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Final Thoughts on God’s Problem


Just gonna summarize some thoughts I had on the book, maybe post the main thrust that I garnished from the book.

The Bible offers a few main explanations for ‘evil’ or ‘suffering’ in the world. The first, which the ancient Hebrew people often endorsed, was that evil is a punishment for not following God’s laws. The prophets spend a lot of time castigating the Jews for drifting from God’s law. When people follow God, they conquer and prosper. When they lose God, they are conquered.

Secondly, as in part of Job and Ecclesiastes, evil doesn’t really have an explanation. It’s just what happens to people. Job’s friends blame him for the suffering, saying he must have deserved it, but Job is seen as righteous. The Adversary goads God into testing this ‘righteous man’ and Job pretty much passes the test. But there is no answer whatsoever offered as a reply to what the meaning of suffering is. God just blasts Job for questioning him. Boom.

Then there’s the Apocalyptic tradition that says that everything will be turned to good in the end. In a way, this answer is that God turns all to his good. The problem with the apocalypticists is that they thought that God would establish a utopia on earth in their lifetimes. All the sources that are earlier seem to expect the end to come at any time. Later writings, like John’s Gospel, have time to ruminate on the missing Jesus, and so they leave out all the impending stuff. In addition, the Revelation of John was about Rome and Nero, not the future now.

So what can we take from this book?

  1. Early writers expected Jesus to come back soon. When he didn’t all record of things being ‘impending’ went away.
  2. We hold God to one moral standard, and people to another. How can we call God ‘good’ if his own standard is a mystery?
    God is testing us: starving babies, mental disorders, incurable illness- Children!
    Evil lets us show good: A parent beating up a child to allow another to help = good?
    Evil exists due to free will: ‘acts of God’ and random chaos.
    Evil comes from other people, not God: ‘acts of God’ and random chaos.
  3. Most answers people give to answer evil aren’t found in the Bible.

So what else can people say? ‘Well, the fall resulted in evil.’ And God allowed the fall to occur, for what reason? Again, the same answers are there. Free will is really the only one people can go to in the Garden. This is something that Ehrman doesn’t confront. One would have to talk about the problem with Eden, the serpent, or more basic problems with free will in the Garden for this objection not to hold.

Once again, even free will isn’t good enough. The fall lead many, many people into hell. We would not let a child, nor adult, exercise his ‘free will’ to hop off a cliff. If the perfection of mankind is at stake, it would seem wrong to bring some people’s salvation at the expense of others. Kill a child to teach another a lesson? Seem wrong to me.

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