During my sojourns into the world of independent bookstore sales associating, I've seen lots of books. I mean lots. Some, like The Ugly American and Siddhartha were welcome sights for my poor, required-college-reading eyes. I ran across books in my first few weeks that I hadn't seen in years but which I'd loved like good friends--David Copperfield, The Great Gatsby, the poems of T.S. Eliot. I reintroduced myself to each of these friends in turn, reminding myself of characters I'd known and plot twists I'd forgotten. Reunited...and it felt so good!
And then, a few weeks into the job, I came across some old foes. In my years at college, and therefore my years outside of reading for pleasure, I'd also forgotten the many books that aren't so good. Books that are poorly researched and badly written. Books that have probably caught on and sit interminably on bestseller lists despite their idiocy. After trying--unsuccessfully--to Jedi mind-trick a few people out of buying Bart Ehrman (a feat which consists of staring at them intently, thinking things like Please don't become a heretic by reading that book, and making passive aggressive comments like "Sorry, I just don't like Bart Ehrman"), I realized that if I'm going to discourage one book, I need to encourage another. In that spirit (and in the spirit of the diet book "Eat This, NotThat!", which I also found at work) I present the following list of substitutions:
Ehrman's manifesto on why the inconsistencies in the Bible contradict everything in it is the classic secular cry against Biblical authority. What it doesn't realize, however, is that instead of attacking the legitimacy of the Bible, it only really attacks the legitimacy of Ehrman's understanding of the culture in which the Bible was written. Had Ehrman stopped and looked at the different genres of Biblical books as well as the different times, situations and authors for each of them, he might have realized why there are differences between accounts. In other words, if he used a little something called hermaneutics, he might have thought differently before he wrote this unfortunate best-seller.
Instead of Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted, I heartily encourage Richard A. Burridge's Four Gospels, One Jesus? He starts out with the same (completely legitimate) question as Ehrman--how on earth are we supposed to get an authoritative person (Jesus) and an authoritative text (the Bible) out of four different accounts that are so varying?--and looks at it from the Bible's cultural context, as well as through the lens of Church History and systematic theology. What he comes up with is a book that actually made me comfortable with the divinity of Christ. Seriously. This book is a big deal.
I promise I'll be done with the Ehrman-bashing soon, I promise.
No, Bart, the Bible doesn't answer the eternal question of theodicy ("why do people suffer if God is just?"). But neither does your book. Deal with it.
To be completely honest, I haven't read Yours, Jack yet. But, I love C.S. Lewis, and pretty much anything he's ever written would answer the question of theodicy better than Ehrman's scribbles. This book is a collection of C.S. Lewis' personal letters throughout the years. If you want faith and suffering put into better perspective, he's the man to go to--when his wife was dying in a hospital bed and he stepped outside for a drink of water, a reporter asked, "What do you think of prayer now that your wife is dying?" His response: "Prayer is not telling God what to do, but aligning your will with His." That one sentence doesn't explain why we suffer, but it does explain what to do with it, how to get through it, and shows God's empathy for it.
Truth: I don't really have any problems with the idea of a book about a farting dog. And this popular series does have a redeeming moral: don't let anyone make you think you're worthless, even your faults can help you succeed! In the interest of manners, however, I found a children's book that is much more worth the ten dollars...
Jackie French's Diary of a Wombat is without a doubt the most adorable children's book I have ever--or probably will ever--read. It tells the story of a wombat who makes some new friends, and some humans who gain a new pet. This book is so great that I bought it at work, not so I can give it to my future niece or nephew (who is due to arrive literally any second now!), but so I can keep it around whenever I need a pick-me-up. I read it to Kip and he loved it too!