I recently finished reading Bart Ehrman’s new book God's Problem (2008). The book discusses how the bible fails to answer one of the most puzzling questions – why we suffer. I strongly resonate with the author’s analysis, and his personal dilemma of wanting to believe in the God of the Bible despite the realities of the world.
I have come to question so many aspects of my Christian faith that at times I feel that I am no longer a true believer. The issue has become so strong that now I’ve come to doubt even the spiritual validity of the Bible – mainly that the Bible is the literal word of God. I feel ill-at-ease to admit that the Bible is a very human book. A masterpiece written by authors of their time, with their own interests and with their own philosophies, and later modified again and gain, with the claims of being the divinely inspired Word. I truly want to believe… I hope that someday I change my mind, though I highly doubt it. As a boy growing up in the church I was captivated by the notion of an Almighty and All-loving God who could forge my path into eternal life. I slowly and thoughtfully accepted the Christian doctrine by reading the Torah and the New Testament to completion, later being baptized in water, and essentially becoming a “born-again Christian” - Living my life the best way I could in accord with the Bible. As a curious person by nature, I have always tried to learn more about the world and myself and this is partly one of the reasons why I pursued a college education. At some point during undergrad, I did something similar to what Descartes once did - his famous thought experiment- the method of doubt. Doubting the truth about everything, including God, to hopefully come to a conclusion – that the God I know is true. Suffice to say, I failed miserably. Since then, I have not been able to reconcile my observation of the world with the truths of the Scripture.
If the following three points are true, how can we reconcile them in harmony?
- God is All-mighty (omnipotent)
- God is All-Loving
- There is Suffering
So why do we suffer? According to Bart Ehrman the answer is that there is no answer. I tend to echo this sentiment. There is so much senseless suffering that trying to justify it through theological arguments does no justice. Instead of discussing the many arguments posed by thinkers who try to reconcile the aforementioned points, I would suggest to simply read the book. Reading it with a sincere heart and intellectual honesty will tend to lead to a disturbing suggestion - there is no answer…
Perhaps someday, if eternity exists and we all pass away into its realm, God will reveal to us His answer. Perchance, it will all make sense. We will understand that in fact there was a divine plan to all the meaningless suffering, despite having an almighty 'loving' God who is able to stop it at the snap of His finger. We will grasp the paradox of free-will and suffering, and bow down before Him in admiration. Until this actually happens, it’s all speculation, wishful thinking at best.
I better stop writing before He decides to smite me for blasphemy…