Jump to content

Recommended Posts

This isn't exactly a progressive Christian book but it's one that I think will be of interest to those who participated in the theodicy thread recently. Bart D Ehrman is a biblical scholar and an agnostic who used to be a Christian. He started out as a fundamentalist Christian but then he converted to liberal Christianity after he started studying mainstream biblical scholarship more and learned about the problems with biblical literalism and the historical inaccuracies of the bible. He still remained a Christian even after he accepted the views of mainstream bible scholarship but eventually he deconverted to agnosticism because he was unable to reconcile all the pain and suffering that went on in the world with the idea of a loving and intervening god.

 

God's Problem is part-autobiographical/part-theological as Ehrman tells his deconversion story and also puts forwards his counter-responses to the flaws he sees in the bible's theodicy arguments. Even if you disagree with his conclusions, I think this book is still worthwhile if only because it would help give you a greater understanding of the skeptic's take on theodicy. Ehrman's book is also very informative about biblical scholarship as Ehrman puts many of the bible's theodicy arguments in their historical context and shows how their circumstances effected the way they saw God and you learn a lot about the history of Israelites in the book. While Ehrman doesn't back down from his criticisms, he still remains polite and respectful to Christians which may make his works more accessible to Christians than the New Atheists' more smarmy books. And if nothing else, Ehrman's deconversion story is interesting and fascinating in its own right if you like reading those kinds of stories. Interestingly, Bishop Spong has also endorsed this book as one he found inspiring even if he disagreed with the author's conclusions.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Neon, thanks for bringing this up. One review of God’s Problem says that Ehrman rejects the bible’s three explanations of why evil exists, and approves only of Ecclesiastes. If the conclusion is ethical pragmatism, alleviate suffering wherever possible, perhaps in practice it’s much the same as PC (or other paths). For people who need to undo the damage of a fundamentalist / literalist background I imagine it would be supportive.

 

To me, this passage by Richard Rohr seems relevant to the theodicy issue–

 

“If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter. If there isn’t some way to find deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, we will close down. Exporting unresolved hurt onto scapegoats is almost the underlying story line of all human history… Biblical revelation is about transforming history and individuals so that we don’t just keep handing the pain onto the next generation.”

 

He says it’s about trusting God, rather than a faith tradition. For me, his mystical view makes sense of the purpose of spirituality.

Edited by rivanna
  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not read this book but I have read several others by Ehrman. I have also written him directly a couple of times with questions and found him surprisingly responsive (So, I am careful not to exploit his generosity).

 

I also think that his agnosticism provides a good basis for his historical research and explanation. This allows a better measure of objectivity than would a strong position on either side with the accompanying burden of theological 'confirmation bias.'

 

On the other hand, I am not sure that theodicy is a strong basis for agnosticism. IMO, there need not be a dichotomy between accepting the Bible as the literal word of an interventionist God or nothing. As evidenced by this forum, there is wide middle ground.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Neon, thanks for bringing this up. One review of God’s Problem says that Ehrman rejects the bible’s three explanations of why evil exists, and approves only of Ecclesiastes. If the conclusion is ethical pragmatism, alleviate suffering wherever possible, perhaps in practice it’s much the same as PC (or other paths). For people who need to undo the damage of a fundamentalist / literalist background I imagine it would be supportive.

In many ways, Ecclesiastes is a very pro-humanist book as while it presumes the existence of God, it questions the existence of the afterlife, it doesn't pretend to be revealing divinely given wisdom, and its morality and ethics are geared towards how we treat other in this life. It's amazing it even made it into the biblical canon given how dogmatic the early church fathers were about promoting their Trinitarian god concept.
Link to post
Share on other sites

I am just finishing Ehrman's book entitled: "Jesus Interrupted". His latest book "Forgeries" was a library book that I recently read and was interesting enough that I bought the Kindle version of "Jesus Interrupted". I will say that Dr Ehrman has analyzed the New Testament about as thoroughly as it can be done and if you want to know what is really in the NT these two books will lay it all out in great detail.

 

I was reminded of another author's advice: "Don't take the Bible literally, but do take it seriously."

 

Hal

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service