Last night my wife let me go out of the house for a few hours to watch a debate between Dinesh D’Souza and Bart Ehrman. I’ve read Ehrman’s classic “Text of the New Testament” and have watched D’Souza a bunch, so I was excited to see these blokes go at it. They were debating God and the Problem of Suffering.
Not only was I intrigued by the people, and excited that the debate was about 5 minutes from my apartment, but also the topic is, in my opinion, super important. Ever since my little brother died, I’ve probably read 1-2 books per month on the topic of God and suffering. When David died, my whole world was rocked, and ever since I have been seeking God on the topic of pain, suffering, horror, and death.
Apparently Bart Ehrman, who is a top-notch scholar turned sour, was all about Jesus until he had to teach a class in the 80s about the Biblical answers to suffering. Upon completion of teaching this class, he decided he would be agnostic because he saw conflictions in the Biblical message(s) towards the topic of suffering. Basically, his whole thing is, “a good God would never want us to suffer.” Dinesh was playing the other side, defending our current situation and pronouncing that God is still good amidst it all.
Let me share my favorite aspect of each speaker, as well as what I thought were their respective greatest weaknesses.
1. Favorite aspect of Dinesh’s presentation: His great oration skills, his ability to think well on his feet, and his twisted explanation of the anthropic principle. In defending some of the evils in the world, Dinesh not only reminded the crowd that evil cannot always be blamed on God – in fact, God gave us free will and with this free will we decide to make bad choices which hurt other people. He also argued that because of geology we understand the importance of tecnonic plates, which not only help preserve life but also wreak havoc on our world by producing natural disasters. So the very situation of natural evil is also within the framework of what is necessary for human life in its very existence. I’ve never heard someone use geology in relation to the defense of God amidst natural disasters, and this new perspective was interesting for me.
2. Favorite aspect of Ehrman – His passion. He was really upset during the rebuttal period. He kept asking, “Why” about 10 different ways. Why doesn’t God answer our prayers? Why does all this evil happen? Why can we not answer our deepest questions, etc? He really cared about this subject, and understandably since his whole system of belief hinges on the answers to this question.
Where Dinesh failed – In his conclusion, he said that the Bible does not try to prove itself, but rather it makes declarative statements. And so we must not look to the Bible for answers of proof to our questions. Here, I believe there was a huge disconnect between him and the audience. He was saying it was wrong to look to the Bible for answers, and we should be like Job, and just lay down in submission. Not only do I think this is untrue, I think this is disgustingly unattractive. So my generation, who knows of the evil in our world, are not supposed to wrestle with it? Ultimately, as Ehrman said, Dinesh intellectualized the situation, and I agree. Although its possible to defend God in this world, we must do so without committing emotional amnesia/suicide.
Where Ehrman failed – In his conclusion, he gave his “vision” for what the world should look like. Essentially, it was 3 minutes of selfish, individualistic, western hedonism. What I don’t think he realized is that it had no resonation with me nor with anyone around me. He was saying, “we should just be happy, live for the moment, eat unhealthy food, have sex and babies, help other people…etc” My generation realizes this answer doesn’t work, especially within his very relative framework. He wants us to live according to his ideal world, but his ideal world wouldn’t work since there is no framework nor guideline for it. My generation realizes we need something more, and Ehrman is stuck in the past thinking what we’ve tried will somehow work in the future. So, in the end, Ehrman was not persuasive. Ehrman was also on the other side of the spectrum. Although highly emotional, he had no compelling intellectual arguments and so thus he had no backing to what he said.
Thats it for now, I’m happy to talk more about the debate, but theres a few nuggets for the moment.