The Bible focuses more on what God is doing to end suffering than on why man suffers, said a respected theologian in a debate on why there is suffering if God is all-powerful and good.
"You are trying to get at 'what the Bible says about why suffering happens,'" wrote N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham for the Church of England and author of Evil and the Justice of God, in a debate with Bart Ehrman, professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hosted by Beliefnet.com.
"I argued in my book that the Bible doesn't actually give us much of an answer to that question – why, to put it sharply, there was a snake in Eden in the first place – and that 'the biblical view of suffering' is more about what the creator God is doing about it and/or with it."
Ehrman, an agnostic, had spent most of the debate detailing suffering in the world and questioning why God – if He is loving and answers prayers – didn't stop the Holocaust or why the Bible recorded that God wiped out a town or ordered His people to kill their enemies.
"Underneath a lot of this I resonate with a line from Bonhoeffer that has haunted me ever since I heard it as a student: that the primal sin of humanity, as in Genesis 3, is to put the knowledge of good and evil before the knowledge of God," said Wright.
The English church leader said that rather than understanding Bonhoeffer's statement as meaning "Who am I to understand such mysteries," we should understand it as "a recognition that the sort of creatures we are are never going to be in a position to set a moral bar and insist that God – if there is a creator – jump over it."
But what the Bible does offer is how God plans to deliver mankind from suffering, starting with the calling of Abraham and bringing His Kingdom through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
"For the early Christians, God's new world – the world where God's writ runs – had already begun, and they were living in it by the power of the Spirit. Things did change," wrote Wright.
The six-part debate ended on Friday with N.T. Wright's blog, "The Bible Does Answer the Problem – Here's How."