April 15, 2010

Boasting in the Goodness of the Lord (And a Sobering School Update from Alameda County)

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Watch the Debate Live Here

47 Comments
  1. One amazing part of God’s goodness can be found in Leviticus 11! God loves us SO MUCH that He even wants us to be HEALTHY and HOLY – just imagine that!!!!!!!!!!

    One big reason for suffering is our love for license!! Yes, it’s time to face the Truth. Our suffering is man-made!

  2. Dr. Ehrman’s has a fundamental flaw in his thinking. He literally gave lists of all the evil things he sees in the world. He speaks passionately about how evil these things are. Yet he has no basis for calling anything OBJECTIVELY evil. When confronted with this problem, he simply stated that he did not need God to know good and evil. He obviously missed the point on a philosophical level. He can have an OPINION about what is evil, but he has no grounds for saying that anyone else should share that opinion. If someone arises who kills children for sport, all Ehrman can say is that he does not like such action, but he cannot OBJECTIVELY decry such actions as there is no objective ground to refer to. This is an amazing blind spot that he shares with the likes of Bertram Russell who with the right hand told us there is no objective basis for morals and with the left hand listed all sorts of things he found to be absolutely wrong (e.g. the notion of hell).

    The point is that moral laws are prescriptive not descriptive and as Norman Geisler says, every prescription requires a prescriber. If there is no ground for OBJECTIVE morals, then the complaint about evil collapses or at least is reduced to a complaint of “I don’t like it”. You can’t have it both ways. Either there really is objective evil in the world (and hence an objective standard by which to call something evil) or else evil is just a matter of personal taste and as such one might as well argue that he doesn’t like broccoli and doesn’t believe anyone else should either.

  3. Dr. Brown, Interesting debate but Ehrman just argued the same ground covered by other atheists. His use of the Bible is fundamentally flawed.

    1. His argument against God’s existence neglects the fact that there is also much good being done in the world. If evil gives evidence of God’s non-existence, then by the same token, goodness should give evidence that God exists. (It seems the problem is that evil is far more impacting than good; it touches the mind and emotions at a much deeper level than the good that one experiences).

    2. He clearly takes his pick of scripture, especially with Ecclesiastes. Bart states he one ought to follow the conclusion that the Preacher makes, that is, to “eat, drink, and be merry” or live well. However, that was not the Preacher’s conslusion in the face of life’s vanity. His conlcusion was to, basically, live for God.

    3. If I remember correctly, Ehrman affirms a proper demonstration of God’s goodness is found in the deliverance of Israel Exodus at in the crucifixion of Christ for sin. He seemed to want God to act today consistent with this picture of Him. However, he fails to note that Israel’s deliverance was brought about by the killling of all the first-born in Egypt and that Jesus’ birth resulted indirectly in the putting to death of babies under 2 years of age by the sword. Suffering seemed to have accompanied delievrance. Is that the way Ehrman wants God to work today?

    4. And, of course, like so many other atheistic arguments that one does not have to be a theists to know right from wrong, he confuses subjective preferences with objective moral standards and I am amazed that so many so-called philosophers make this error).

    My only disappointment was when the exchanges started to get personal involving how much good one or the other has done to alleviate suffering. Although, it is a tempting challenge to make, it would have been better to narrate historical cases or evidence based on history of the Christian’s predominance in acts of charity towards those suffering in comparison to what history records with respect to atheists rather then each debater challenging the other’s genuine concern for the suffering by what they are presently doing or have done.

    In no way can Ehrman be faulted with bringing up how Christians have responded to those who suffer but it does reflect his personal experience. As such, it is no evidence against the existence of God. The existence of evil in no way gives proof that God – a good God – does not exist. Ehrman is interpreting his experience, like we all do; unfortunately, his experience is rebutted by the experience of others who, through suffering, have been drawn to a greater realization of God’s goodness.

    Another disappointment, I respectfully submit, was in Dr. Brown’s affirmination of suffering as a tool God uses to teach us things or draw us cloise to Him. Like a pendulum, suffering can turn a person either way (as Ehrman is an example of one way to take and his mother (from what Dr. Brown stated) the other; the former to the way of unbelief, the latter, to greater trust).

    It is not suffering in and of itself that draws us to God but His goodness manifested while in the suffering. Suffering in and of itself can teach us only one thing…that it hurts. Suffering is redemptive only by the manifestation of divine goodness working out our good.

    I’ll need to listen to the debate again. For sure, it was a passionate debate. When I do, I just may post more observations on it.

    One more thing, I think Erhman views God from the Calvinistic perspective and, if so, it is quite understandable (and perhaps, justified) for him to rail against that kind of God.

    (Just wondering if Bart is, in his own way…and unconsiously…attempting to maintain God’s integrity; a God who permits or acts in ways that result in great suffering is intolerable to his thinking since he had been taught that “God id good”. It is better for God not to exist than to exist in seeming indifference, at the least, to the tragedies of men.)

  4. A few more thoughts on the debate:

    1. Dr. Ehrman made the point that Job and thus man should have the right to question God such that God can justify His actions. This is reminiscent of the arguments by J.S. Mill, where he in essence says that God should go to jail for his crimes. This is a category mistake; it puts God and man in the same position. Man is God’s creation and thus God is sovereign over man. It is a category mistake to make the argument that if it is wrong for man to kill, it is wrong for God to kill. Since man does not create life, he has no right to take it, but since God created life He does have the right to take it. Further, unlike man, if God takes a life, He can guarantee ultimate justice and fairness in this decision. Last, in order to judge God, one needs a standard beyond Him to judge Him by. While it may be contrary to one’s personal taste that God took the lives of Job’s children, one cannot really impugn the nature of God and say that this was wrong, without having an OBJECTIVE standard by which to judge God. And from whence did this standard come from?

    2. It is interesting that Ehrman gives away large sums of money for the good of humanity. Ehrman says that one does not need to believe in God to fight evil. While atheists can be quite moral, the real question is if they can justify the moral standard by which they live. Ehrman is as they say living off of borrowed capital. While he has rejected Christianity, he has kept Christian ethics. If there is no ultimate meaner then there is no ultimate meaning to life. Nietzsche and Sartre both recognized this. Sartre once said something to the effect that it matters not if one is a leader of nations or a drunk in a bar, in the end it all comes out the same. While Ehrman encourages us to perform noble acts to reduce suffering of our fellow man—what’s the point? If there is no afterlife, if there is no ultimate meaning, then it is just as logical to become totally self serving. Why should I drink less wine and drive a less luxurious car to send money to save lives that don’t have any ultimate meaning anyway? If Ehrman could cast aside his Christian baggage, he could see the logical out workings of a world without God is pure egocentrism.

    3. Ehrman confuses the concepts of innocent suffering and unjustifiable suffering. Innocent suffering can at times be justifiable for a greater good. While Jesus is the ultimate example of innocent suffering, His suffering and death were certainly not unjustifiable. Indeed, His death justified all who believe in Him. The apostles who were martyred may be viewed as innocent suffering, but their deaths were anything but unjustifiable. There deaths constitute one of the strongest apologetic arguments for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, as one does not suffer and die for a lie. In more recent history Jim Elliot in the 1950’s was another innocent victim, but his death resulted in the saving countless lives among the Auca Indians. Further, his story has inspired the faith of many. The only way for Ehrman to decry innocent suffering is to say categorically that it is unjustifiable. But to know this one would have to be God. Thus, one would have to be God in order to make the argument from innocent suffering that there is no God.

    .

  5. Oh man…hey, if you got doubles or some you don’t need, think of me (it’s the only time you’ll find I beg, when I’m begging for books).

    Hey, Dr. Brown, talking about books…there’s two of them that are pretty basic but very good regarding God and evil, both by a Christian, Michael L. Peterson of Asbury College. Here’s the link to them on Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/God-Evil-Introduction-Michael-Peterson/dp/0813328497/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271474572&sr=8-1

    http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Christian-God-Michael-Peterson/dp/0801070708/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271474656&sr=1-2

    At the end of one book, his closing statement reads, “…Christian theism is a conceptually and experientially adequate world-and-life view, more adequate than alternative views.”

    These books are very short (the first is 154 pages, the latter, 126) but scholarly and both provide a thorough although concise analysis of the problem of God and evil. You probably have books galore on this issue, nevertheless, I think these two are very important books to read on the subject.

    May God continue to bless your efforts to glorify in his name…

  6. So many things brought out in this debate to mull over… One thing that keeps sticking in my mind though is when at his closing remarks, Dr. Ehrman said, enjoy life, “Life is a gift.” — that word, “gift” — doesn’t it imply a giver? How could someone who doesn’t believe in a Giver of Life call life “a gift” at all? I’d like to understand where he was coming from there.

    Also thinking about the “redemptive value of suffering” — I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t experienced the consequences of my past sins, which were confusion, heartache, despair, a sense of guilt and separation from God (I could go on) — and then experienced the total forgiveness of sins through Jesus’s mercy and love, and the very real sense of deep spiritual cleansing through that, and then experienced the desire to forgive as I have been forgiven, and known the wonderful liberation from the hold of the past which that brought about, and the renewal of life itself which followed and continues to this day, manifesting in healed relationships — and relationships of healing — would I really appreciate the gospel?? Do we have to go through some kind of fire or ordeal to really appreciate the depths of God’s love, manifested in New Covenant forgiveness? Jeremiah 31:34 “…For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” I’ve known people who seem to do no real wrong, lead “normal” lives, and who have no apparent interest in God or spirituality. They seem somewhat fatuous, complacent — they don’t know the depths of sin, but they don’t know the power, either, of God’s redemption. Since they don’t know the power, they can’t conceive of it, and so it seems senseless to them.

    Dr. Ehrman asserts that he doesn’t need a belief in the God of the Bible to have a moral code. I think he’s taking for granted the moral code he has inherited as a twenty-first century person; reaping the benefits to society of the Bible’s influence on morality thus far. I’m sure if he were to examine what he considers to be his current morals, he’d find that they have been shaped by the Bible ~ if there were no Bible to inform the world all these centuries, what would Dr. Ehrman’s morals (or anyone’s) realistically be today? Of course, we can’t really know that since we can only imagine a world without the Bible’s moral guidance; but imagining that, I’d bet they would not bear much resemblance to the ones he holds now. In other words, I think he is much more indebted to the Bible’s morality than he’s willing to acknowledge.

  7. Dr. Brown did a superb job of “defending the faith” — it far exceeded anything I was prepared for. He was in top form and obviously well-equipped by the Holy Spirit ~ his opponent, a man of impressive scholarly credentials, also, rantingly accused God in shrill, strident tones, taking passages out of their context to do so, and offering, ultimately, what struck me as a thin, and meager philosophy in exchange.

    Without the power of the Holy Spirit, I know from personal experience, without the taking on of the divine nature which redemption imparts, we cannot do the noble things we’d like to do. Ehrman would argue that we’ve had that now for centuries, and we’ve still failed miserably. As a scholar it should be obvious to him that what the world “had” was not accessible to everyone, and of those who had it, how deeply did they understand it? How deep, for example, was Constantine’s embrace of Jesus’ teachings? When the Protestant Reformation wrested the holy texts from the powers at Rome, how long before it was really widely studied? I’d say the church is becoming much more mature and much more able to do what it is intended for.

    One thing which always tempers my assessment of the damage which God can inflict on the human body — is that as the designer, architect, creator — he can also rebuild and heal. He wants to do this, He makes that clear over and over, He does what He says He will, and so when the Spirit says, “No eye has seen nor ear has heard what God has prepared for those who love Him,” (1 Cor. 2:9) and “And whereof from of old men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen a God beside Thee, who worketh for him that waiteth for Him.” (Isaiah 64:3), we do not believe blindly, but we believe in He whose track record shows that He is trustworthy.

  8. Ruth,

    You said:

    “I’ve known people who seem to do no real wrong, lead “normal” lives, and who have no apparent interest in God or spirituality. They seem somewhat fatuous, complacent — they don’t know the depths of sin, but they don’t know the power, either, of God’s redemption. Since they don’t know the power, they can’t conceive of it, and so it seems senseless to them.”

    As I thought about your point, I quickly realized that I know many churched people [I live in the “Bible Belt”] that are leading their lives exactly as you describe here. They are outwardly “good”, are “believers” in the sense that they believe Jesus died for their sins, but there is almost zero interest in personal growth in the Lord…no passion to know Him…no deep joy at being forgiven…no pursuit of holiness in their lives.

    Is this “holding to a form of Godliness but denying its power”?

    God bless.

  9. Ruth, I think the points you make about the debate and Dr.Ehrman are very good.I heard Dr. Brown say once that the morals of are unsaved grandparents were better than many in the church today.I agree the morals Dr.Ehrman does have, as well as most others are shaped by the Bible.I have an uncle who says he does’nt believe in God.His son died some years ago and I believe he blames God.It’s a shame,if instead he would turn God, he would be helped so much.I find it hard to believe that anyone is truly an atheist.That deep down they believe in God.

  10. Larry, I would consider your conclusion to be astute.

    Bob, I know what you mean — it seems impossible that anyone could NOT believe — we see that nature proclaims His handiwork, and He is always reaching out through people and through His Spirit alone, always calling. How someone can stay in denial or refusal is just so incredible!

    But you may be right: deep down, in their heart of hearts, they may believe. Belief we know is not enough, for Scripture tells us that even the demons believe (and of course, being spirits, they know). I do hope that your uncle will not harden his heart any longer; May God bless him; he could be receiving hope and solace, and moreover, a renewed life. What we forfeit when we turn aside from God is just so immense, and really, even beyond our imagining. I appreciated Dr. Brown reading from Dr. Ehrman’s own book about how he sometimes awakens in the middle of the night “in a cold sweat.” I hope and pray that Dr. Ehrman will also recognize what his denial of God is costing, not only him, but those whom he is misleading…

  11. I thought Erhman brought up an interesting point when he contrasted parts of the Bible that seem to lack harmony. For example many, have found comfort in reciting and claiming the promises found in Psalms (e.g. Psalm 23) yet both within the Bible itself and in our everyday experience, the promised comfort does not always materialize (e.g. the prophet Jeremiah a righteous man had a life few would envy). My question is, are such promises to be interpreted just corporately? For example: Deut. 20:1 it says “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.” However, Deut 20:5 says “The officers also shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Who is the man that has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would dedicate it.” With similar exhortations in the next few verses. Thus, on one hand God tells his people not to be afraid and on the other hand he tells them that some may die. So corporately they win as a nation, but as individuals they may die. I see a similar pattern elsewhere, where as a nation Israel is important and survives, but the individual may perish. Any thoughts?

  12. S. Johnson,

    Actually, I felt the Prov vs. Ecclesiastes question was Bart’s best, and it’s a valid one that all of us have to deal with. In terms of Proverbs, I don’t see the promises as primarily corporate, so I view the apparent contradiction like this: I, as a believer, take Proverbs to mean exactly what it says without question for my own life, convinced that if I follow the prescriptive wisdom there, I will see the promised results. At the same time, I recognize that sometimes things may happen that seem (on the surface, at least), to violate that norm, and books like Job and Ecclesiastes are in the Word to tell us that very thing.

    So, I take Proverbs as the rule and other verses as dealing with the apparent exceptions to the rule, knowing that from a divine viewpoint God inspired both while on a human viewpoint, those embrace these books as canonical saw them as complimentary rather than contradictory.

  13. Let’s praise the Lord.

    God knows the times and seasons that he has put in his power, whether a nation should be afraid, or whether a nation should be at peace.

    He has created the waster to destroy (Isaiah 54:16) and sometimes the enemies of his people are to be the rod of his anger. (Isaiah 10:5)

    But though it all, God delivers. He delivers all who will come to him and hear his voice, to such as repent of their sins, who come to him to be healed.

    A man that confesses that life is a gift, has said he believes in God. By our own words we shall be judged.

    Jesus knew the thoughts of Pilate didn’t he? Though we know who Jesus is, we have to stand by faith don’t we? Everyone who was near to the cross needed forgiveness… Pilate, the disciples, the crowd, the thieves, …

    Everyone made mistakes at the cross but Jesus, it seems to me.

  14. Maybe Mary did OK at the cross, and maybe John, so I really don’t know if everyone failed at the cross but Jesus, though we all have at some time or another, but Jesus didn’t.

    Job’s 3 friends were of the opinion that Job had sinned but couldn’t make a sure case of it. I don’t want to be like that do I?

  15. Nelson,

    One question for you. You wrote, “Another disappointment, I respectfully submit, was in Dr. Brown’s affirmination of suffering as a tool God uses to teach us things or draw us cloise to Him.”

    When did I specifically say that? What I did say was that there can be a redemptive side to suffering and that can God bring life out of death or good out of evil, also changing us positively through suffering — and thus some suffering is used redemptively.

    Do you differ with this assessment?

  16. I majored in history, and what it has taught me is how humans have wronged humans throughout the ages, thus creating so much suffering…

    The problems of the so-called “third world,” which at times really depress me, have their origins in actions by others who sought to dominate people there and exploit their resources, leaving them robbed and poor. And there are still exploitative practices today that go unchecked.

    There are so many injustices of mankind to mankind that I know God in his justice foresaw and so made a plan for true and ultimate redemption. God’s teachings through the Holy Scriptures repudiate greed, graft, theft, murder, selfishness — so even though people have done awful things in His Name, He never backed that, and He’s not backing it now.

    When Jesus said, “Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” it is not the Hindu philiosphy of “karma” which would have us believe that sufferers deserve to suffer. The reality is that there are innocent victims of others’ greed and selfishness. And God in His justice knows all about it.

    It’s just unthinkable to me that the mess humankind has created on earth is now only up to us to solve. I just don’t have that kind of faith in mankind! I’ve seen enough of what people can do, and while many can be truly wonderful, too many are too overwhelmed, apathetic, self-absorbed, and materialistic to solve the huge problems we now have on earth.

    If we could just share with one another — but as soon as someone says that, someone else is shouting, “No, that’s socialism!” God didn’t give us a political ideology, did He? I know some people really believe He gave us the “free market.” If you look at the historical proponents of the “free market,” by the way, you’ll find people like the famous atheist, Ayn Rand, who loved capitalism so much, she always wore a dollar sign as a brooch, and at her funeral, a six-foot-tall dollar sign stood next to her coffin. (See “Greenspan: The Man Behind Money” by Justin Martin, 2001)

    Didn’t God just give us some pretty simple principles to live by? And wasn’t “love one another” right up there at the top of the list? And doesn’t that mean “everybody”? regardless of race or wealth or creed? Why is that just so hard for some to grasp? Is it just too simple?

    The admonition to love has a way of leveling everyone and vanity doesn’t want that: in their vanity, people want to feel superior to others, and certain aspects of culture in the west actually fan the flames of that vanity. God teaches us a better way: for us to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with Him.

  17. Isn’t suffering a result of sin? Can we sin and not suffer for it?
    I certainly hope not. If the stick and the carrot ever get turned around we would be tempted to go in the wrong direction.

    There are consequences for sin and that goes for a man or a nation. (Job 34:29)

    Because there is sin in the world we need the cross and it’s message for redemption. Yes there is suffering at the cross.

    Yes God does deliver us from suffering. Yes there will be a time when we will experience no more human suffering.

    I’m glad I don’t always know what the sins are that are the cause of suffering. Who could bear it but Jesus?

    If this world were now changed, so much so, that there was no longer any sin in it, would there still be human suffering?

  18. That’s a good question, Ray. I believe if people everywhere simply refused to sin or participate in any one else’s sin, it would be a transformed world, eventually becoming a wonderful place for everyone in it.

    But while the sinner himself usually suffers to one degree or another, including to the degree that he/she listens to their own conscience convicting them, there are also circumstances when innocent people suffer because of, not in any substitutionary sense, but because of the wrongful actions of others. And those that do the exploiting sometimes go on living lives of ease, oblivious to the pain they’ve left in their wake.

    I couldn’t bear this life if I really believed God would not requite unforgiven sin at some future point. There appears to be so little justice in man, and what justice we’ve seen in man seems to be predicated upon his belief in some higher standard, that we continue to look to God for true and ultimate justice.

    Jesus went to the cross to provide a way for mankind to live without sin, so how much more convicted are we if we despise that cross and all it represents? Yet even so, there will be a Day of Judgement for all because only God can see the secret things which humans successfully hide from each other.

    We look to God for perfect justice; He is the true hope of suffering humanity. He foreknew His children would come to that conclusion. And like a parent who allows a willful child to experience the consequences of rebellious actions to teach respect for parental wisdom, He knew we would hunger and thirst for His righteousness, gladly submitting to His reign, even calling, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”

  19. Dr. Brown,

    Follow up on your response. Does this mean we should not take the words of Psalms in the sense of personal promises? Can one take comfort in general principles to which exceptions occur? When darkness falls that is so black that there seems no way out, does one look to the word of God for that glimmer of hope, but have in the back of one’s mind, I just might be the exception to the general rule?

    And if there are exceptions to “inspired” general principles, are there also exceptions to salvific principles and promises as well?

  20. We need to pray for Dr. Ehrman. I know what it is like to put all hope in the things of this world instead of Jesus and be disappointed at the point of hardening my heart and calling God a liar. In my opinion Dr. Ehrman has a heart problem. We should pray that he will hear God’s voice. I think the question is: Where do you put your hope? I couldn’t bear this life on earth if it was all there is. Now my heart gets fluttery and excited just thinking about what is to come.

  21. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy with Jesus, than to trust and obey.

    Yes, it’s a nursery-song. But it is actually profoundly true. And the simplicity of such a truth is mocked and derided by those who want to be thought sophisticated.

    But it is solid. We listen, trust, and obey, and leave it all to Him who knows. Because we do walk blind and we can’t see what’s around the bend; but because He does, we can trust His sight to guide us. After trust, we obey, and work for Him, at His leading from within.

    Surrender, Thomas. It’s the way. As Dylan wrote, “Surrender your crown…on this blood-stained ground…take off your mask.”

  22. Dr. Brown,

    I agree with your assessment; thanks for clarifying your position for me (I thought I may have heard wrong; I need to listen to the debate again). It’s just that many times when I hear Christians discuss suffering, it’s put in such a way that makes it seem as if God caused the suffering for a specific purpose. This was the objection (I believe) Ehrman had against God’s existence. I did not hear a refutation that, in the first place, God did not cause the suffering.

    I need a better unbderstaning of this: in the Hebrew Scriptures, God is not the cause of Israel’s sufferings under the cruelty of the conquering Gentile nations, however, He has permitted it (and, perhaps overseeing its extent) as judgment against Israel’s apostasy. That this is a divine judgment and not an “evil” per se on God’s part, I accept and do not consider God acting in an evil way or being causal. However, I don’t know if I am thoroughly understanding and able to adequately explain this point with others. Especially, with the argument I’ve heard posed against divine permission, that if one permits an evil to occur that he can stop, that person is as guilty as the one who commits the evil.

    If you can clarify this for me or if suggest a good book on this specific subject, I’d really appreciate it.

    And thanks for putting me on the top of your list!!

  23. Zvi, I personally suffered severely from a disease as a child, and medical doctors didn’t expect me to live long with it. When I finally was facing these facts when I was 15 years old, I prayed, and Yeshua showed me a way out of my situation – and also a way out of today’s medical system.

    Not only do I enjoy a good health today at age 35, but I can also show others a way out of their situations. And that all without health insurance!! (I’ve had health insurance until I was 27, but never was using it between age 15 and age 27 – so at 27 I quit it).

  24. Hello Zvi,

    I look back at the things I suffered as a child at the hands of adults and I know that we live in a fallen world and as long as I am in the world I will be affected by sin. We are not robots but have choices. I have grown and become more like Jesus because of my sufferings. Jesus can identify with me, I can identify with Him, I can identify with other people, and I can tell others about Jesus. The best part about it is God is glorified through my life and I get to boast in Him. When I was a child and early adult, I thought that God abandoned me or hated me because I suffered as a child. Now I see that He was allowing these things to happen. He was doing something awesome that I just could not see at the time. Now I see.

  25. So why do people suffer health-wise today? Because they mess around with this world. Very simple answer. Do we want to blame G-d now, because He gave us free will and free choice? When I finally saw that I myself had a free choice and did not have to serve Caesar, I started to get healthy again, with Yeshua’s help – and with His help I’m able today to help others today 🙂 It’s all by choice. I cannot choose to live in a pollution-free world because we don’t have one today – but I can choose to change it for the better!

  26. I believe that God does not want us to suffer, but that He allows it because He gave us free will. I think that Deut. 28 is a good example of the consequence of taking the wrong path. For example, if a father decides to live a life of poverty and distant from God, his son and even grandchildren will suffer to some extent, because of that decision even though they did not make that decision themselves. The abandonment of a baby in a dumpster to die is in fact unfair and may seem that God is apathetic, but we have to understand that the mom made that decision and the baby suffered for that. I restate, it’s because of the fall of man and the decision to live a life away from God.

    I also believe that the learning from suffering is the good that He brings out of that and not that He meant for that person to suffer.

    Let us not forget that in Yeshua we have hope and eternal salvation and living by his commandments and instruction will align our lives with the Almighty!

  27. Very well said Raul. I teach 2nd graders at church and some of them are going through difficult times. One has a mother who has fourth degree breast cancer. Another has a mother who is a drug addict and her father left and now she lives with her great aunt. Another girl is terribly made fun of every day at school because she is not in the “cool” crowd. A boy has a brother who overdosed on drugs and died. We are on the subject of suffering right now in our studies.

  28. Dr. Brown;

    Never heard back from you regarding my question above on Biblical promises as general principles. Is there a solution?

  29. Dr. Brown (or whoever), can you explain Mat 24:34?

    Mat 24:34
    Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

  30. Marcella;

    This is pretty straight forward.

    1. The word “generation” in Greek can mean race. So it could be taken as Jesus saying the Jewish people as a nation would not pass away before His return.
    2. Generation could refer to the people who are alive WHEN THE EVENTS HE referred to occured. That is, generation could refer to the future generation that lives at the time when Jesus’ predictions come true.

    In either case Ehrman’s point that Jesus was wrong does not follow.

  31. Marcella;

    For what it is worth there are many Apparent contradictions that have been brought up. All of these have a solution. A good resource is “The Big Book of Bible Difficulties” by Geisler and Howe.

  32. I enjoyed the debate very much. I feel that Dr. Brown answered Dr. Ehrman’s objections handily, and decisively. I praise God for the work He has done in your life , Dr. Brown and in the lives that have He has reached through your ministry and teachings.
    I was a little disappointed at Dr.Brown’s repsone to one of Dr. Ehrman’s questions though. In Dr. ehrman’s last line of questions, he made what I believe to be a major contextual mistake by bringing up God’s final judgement in a debate about suffering. By my understanding, the Final Judgement is the final solution for sin, not suffering. I feel that Dr. Ehrman has confused these two issues, as being one in the same, because of the eternal suffering that awaits unrepentant sinners. While eliminating sin will in turn eliminate the suffering caused by sin, the judgement of God for sin is exactly that. He argues that an eternity of suffering is an unjust punishment for any finite amount of sin, and that is entirely missing the entire point of God’s mercy. I feel that what Dr. Ehrman fails (willingly or unwillingly, I don’t know) to accept is that we are all fallen, all fall short of God’s glory, yet while we may endure a lifetime of suffering in this life, through He has expressed His love for us in a way that offers a period of joy and peace amongst the pain and dispair of this world and then an eternity of joy and peace in His kingdom, absent of pain and dispair, to those who will acknowledge Him and His Son, Jesus as Lord over their lives here. The alternative for those who reject His grace and mercy while in this life is just as eternal, and equally suited to their choice. To say that this is in any way unfair, or unjust, reveals an actual skewed sense of morality and justice on Dr. Ehrman’s part. I would have like to have seen this pointed out by Dr. Brown.

  33. S. Johnson and Marcella,

    Actually, I would not argue for the “race” meaning of genea in Matt 24:34, although it is possible. For my answer to that question, see vol. 4, 5.22.

  34. S. Johnson,

    I just spotted your follow up question in which you ask: “Does this mean we should not take the words of Psalms in the sense of personal promises? Can one take comfort in general principles to which exceptions occur? When darkness falls that is so black that there seems no way out, does one look to the word of God for that glimmer of hope, but have in the back of one’s mind, I just might be the exception to the general rule?

    “And if there are exceptions to “inspired” general principles, are there also exceptions to salvific principles and promises as well?”

    Great question!

    First, as an individual believer reading the Psalms or Proverbs, I take every word, where relevant, as a personal promise for me, believing it to be 100% true.

    Second, I also recognize that Proverbs presents true principles as well as promises, hence my “general rule” concept.

    Third, when everything seems to go against the realization of those promises, I’m reminded of books like Job that tell me that, it may appear for a season as if the promises are not true, but hang on, keep believing, don’t change your theology, and sooner or later, you’ll find the promises to be utterly true.

  35. Wow . . . at the risk of sounding simplistic – that is one angry man! I found myself praying for him even as I was watching after the fact.

    An amazing debate and what I appreciated the most was the follow-up given by you, Dr. Brown, as you answered his questions, taking him beyond his short-fallen conclusions. It was good teaching/learning time for me.

    Bless you : )

  36. Dr. Brown;

    Thanks for your reply. As I reading some of the Psalms today, it occurred to me that David, wrote many of his Psalms on the faithfulness of God, not kicking back in the kingdom, but while on the run. Thus, David must have had a longer range vision of Gods faithfulness.

    By the way I am a little over half way through your book volume 5 in Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. It is a really great book. I have read the entire series (including many many end note) and find the whole work to be excellent. I have read a number of your other books, but in my mind this series is the best.

  37. For anyone who is interested in the problem of evil a great resource is Norman Geisler’s book “THE ROOTS OF EVIL”. I hear there is an updated version in the works. It is a fairly systematic approach to the problem.

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