Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Old fundamentalists never die

William Willimon, a Methodist bishop, reviews a book I will probably not bother to read, in which Bart Ehrman apparently explains why God is inadequate. His characterization of Ehrman may or may not be fair - I know little about him - but I can think of many to whom it would apply:
Ehrman proves the dictum that old fundamentalists never die; they just exchange fundamentals and continue in their unimaginative, closed-minded rigidity and simplicity. It's just too confusing to imagine that God's alleged omnipotence might be something other than what we think of as omnipotence or that God's love might be other than what we conceive of as love.
The book is apparently based on the old argument that the existence of suffering makes it impossible to believe in a good God. Later in the review:
Ehrman appears to have a low tolerance for intellectual ambiguity of any sort. He demands logic as he defines it, and finding the God of Jews and Christians to be caught in a web of contradictions and irrationality, he therefore dismisses God. Ehrman showed this inability to tolerate ambiguity or interpretive dissonance in his book Misquoting Jesus as well. Trouble is, ambiguity, dissonance and conflict are the usual way that scripture presents its peculiar truth. Ehrman seems to want to read scripture as argument, defense and apology when many of the texts he cites are testimony, praise and narrative. ....

.... Without much argument, he assumes that suffering is the whole point of the Bible. It seems not to occur to him that one reason not every part of the Bible is preoccupied with suffering and the few biblical discussions about suffering are unsatisfying is that unlike us, biblical people may have had more to think about than themselves. Perhaps they were unconvinced that the question of suffering is the only question worth asking. Possibly they were able to begin and end a discussion of something so perplexing without beginning and ending with themselves. [more]
Thanks to Justin Taylor for the reference.

The Christian Century

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