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God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  3,985 Ratings  ·  290 Reviews
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 diff
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Published March 1st 2008 by HarperAudio (first published 2008)
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Paul Bryant
Oct 02, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: godreads
Updated with a big quotation from an essay by Ron Rosenbaum added at the bottom for those interested.


Disclaimer : I just reread this review and it's very disrespectful to the topic at hand and portrays complex ideas in a crude cartoonlike and smirky way. There's a celebrity death match between God and Satan, a nervous Jewish spokesman, and something called The Lone Bangster.

Shakes head.


Does not get struck by lightning.


Okay. It could be that I read this book sadistically, having c
Read this book.

I don’t care if you are a fundamentalist Christian or a wishy-washy Christian or a lapsed Christian or a never was Christian – the discussion here in this book is so important and so well put together that I would find it hard to believe that any thinking human being would not get something worthwhile out of it.

I’ve only recently finished reading another of his books – Misquoting Jesus. I came away from that book not really knowing if the author was a Christian or not – and really
I don't like the title of this book. I think it should have been called Our Problem. And I don't mean Our Problem as is "reconciling human suffering with a loving creator-god is a problem, or puzzle, to be worked through." Likewise I don't mean Our Problem as in "we're the ones with a problem here, not God, because we're the small-minded creatures who can't understand the Creator's good plans for us all." No, I mean Our Problem as in "human suffering is a real problem in the world, and it's ou ...more
Sep 03, 2008 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Paul by:
This book is well written, no doubt there. Ehrman has a knack for writing to the “man on the street.” As such this book reads fast and smooth, much like his Misquoting Jesus. Thus, my low ranking is due to the content of the book, the cogency of the argumentation. This book is so chalk full of errors that the measly 10,000 characters goodreads gives isn’t enough. I could use 100,000 characters.

God's problem is that suffering exists and the Bible can't explain it. Ehrman tries to show this by not
Nov 30, 2010 A.J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ever since reading Misquoting Jesus, I have been a fan of Bart Ehrman's. His books have the refreshing quality of being both informative and unpretentious. He doesn't bother with constructing academic or flowery prose, but is instead content to let simplicity carry the day. I believe his reward is a considerably larger audience than most authors in his field enjoy.

The thesis of this book is that the bible provides us with a number of views on suffering, and some of them are contradictory. You do
Apr 29, 2013 M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My mum died from lung cancer, and experienced a level of suffering I never knew, and wish I didn't know, was possible. I remember the day she died - I asked my step dad's vicar why people suffer. She gave me some tin pot answer about free will which seem to imply that my mum had chosen to get lung cancer, that she 'deserved' it. My mum never smoked a day in her life and even if she had, does any 'deserve' or ask for that level of suffering? Isn't it bad enough that we have to die, that we have t ...more
Apr 06, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. The author looks at a question none of us enjoys thinking of - why is there such overwhelming suffering in the world? Suffering comes in many forms, crimes, thuggery, personal oppression, wars, mudslides, tsunamis, mob mentality and genocide.

The 21st Century American mind finds it hard to comprehend the scope of suffering in the world and in history. Outside of personal tragedies involving disease and accidents, much of our exposure to suffering comes from television, newsp
Jul 01, 2011 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There's much to say about this book, but let me try to be brief.

First, what's refreshing about dealing with Ehrman as opposed to some of the related writings of the new atheists, is that Ehrman knows the Bible and Christianity well. And while he is given to overstatement and conflation, he does get a number of things right. In this book, for example, the basic categories he lays out in terms of the biblical response to theodicy (the problem of evil) are pretty spot on. The Bible does have a num
Apr 27, 2008 Cathie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard Bart Ehrman speak on the radio. He teaches in Chapel Hill. He was speaking about how there is nothing redemptive in the suffering of parents who lost a child in an auto accident. He said this on the radio just as I was driving by the house where a friend of my son lived--he was an only child killed in a car accident a few years ago. I had to buy the book. I was also struck by his openness and understanding about faith--he is not writing from a position of antagonism.

As I read the book, I
I have long been a fan of Bart Ehrman and have read (and for the most part greatly enjoyed) almost every book he has published, so along with this brief review I offer a sincere apology to the author for its relative unkindness.

The title is a misnomer: it states that the Bible fails to answer the question of why we suffer. But Ehrman devotes significant portions of the book to doing exactly that by explaining the different ways the Bible does answer the question of why we suffer: 1) Suffering is
Apr 25, 2008 Jodi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jodi by: my bff David :)
Why we suffer? This is a question that I continue to ask of my Christian faith. I was excited when this book was recommended to me because I hoped to get some insight into this question although once I checked it out from the library I kept putting it to the side and reading other things. Perhaps I didn't want to find out the answer to the question. I was forced to finally start the book this week as it is coming due, and I am so glad that I took the time to read it. The author examines the vari ...more
Oct 04, 2011 Ilya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there is an all-powerful all-loving God, then why do people suffer? One would think that if God could and wanted to prevent suffering, then He would - but He doesn't. One answer is that God is less than all-powerful; the extreme of this position is that God has no power at all, which is to say He might as well not exist. Another is that God is less than all-loving, or, equivalently, there is an evil god; Satan of folk Christianity and Islam is such a figure. Another was proposed by Gottfried ...more
Jimm Wetherbee
Ehrman has written a string of highly readable and engaging books in the popular mode which present the state of current biblical scholarship, or rather critical biblical scholarship as it exists outside evangelical or traditional circles. He as done so again but with the twist that it is through the lens of what philosophers call “the problem of evil,” namely how can it be that a morally perfect and almighty being should allow evil and suffering. Ehrman has precious little patience for the nuan ...more
Mar 12, 2011 Tucker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
Suffering is a practical problem, not an abstract one, in Ehrman's view. Every two or three seconds, someone dies from diseases due to filthy drinking water. Every five seconds, a child starves to death. Every twenty seconds, someone dies of malaria. Unfortunately, we don't often discuss these things productively, since in polite society, talking about suffering is "kind of like talking about toilet habits." (p. 14)

"Ancient Jews and Christians never questioned whether God existed," he recognizes
Aug 04, 2013 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How does the Judeo-Christian Bible explain God's permission of innocent human suffering? Bart Ehrman devotes this book to two main tasks: (1) Locate and canvass answers to the question of God and human suffering and (2) Explain why Professor Ehrman finds (most of) these answers unsatisfying.

1) One interesting thing about the Judeo-Christian Bible is that, rather than give one answer to the reason for human suffering, it gives many answers. Perhaps the suffering is because the sufferer (or his co
Jun 24, 2011 Book rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: atheism-religion
God's Problem by Bart D. Ehrman

God's Problem is a fantastic book of how the Bible fails to answer the question of why we suffer. Accomplished author and biblical critic, Bart D. Erhman takes us through a realistic biblical ride on the four main justifications of suffering: suffering caused by sin, suffering caused by sins committed by others, redemptive suffering, and finally suffering as a test of faith. This excellent 304 page-book is composed of the following nine chapters: 1. Suffering and
Feb 12, 2012 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like all of Ehrman's books, I found this one fascinating. The reason the thesis of this book is so important is that one could argue that a theological explanation for human suffering is a "deal breaker" as far as faith in God is concerned. Without a satisfactory explanation for suffering, one cannot logically maintain that God is both loving and omnipotent.

The theological underpinnings of the various explanations that seek to satisfactorily balance a loving and omnipotent God with the state of
Clif Hostetler
May 19, 2008 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
This book is part personal spiritual memoir and part biblical analysis. It comes across as a rambling lecture by a bible professor who likes to tell stores about himself and expound on world history in addition to discussing the biblical subject at hand. The combination kept my interest while providing an educational experience.

Mr. Ehrman provides a thorough review of Biblical views of evil and suffering that includes both the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament. He uses easy to u
Denise Louise
The first Ehrman book that I read, Misquoting Jesus, was an objective, historic study of how the New Testament evolved over time and I thought it was a very good, informative book. This book is completely opposite; it is a subjective, emotional argument against God because He allows suffering in this world when He should have the power to stop it. The real title of this book should be "Bart's Problem with God: Why I Fail To Believe Any of the Biblical Answers to Explain Human Suffering." Because ...more
Apr 28, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, awesome
I believe I have given a written review to all of my 5 star rated books so I believe it would be out of place if I didn't give one here as well.

First, I have read Misquoting Jesus by Ehrman and I did like it, didn't love it, but really liked it. I do like Ehrman's writing style and his ability to keep his incredible intelligence from confusing the common dude (ie. me). I listened to a radio interview with Bart Ehrman where he was asked about this particular book and why he wrote it. He stated t
Feb 07, 2011 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bart Ehrman is Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the U of North Carolina. He is a highly regarded scholar of Biblical tradition, the early church, and the development of Christianity. He freely admits that he does not believe in God. He writes clearly and engagingly, and here he examines a number of theodicies (explanations of how a benevolent and omnipotent God could allow pain, suffering, and evil in the world). He finds all of these explanations wanting, including the mutually c ...more
Dick Gullickson
Mar 01, 2014 Dick Gullickson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bart, a former pastor at a Princeton Baptist Church, and Prof of Religion at Rutgers, discusses why the bible fails to answer our most difficult question: why God allows us to suffer. He examines the classical Old Testament view of suffering that it is God’s punishment for not obeying his will. He considers “redemptive suffering” that human suffering can serve divine purposes and “build character.” He also discusses the notion that God is not all powerful and doesn’t have the ability, the time, ...more
William Poe
Jul 04, 2012 William Poe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
Of all of Ehrman books, this is one is the most personal. It was the study of how the bible tries to explain suffering that clinched it for Ehrman, that no personal god could possibly exist. Not being all that familiar with much of the research around stories in the Hebrew Bible, I found his study and analysis truly fascinating. I kept thinking while reading the book that only religious folks could struggle with "why" there is suffering. It is rather obvious in a world that evolved by creatures ...more
Dec 27, 2012 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every five seconds, a child starves to death.

Ehrman uses this and other facts to argue that suffering is a huge problem. He then goes on to describe suffering as God's problem, in that the many explanations that the Bible uses to address the problem of suffering fall short, and/or are contradictory.

Every five seconds a child starves to death. Every five seconds.

I found my reaction to this book very similar to my reaction to theodicy arguments, though I did appreciate that this was very well gro
Jun 22, 2010 sonofabit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who question religion and blind faith
Shelves: non-fiction
Insightful look a the paradox of the existence of a loving God in a world full of suffering. Written by a former devout Christian inevitably turned agnostic while trying to reconcile the impossible question of Theodicy: defending God goodness despite the existence of evil and suffering.

Update July 1, 2010
I just finished the book today, and I really enjoyed it. I wish it had been a bit more "hard-hitting" towareds the people who blindly accept the common explanations for suffering (punishment fro
Nov 29, 2012 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book very much as I've always had issues w/ all the suffering I've seen in the world. I've read many of Ehrman's works now and find they are giving me a view of Christianity I didn't know existed. I am seeing the world/faith/God in a whole new light thanks to books like this. And my search for the truth is on going now not a settled matter that I thought it was in the past. The more I seek the more questions I have. And I will keep seeking truth. I just no longer believe that one re ...more
I enjoyed this book largely because Ehrman has come to the same conclusion regarding God (at least as he's conceived in the West) as I have, though by a far different route. He began life in a fairly religious family and actually became "born again" at one point. My home life was quite the opposite, and my flirtation with the Catholic priesthood at the age of 8 rested primarily on the fact that they got to wear these cool robes (that and the whole celibacy thing...)

But we both believe that if th
Kevin Milligan
May 03, 2012 Kevin Milligan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious
I have to admit I went into this book thinking it would tear religion apart and a part of me looked forward to this. As I read through the first several dozen pages I quickly picked up on the fact that this wasn't the point of this book. No, this book went beyond the adolescent argument of one's belief in God. This book goes after the important question of why we suffer and it does this very well. I learned passages of the bible of which some of them I knew loosely and I learned the different wa ...more
Jul 09, 2016 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ehrman is a brilliant writer, and I've read most of his books. His biblical scholarship and ability to make it accessible are both unexcelled. Ultimately, regarding the question of life and why people suffer, he comes down in favor of the view of Ecclesiastes: "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." To greatly simplify it (and perhaps still do it justice): We only go around once in life, so make the best of it. Suffer when you suffer; eat, drink, and be merry when you're not suffering. Don't make l ...more
Mar 18, 2008 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Discusses the various, sometimes contradictory, ways in which the Bible explains the existence and meaning of suffering. The author, no longer a believer, explores the reasons behind these explanations being formulated in their own time and evaluates their (in)adequacies generally and for thinking people today. His material on apocalyptic explanations and figures, including Jesus and Paul, was especially interesting to me.
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Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Professor Ehrman received both his Masters of Div
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