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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,971 ratings  ·  341 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
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Published February 19th 2008 by HarperAudio
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Start your review of God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer
Read this book.

I dont 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.

Ive 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 not
Paul Bryant
Oct 02, 2011 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
Nandakishore Varma
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Well, as an atheist, it was a foregone conclusion that I would agree with the author that suffering cannot be explained away in religious terms. (For me, there is no explanation needed also, as I consider the whole universe guided by random chance.) The question was whether I would like the book - and I like it a lot. Ehrman writes simple prose, explaining his viewpoints logically, and he is never polemical. He is a person who, after years of being faithful to the religion of his birth, has ...more
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 ...more
Sep 03, 2008 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 isnt 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 noting
Nov 30, 2010 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
Thomas Ray
If you were creating a universe, would you create it without suffering?

If you did, people would need neither intelligence nor compassion. And we wouldn't develop it. People for whom everything always goes their way tend to become insensitive and entitled. The most recent Supreme Court appointee is a case in point. Commonly, people who have suffered are kind and generous.

(With nothing to strive for or avoid, life likely could never have developed.)

Also, if everything were perfect all the time, we
Apr 27, 2008 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
Mar 18, 2008 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.
Alan Fuller
Mar 19, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, atheism
"...came to realize that I could no longer believe in the God of my tradition, and acknowledged that I was an agnostic: I dont know if there is a God; but I think that if there is one, he certainly isnt the one proclaimed by the Judeo-Christian tradition, the one who is actively and powerfully involved in this world." p. 4

Ehrman claims to be open to some god other than the Judeo-Christian one, but later he says;

"But there is no God up there, just above the sky, waiting to come down here or to
Apr 06, 2008 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,
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Theologically, this book is blasphemous and will send those who believe it to eternal suffering in hell.

However, it is a helpful book in a couple of ways:

1. It gives a pretty good summary of how critical "scholars" view the composition and content of the Scriptures.

2. It is an honest description of Ehrman's path from evangelicalism to atheism.

3. It gives a glimpse into how theodicy is viewed by unbelievers.

Other than the fact that Ehrman is an unbeliever, he has one primary weakness in his
Martin Beamer
As a pastor, I went in already hating the book. So, if I'm being honest, the author already had that against him as I went to read. However, before I bring anything negative up about the book, I do think the book was worth my read (and I think every pastor should read it) for a few reasons:

1) The author isn't antagonistic like many other authors toward Christians. He does, sometimes, say things off-handedly about the Bible and other facets of the Christian faith that I think are unnecessary
Ehrman is a very talented writer. In this book he tackles difficult topics in a way that should be easily understood by the average reader. Each chapter begins with real-life illustrations of sufferings. Some of these are from Ehrman's life, he gets very personal discussing his father's experiences in World War II, while some are from the news, such as hurricanes, tsunamis and mudslides. These illustrations then lead into a discussion of the biblical data, with each chapter looking at a ...more
Erik Graff
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: religion
Ehrman grew up a conservative Christian, breaking with the faith as a result, he says, of serious biblical study and of the theodicy problem. Not having had such a background, I look at the matter as an outsider, trying to understand how many Christians, Moslems, Jews and Zoroastrians attempt to reconcile human suffering with their notions of a Creator. As ever, Ehrman is a pleasure to read, his exposition of biblical theodicies both sensitive and clear. I do think, however, that he leaves out ...more
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
Jul 01, 2011 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
Apr 25, 2008 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 ...more
David H.
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm not religious, but I've been interested in Biblical archeology and history for a while (I even took a semester in college where I got to translate passages from the New Testament from Greek into English, which was fun). I'd previously read Ehrman's Lost Christianities and thought it was great, so I finally got around to another book by him.

God's Problem is a lot more personal a book than I was expecting from the author, as it details some of the reasoning behind his loss of faith (he had
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 ...more
Jun 24, 2011 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
Cheryl (Bored in Vernal)
Now that I have finished reading God's Problem, I see that the entire work serves as an apology for why Bart Ehrman can no longer believe in the Christian faith. Ehrman, a fundamentalist born-again Christian, feels hurt and betrayed that the Bible is contradictory. Instead of seeing scripture as a collection of different people's attempts to make sense of God, (which is how I like to look at it), he points out its failure to present a cohesive answer to the question of why suffering exists. He ...more
Clif Hostetler
May 19, 2008 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
Jul 09, 2016 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 ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit windy and unnecessarily verbose, mostly by way of redundancy. But overall good. Great finishing line, "just because we don't have the answer to suffering doesn't mean that we cannot have a response to it." Go ye and do likewise.
Rob Lund
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
It's sort of telling that the sections I skimmed the most were the direct references from the Bible that Bart very meticulously pours over. When he would veer back into personal anecdotes or actual examples (rather than just hypotheticals) of human suffering, that's when I would tune back in with interest.

I spent my entire childhood and young adulthood in Sunday Schools and church services, enough to hear all those old Bible stories 10 times over. So really, an exhaustive look into the
Brittany Schultz
Bart Ehrman very clearly knows biblical scripture and is very adept at describing and explaining the various biblical answers for suffering. However, I found the book disorganized and poorly argued for a topic that should be relatively easy to dissect and present for someone so well versed. Ive heard Ehrman debate theological views of suffering and was always impressed, but his book left me wanting more. ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ehrman writes about what he sees as the fundamental problems with the theology of suffering that permeates Christianity. As always, his writing is thoughtful and insightful. Whether one agrees with him or not (though on the whole I do), the problem is one that anyone who is a Christian or who comes into Christians in a religious context should consider.

Highly recommended.
John Willis
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book written by a former pastor, who is now agnostic. I enjoyed his perspectives on suffering. I love his view at the end that we can all do so much more to help with the suffering, poverty, income inequality, etc, etc, etc, than what it seems that we as a nation of Christians actually do.
Oct 04, 2011 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
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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

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