A few weeks ago I was in the Midwest and got to spend time with four classmates of the mid-1970’s from the Moody Bible Institute. It was wonderful to be with friends I hadn’t seen in nearly 40 years.
Over the years all of them have experienced significant suffering: one is battling cancer, another grew up with an abusive father, some have children who have struggled, all have lost loved ones, and so on.
Bart Ehrman was another classmate of mine at the Moody Bible Institute, during which time he claimed to be a Christian. Currently he is a Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He now claims to be an “agnostic” and writes books to undermine Christianity.
He says he lost faith after he decided that evil and suffering show there is no God.
In 2008 he wrote a book titled God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer.
Ironically, Bart’s book on God’s Problem ends in utter emptiness. After more than 250 pages of trying to destroy the Bible’s answers to the question of suffering, the last paragraph of his book comes to this sad conclusion:
“In the end, we may not have ultimate solutions to life’s problems. We may not know the why’s and wherefore’s.” (p. 278)
Bart writes that “we may not” have solutions, but what he really is saying is that hedoes not have any answers. He offers no help, only destructive arguments against the Bible’s answers.
How sad, how empty, how hopeless.
Bart is certainly well educated and intelligent. But he seems to have followed the path of Romans 1:22, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (ESV).
Bart’s approach is a good example of the runaway child I wrote about in my last blog. Click here to read that post.
While Bart’s book is titled, God’s Problem, in reality it is Bart who has a problem: He has no answers. I feel sorry for Bart and pray that he comes to faith in Christ and finds His hope.
The wonderful news is that the Christian faith has wonderful answers and the Blessed Hope.
Over the years, I have had suffered with health issues, financial struggles, relationship betrayals, the death of loved ones, and so on. My wife’s sister Gwen’s death from cancer at age 57 was terrible. Her 29 year old son’s suicide just before her death was horrific.
What has helped?
Not an empty approach with no answers, but Bible-based faith that God loves me and has a Plan.Not belief that life is meaningless, but rather that life has ultimate meaning in the God’s plan revealed in Scripture.Not thinking that the future is hopeless, but that I have an eternal hope in Jesus Christ!
If you want answers and hope, there are several wonderful Christian books on the subject of suffering.
Of the many books I have read on this topic, here are my top recommendations:
The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis.
When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes. Joni became a quadriplegic as a teen and writes about suffering with great authority.
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor. A theological, yet practical volume.
Turn it to Gold by D. James Kennedy. An inspirational and real-world guide to handling difficulties.
The Call to Joy and Pain by Ajith Fernando. A book about “embracing suffering in your ministry.”
In addition, here are a few volumes I have not read, but trust can be very helpful:
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller
If God is Good by Randy Alcorn
Surprised by Suffering by R. C. Sproul
Faith and Doubt by John Ortberg
Can we trust the Bible? Check out these articles:
Why did Bart really reject Jesus? See HERE for 3 potential reasons.