Notes on a debate between Dr. Michael Brown vs Dr. Bart Ehrman
Third round - Questions from debaters to each other
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Dr. Ehrman asks this question- How are these verses on suffering "hamonoius"?
Dr. Brown's response - I look at all the Books of the Bible as a symphony where the compilers of the Bible felt it necessary to have all the voices from all of the Books. The Book of Proverbs is giving general principles of wisdom - - that's one voice. So, you will find that the genral principles laid out are true - - - generally speaking, for example, those that follow the guidelines of biblical morality, will generally live longer lives....These are universal principles - - and it looks like from these passages in Proverbs - - that nothing then ever goes wrong- - but there are then other voices that are raised. In looking at Ecclesiastes, it's mindboggling that you leave out the conclusion to the entire book and all the questions raised in the Book:
Dr. Ehrman's follow-up - So when the Bible says this - - (Proverbs 10:3 - 3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked), are you saying the Bible is wrong?
Dr. Brown's response - No - - I'm saying if we follow God's ways we will see protection and deliverance, and sometimes things inexplicably happen and we have other voices for these happenings in Scripture.
Dr. Brown's question - What answer do you give to those suffering awful tragedies if there is no God?
Dr. Ehrman's response - Do what Job's friends did when they first met Job - they sat in silence with him for days. They did not say God is testing you or punishing you or there's a greater reason why you lost your children, Job. They didn't give easy answers or say, "just trust God". You suffer with them.....If you can help alleviate the suffering, do that, but the last thing you should do is give then an easy answer..
Dr. Brown's followup - But I could tell the person who has terminal cancer that there is hope of being with God forever... I could tell the lady who lost her child that one day she can be with her child forever and ever.....
Dr. Ehrman cut Dr. Brown off - - and then stated - so you give people cheap hope.......
Dr. Brown responded- you call it cheap hope and I call it God and reality! (the audience applauded)
Dr. Ehrman - - my father was dying of cancer and an evangelical anointed him with oil and prayed over him for healing and said he would be healed - - it made my father miserable
Dr. Brown responded- there is a possibility of healing but not a promise - - and your mom didn't lose her faith becasue she knew she would one day be with your father forever in heaven. "It's anything but cheap, my friend" (applause from the audience)
Dr. Ehrman - I'd like to talk about this passage of Amos below :- - did God do this and does He still punish people for their sins by starving them or by bringing epidemics or military slaughter?
Consider Amos Ch.4 - Israel Has Not Returned to God 1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, Bring us some drinks! 2 The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness: The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks. 3 You will each go straight out through breaches in the wall, and you will be cast out toward Harmon, declares the LORD. 4 Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. 5 Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do, declares the Sovereign LORD. 6 I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD. 7 I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. 8 People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD. 9 Many times, I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD. 10 I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD. 11 I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD. 12 Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God. 13 He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth the LORD God Almighty is his name.
Dr. Brown responded- God did those things as a consequence of sin, to a chosen nation. God did it to turn his people back to Him. God brings judgment - He is just....To the second question, all punishment is not wrong - - otherwise, there would be chaos. There is a principal of "you reap what you sow"....Job tells me not to judge the sufferer and not to judge God's repsonse -- when I see suffering today, I go to Luke 13 and say - "were these people any more guilty than we are?"
Dr. Ehrman - I agree there should be punishment- - but if my kids do wrong - I don't starve them and kill them...but this is what Amos said God did....
Dr. Brown -God didn't do the things in Amos because his people didn't go to bed on time or not brush their teeth.....God's talking about murder, shedding of innocent blood and massive injustice - - so God responded and justice from God did come....
Dr. Brown's question - In your book you say we need to change ourselves for the better. Do you think humans can change from past patterns of behavior without divine help? What is your answer for why there is evil?
Dr. Ehrman's response - If wicked pople can only become good thru God changing them - then why doesn't God change more wicked people? Why didn't God change Hitler? It's narrow-minded to beleive that only those who folow your theological view can be turned to good. We need more people to do more good in this world. God is not the answer to evil in the world, we are the answer.
Dr. Brown's response - It is those of the Christian faith who are doing the extra and making the sacrifices.
Dr. Ehrman's final question Let's talk about the Final Judgment in Revelation - where a single Book of Lifeis opened up. Everyone's name who is not in the BookofLife is thrown into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 14 says this is an eternal punishment inburning sulfur - etermally,foreer - andnot for billions of years, but billions of years is the beginning...... And this is God's answer to suffering...... Do you beleive that God is going to throw these people into the Lake of Fire? Do you think it's fair - - thatpeoplearepunished for trillions of years based onwhat they did for say, 20 of years...Can you imagine some greater suffering than this? Do you think that it's odd that God is doing it?
Dr. Brown's response - Revealtion 7 says that the number (in the Bookof Life) is a "multitude no one can number" - so, God's mercy is far more than we could dream about.... There will be a Final Judgment but on thenature of it, Dr. Brown will not draw it from apocolyptic imagery - but will address it from the whole of the New Testament witness. The great theme that he sees as far as punishment is the forfeiture of life and the forfeitue of being with God forever. ... and God will be just in doing that....
Dr. Brown's question - Our graduates are serving the poorest of the poor and serving sacrificially - - what is the impact of your teaching on your grads?
Dr. Ehrman's response - - I give away an enormous amont of money - but my concerns are not your concerns....that is christian ministry....My main interest is hunger and homelessness. But how much is enough to give away?
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