Ehrman’s Problem: He Misreads the Bible and Impugns God’s Fairness
by Clay Jones
In his book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer, Bart Ehrman makes the case that neither Christians nor the Bible can answer why God, if He were to exist, would allow “the cesspool of misery and suffering” that many people endure. Ehrman says that he was once an evangelical Christian pastor but since he couldn’t reconcile his faith with horrendous evils, “I started to lose my faith, I now have lost it altogether. I no longer go to church, no longer believe, no longer consider myself a Christian. The subject of this book is the reason why.” (2-3)
But Ehrman errs.
I’m going to start responding to his book, beginning with a series on his first chapter, which largely concerns free will.
Throughout God’s Problem, Ehrman is correct when he says that most Christians, if asked why God allows evil, will appeal to free will. And they should! That God would desire to create significantly free creatures does explain much of the evil and suffering that humankind endures and inflicts upon each other. The free will defense, simply stated, is that evil and suffering entered our world because God created beings that could freely choose between good and evil.1 In other words, God wanted to create beings with the ability to truly choose to love or hate, be generous or selfish, be courageous or cowardly, and do good or evil and these things, as potentially wonderful or perilous as they are, can only be possible for creatures with free will. Free will, at its very core, means that we actually can choose between two alternatives; that we can do otherwise. If you can’t do otherwise, then you don’t have free will…
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