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
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
“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.
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.
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.
“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)