Job is not an easy book to study. It doesn’t give us answers. It doesn’t give Job a
nswers. God ends the book by pointing at creation, not by explaining his way through all his questions. Our relationship with God can’t be dictated by the answers we get to our questions. The questions aren’t bad, but odds are, we won’t get real answers to them. So instead of making up reasons and explaining away every mystery we should admire that we are here, that God loves us and that he created us. Sometimes we suffer. Sometimes we are blessed.
We have a long history of pointing the finger and blaming when something goes wrong. We learn in Job, that sometimes things just happen and there is no blame. Life cannot be reduced to our theological understandings and formulas. Sometimes things just happen. For this reason, we all find ourselves on the same street as neighbours. None of us can explain why anything good or bad happens to ourselves and anyone else. We our neighbours on a street where good and bad stuff happen all day, and sometimes it happens for no reason. When we realize we are on the same street, we give up the need to explain the misfortune or blessing of others.
May we be like Job. Even without answers we learn to trust God. Even without explanations we learn that the earth keeps spinning. We want justice, God wants justice and yet we live in the uncertain paradox of justice not happening instantly. May we learn to admire and rest in the uneasy knowledge that God continues to move and redeem the world, even while we sleep.
Below you’ll find a quick survey of all the tangled ideas that have attached themselves to this issue as well as a handful of quotes, thoughts and videos [that we may or may not agree with] that have helped us process our thoughts.
Finally, if you’d like full manuscripts of the teaching on this topic, or would like to continue talking about it in person, those options are both available.
“What I believe is that the character, the very heart, of biblical faith is not to reach resolution and not to gain closure, but to live without resolution . . . and to be okay with that.”
– Richard Rohr
When Job asked you the question
You responded who are you
To challenge your creator
Well if that one part is true
It makes you sound defensive
Like you had not thought it through
Enough to have an answer
Or you might have bit off more than you could chew.
“What God is criticizing here is every theology that presumes to pigeonhole the divine action in history and gives the illusory impression of knowing it in advance.”
– Gustavo Gutierrez
“The revelation of God’s plan, when received with good judgment, will show Job that the doctrine of retribution is not the key to understanding the universe; this doctrine can give rise only to a commonplace relationship of self interest with God and others. The reason for believing “for nothing” — the theme set at the beginning of the book–is the free and gratuitous initiative taken by divine love.”
– Gustavo Gutierrez
“Not everything that exists was made to be directly useful to human beings; therefore, they may not judge everything from their point of view. The world of nature expresses the freedom and delight of God in creating. It refuses to be limited to the narrow confines of the cause-effect relationship.”
– Gustavo Gutierrez
“The point is this: if God seems to be in no hurry to make the problem of evil go away, maybe we shouldn’t be, either. Maybe our compulsion to wash God’s hands for him is a service he doesn’t appreciate. Maybe–all theodicies and nearly all theologians to the contrary–evil is where we meet God. Maybe he isn’t bothered by showing up dirty for his dates with creation. Maybe–just maybe –if we ever solved the problem, we’d have talked ourselves out of a lover….God neither apologizes nor explains, and he certainly makes no effort to solve the problem of evil for them. He just goes on arranging rendezvous after disreputable rendezvous, no matter how little anyone thing of his choice of trysting places.”
– Robert Capo
“And what is love if it is not the indulgence of the ultimate risk of giving one’s self to another over whom we have no control?”
– Robert Capon
“Christian theologians who address themselves to the problem of evil should treat it as a mystery to be entered, not as a puzzle to be solved.”
You and I are indeed free to cry out, to lament, to scream—if need be. The God to whom we call does not ignore his dearly beloved creature. It is just that God refuses to be confined within to a system of predictable rewards and punishments. Jesus reminds us that “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Mt 5: 45)
– Gustavo Gutierrez
If there is nothing in your life to cry about, if there is nothing in your life to yell about, you must be out of touch. We must all feel and know the immense pain of humanity. The free space that God leads us into is to be able to feel the full spectrum, from great exaltation and joy, to the pain of mourning and dying and suffering. Then we are no longer isolated, but a true member of the universal Body of Christ.
The secularized mind is terrorized by mysteries. Thus it makes lists, labels people, assigns roles, and solves problems. But a solved life is a reduced life. These tightly buttoned-up people never take great faith risks or make convincing love talk. They deny or ignore the mysteries and diminish human existence to what can be managed, controlled, and fixed. We live in a cult of experts who explain and solve. The vast technological apparatus around us gives the impression that there is a tool for everything if we can only afford it.
I’ve been fighting this all my life. I’ve looked at the patterns of my life and when I surrender to that simplistic, either-or, all or nothing thinking, it’s made me make my worse mistakes. It’s allowed me to hurt people unnecessarily without even knowing I was hurting them. It has allowed me to not be compassionate, to not be patient, to not be merciful, to not understand situations, to read them wrong. The dualistic mind (there is only right and wrong and nothing else in between) operates by reading everything by what I like and by what I prefer. It reads everything egocentric. You don’t even realize you are egocentric, you just think you are defending some great truth. You’re usually not. You are defending what you are comfortable with and you call that objective truth.
Thr following is from Is Telling the truth more important that Selling the Truth by Donald Miller
If you were to put a group of modern, leading evangelicals in a room and ask them to write a book about God and the church, formalizing a message to the world, I doubt you’d end up with anything like the Bible.
You probably wouldn’t tell the story of Bill Clinton having an affair, Benny Hinn faking healings and getting a divorce or Ted Haggard talking macho and homophobic and then secretly sleeping with men and using drugs. I doubt you’d talk about powerful religious figures being involved in incest, either. But that’s exactly the sort of stories we find in scripture. And not only that, but these are principal characters through which Christ lineage and God’s redemptive message are passed down through.
Write that book today and we’d likely get some specific theological statements, mapped out like math, some song lyrics, some stories that make God and his followers look good, and after each chapter, actionable steps leading to a more vibrant life in which you are happy and financially stable. In other words, you’d get modern Mormonism.
What I love about the Bible is it’s honesty. This is not a book in which authors tried to hide anything. If somebody got drunk and slept with their daughter, it’s in there. If the king of Israel had a man killed and slept with his wife, it’s in there. If somebody doubted God’s love, it’s right there in the book.
So why don’t Christian books read anything like the Bible? Can we handle the truth?
Part of the problem is ours is a religion of image. When the authors of scripture sat down to write, they weren’t writing for critics, and they didn’t care whether or not people approved, they were attempting to capture truth. And they believed telling the truth was more important than selling the truth.
So my question is, do we trust truth? And would it matter if your church shrunk because you presented the truth (in maturity and objectivity)? Would people stop reading your blog if you were honest, like the writers of scripture? And at what point do we call a white-washed style of literature lies?
But another important question is can you handle the truth? If you knew about your pastors thought life, would you still go to church? If others knew about your darkest sins, would they stay away from you? How did a book filled with such brutal honesty create an image-sensitive culture?
What do you think would happen if we stopped “spinning” the gospel, and started telling the truth? My guess is, the church would shrink, and what you’d be left with is a small core that would grow through love, acceptance and honest commitment to each other