Friday, October 15, 2010

Bart Ehrman's Problem

Before I start, I mean no disrespect towards Bart Ehrman. Rather, I just think he’s wrong. This sort of starts with me going to Borders books, and finding in the Christian book section, Bart’s “Jesus, Interrupted.” There he points out alleged contradictions in the Bible. Now, I do want to address those contradictions at some point, but I haven’t been able to get that book at the library, and I refuse to buy it on principal. Today, I want to look at Ehrman’s “God’s Problem,” or as I like to say, Bart Ehrman’s Problem.

I have not read the whole book, so this is not a comprehensive study, and I may spend the next few blogs looking at Bart’s Problem. “God’s Problem” deals with the core issue of what drove Bart into agnosticism/atheism. It may not be necessary to go further from the introduction of his book as it is here where we see the foundation, the roots if you will, of Bart’s unbelief. Now, I cannot say truly I know what he feels and thinks, but this is based off of his own writings. I will reference page numbers, but I will not quote. If you really want to see what he says, be a Berean and check it yourself.

My initial thoughts, were that he became too impressed with his own credentials. Page 2 gives a great list of impressive credentials. To sum up, he has a string of degrees that culminated in a master’s and PhD. As big of a deal as these degrees are, this does nothing to demonstrate Bart’s take on the spiritual aspects of the Bible. I get the impression that he’s relying on his credentials to understand the Bible, and not relying on the Holy Spirit to lead him. It's like he has all the facts, but no relationship. I have seen this in other pastors even, where they know and preach the Bible, yet they don’t seem like they take their belief in God to the deepest. In another way to say it this is the sum of a man’s understanding of God, and as we know, the most foolish thing of God is still wiser than the greatest wisdom of man.

By page 5, we see the setup. He notes that God came into the world as Christ to bring salvation, but Bart wonders why the Lord doesn’t intervene now? Why did He intervene so much in the days of the Bible, but fails to appear now? That is a very good question. I think it’s a good thing to think about, and pray about, and ask God about. But what Bart fails to note is that Christ did not promise that things would be smooth sailing. In fact, Christ warned us that things would become increasingly worse, and that Christians (His people of the New Covenant) would very likely have to endure suffering. Many Christians have and still are enduring suffering. Yet God does not always intervene. The book of James helps give a perspective on this. Why didn’t and doesn’t God keep them from suffering? While it may look like God is so cruelly abandoning us, we are promised a reward in His kingdom for enduring suffering. Why do unbelievers suffer? I can’t say, but if God allowed His own Son to suffer and die, and allows those who call Him Lord to suffer, then what hope can unbelievers have?

To move on and answer some of Bart’s questions. Why doesn’t God intervene or come back now? My answer is it’s not time yet. The Bible clearly tells us that Christ will come again, God will restore all believers to paradise, and the reason He does not come back or intervene right now is to give us humans more time to repent and get right with Him. God’s apparent lack of caring/interaction is in fact a merciful thing, for if He came before the full number of people accepted Christ, then those people would be going to hell and suffering eternally. A little suffering now is nothing compared to the lake of fire that will consume some for eternity. Therefore, the most merciful thing for our souls, and the souls of unbelievers is to wait and allow a maximum number of people to repent. In the meantime, while we are in this fallen physical world, suffering is going to happen. It’s a result of sin and the fall.

Additionally, and I am guilty of ineffectiveness here myself, God does not always intervene to stop suffering so that, His people, that is believers, will have a chance to be Jesus (reflect God’s light) onto the suffering. That’s what Israel’s job was in a fashion in the Old Testament, and it is the job of Christians now. Christ commanded us to give to those in need, the poor, the widows. Many Christians, myself included fail this test very miserably and I am sure God will hold us to account for this. Christ said whatever you do to the least of these (those in need) you have done unto me. One way that I THINK God wants to relieve suffering is through His church to work through believers to bring glory to what Christ did. We had better get to work on this one.

Bart also fails to acknowledge the spiritual war that is ongoing (Eph 6:12). It’s also as though his earthly knowledge and expertise closed his min and heart to the realities of the world, that is the spiritual side of things. Because Satan is still powerful in this world, it will be imperfect, and in fact it will continue to be a horrible place to live. People will suffer, because Satan and his demons hate us. We should not be surprised now that people continue to suffer with Satan running the show. Christ warned us that people would suffer, and because the world hasn’t been restored to Him yet, suffering is our lot. God knows people are suffering, and He has chosen to allow it, perhaps to allow Satan’s rebellion to achieve it’s full effect. (see Robert Luginbill’s’s Satanic rebellion series) Until Christ returns to rule, things are never going to get better.

OK, moving off of my soapbox. Page 6, Bart complains about famine killing a child every 5 seconds. This is tragic, especially since here in America, something like 50% of our food goes to waste. There is no way this can be justified. God allows it, and again I will probably guess it’s a repercussion of the way Satan is allowed to operate. Christ did tell us prophetically that famine would be one of the awful things going on before He returned. If He knew about it, it must ultimately play apart in His plan. There is a lot that man and Christians could do to alleviate this, but I suspect that there are spiritual reasons why aid is not getting to these people. Famine is also one of the things that should indicate to Christians that Christ’s return is soon.

Page 10 brings us to a fallacy. Bart brings up Epicurus. (go check it out) My response is God is able to prevent evil. God is able, and sometimes not willing, but that does not indicate malevolence on God’s part. It’s like the story of the moth coming out of the cocoon, if you help it out, to stop its suffering, you keep the important growth from happening. That is, by allowing the moth to suffer, you allow it to achieve its full potential and a better life later. Not all suffering can be answered this way, but my opinion is that the suffering God allows is sometimes explainable this way. I have gone through a period of intense suffering, and without it, I would not be who I am to be, and since I have allowed myself to be placed on God’s potting wheel, He is in control, and it won’t all be pleasant.

Page 11, Bart argues that suffering is part of freewill, I will disagree, but I don’t think I need to get into it.

Suffering, in general seems to have many possible origins. Romans 1:21 - 32 offers a general look at why God would allow people to suffer at all. People have rejected God and His ways, so He has allowed us (with our free will) to live and act in whatever way we wish, and that includes making others suffer. It appears it's just another consequence of God allowing Satan and humanity to persue our rebellions to their fullest extent. In other words, people early on rejected God and His ways, so He let it go to its ultimate conclusion. That is some people will cause suffering, or hoard food, make war etc.

For a brief look at why believer suffer again, read the book of James, and Job and also Romans 5:3 - 5, and 8:17 - 18, 35 - 37.

So to wrap up, human suffering happens, but that fact that it happens and that God allows it does not make Him malevolent or uncaring. We know from the Bible that God works ALL things out for our ultimate good, and that He is willing that NONE should perish. The fact that He doesn’t step down and make things right is because He’s giving the unsaved a chance to be saved. In the meantime, suffering is one way we can grow spiritually, and it’s a basic repercussion of living in a fallen world that Satan is allowed much influence and power in the world. Lastly, Christ foretold that suffering would increase in the world, and in Revelation we see suffering at its worst. And it’s because Satan’s time is short.

What about senseless suffering? The famine throughout the world. The Nazi Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, the Rwandan Genocide, Darfur. Why does God allow this to happen? There is no way this can be understood or addressed from a naturalistic explanation. The only explanation I can consider is a supernatural one. This senseless suffering I can only speculate as being part of the spiritual war of Satan’s rebellion against God. Again I will refer you to the book of Romans and next week’s blog I will try to have an explanation for "senseless" suffering. After that, I will try as best as I can to look at Bart's Biblical examples of suffering.

I hope this can help you, my explanations are wholly inadequate, but then again Bart's arguments don't take the larger picture into account either.

Below are some links that may be of interest until next week. (also look for the Satanic Rebellion homepage. but pray for discernment. I have read the rebellion, but not this one yet. )

And some places that also debunk Bart, in a much better and credible way than I can. The Ben Witherington ones seem especially good.

1 comment:

  1. You nailed it!!! Bart has a problem. We have problems--yes. God has no problems He can't or hasn't solved.