Dr. Ehrman has written several best-sellers and given numerous talks on the Bible and Early Christianity. Dr. Ehrman himself at one point was a “born-again” Evangelical Christian but says that he is currently both an atheist and agnostic. Atheism is a declaration of belief, while agnosticism is a declaration of experiencial evidence. .
Dear Dr. Ehrman,
I am a theist and a gnostic. I am also Christian. I believe in God but I have also had personal and collective experience with Him. Thank you for the excellent explaination on this. I remember you saying that you had a “born again” experience at one time. I am a published scientist and a physician and in addition to numerous personal experiences (practical and miraculous) with God, I have spoken with several very reliable people who have experienced near-death experiences. I respect science but I am well aware of its limitations.
Practically, I think Christianity is so very useful. I think having a hope of resurrection, anticipation of judgement, the anticipation of heavenly reward, and ultimately a love toward God helps people keep their commitments even when life gives them excuses not to. The “eternal perspective” is more powerful a motivator through love than by a fear of harm, scarcity, and death. Love builds long-term social capital, cooperation and community.
Also, Christianity does better at adressing the problem of “blood atonement” better than any other belief system. Many religions and cultures throughout history teach that somehow by killing certain people or animals, a person or community or nation might receive God’s favor, blessing, forgiveness, peace, safety and prosperity. The US war on terror policy of “kill them over there so they don’t kill us over here” is a form of blood atonement. The practice of abortion is also blood atonement. True Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that only through the blood of Christ can a person, or nation can we receive God’s blessing. This doesn’t apply to self-defense but preemptive/offensive actions.
You commented that your conversion to atheism and agnosticism was based on the “problem of pain”, and the overall violence, seeming injustice, and suffering in the universe. Yes, the universe is violent, but it is not unjust.
One important Christian doctrine that addresses the “problem of suffering” is the reality of a pre-mortal existence. Our spirits existed before our Earth life and just like a physician is expected to obtain and provide a patient with informed consent, the Bible is clear enough that God provided every soul the same informed consent before we were to undergo the painful proceedure of mortality.
Job 38: 4-7 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. ... When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
But not everyone shouted for joy. A considerable number did not agree to the terms of mortality and rebelled and fell on likely similar issues.
Yes, the Bible has translation and interpretation issues, and the universe is a violent and painful place. But Christ's blood covers those children who die without law and accountability. “Where there is no law, there is no sin”. Children who have died will be resurrected during the Millennium of peace. God is just and merciful. The victory of Christ over death has swollowed up death in victory. The future glory will eclipse any past suffering and Christ will wipe away every tear.