Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bart's Problem: Bart Ehrman and the Problem of Evil and Suffering

I am going to be interacting, off and on, with a new book by Bart Ehrman called God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question, Why We Suffer.
Bart Ehrman is the chairman of the religion department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an accomplished scholar (mostly in the area of Textual Criticism and Early Christianity). His most recent book, Misquoting Jesus, was on the development of our current New Testament and how scribal alterations (both intentional and unintentional) have corrupted the “holy” texts of Christianity and cannot provide us with inerrant and infallible texts. It was a best seller and got him an invitation to the "Daily Show" with John Stewart. Part of it actually serves as a good primer to the topic of textual criticism.
The opening line of his new book reads, “If there is an all powerful and loving God in the world, why is there so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering.” This is not a new question. This question has plagued philosophers and seekers of the truth for ages. It had plagued Ehrman for years, causing him to question his faith and eventually abandon Christianity.
Ehrman grew up in a conservative evangelical home. He had a “born again” experience where he asked Jesus to come live in his heart as a youth. He was involved in such conservative groups like Youth for Christ. He attended Moody Bible Institute and eventually finished college at Wheaton College in suburban Chicago. He then went to Princeton Theological Seminary and began his in depth study of the New Testament and began to move away from his evangelical faith. This book, which is part memoir, continues to tell the story of his move along the theological spectrum from fundamentalist to liberal to eventually agnostic.
This movement does make me curious as to what form is next for Ehrman in order to garner publicity for his next book. I will be posting thoughts he shared with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air recently about his book and my reactions to them.

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