The Erroneous Theology of Job

A post from 2010 for the religious prognosticators who see God sending tornadoes to Oklahoma ...

A few years ago my son and I were in the car and he advised me that he thought I was a modern day Job - I had to chuckle as I told him that Job had nothing on me. Of course we all have a story and mine is not all that different than many.. it is just different than folks who have not dealt with the death of a spouse.. or a parent who has not dealt with grieving children.. or a person who has not struggled with a disabling disease that has attacked their spouse.. we all struggle.. and our struggles are ever so personal.

So when I think about the story of Job in the Old Testament I first think about two parents who lost all of their children and their possessions.. and my heart breaks for them. I also think of a man who struggled with a disabling disease that inflicted him with boils all over his body.. a man who had friends.. and a man who was trapped by a bad theology.. a theology that yet traps and disables many even today. It is the theology of divine judgment.

Job and his friends argued about the reasons for his hardships.. his friends blamed him.. Job asserted his innocence.. but at the heart of their cumulative thinking was the idea that someone was to blame for what happened.. and God was judging Job and his wife for some secret sin that they had committed. Even though Job asserted his innocence he did not contest the basis of his friends claims. Job also believed that his hardship was God's judgment.. he just did not believe that he was guilty of a sin worthy of the judgment.

Of course Job's hardship was not initiated by Job or by God.. the story tells us that Job was not being judged.. it says that Job was blameless.. and it also says that Satan (not God) killed Job's children and afflicted Job with a disease. Even so Job and his friends believed that God's judgment was involved.

This theology of divine judgment often rears it's ugly head even today. When bad things happened to New Orleans four years ago religious pundits were speaking about the judgment of God on this area. More recently religious prognosticators were embracing Job's theology and speaking oracles of divine judgment when a massive earthquake hit Haiti. These religious folks seem to have embraced the erroneous theology of Job by saying that hurricanes and earthquakes were God's reaction to somebody's sin.

Interesting that in Job's story God shows up at the end of the story speaking from a whirlwind.. but the wind did not seem to hurt anyone or damage any property.. perhaps God's winds are of this sort? The end of Job's story also teaches us that "sometimes" hardship ends okay - I say okay because even though Job was healed, his fortunes restored and new children were born there were still many lives lost in tragedy.

The moral of Job's story is that things are not always as they seem.. bad things happen to  blameless people.. and it is foolish to blame God or invoke a theology of divine judgment when hard times come. I reject that theology on a personal level and I also reject it for the people of New Orleans and Haiti.

15 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post, Bob. I've really been struggling with the things that have been said. Your response is heartfelt, insightful and very tactful towards those that have said these things about Haiti.

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  2. Thank you for this post, Bob. I take comfort in the fact that I can in no way fathom God's plan. If it was a vision i could get my arms around, it would be way too small for my God.

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  3. Thanks bob for this post. I heartfully agree with it and also what the 2 previous commentors said. Its just so hard to fathom difficult things and sometimes we just want to blame somebody.

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  4. Bad things happen. I understand that. I struggle with unanswered prayer.

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  5. Someone I recently spoke with said that the disaster in New Orleans was a result of greed. People who could have stopped the breakdown of the levies by replacing/reinforcing them, simply turned their heads the other way.
    9/11 was the result of hatred and the thinking behind this horrific event was that America was ungodly. The people who orchestrated the attack of 9/11 thought they were administering "divine judgment".
    Haiti, like so many other things that happen in nature, seems an opportunity to do good for others, certainly not divine retribution.
    I thank you for your insight.

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  6. Hmm ... difficult topic. I may be wrong but to me, when I read the passage, I conclude that the hardship though not initiated by God, it was God who volunteered him! He said, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." God knew he can count on Job to show Satan that God made something good out of his creation and that Job indeed worship God above all else. The question is can he count on us?

    As such, it might be wrong to say that the sufferings of people are God judgement on them, but that is not to say it isn't either, though I am more inclined to say no. Referring to John 9, Jesus clearly says that "Neither this man nor his parents sinned,but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life," when the disciples asked him "who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" But the onus is on us to really have the work of God displayed in our lives.

    I am not sure if it is right to say that now is the time of the commission of the good news, but when Judgement Day come, all will be judge. As such, any sufferings we get now are not so much judgement per se, but only because we live in a broken world.

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  7. obviously the reverse is prosperity theology, which I also don't subscribe too. I think people put too much stock into their earthly status when eternity is what is at issue.

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  8. Thanks all for responding and entering into the discussion.

    @MTR - Who doesn't struggle with unanswered prayers? Then again who really wants ALL of their prayers answered.. if they were then God would merely be a genie in a bottle :)

    @Pearlie - Another view of judgment is that sin was judged on the cross of Christ and, for believers anyway, divine judgment is not an issue.

    @jrchaard - the dark side of the prosperity gospel is the way that adherents treat people who are sick or poor.. those folks either directly or indirectly blame poverty and sickness on the victims attributing their plight to wither unbelief or sin.. it is a nasty theology.

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  9. The 1st 3 friends of Job made the mistake of applying good generic counsel to Job's specific situation. They judged him without knowing what was going on.

    That is one lesson of Job, which is not to jump to judgment. But people ignore this lesson and continue to judge Job, his three friends, God and Satan.

    What if Job had sinned? Would judgment do any good? What the 4 friends should have done is comfort and minister help to Job, in what ever way they could.

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  10. "They judged him without knowing what was going on."

    So true Scott.

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  11. Good post, Bob. Resonates. I struggle with wondering what God is doing and if He's the one at the helm of suffering, or the picker-upper when things happen. As Pearlie says, He offered Job up for suffering.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Karen. I hope to talk about that in one of my daily devotions.

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  13. Obviously, Kansas Bob, in my humble opinion you are not accurately portraying the God of the Bible. For even Luke tells us in the words of Christ: "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish'" (Luke 13:1-5). And the Lord even speaks through Ezekiel of His four sore natural judgments in chapter 14:21-23, and then the Lord concludes, "I have done nothing...without cause" (v. 23). Just when someone thinks it is "Mother Nature" doing these things, think again. It is all through the Sovereign hand of God. And even Elihu, in Job 37:13, correctly deduced: "He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water His earth and show His love." And lastly, the Lord through Jeremiah says, "If those who do not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, why should you go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, but must drink it" (49:12). Many, many more passages like this could be cited. Just consider the Israelites who sinned in the Bible! How did God often "judge" them? Through natural disasters, through the sword's of men, and through many other natural means in the earth as these. Jesus mentioned the "Tower of Siloam," for one; and even Pilate killing the Galileans and mixing their blood with his sacrifices, as another. The list could just go on and on. And as far as Job was concerned, he wasn't trapped for "bad theology." He might have had a little in the end, but this wasn't the reason for trials through natural disasters. For God said he was suffering for "no reason" (2:3), other than to disprove the accusations by Satan that Job would curse God if allowed to go through what he went through. Was Satan involved in all of those natural disasters? Sure he was. But it was God who gave the order for him to "Go." Read also 1Kings 22:19-23 and Lke. 8:32 and 22:31. Jeremiah's words above tell us the story. Saints can be baptized with suffering in order to prove (or in an attempt to disprove) the genuineness of their faith (cf. 1Pet. 1:7), while sinners are judged for the terrible sins that they do. Oh, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! We are to commit our hands unto a Faithful Creator who judges all things righteously.

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    1. Thanks for the responses Steve! I humbly reject your humble opinion based on what I wrote in my post.

      Even so, perhaps I would better understand what you are trying to convey if you could explain your opinion of the bible verses that you quoted? Maybe you see the scriptures a bit more literally that I do?

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