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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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How Did Judas Iscariot Die? Readers’ Mailbag June 18, 2017

Two questions in this week’s Readers’ mailbag.  The first concerns the very strange tradition about how Judas Iscariot actually died, as found in the writings of the early church father Papias; the second is about modern evangelical Christian biblical scholars: how do they deal with the fact that our manuscripts contain so many textual variants?  If you have a question, feel free to ask, and I’ll add it to the ever growing mailbag.

 

QUESTION:

Papias didn’t think very highly of Judas. I ...

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A Very Different Portrayal of Jesus’ Death

I am talking about how I came to understand and appreciate the Bible once I realized that there were widely different perspectives presented in one author or another – even when talking about the same thing.  The example I’m using is the Gospel portrayals of Jesus’ death.  In my previous post I laid out how Mark depicts it; here I will discuss how Luke does.  What I came to see (back when I was a graduate student, still a committed ...

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How a Non-Historical Account Can Be Meaningful: The Death of Jesus in Mark

I am now at a point where I can explain how I read the Bible when I was a committed Christian who was not, however, a conservative evangelical convinced that the Bible was a completely inerrant revelation from God without any discrepancies or differences in it.  As I have already indicated, my new way of reading of the Bible did not denigrate the Bible at all, as often happens when people realize there are mistakes in it and come away ...

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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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How Can Paul Say that Jesus Appeared to “The Twelve”?

Here is an interesting question from my Readers’ Mailbag connected to the tradition that Judas Iscariot killed himself soon after Jesus’ death, leaving only eleven disciples.  Did Paul know about this tradition?  Why does he seem to think there were still twelve disciples after the resurrection?

 

QUESTION:

What do you think about Paul saying that Jesus appeared to the “twelve” (Apostles) after his resurrection? (1 Cor. 15:5) I find this to be a big mistake; given the multiple gospel stories about Judas’s ...

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