Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015


- Job, Gerhard Marcks,

Today I saw an article at the British Jesuits' site by Peter Knott SJ on why bad stuff happens to good people, using the Book of Job as an example. I found the ideas in the article just awful, actually. Sometimes I despair of ever getting the Christian thing right. Here are some bits from the article, and how I felt about those bits ...

Godtalk: Why bad things can happen to good people

One of the most consoling texts of the Hebrew scriptures is the Book of Job, which concerns itself with the theme of why bad things happen to good people .... While he [Job] cavils at God's providential ordering of men's affairs and beats his fists in vain against the gates of heaven he finds no peace of mind or respite for his tortured soul. But when he humbly acknowledges that the right relationship of man to God is one of unquestioning obedience and acceptance of the world as it is, his troubled spirit is at rest and adversity or success has now no power to smite him down or raise him up.

The right relationship between us and God is unquestioning obedience? I disagree, and there are examples in the bible in which it doesn't work for others either, from Abraham arguing with God about Sodom and Gomorrah, to the Canaanite woman arguing with Jesus about her daughter. Unquestioning obedience is for slaves, not children, not friends.

He has learned that it is not through material things that man fulfils his being but in dependence and trust in God. The book is teaching us that suffering tests the quality of our faith. The epilogue, Job's final restoration to prosperity, gives the conclusion that he had emerged triumphantly from his testing time and receives his reward.

Holy mackerel - Job wasn't upset just because he lost some expensive possessions .... all of his children were murdered! How exactly does restoration work when particular children are killed and then replaced with different people?

Job's real sin is man's perennial sin of self-sufficiency, his partial and myopic view of life which sees no farther than his own concerns and questions the whole structure of God's government of the universe on the basis of his own limited experience.

What else can he do? If his actual personal experience is worthless in decision making and questioning, then we might as well forget the whole relationship with God thing, not to mention Ignatian discernment.

In the end Job wins through from his despair .... He finds peace of mind and spirit in a humble acceptance of his proper place in the scheme of things as a creature living by faith under a sovereign Creator whose ways are beyond man's understanding.

Stockholm syndrome, anyone?

[I]t is only in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ that the afflictions of Job reach their proper evaluation. We have reached the heart of the message of Job when we can simply echo St Paul's words: ‘… I am convinced that neither death, nor life …nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Rom. 8: 35-39.

I don't understand what this means. How does Jesus being killed and resurrected make Job's situation .... God making a bet with the devil that torturing Job won't make Job repudiate him .... understandable or ok?


Blogger Daniel Imburgia said...

I agree. I would not recommend this to others who are suffering or looking for deeper answers. Are you familiar with Gutierrez's,"On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent," Even though I struggle to understand this question, I have found Gutierrez's work to be very important to me. Blessings on your journey.

From page 65: Is Job referring to God or to some third person? In my view, he is referring to God and not to an intermediary distinct from God. Job’s cry expresses an anguished but sure hope that comes to him from a profound insight—namely, that God is not to be pigeonholed in the theological categories of his friends. It might almost be said that Job, as it were, splits God in two and produces a God who is judge and a God who will defend him at that supreme moment; a God whom he experiences as almost an enemy but whom he knows at the same time to be truly a friend. He has just now accused God of persecuting him, but at the same time he knows that God is just and does not want human beings to suffer. These are two sides of the one God. This painful, dialectical approach to God is one of the most profound messages of the Book of Job.67

6:00 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Daniel,

No, I've never read any of his work. Thanks for posting some of what he wrote. Interesting idea of God being both Job's persecutor and his defender. That's almost kind of Gnostic ... a not-so-great God (the demiurge) and the real God both existing.

All I can think of for the book of Job is that it was written by someone who believed in a very different kind of God than I do. If God really would do such things to Job, I don't think I could love or respect him.

7:26 PM  

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