Apocalypticism in a Modern Idiom

As I pointed out some weeks ago on the blog, in the mid to late 1980s, as a liberal Christian, I was fully aware that the Bible was filled with mythological views that could no longer be accepted as literal truths but had to be translated into a modern idiom if they were to have any relevance.  And I thought that the Bible did have relevance.  But not in its literal sense.

This made interpretation of the Bible an extremely important ...

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Important Announcement about the Blog!

Dear Faithful Blog Participants (or even Unfaithful Ones):

An announcement.  Starting July 16 I am going on a hiking expedition and will be off the grid for ten days.  I’m not sure if I’ll have any Internet access or not.   But not to fear (as if you would fear….): I will not leave the Blog forsaken.  I have compiled blog posts enough for the week, and my all-reliable assistant Steven, to whom each of us owes a mountain of debt, will ...

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The Essence of Biblical Apocalyptic Thought

I earlier pointed out that my views of suffering in the 1980s were heavily influenced by the biblical perspective that scholars call apocalypticism.  I have discussed the major views of apocalypticism on the blog a couple of times over the years, but some review would be useful at this point, both for those whose memories are as sieve-like as mine, and for those who weren’t around yet for all those years of previous fun   on the blog.

Let me stress, Jewish ...

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The Origins of Apocalypticism

In my previous post I began to explain how, in 1985, while teaching a class at Rutgers on the Problem of Suffering, I came to realize that I simply didn’t accept any longer most of the views of the Bible on why there was suffering in the world.  But one view did continue to appeal to me, the apocalyptic view that emerged toward the end of the New Testament period, and became the view of Jesus, John the Baptist before ...

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Explaining a Columbian Mudslide

During the term when I was teaching my class on the problem of suffering at Rutgers in 1985, one of those unthinkable natural disasters occurred that made headline news and disturbed all caring people around the world.   The night before there had been a volcanic incident in Columbia that caused a mudslide that wiped out several villages, killing thousands of people in their sleep.  The death toll in the end was 23,000, men women and children.

Some people blamed the Columbian ...

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The Variety of Views of Suffering in the Bible

Some thirty years ago now, when I taught my class at Rutgers on “The Problem of Suffering in the Biblical Traditions,” I came to realize – or at least came to realize more clearly – that a number of the views set forth in the Bible simply did not resonate with me.  Which, I suppose, is a more tactful way of saying that I simply didn’t agree with them.

By far the most prominent explanation for suffering in the Bible is ...

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Teaching about How The Bible Explains Suffering

I’m not sure exactly when the suffering of others came to pose a problem for my own faith; but I do remember clearly when the issues first crystalized for me.  I started my teaching career at Rutgers University while I was a PhD student working on my dissertation in 1984.   It was a fantastic job for me (teaching at a very good research university, without yet even having my degree), but it was not tenure-track.  I was a poorly-paid adjunct ...

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Is Suffering Our Fault?

Some people have responded to my comments on suffering with the interesting observation that most suffering, in their view, is caused by humans against humans, so that there is no reason to “blame God” for it.   That is obviously true of some of the most horrific things that happen in our world:  murder, genocide, torture, war, refugee crises, and on and on and on.   And one could argue that it is true of even “natural” disasters, such as starvation: there ...

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Am I an Agnostic or an Atheist? A Blast From the Past

I have been talking about how the problem of suffering led me to become an agnostic, and some people have asked why I’m not an atheist.  My short answer is: I am!  But how can I be both?  That was an issue I addressed in the very early days of the blog, and I thought it might be useful to repost that response here.  I pretty much agree with everything in it, now five years later, with the exception that ...

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