Hear religion scholar Bart D. Ehrman on this edition of Fresh Air. Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. His new book is God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer. He is the author of the best seller Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. His other books include Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend and Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. [Broadcast Date: February 19, 2008]
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A great interview and a great place to start
If you're on the fence about whether or not to purchase one of Mr. Ehrman's books, start here.
The particular focus of the interview is Mr. Ehrman's new book "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer." However, I would recommend this interview to anyone curious about Mr. Ehrman's work in general. Listeners on either side of the proposition will appreciate Mr. Ehrman's respectful, scholarly, matter of fact, and even tone; all should benefit from the discussion.
Mr. Ehrman first provides a brief personal background. He was a born again Christian (a 'fundamentalist Evangelical') who went to a fundamentalist bible college, then to Evangelical college to complete his college education, and finally to Princeton theological seminary where he was trained as a minister. He is now a distinguished professor of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill.
Over time, his beliefs became more liberal and he began to question many of the standard theological explanations for suffering. During the interview, he discusses many of the standard explanations for suffering (e.g. free will) and explains to what extent these explanations are satisfactory (e.g. bad acts) and where they start to break down (e.g. natural disasters, disease).
He then discusses the problems with other theological explanations for suffering e.g. that it's all a part of God's unknowable plan; suffering is punishment (Old Testament); suffering is redemptive (Old and New Testament); suffering is a test of faith (Job and the inconsistencies in the story/texts are discussed), and so on.
[P.S. I found the interview compelling and interesting enough to purchase the book]
Bart Ehrman is inerrant when it comes to his understanding of Christianity