Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ehrman and Theodicy

Stanley Fish of the NY Times writes a book review on both Bart Ehrman and Anthony Flew's newest books. I'm more interested in Ehrman's because of the topic on which he's writing: "God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer.”

I love reading anything Bart Ehrman puts in print, so I'm sure I'll be reading this as soon as possible. Two statements Dr. Ehrman gives in the interview intrigue me:

Given [the] theology of selection – that God had chosen the people of Israel to be in a special relationship with him – what were Ancient Israelite thinkers to suppose when things did not go as planned or expected? . . . . How were they to explain the fact that the people of God suffered from famine, drought, and pestilence?”

And one more...

“If he could do miracles for his people throughout the Bible, where is he today when your son is killed in a car accident, or your husband gets multiple sclerosis? . . . I just don’t see anything redemptive when Ethiopian babies die of malnutrition.”

In the article, Ehrman also goes on to talk about how most books that deal with theodicy do so in such an abstract manner as to tone down the severity of the evil that goes on.

This is not commenting on the book, but rather on theodicy in general. I agree with Dr. Ehrman - it is a great evil that any child would die of malnutrition. It is uncomfortable to look upon death, regardless of how used to it you are. There is always this sense of "This should not be." Without God, not only does evil not make sense, but our response to evil makes absolutely no sense. If Ethiopian children dying of malnutrition is simply the way things should be in a natural world, we should have no qualms over it. It's just how things go. We should be like Camus and think that everything is just absurd, pointless. But we aren't like that. We recognize that this is not how things should be. The reality of evil, outside of syllogisms and textbooks and philosophical glitter, points me in the direction of God, not away from Him.

(HT: Mark Goodacre)


Danny Garland Jr. said...

It's not surprising to see that Ehrman doesn't think the Bible answers the question of suffering, since believes the Bible has been corrupted and made up by the "orthodox party." If he actually believed in the Bible and in Christ, he would see that the Bible does in fact answer the question of suffering. Christ transforms suffering from humiliation and tragedy into glorification and redemption. The Glory of the Cross is the hardest thing to understand when you dismiss the Bible like Ehrman does.

....which gives away my answer to your other post...yes, it is a necessity for one to belief in order to teach theology! We actually talked about this in class today [always up on the current situation-you! ;-) ]. You should hear what Newman has to say about this. It's excellent!

Johnny Vino said...

much of the suffering in the world is horrifying to us because it is unjust and unfair. So its really hard to see any value in suffering where the victims are random and their tragedy so absurdly unfair. The only way it can start to make sense is if there was a reference point for unfair and unjust suffering which could clue us to a purpose. This is what we have in the Cross. No one has a claim to injusice more than the Jesus. He IS justice - He IS innocence, yet he was accused and punished with the guilty. No blood cries out for the wrath of God more than his only Son, yet our Lord gave that blood of his own will. So now, no matter what manner of senseless evil we heap on each other, and no matter what degree of pain and sorrow people endure from famine, war, or natural disaster; suffering is not an abyss into hell. Christ's suffering is the ocean that all human sorrow drains into and we are promised in Revelation that "the sea shall be no more".