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The Job debate;- Judging the Judge (Index Thread)

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posted on Dec, 15 2017 @ 05:04 PM
It would be reasonable for someone to ask why these threads were not placed in the Philosophy forum.
I did think about it, in advance.
On the one hand, the issue which prompts the debate seems to be a branch of the old “Problem of Evil”, which is frequently regarded as a philosophical question.
On the other hand, I knew that the only answers provided in the book would be faith-based, and therefore religious in character.
So I made the decision on that basis.

Further reflection seems to confirm that this was the right choice.

For one thing, the Problem of Evil, “Why do things happen this way?,” does not really exist as a question for straight philosophy.
It only becomes a moral puzzle when we enter philosophy of religion and try to reconcile the way things happen with the God who makes them happen.
It is a question which confronts, or can be made to confront, believers rather than unbelievers.

Furthermore, the answer to that question cannot be found by straight philosophy.
That is because it depends on information not accessible to unassisted human reason.
If God has arranged the world, only God can fully understand his reasons for arranging it in this particular way.
“Theodicy” is a branch of theology seeking to fulfil Milton’s aspiration, to “justify the ways of God to men”. It’s a noble idea, but theodicy may be an exercise in repeating the mistake of Job’s comforters.
The problem is that both sides of the debate are attempting to judge God by human standards.
God’s accusers are setting up their own definitions of what is right and just and hoping to show that God does not meet them.
God’s defenders are setting up their own definitions of what is right and just, and hoping to show that God does meet them.
But who are we to set up standards of judgement and bring God under our own authority as judges?
How are we qualified, on either side of the argument?
That is why God, through his spokesman Elihu and in his own voice, condemns them both.
Since God is not subject to man, his ways are not ultimately subject to human judgement.

Finally, the book itself makes no attempt to answer that question.
While Job, as an individual, is asking repeatedly “Why do things happen this way?”, “Job”, as a book, is offering to answer a rather different question;
“How should we respond to the way things happen?”
The clues are there from the beginning.
In the opening verses, Job is offering sacrifice to cover the possibility that “my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts”.
Satan proposes to make Job “curse thee to thy face”, but he fails because Job “did not sin or charge God with wrong”.
In the second chapter, his own wife urges him to “Curse God, and die.”; but again Job “did not sin with his lips”.
However, his complaints during the following chapters come very close to the line, as he affirms the justice of God while asserting the injustice of what is happening in God’s world.
Therefore, when God speaks, Job is accused of uttering “words without knowledge”, and finally accepts the charge;
“I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me”.
Clearly, the recommended response is not sitting in judgement on God.

In a word, Trust.
Or Faith.
We are not in a position to judge for ourselves what is right and just, in absolute terms, but faith says that God will do it.

Index of threads

The troubles of Job
Covering the first two chapters, which the scene for the debate.

Job’s complaint
Specifically, ch3. “I curse the day I was born”

Eliphaz and Job
The first exchange between them. Chs.4-7
Eliphaz; Only the wicked are punished by God.
Job; Why does God not leave him alone and ignore his transgressions?

Bildad and Job
The first exchange between them. Chs.8-10
Bildad; If Job is upright, God will hear his appeal.
Job; But how can he convince God that he is upright?

Zophar and Job
The first exchange between them. Chs.11-14
Zophar; God’s wisdom is obviously greater, so Job ought to repent.
Job wants the chance to argue his case with God in person.

Eliphaz and Job
The second exchange between them. Chs.15-17
Job wants to make a legal appeal against God in God’s own court of judgement, citing God himself as Job’s chief witness.

Bildad and Job
The second exchange between them. Chs.18-19
Though God is not responding to these appeals, Job is putting his trust in a Redeemer to vindicate him.

Zophar and Job
The second exchange between them. Chs.20-21
Zophar says the wicked are destroyed.
Job says the wicked are not destroyed. At least, not in the short term.

Third round speeches
Job responds to Eliphaz and Bildad (Zophar gives up). Chs.22-28
The paradox of the fact that God acts against Job, who is upright, yet fails to act against those who are truly unrighteous.

Job’s appeal to the jury
Job mourns the contrast between his current state and his former life.
He denies at length that he has been guilty of any kind of unrighteousness.

God in the voice of Elihu
Offering himself as spokesman for God, Elihu criticises both sides of the argument.
None of them are truly understanding God’s majesty and authority.

God’s answer
“I made the world.”

Some commentaries on Job focus on the concept of ”redemptive suffering”, and offer that as a point of contact between Job and Christ.
I’m not able to come at the book from that angle.
But I’m going to summarise a tract called “The Joyful Vocation to Suffering”, which I find on my bookshelves, for the benefit of anyone who might find that approach helpful.

edit on 15-12-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 15 2017 @ 05:05 PM
The Witness of Edith Barfoot

Edith Barfoot was brought up in east Oxford (the more industrial part of the city).
She was an Anglican, but her church life was at the more “Anglo-Catholic” end of the Church of England. In particular, she was brought into contact with the local Society of St. John the Evangelist, a religious order popularly known as “the Cowley Fathers”.
Her thoughts on suffering were first written down at the request of one of the Fathers, who was committed to preaching a sermon on the topic and needed inspiration. Then he showed them to the Superior General of the Society, who was moved enough to want to see them in print.
That was the origin of “The Joyful Vocation to Suffering”, a simple pamphlet made available at the back of her church. But Edith had made friends with the local bookselling magnate, Sir Basil Blackwell, who volunteered to publish it himself under his own imprint.
The resulting “Witness of Edith Barfoot” makes a slim volume. I have the updated edition published after her death. The basic tract fills a dozen pages, and the rest of the book is eked out with biographical material and tributes.
The biographical material helps to establish her right to speak on the subject of suffering.

When she was a girl, Edith had hopes of entering the nursing profession. However, she was already getting pains in her limbs, after a bout of scarlet fever at the age of eight. The pain was a form of rheumatism, which developed in her teens into progressive rheumatoid arthritis.
This was a severe challenge to medical science at the beginning of the twentieth century. For a time, they sent her to bathe in brine baths. Her knees were contracting, and they tried to straighten her legs by pulling them down, as she lay in bed, with 56 pound weights. “They were going to cut my legs off just above the knees, but they found they had just got me in time to straighten the sinews and nerves, and so they did that under an anaesthetic and forced the knees down and strapped the legs on splints.”
The eminent doctor, Sir William Osler, stood at her bedside and was told that this was a case of arthritis; “Poor child, poor child, I am sorry.” More than fifty years later, she was still dating her ”martyrdom” from that moment.
She remained bed-bound, and an attack of kidney trouble twenty years later left her house-bound. By the time she was eighty, she had lost her sight, her sensitivity to touch, and most of her hearing.
Although, as she pointed out herself, “I can still talk. I have not arthritis in my tongue.”

The Cowley Fathers found a useful occupation for her, so long as her sight held out. One of them was transcribing books into braille, for the use of the blind. Since he was blind himself, her task was to read the book aloud while he bashed away at a braille typewriter. She also trained herself to proof-read the braille sheets by sight. The completed sheets were then taken away and pasted up into books.

Apart from that, her central occupation was prayer, especially after her sight went, and during many sleepless nights.
In effect, she had become what the Middle Ages would have recognised as an anchorite.
As a virtual anchorite, she received many visitors, including the bishop of Oxford. On one of his visits, feeling beset with problems, he asked her to pray for him, and was firmly reminded; ”Bishop DEAR, I pray for you several times every day and in the night too!”

Edith died at the age of eighty-seven.

The Joyful Vocation to Suffering

Deep down in every child of his there is the longing to be called by our Father to do something special for him

The expectant soul is prepared for such a call, up to a point, but cannot foresee everything that it might mean. It might mean the way of sacrifice, which spells suffering in its most acute form.

To every child of his comes the call to suffer in some way or other: spiritually, mentally, or physically, in a lesser or greater degree…
But to some of his children he gives the vocation to physical suffering…
When the subconscious longing to answer God’s call has become the conscious longing of his child, the call to suffering does not come unexpectedly, but it does come in unexpected ways, making unexpected demands which make her see her own utter weakness and unworthiness.

The call requires the child to give up many things, like physical freedom, the activity of youth, and all the blessings of health. This includes giving up her own ideas about the way she was going to serve him.

The call has come to surrender herself wholly to him in ways before unknown, to give up entirely all her own self-made plans…
Because it is simply the call to follow him in this particular vocation of pain-bearing and helplessness, the soul senses the joy which the call holds for her in striving to follow after and do his will even through all the pain it entails; for it is just his own way of leading the soul directly to himself: and this is comfort unspeakable, and she experiences the joy of discovery in the fact that this is the process which will fashion the child to appear before the Father one day in his own likeness.

The other sections are “The child’s response” and “The Father’s help ever-present”.
Edith describes a growing process, a gradual readjustment of ideas. As the pain grows greater, the initial fear changes into trustful response. The response must be willing, holding nothing back. The soul’s response to the Father’s call must also be active and alert,

for through it he gives vast opportunities for work...
When he takes away her physical activity, he gives her a greater spiritual activity than she ever had before.

The soul holds on to the faith which never doubts her Father’s presence, even when his light is concealed behind the cloud. He has an untiring, unceasing, patience with her impatience.

During an interview on local radio, she added;

Always I come back to the same conclusion, that it is the Holy Spirit within me who is working; it is not I myself, I am only his instrument, and he uses me according to his will; and it is a wonderful thing, Sir Basil, to remember some words I read many years ago when I was sighted, “Within the circle of the love of God, there is no near or far”, that every one of us, no matter where we are, we are in our prayer times at one in him.

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