SUFFERING AND THE BIBLE
Bart Ehrman is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. He is a New Testament scholar and an atheist. Confused? He is also a New York Times bestselling author, and three-time bestselling author for Oxford University Press in the U.K. That’s quite an achievement to say the least. He is currently the James A. Gray distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Ehrman claims he gave up his Christian faith due to the problem of suffering. In 2009, he wrote a book entitled, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer. Ehrman asks a question that many of us have asked (I certainly have!), “Why would a loving God allow such horrific suffering to continue on planet Earth?” Fair enough.
But then Ehrman goes on to claim that because he cannot find a good reason for suffering, that one must not exist. Does anyone know how to spell supercilious!? Is he serious?
While I certainly identify with Bart’s struggle, I cannot jump to his conclusion. To assume that because “I cannot find a reason” for something, doesn’t mean a good reason cannot exist, is the height of academic snobbishness. Says who!? God may have a number of good reasons for suffering that may remain hidden to us. In fact, even if He were to tell us His reasons, we may still dislike them and disagree with them! My own kids never enjoyed discipline or any other form of “suffering” that I inflicted on them, but it certainly did NOT mean that it was pointless or lacked purpose.
The whole question of suffering brings to mind the book of Job, which never answers the issue.But what Job does is remind us of the dangers of intellectual hubris—of thinking we know more than God does. After numerous chapters of Job demanding answers from God…God shows up! But not to give answers to this dimwitted entrepreneur, but to chastise him for daring to question the Almighty. Job gets four chapters of “God in his face” and then says one of the best things in the entire book, “I’ve spoken of things I didn’t understand” (i.e. “I’ve been a jerk and I repent”). Nonetheless, whatever His reasons, the Bible and experience also teach me that He is incredibly loving and filled with mercy. This is what I need to remember as I seek to live the gospel-driven life.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor
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