by Andy Hanson
I received this letter from a very special friend. How should I respond?
I just finished a book, "God's Problem," by Bart D. Ehrman, that I think you'd
The primary reason is that it is a survey and analysis of Biblical answers to
the problem of suffering, based on deep study of the scriptures, and teaching a
university course on the topic several times. It is very clearly written,
non-polemic, and thoughtful.
The secondary reason is that the autobiographical material included to help the
reader understand the background to his analysis, and how he moved from being a
fundamentalist Biblical literalist to an agnostic who is not sure whether there
is a God–but who believes that if there IS a Christian God–who intervenes in
the world, but chooses not to allay suffering–He is morally repugnant.
This is the most clearly written expression I have ever seen of my own path in
rejecting the Christian God. Ehrman came to it at a later stage in his life
than I, but it seems to have been no less painful, and he was probably more
self-aware in the process. For me, most of the transformation happened during
our four years at PUC–although the Burbank Church helped me hold on to the
notion of the church as a social institution for somewhat longer.
Where Ehrman cites Dostoevsky, "The Brothers Karamazov," on not "taking a
ticket" to God's stage play on Earth, I would probably go with LeGuin, "The Ones
Who Walk Away from Omelas." But the point is the same: No "greater good" can
justify the deliberate infliction of suffering on the innocent.
I'd be interested in your reaction to "God's Problem." It's available on
Amazon, of course, and in particular there's a Kindle version, which is what I