Monday, February 25, 2008

Book of Job - Specific

On the drive back from Boise after seeing Brian McClaren, I had a chance to confide with my buds the angst I have with the book of Job. It is rather obsessive at times. I have wrote about it in a general sense in the past, but I thought I would throw out the main points and see what you think.
  • It bothers me that two superior beings decided to torture a lesser being to see how much it could take. We would consider the behavior presented there to be sick if it were to happen in another circumstance (two kids torture a cat to hear it squeal).
  • It bothers me that God basically got goaded into a cosmic pissing contest with someone who is evil. Does that not show poorly on him? Why should God give a rip what Satan thinks? (assuming Satan is the personification of evil we make him out to be)
  • God put Job through that to win a bet. Could you imagine if you found out your father had killed your children, and tortured you, to prove to a colleague that you could keep it together. Notice that Job never knows what went on behind the scenes. Could you imagine what he would say if he knew. "You killed my children.... so you could win a bet??" Can you imagine how heart broken and betrayed he might feel?
  • God tells Job he had no grounds to question Him. It is almost as if God realizes that He has been caught red handed, but can't apologize, so He gets verbally abusive with Job instead. That reaction seems pretty common amongst human fathers who have been caught in the wrong.
  • Replacing my dead children with other children and material possessions could not be more offensive. Again, this strikes me as someone trying to make up for something they did wrong by overcompensating, but never confessing what they did.
  • We are told that this is a story of the faithfulness of Job. Is it faithfulness? How many battered wives defend their abusive husbands? Often a battered wife tells the police "but he really does love me".

I saw this video on Youtube. It pretty much sums up how I feel about the book of Job.

I am not sure what to do with Job, so it sits on a shelf for me theologically. My best hope is that it never should have been canonized.


Brook said...

that's a good referrence list regarding the inherent problems with Job. as you said about the video, that just about sums it up.

I think there are a couple of things to consider here. One is that many biblical scholars believe that Job is quite probably a parable and not a "true story".
Also, I've been more and more coming to the understanding that it is not so much God I am miffed at, but rather all the well-meaning yet meaningless and possibly harmful teachings about God that I was raised with (yet can't for the spiritual life of me seem to shake free of). For one, the belief that God is "All loving". Perhaps this just simply isn't the case. "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I hated" before they were even born comes to mind. Isaiah also has God claiming that both good and evil have come from his hand to show that he is God (wildly paraphrasing here, and don't ask me for chapter and verse just yet). God is portrayed as Love, but perhaps that is not the whole story. and ultimately, I believe our concept of what "God" means is the primary problem at the heart of all our theological problems. We can't comprehend God, what God is, and it is nigh impossible to not think of God as the "biggest human being", yet still on the same plane as humans. and so we measure God by human standards, and of course he comes up short (or ultra psychotic to be more precise). We have wondered in the past whether, just because God does it, does that make it ok? but I think somehow God is in fact above, or outside of, these ideas of morality that are a part of human existence. I think the notion of a "personal relationship" with God is one that has probably caused the most frustration among most Christians, and is responsible for most of the horrific things that have happened in religious history ("God told me to kill you, I am doing his will"), and I just don't know if such an idea can pan out in the reality of finite to infinite. the idea of praying to saints or angels seems to make more and more sense to me, because I don't know what a "personal relationship" with God could possibly look like in real terms, in a way that isn't grounded in my overactive imagination (my "buddy Jesus" and all that). I come more and more to think that maybe I don't want to see God face to face or hear from him directly after all. Not out of animosity, but just because I don't think I could survive such a direct encounter. at the very least, I believe it would be something very different from the "arguments with God" I picture in my head.
I'll stop rambling now. always a great topic to write about! thanks for posting these thoughts.

societyvs said...

Good over-view and questions about Job - I think we all wonder about the authenticity of that book (if it is literal). However, that book is likely some type of Jewish coded thought and is not literal - like apocalyptic lit or even parables. I think Job was written for a reason - maybe it was an early attempt to answer the 'problem with suffering' during an exilic period?

Brook said...

or maybe it was really written by a satanist to fuck with our heads and get us all pissed off at God for no reason...

Andrew said...

I think what is equally disturbing is the amount of folks who do take it as literal truth, yet have no problem with it. I had a conversation recently and the person's view was basically - if God does it, then it is right.

I find that to be a huge flaw in the faith of one who takes that view. Taking it out a little further, the translation is that God deserves to be worshiped because he is God - not because he is good. I know that my view of goodness may be inherently skewed, but not completely inept.

To worship God only because he is God would give us no difference from Myans and Aztecs who sacrificed tens of thousands so they might get the right crop schedule.

If we all worship God only because he is God, then we would be more accurately described as sycophants rather than sons.

Redlefty said...

I agree with everything you wrote, and I think the video was hilarious too!

Last week a woman from our church (who happens to be in a class studying new earth creationism, which I won't get started on...) asked what I thought about their flood theories. Basically the class stated that the whole Noah's ark thing was global and moved the continents to their current position.

I explained that I had way more problems with the flood story on moral grounds than I did on scientific grounds. Oops. Too much for her.

That whole "don't cause others to stumble" thing keeps eluding me.

Andrew said...

Yeah Red, the moral issues in scripture trip me up on a regular basis. If you have never read any Walter Brueggemann, I highly suggest him. He is an old testament scholar and he wrestles with the issue of violence in the Bible in a very honest and thoughtful way.

Steve said...

Here's the way I see it: as the video mentions, Job was rich, successful, the greatest guy around. He had everything going for him. In other words, he had it coming. But at least there was a happy ending. As my personal hero, Richard M. Nixon, once put it, "Only if you've been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is, to be on the highest mountain." Not sure if Nixon ever had boils, though I'm sure many wished it. Peace out, homies.

The Snitch said...

Here's my take:

The Book of Job is unique in the Bible because it is thought to have occured (if it occured, literally, at all) before the "history" books of the Old Testament, yet it does not appear before them in the Bible. To me, this signals that the story of Job exists outside of time. I believe it is a parable about our entire earthly existence (more specifically, a missing thematic piece of the allegorical story of The Fall). Let me explain.

First, some assumptions:
-God is Love.
-One loves what one finds one's identity in, and therefore gives oneself completely to.
-Love is not present without choice.
-God chose to love us by first creating us in his image, then dieing for us (in both acts he gave his entire self).
-If we were always in God's presence, we would have no ability to choose anything other than God, and so could not love him.

Job represents all of humanity. God created Job because he loved him, and loved him because he created him. He gave him a unique identity and freedom so Job could willingly choose to love God. God blessed Job with everything a human could want, absolute riches, great reputation, and a wonderful family. Job was in a state of "Eden". When all was good, Job was never challenged to grasp onto the blessings he was given, because he had perfect assurance they would always endure. If Job was never in danger of losing his blessings, he would never be forced to decide if his identity was in the bestowments (and his claim to them) or the bestower. God's constant blessings were, to Job, like air - we do not make a claim on our rights to the air unless we suddenly can't breathe.

God understood this dynamic before Satan ever approached him. Satan did not truly challenge God, but God instead used Satan's malice as a means to give Job choice.

God creates, he does not destroy. He needed Satan to introduce loss into Job's world, so that Job could choose between clinging to his relationships, reputation, riches, abilities etc., and clinging to God himself, the bestower of all things good. Job ultimately clung to God, giving himself to God, and his doing so showed him the true value of God's blessings.

Now apply that to our world. The problems, losses, and pains of this world are not God's doing, but Satan's masterwork. God put us in this world filled with many good things, and allowed Satan to introduce loss so we might have the chance to choose between God and his blessings. We came into this world with nothing. By worrying we cannot add a single day to our lives. We aren't even sure of the ultimate consequences of our actions (even those we believe to be altruistic). We have and can do nothing good apart from God, and gaining our identity through anything else than Him is already hell on earth.

It is popular in Christian circles to think of this life as a test: one where we pass or fail. I, too, think of life as a test, but one in which we are the experimentors, not the lab rats. God put us here to find out who we want to be, and in whom or what we want to find out identity. Ultimately, if we choose the blessings but not the bestower, the blessings will fade and we'll be left with nothing. If we choose the bestower, all these things will be added unto us.

Lucifer said...

I really must weigh in here, and agree with the OP; I also strongly dislike this book, and simply must protest it’s highly inaccurate, and unfair, portrayal of MYSELF. I had nothing to do with the misfortunes this Job character suffered - you miserable humans are always looking for someone to blame for your insignificant troubles, always looking for a villain, a demon, so who do you turn to? Ha! But the truth is, sometimes bad things just happen. It’s a random, cruel world out there. So don’t blame ME when things go wrong, because I have nothing to do with it - it simply has always been a condition of your existence, ever since I first tricked your parents in that garden - and believe you ME, I’m so sick of getting the blame for that one, that some days I actually regret it (OK, so maybe I have a little something to do with it).

But really, I’m getting off the main point here. Probably a lot of people would think that I might like the book of Job, because You-Know-Who also seems to come off as a bad guy in it. But otherwise it’s a silly book. It has some fun parts in it, but in the end, Job meets You-Know-Who and decides that all his problems are as nothing seen in the light of You-Know-Who’s existence. Whatever. Job’s problems are nothing because he is nothing. He’s a miserable little worm. Probably the filthy little creature would be happy to admit that, too. Give me a break. So, in short, in the end, the book of Job is polluted by that sort of nonsense. I can’t stand it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m sick of talking about it. Have fun with your miserable little problems, people.

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