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Two Unsatisfactory Solutions to the Problem of Suffering

In this thread I have started to grapple with the question of how there can be a good, loving, and powerful God in charge of the world in the face of the massive suffering experienced by the human race – not just in general terms (“there sure is a lot of suffering out there!”) but in very specific concrete terms, as what individuals experience.   What we experience.  What you have experienced.  How does one make sense of personal suffering (especially ...

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The Kind of Suffering that is a Problem

I’m not completely sure when I first started realizing that the enormous amount of suffering in the world, so much of it completely gratuitous, is a problem for anyone who believes that there is a loving and powerful God who is in control of what happens.   Before reflecting on the evolution of my own thinking on the problem from years ago, let me stress a couple of points.

First I am talking about enormous suffering.   I am not talking about the ...

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Why I Was Afraid to Become an Agnostic

I started feeling the tug toward agnosticism sometime during my PhD program.  I remember clearly a particular moment, and it was, somewhat ironically, while I was serving as the pastor of the Princeton Baptist Church.

Even though I was incredibly busy at the time (I was taking a full load of graduate seminars, preparing to take my PhD exams, serving as a Teaching Assistant for a class taught by Bruce Metzger, AND serving as the pastor of the church) I enjoyed ...

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Why Even Bother Being a Liberal Christian?

Some people have asked me, and I have asked myself, why, as a liberal Christian, did I continue to “believe,” or at least to act as if I believed?   I didn’t think Jesus was literally born of a virgin and I wasn’t sure if he was physically raised from the dead.  I didn’t think that he existed before he came into the world, let alone that he had been God from eternity past.  I didn’t think there was a hell ...

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How Biblical Discrepancies Can Be Theologically Liberating for a Christian

I have been trying to show that the portrayal of Jesus going to his death in Mark’s Gospel is radically different from the portrayal in Luke’s Gospel.  I’ve been making this comparison for a purpose, in order to show as clearly as I can that reading the Bible historically – seeing its discrepancies – does not compromise its value.  On the contrary, as I came to see as a committed Christian who was no longer a conservative evangelical, this way ...

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A New Way of Reading the Bible

I have been discussing how I experienced a radical change in my Christian faith, from being a conservative evangelical to being a more open-minded and better informed Christian.  I can now begin to talk about how my new way of understanding the faith intersected with the scholarship I was involved with in pursuing the academic study of the Bible.

As a budding biblical scholar, I had come to see that the Bible was filled with problems.  As a believer with a ...

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More of What I Believed When I Was a Committed (non-fundamentalist) Christian

Yesterday I started explaining what it was I believed when I left fundamentalism but remained a committed Christian – one who realized that the Bible was not at all an infallible book but was still a person of faith.   I’ve never talked about any of this before in print, either on the blog or in any of my books.  One reason for wanting to do so now is that I think I must have given some people the false impression that ...

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What I Believed as a Committed but but non-Fundamentalist Christian

It is a little hard to encapsulate what I thought, believed, and practiced during those years when I had moved away from being a hard-core Bible-believing conservative (as I was in college) but remained a committed Christian (as I was for years after that).   The change did not come overnight so that one day I was one thing (a fundy) and the next I was something else (a liberal).  It was a gradual change marked by important moments and key ...

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Update on my Publication Plans

A couple of people have asked me about the status of my two books – the one that is finished and coming out, The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World, and the one I am now doing my research on The Invention of the Afterlife: A History of Heaven and Hell.

First, Triumph.  There is indeed news about this one, and I can’t decide if it’s good news or bad news.  It feels (emotionally) like it’s bad ...

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What I Came To Believe About the Bible

It is a little difficult for me to describe what I believed after I gave up on my view that the Bible was the inerrant revelation from God with no mistakes in it whatsoever.  In part that is because there was a long transition period, and over time my beliefs evolved as I studied more, talked with friends and colleagues more, encountered more ideas, thought more.

I was in the perfect situation for this kind of study and reflection.  I was ...

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