Today I'm reading Bart Ehrman's God's Problem with the Exponent 2 group. I read another book of his, Misquoting Jesus, and reviewed part of it here for a Mind on Fire reading group. I adore this author for his zeal as a born-again Christian, seminary student and minister, and also for his later searching, questioning and doubting.
There are many problems with Christianity that I struggle with, but the one which led Ehrman out of traditional belief isn’t one of them. Not that it isn’t fascinating to read about Ehrman’s crisis of faith, because I can relate to this struggle.
He posits three assertions that all seem to contradict each other:
God is all-powerfulEhrman says that theologians and philosophers cannot reconcile all three. But for me, it makes sense that if suffering transforms us into the kind of being we need to become, God will allow this suffering because he loves us, and he will not use his power to take this suffering away.
God is all-loving
There is suffering
Heb. 2:9-11 tells of how Jesus was made perfect through his suffering, and that we are sanctified the same way.
Now, I’m not finished with the book yet (just got it from the library yesterday!) but skimming through the part I haven’t read, I don’t see that Ehrman really addresses this view. The closest he comes is his notion of “redemptive suffering” where suffering can bring glory to God, or a greater good. He wonders why an all-powerful God could not have brought about the greater good in a different way. He also covers the explanation I hear from Mormons all the time, about how God allows free agency, and he blasts that one pretty well.
As far as I have read in the book, he really hasn’t considered the view that suffering makes us saints (or gods, in the LDS view), and though suffering causes earthly pain and anguish, it really is the best way to make us more compassionate and perfected beings.
I'll probably have more to say about this book as I get further into it. Until then, please go visit Exponent 2 blog and participate in the discussion!