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Publisher's Summary

In times of questioning and despair, people often quote the Bible to provide answers. Surprisingly, though, the Bible does not have one answer but many "answers" that often contradict one another. Consider these competing explanations for suffering put forth by various biblical writers:

The prophets: suffering is a punishment for sin.

The book of Job, which offers two different answers: suffering is a test, and you will be rewarded later for passing it; and suffering is beyond comprehension, since we are just human beings, and God, after all, is God.

Ecclesiastes: suffering is the nature of things, so just accept it.

All apocalyptic texts in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament: God will eventually make right all that is wrong with the world.

For renowned Bible scholar Bart Ehrman, the question of why there is so much suffering in the world is more than a haunting thought. Ehrman's inability to reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of real life led the former pastor of the Princeton Baptist Church to reject Christianity.

In God's Problem, Ehrman discusses his personal anguish upon discovering the Bible's contradictory explanations for suffering and invites all people of faith - or no faith - to confront their deepest questions about how God engages the world and each of us.

©2008 Bart D. Ehrman (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about God's Problem

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    5 out of 5 stars

A Great Original View of God, "A Must Read"

What made the experience of listening to God's Problem the most enjoyable?

This is the third book I have read from Mr. Ehrman, he really has a world class bible background. It is so clear he has spent his whole life thinking of this topic. It is well thought through and recored very well. This book really does a great job in asking the question "Why does God allow so much suffering in the world", not just present day but as it seems, our entire past! He uses common sence in his presentation, he is more middle of the road then Richard Dawkins, not that I don't love his work, just a very differant style.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Despite "Suffer the little children"

Ehrman's latest book puts forth the Scriptural answers for why there is suffering, in addition to historical and modern interpretations of these answers, and explains how these answers fall short. Each section examines a different suggestion for the problem of suffering and looks at New and Old Testement answers to them. Included are the ideas of suffering because of God-given Free Will, suffering as a test of faith, suffering as punishment, suffering to teach lessons, and suffering as an Apocolyptic sign-and of course that we cannot know God's reason for "allowing" suffering. He even includes the parent analogy-that God is like a parent who must punish His children. Though it is not as Scriptually founded as many of the other arguments, it is a common modern argument (right up there with Free Will).
A good protion of this book is set aside as Ehrman's own memoir of how he became (as he calls it) Dead Again-deciding that he no longer believes the tennets of his Born-Again faith and becoming an agnostic. This book is an excellent analysis of what many believers and non-believers grapple with, and many eventually come to the same conclusions he does-that the Bible does not explain in any real and satisfying way how an all-loving and all-powerful God can allow so many people to die of starvation, malaria, cruelty, etc-and he provides devistating statistics. It may also be useful for people trying to understand the position many take in not being able to believe in God-despite this, Ehrman is NOT an atheist, nor is he trying to convert anything. He presents the literary/Biblical criticism of Scripture,tries to understand it, and applies classic philosophy to the arguements he's heard. This book never came close to making me question my own faith, but it has lead me to think more closely about some of the more painful aspects of divinity.

Good narration that matches the tone of the author's meaning.

39 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

No Problems here

I have read several of Bert Ehrman books and all of them have been educational, surprising and enlightening. This book is of a little different tone then I am use to from Ehrman but was none the less very good. He, for the first time, seems to put his belief or opinion forward in this discussion. I feel as though I got to know him better and therefore got to know what motivates him in writing his books. I did find that the main theme through the book, suffering, was a little scary and came very close to home. You see I listen to his books as I take my best friend and companion out for a walk every night. But just as the book was about to end my boxer took ill and died in my back yard of a cardiac arrest. He was only 5 1/2 years of age. To make an already bad story even worse this was the second boxer that I had that died young. I still have the last 5 minutes of the book to finish listening to but I just can’t muster the courage. So the question put forward in this book became relevant. If there is a God why would he let such things happen? uuuummmm...Not sure I can answer that but I can recommend you read this book. Good Luck

14 people found this helpful

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Author doesn't even believe in God

The author doesn't even believe in God. I regret buying it. I couldn't finish it. No I don't give it 3 stars. this rating system is awful as well. I give it zero stars

2 people found this helpful

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Bart D Ehrman does not write for the evangelical Christian

Although I am a person of Faith, and I am drawn to Bart Erhman because I want a an academic view on the Bible. I want a learned eye on the Scriptures. I know there are no simple answers to complex questions. My experience in organized religion is deep in Christianity. I long ago abandoned literal interpretation of the Bible. Scholars shed light on the written Word. I like that. My faith is not threatened by knowledge. Bart Erhman is such a scholar. He gives clarity where confusion exists. He does no attempt to offer easy solutions to difficult problems. This book is worthwhile for Christians who desire facts.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Excellent scholarship; below average literature

I've been following Dr. Ehrman for several years now, and I've enjoyed listening to his interviews (especially on Fresh Air with Terry Gross). He's a wealth of knowledge, and he understands Christianity as an ex-insider. Unfortunately, his writing style in "God's Problem" undermines the authority of his scholarly credentials. The references to wine varietals and microbrews trivialize the weight of his scholarship. His many extra-biblical examples of suffering do the same. Readers shouldn't need to be convinced that suffering is a real problem. Feeling it necessary to convince us, one time should have been enough, but he lists social problems ad nauseum. Some are compelling, but all detract from the gravity of the theological issue. The autobiographical portions likewise weaken the tone of his authority. But "God's Problem" does drive home the central issue of the problem of suffering, and I applaud any effort to awaken people to the deficiencies of religion. Unfortunately, religious people are not likely to fairly consider Ehrman's reading of Scripture.

Dr. Ehrman ignores related philosophical problems such as free will, casually asserting its existence. This is unfortunate. I hope that readers will supplement their study of the subject with other sources.

Finally, I did not enjoy L.J. Ganzer's narration. It seemed to highlight the text's tonal deficiencies.

18 people found this helpful

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Biblical view of suffering and evaluation

Very thorough treatment of suffering in the Bible. At times a bit too repetitive and he went off on a number of tangents. I happen to enjoy many of his tangents, I must admit. Some may be put off by his personal approach to the subject, especially his opinions, but I very much liked that aspect of it and tend to agree with him on most points. Not his very best, but highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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Exhaustive and, at times, painfully honest

This book dives into the problem of evil and doesn't mince words or allow the listener to escape the brutal honesty of our human situation. It conveys a sense of the author's own struggle with the problem, and expresses the difficulties and benefits of positing a worldview in touch with seeking honest answers to life's difficult questions. He inspires and ultimately offers wise counsel to the reader in these deeply resonant explorations.

1 person found this helpful

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The Problem of Evil

If you think you understand the Problem of Evil and think you have a solution, you should consider the arguments in this book. For there are many proposed solutions. And Dr. Erhman lays out all them before proceeding to criticize them. He may not convince you there is no God. But he will definitely make you think about his character.

1 person found this helpful

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A challenging analysis at last

Prof. Ehrman is fantastic. His Great Courses are particularly good, which led me to this title. He has written the impossible - a book for believers that tackles many passages they skip, which is a faith workout, and validation for those who do not follow Abrahamic religions. The reasons I don’t give my usual five stars to his book are twofold. First, he falls into the trap of selective passage use to bolster his points while simultaneously (rightly) castigating believers for the same thing. Second, for the Abrahamic God to exist as written for him, there can be no faith because we would all know and see. There would be no suffering of any kind (e.g. sweating in a gym). We would all be immortal and perfectly chiseled specimens who never try to do anything because it would all come easy. Sounds like a Twilight Zone hell to me.

1 person found this helpful

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  • R. Roberts
  • 07-18-15

Makes sense out of Biblical nonsense

Such a breath of fresh air after growing up with all the confused explanations of suffering given my by Christian mentors.

The second and third chapters found my mind wandering a bit but the rest of the book hit the nail on the head.

Although I would always prefer to hear the author himself (Ehrman narrates some of his other books) this was a very good performance.

The author crystallises the main reasons for suffering given by different Biblical authors and then after years of deep thought shares his personal views on each one.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-26-20

Captivating

A captivating survey of how the bible attempts to explain why there's so much suffering in the world. Ultimately, the problem of pointless and immense suffering cannot be squared with the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent god.

The ending is uplifting; we should enjoy the short lives we have and do all we can so others can too. The responsibility to alleviate suffering is on us. As Carl Sagan put it in Pale Blue Dot "...there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves." It's a book to be read and recommend.

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  • Alison
  • 07-14-20

absolutely brilliant

highly recommended. particularly good for those dissatisfied with the standard christian answers for the problem of suffering and some of the very troubling parts of the old testament. Dr Ehrman is a masterful teacher. provocative, thoughtful and straightforward. I benefited greatly from this book.