoring what Job lost, including seven new children. Try that with any parent who has ever lost a child and see how far you get.

The fifth rationale, the apocalyptic approach, was popular during Jesus's day, and in fact, Jesus and John the Baptist were both cut from this mold. Suffering is caused by the forces of evil and God is not responsible. When the end comes, the tables will turn, God will make things right, and the meek will inherit the earth.

Ehrman doesn't buy any of these arguments, nor do it. The Bible is a magnificent document of literature as told by bronze age people trying their best to stay alive and to maintain their culture. They lived in a poor country that happened to be on a major trade route between east and west. They were easy pickings as a series of more powerful nations conquered them, leaving them little down time from suffering. Ehrman was bothered by the inequities associated with the suffering God allowed (or caused) his chosen people to endure for about 20 years before he wrote this book. When he was thirty, he taught a seminar on the subject and considered writing a book about it, but didn't think he was ready. Now, twenty years later, he still didn't think he was ready, but figured he wouldn't be ready at seventy either, so he may as well do it now.

One book in the Bible does provide a view of suffering that is acceptable to Ehrman - the book of Ecclesiastes: bad things happen but life brings good things. The solution to life is to enjoy it while you can, while doing all the good you can, because it will soon be over. And that's all there is.
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147 of 163 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Incomplete, June 2, 2008
First, it must be said that this book is slightly mistitled. The problem is the subtitle, which tells us that this will be a book about "how the Bible fails to answer our most important question." Actually, the entire book is about exploring the various (and multifarious) answers the bible gives in answer to why suffering occurs. Instead, the subtitle should read something more like, "How the bible fails to RESOLVE our most important problem." That would be more accurate.

Ehrman used to be a Christian, he tells us. He used to aspire to be in the ministry. What undid that, he says, is this very question; each time he tried to decipher why an almighty and all powerful god would allow suffering in the world, he came away deeply unsatisfied. It is a question that has been around for ages: from Liebniz to Lewis and Chesterton (or, if you are an atheist like myself, Hume and Flew).

In the end, it is not that Ehrman cannot find answers in the bible to this quesiton. There are many varied answers! Rather, none of them is satisfying to Ehrman. This book goes through all of the bible's (old and new testament) answers to the problem of suffering. Do we suffer as penalty for our sins Do we suffer because all bad things somehow lead to good (ours or others)? Do we suffer simply because God wants to test our faith? Or because God will make things right in the afterlife?

These answers - all of them in various parts of the bible - are explored. All of them, respectfully, are found wanting. Ehrman is not a Christian, but is far from exercising the beligerence and acerbity of Dawkins and Harris. He says in his preface, after noting that his wife is Christian and that the two of them attend church together, that he is not intending to "deconvert" anyone to his own agnosticism. He is simply explaining to many views of suffering and why, in the end, he sees all of them as unpalatable.

One criticism that I have is that while Ehrman exhaustively goes through the views of suffering that are in the bible, he devotes only a final summative chapter to views of theologians attempting themselves to make sense of this problem. When one is writing about a question that has captured the imaginations of as many thinkers as this one, one should find it hard to do so without grappling with their thkoughts. Much has been written on this vexing question since the bible, and it would have been nice for Ehrman to deal as much with the post-biblical ruminations as those appearing in the bible. (That is, in fact, what I was expecting.)

To conclude, there is another slight misnomer about this book, though it is a small one. In the end, Ehrman actually does agree with ONE of the Bible's interpretations of why we suffer. Not wanting to give a 'spoiler,' I will not divulge which one, but I will only say that it is the one that would make most sense to a non-believer that "black sheep" book that seems more secular than religious (Christians may already know to which book I am referring.)

All in all, this is a decent book, and it is good to see Ehrman writing on so personal a subject - the subject that led to his, and doubtless many others,' abandonment of Christianity. I hope, though, that there will be a 'sequel' dealing with subsequent theologians attempts to deal with the question of evil.
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313 of 360 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith vs. Reason, February 19, 2008
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IndyCopperTop (Indianapolis, IN) - See all my reviews
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Bart Ehrman poses many questions all Christians should consider. He never suggests that everyone should follow him in leaving the Christian faith. However, he does discourage blind faith. Ehrman's books are as popular with my Christian colleagues who are secure in their faith as they are with my agnostic and atheist colleagues. It is my experience that his worst critics are individuals who don't wish to have their beliefs put to the test.
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237 of 276 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Checkmate, February 19, 2008
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I liken Ehrman to an intelligent chess player who puts the squirming reader (who may not, at first, be inclined to agree with him) into methodical and logical checkmate. Ehrman shows why all the traditional moves that people make to explain suffering are, ultimately, inadequate, unsatisfying, or inhumane. He takes the reader on a guided tour of how different biblical authors attempt to explain suffering, beginning with the prophets Amos and Hosea and concluding with Revelation. Naturally, no Biblical author gives an adequate answer to the problem of suffering, and most give a rather reductive or simplistic answer. In many cases the Biblical authors' answers cannot, logically, cohere together. Periodically Ehrman points the reader to literature that dramatizes the problem of suffering (recommending, for example, the poems of Wilfred Owen and a play about Job written by Archibald MacLeish titled "J.B"). In short, Ehrman's book is a well written, honest reflection on the problem of suffering. It makes clear the logical and ethical issues posed when one turns to the Bible for "help" on this issue.
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57 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can the World's Suffering be Reconciled to a Benevolent God?, February 24, 2008
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Bart Ehrman writes in heart-felt eloquent prose about his inability to reconcile a loving God with the world's suffering and scrutinizes the Bible's various explanations--suffering leads to wisdom and redemption; suffering is God's punishment for our sins; suffering is an inevitable consequence for man's "free will"--for suffering and argues that these explanations are not convincing. His book is not merely a theological exploration but a deeply personal chronicle of a man, a former evangelist, pastor, and true believer--who goes through a "deconversion experience." He longs to have his faith again and to have the comfort of eternal life with his Maker, but his scholarly research into the Bible has, as he points out in this book and other books, led him to conclude three things: The Bible was written by men with various agendas, some political; the Messiah believed the world would end before his apostles died and mistaken as such was not a divine personality; and that the world's suffering can not be explained by theology theories that strive to defend the notion of a benevolent and omnipotent god. Foregoing the comfort of salvation and still admitting to waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat over the possibility that he might spend eternity in hell for betraying his faith, Ehrman writes that he cannot have any integrity if he denies the insurmountable problems the world's suffering pose against the idea of an all-loving god and he is left to struggle with his agnosticism. This is a very intelligent, very smart, and, yes, a very human and honest book.
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79 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly Scholarly statement of Problem for Lay reader. Buy It, February 27, 2008
`God's Problem' is prominent professional Biblical scholar, Bart Ehrman's fourth (or more, depending on how you are counting) book for lay audiences on issues of Biblical scholarship and interpretation which usually never escape college and seminary classrooms, filled with aging professors and relatively small classes. And, this one stands head and shoulders over the first three, `Lost Christianities', `Lost Scriptures', and `Misquoting Jesus' in its finding and exploring a really important Biblical issue for Christians (and Jews, for that matter). While the information in the other three books may have been a bit of a surprise for many lay readers, I can't say I was very disturbed about evidence that:
`Lost Christianities' - There were several competing doctrines among early Christians, and the one we know today was not always the clear favorite.
`Lost Gospels' - There are many Gospels and other first and second century Christian writings which suggested these positions, which did not make it into the final Christian canon (the 26 books of the New Testament).
`Misquoting Jesus' - There are numerous potential errors in the texts of the canonical books, created by both simple mistakes and attempts of copyists to `improve' the texts.
While all of these books are fascinating, extremely well researched, and told with deeply felt concern for the subject, my reaction to all is `This is all quite interesting, but no matter how relevant it may have been to Professor Ehrman's intellectual history, it is really not terribly earth-shaking. In any discourse, both ancient and modern, differences of opinion exist and mistakes are made in quoting sources, no matter how divine those sources may be held.
`God's Problem' is an entirely different kettle of fish indeed! It deals with THE most important theological problem of any monotheistic religion, the problem of pain. Now this is an issue over which can raise some serious questions of belief. As someone with a pretty respectable training in Philosophy and a commitment to Christian beliefs, I find Professor Ehrman's exposition and arguments totally even-handed, marvelously well informed, and completely lacking in any interest to pry anyone from their own convictions.
As a devoted reader of subtitles and introductions, I find a great irony in this subtitle, `How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer'. The irony is that the problem is not that the Bible provides no answers; it is that the Bible provides at least four (4) different incompatible answers. The first is the answer of the Torah and the early prophets. Israel suffered because it was being punished by God for infidelity. The second answer is that of Job. We suffer to test our faith. The third is one answer of the Christian doctrine of Jesus and Paul. Pain and suffering are redemptive. The fourth (and possibly the most convincing to those of a logical bent) is that a malevolent force creates disasters large and small, from which God will save us in a future eschaton (Second coming of Christ). A fifth, from the book of Ecclesiastes is the existentialist's solution that there is no answer.
Like the earlier book, `Misquoting Jesus', this story is embedded in Professor Ehrman's own biographical encounters with problems of pain and how these have shaped his intellectual movement from firm believer in the literal truth of scripture to a doubting agnostic. I sense an unintended lesson here, after having read dozens of books by scholars as thoroughly imbued with the details of the canon as Professor Ehrman, yet who have not lost their faith. Why have so many other equally learned scholars not taken the same route to suspend their belief? I will venture the suggestion that the answer lies in the dangers of taking scriptures as infallible, when even the most rudimentary study reveals errors, disagreements and inconsistencies at almost every turn. The scenes of the creationists metaphorically commanding the tides to hold back in the face of scientific evidence is a similar `side effect' of literalism. And yet, belief in Christianity is alive and well in intelligent people who know all about these warts and blemishes in the human interpretations of the Holy Spirit we call the scriptures.
I will make no presumptions to know the RIGHT answer to all of Professor Ehrman's issues. There is no question that an answer has to take his points seriously. And, the most serious issue is the basic problem of reconciling suffering with an omnipotent God. Either God is not omnipotent or he simply is not held to the same morality as we mere humans. That is, either he cannot prevent earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, or genocides or he doesn't care about the suffering and death caused by these natural and human disasters. The second possibility is one of the disturbing morals of the book of `Job'. How can we respect a God who allows children to be killed simply to test the faith of Job?
The mention of `Job' brings up the fact that there are few sourcebooks I can think of which are better than `God's Problem' for setting up excellent programs for adult Bible study. One could develop at least two year-long study plans from the material in this book. My only regret is that since it is directed at a lay audience, Professor Ehrman includes relatively few bibliographical signposts, but if you look carefully, you will find enough.
This book is another voice in one of the greatest dialogues in Western thought. I seriously hope someone picks up the conversation with a reply done on the same level of scholarship and earnestness. Professor Ehrman has obviously only addressed one side of the dialogue. So many `answers', such as the great philosopher Leibniz's solution are hardly mentioned. Other major answers are provided by Pascal and by theologian / philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard.
This is a `must read' for those concerned with issues in Christian beliefs.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Search For More Than 'Pat' Answers, July 8, 2008
Bart Ehrman's new book, `God's Problem', is a personal reflection on human suffering, conducted in the light of religious teachings that attempt to explain why so much suffering exists in the world. He tells us up front that this problem of suffering led him to question his youthful faith in God (following a `born-again' experience in high school, he attended a fundamentalist Bible college, entered the ministry, and received a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Princeton), and eventually led him to embrace agnosticism. Throughout these and other experiences, including many years as a Professor of Religion, he has heard pretty much every possible explanation for suffering -- from simplistic `pat' answers to sophisticated theological arguments, and just about everything in between.
One aspect of this book (and I can't quite decide if this is a strength or a weakness), is his emotional retelling - over and over again - of many examples of human suffering. He describes in grim detail everything from the horrors of the Holocaust, the trench warfare of WW1, the Black Plague, cancer, and AIDS, to reminders of innocent children and adults who die painful deaths from accidents, tidal waves, and abuse, as well as the terrible suffering of loved ones left behind. How, he wants to know, could an all-powerful and all-loving God permit so much pain? (I cannot decide whether this is a strength or a weakness of the book because, on the one hand, it often feels emotionally manipulative as well as agonizingly repetitive, but on the other hand it seems admirable and appropriate that Ehrman refuses to deal with human pain in a sterile objective way, and he forces the reader to continually feel the misery, rather than merely thinking about it intellectually.)
In the context of the Bible, Ehrman discusses several efforts to explain, justify, or excuse this suffering, none of which he considers satisfactory:
(1) First, there is the idea expressed in many places in the Torah and the Prophets that suffering is divine punishment for sinful behavior. People suffer because God wants them to suffer: he requires them to pay a heavy price for disobedience. Ehrman brings up the Holocaust and other cases of genocide (including the contemporary case of Darfur, which continues despite all the proclamations of "Never again!") and asks how a loving God could wish to inflict such excessive suffering on his children? If a human father disciplined his children with this much violence, he would be considered insane and thrown into prison. Furthermore, how could a loving God toss so many innocent children, even babies, into these horrible scenarios of retribution? And finally, how does this explain all the people who do NOT seem to suffer, despite plenty of evidence that their behavior is no more saintly than anyone else's: why, for example, is there no Tsunami in my hometown?
(2) Second, there is the explanation that suffering is simply a necessary consequence of free will. Without free will we would be mere robots, and God has lovingly created us to be far more that this. Sadly, because people have the choice of loving God and behaving morally, they also have the choice of doing otherwise, and some will inevitably make this latter choice. The world would be a far worse place if we did not have this gift of free will, so suffering -- inflicted upon us by each other -- is the necessary price we pay for this "best of all possible worlds". Of course, as Ehrman points out, this explanation can make a certain amount of sense when considering the terror caused by a Hitler or a Stalin, but how does free will explain a drought or a hurricane or malaria?
(3) Third, there is the explanation that suffering can be redemptive, a way to compensate and atone for sin, and thus it is a blessing in disguise. Paul, for example, reveled in suffering: "We even boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces proven character; and a proven character produces hope..."(Rom. 5:3). So for Paul, as well as many other Christian and Hebrew authors, God chooses to `save' us not DESPITE our suffering, but BECAUSE of our suffering. It is true, Ehrman admits, that something good often comes out of something bad: sometimes, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, as the old saying goes. But this is hardly a universal truth. "A lot of times," he points out, "what does not kill you completely incapacitates you, mars you for life, ruins your mental or physical well-being - permanently". To think otherwise is to take a glib view of suffering. It is even worse, in Ehrman's opinion, to consider OTHER people's suffering as somehow redemptive for me - that is, by recognizing the pain in the world, we become nobler, more caring, more grateful for our own well-being. But Ehrman finds this view repugnant and cold-hearted, and refuses to thank a capricious God for his own good fortune simply because other people don't have any.
(4) Fourth, there is the explanation that suffering is a test of faith. The story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac is perhaps the most famous example of this. Ehrman, like many people, finds this story horrifying. "Are we to imagine a divine being," he asks, "who wants to torment his creatures just to see if he can force them to abandon their trust in him? What exactly are they trusting him to do? Certainly not to do what is best for them: it is hard to believe that God inflicts people with cancer, flu, or AIDS in order to make sure they praise him in the end. Praise him for what? Mutilation and torture? For his great power to inflict pain and misery on innocent people?"
(5) Fifth, there is the post-exilic belief that the suffering in the world is caused by God's `enemies' -- evil forces that oppose God's will. Ehrman appreciates that this view at least takes seriously the pervasiveness of evil and suffering in the world, but ultimately it is grounded in a rather fantastic belief that the world contains "malevolent little devils" who are intent on doing nasty things to us, and this simply does not jibe with reality. This view also contains a corresponding belief that although God is allowing these demons free rein today, the day is coming (and for more than two thousand years, it has been coming "imminently") when he will completely destroy these demons and establish the perfect Kingdom of God here on earth -- free of evil, misery and pain. Ehrman has two objections to this belief, in addition to its fantasy-like nature: one, there is no explanation of why God has allowed these evil forces to be in control for all these years, representing a sort of passive-aggressive cruelty on his part; and two, the whole idea can easily lead to apathy in the face of human suffering, since eventually it will all be made right without any required effort on our part.
(6) Sixth, there is always the mystical cop-out that suffering is simply a "mystery", and - its corollary -- we ought not to question the ways of the Lord. The final verses of Job, for example, seem to advocate this position. Again, the difficulty here is the problem of apathy, since nothing can or should be done to stop the misery and mayhem that God chooses to cause. This approach implies the rather twisted paradox that God, who created us and must therefore be the cause of our notions of `right and wrong', can go ahead and do all those things which we therefore know are wrong - murdering babies, starving masses of innocent people, etc. -- and we must acquiesce and keep our mouths shut.
But there is another explanation that is somewhat related to this, which is represented in Ecclesiastes, and for Ehrman this is the best explanation available to us. Indeed, there is much we do not understand about this world, and sometimes there is no justice. "Things don't go as planned or as they should. A lot of bad things happen." This, however, is not the whole story, for life also brings many good things. Therefore, according to Ehrman, we needn't and mustn't fall into apathy. Rather, the solution to life "is to enjoy it while we can, because it is fleeting. This world, and everything in it, is temporary, transient, and soon to be over. We won't live forever - in fact, we won't live long. And so we should enjoy life to the fullest, as much as we can, as long as we can. That's what the author of Ecclesiastes thinks, and I agree."
Ehrman concludes that a realization of the brevity and uncertainty of life does not have to be a source of despair. It can be, instead, a source of joy and dreams, "joy of living for the moment and dreams of trying to make the world a better place, both for ourselves and for others in it." (I myself have been privileged to witness precisely this phenomenon when working with people who had been diagnosed with AIDS. Rather than falling into depression and despair, many of these men and women - suddenly and violently confronted with their mortality - grabbed hold of life and insisted on squeezing the absolute most out of every moment). And this is where Ehrman leaves us: we should do all we can to make our time here as pleasing and wonderful and full of love and joy as possible, and we should also work hard to bring about the same results, whenever possible, for others. "[J]ust because we don't have an answer to suffering does not mean that we cannot have a response to it. Our response should be to work to alleviate suffering wherever possible and to live life as well as we can."

I certainly have no quarrel with these two excellent endeavors, and within the context that Ehrman has set up I completely agree with his logic, compassion, and conclusions: I would change nothing that he has said. The `context' I refer to is his belief, which he mentions early in the book, that his upbringing leads him to believe that if there is a God then God is "out there" -- and he could influence our day-to-day material world, just as he supposedly did throughout biblical history. But of course, as Ehrman concludes, if God is "our there", is full of love, and has the power to do anything he wishes, then something is terribly wrong! In one way or another, all this suffering is God's responsibility, and after much serious consideration Ehrman no longer finds it feasible or moral to believe in such a callous God.
Neither could I. But what if God is NOT "out there". What if God is to be found by searching and experiencing within oneself, rather than by looking for material evidence outside? This, I believe, is what Moses was trying to explain to the Israelites on the shores of the Jordan River when he said, "Surely, this instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, `Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, `Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it." (Deut.30.11-14). Similarly, this is what Jesus was trying to tell his followers when he said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, `Look, here it is!' or `There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke.17.20-21)
But we are held in thrall by the things of this world, our attention dispersed into the world around us, and we look for heaven and God precisely where Moses and Christ tell us not to look, turning spirituality into the superficial and formalistic worship of external objects and historical events. If the highest value (`God') and the lowest value (`Satan') are outside of us, then the soul is pretty much empty. As a result, God can only contact us from outside (`Show us proof!'), never from inside.
As our focus becomes more and more external, the lower rational mind gains strength and becomes more and more affronted by the irrationality of spiritual and religious claims. This is when the forces of atheism become increasingly vocal and adamant - not without cause. But if we turn our attention inward, and search for God in higher levels of Being (which does not mean in higher `locations', but rather, in higher `states of consciousness'), then perhaps it would be possible, appropriate, and valuable, to add a third endeavor to the two which Ehrman mentions: (1) creating a loving relationship with oneself, so that we do everything feasible to make our brief time here as wonderful as possible; (2) creating a loving relationship with our `neighbor', doing everything feasible to alleviate pain and suffering and bring as much joy as possible to everyone; and (3) creating a loving internal relationship with God, leading us toward spiritual enlightenment, and filling our inner lives with all the wonder and sense of fulfillment that come from a life rich with faith and devotion, and the pursuit of spiritual truth and wisdom.
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199 of 241 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God's Problem, February 19, 2008
By 
Bill Sutherland "Bill Paul" (el cajon, ca United States) - See all my reviews
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I just finished reading Ehrman's new book "God's Problem". I'm a Christian and I found Ehrman's book highly imformative,intersting, compelling and most of all challenging. I was raised as a fundalmentalist but was eventually turned away from it because I had questions that they weren't answering and I was discouragred from asking.
Unlike Mr. Ehrman, I fond a place within the Christian community that welcomed that type of dialogue. But what is most important is that we ask questions that the Bible doen't always deal with. Some early great Christian writers (fathers)asked these questions;some were killed some went on to from our religion, but what is most important is that we keep up the dialogue so our (my) religion stays alive an vital.Ehrman is a great writer and thinker.I highly recommend this to believers and non-believers alike. Bill
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thoughtful and reasoned, March 7, 2008
By 
David W. Straight (knoxville, tennessee United States) - See all my reviews
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Reading some of the harsh criticism directed at the author for this book makes me think that the critics tend to endorse a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Don't ask questions about the Scriptures, don't try to analyze them, and if you develop a crisis of faith, for goodness' sake, don't tell anyone about it. The problem is that Ehrman is a scholar, and that he likes to use his God-given facilities to actually think and reason about the Bible. To compound all these Bad Things and drive him further toward damnation, he reveals his crisis of faith. Terrible!

Ehrman is a fine scholar, is excellent with the ancient languages of the Bible, and has a deep thirst for understanding. His earlier works make memorable reading: for most of us, our Bibles are in English, but Ehrman also can tell when words were not translated as well as they should have been, and he is at his best in examining subtle nuances and errors in translation--omissions and additions. So his works give you a much better understanding of the Scriptures. This book is about suffering: Ehrman examines what parts of the Bible tell us, and in what context those parts should be taken. There were many different, often contradictory views of suffering in the Bible--it's something people try to understand and comprehend. Ehrman writes at length about Job: he explains how the Book of Job is actually a melding of different sources. Ehrman also has a long discourse on what we find in the writings of Paul, and how we can relate to these writings.

So you get a well-written, very personal book indeed. He is not asking people to give up their faith: he explains how his wife retains her faith. It's a description of how he came to wander in the wilderness, and it's also a wonderful scholarly look at parts of the Bible.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, February 29, 2008
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Danny H. Evans (Citrus Heights, CA) - See all my reviews
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In Bart Ehrman's most personal book he takes us along on his journey from Evangelical Christian to Agnostic and while doing so puts on his teaching hat and engages us with the many different biblical views on suffering. He shares with us his pain and anguish as he tried in vain to reconcile the suffering in the world with his former Christian faith. How can God be just or righteous, he asks, given all the suffering in the world? It's not a book for the squeamish as he doesn't mince words in his portrayal of the atrocities in the world ranging from Hitler's genocide against the Jews to children in third world countries dying of starvation and disease. It is, in my opinion, a book that every Christian who believes God is active in our everyday lives should read, as it ask the hard questions that most Christians prefer not to think about. Many Christians would say that we must have faith that God has a plan but when tragedy strikes how many ask silently what they can't say out loud; "why did God let this happen?" Find out what the Bible has to say in this extraordinary book. Good job Bart.
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God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer
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