Creation, According to God … as Told to Job (RJS)

Much of the ink spilled over questions of science and creation concentrates on the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 with a nod to Romans chapter 5 (and perhaps to chapter 8). Creation in scripture isn’t limited to these passages though.  A couple of years ago I posted on a book by William P. Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation. You can find these posts through the archive on the sidebar if interested. I had always intended to come back and look at a little more of this book, but hadn’t really expected it to take 2 years. Better late than never, perhaps.

The title of Brown’s book comes from his contention that there are really seven creation passages in the Old Testament: Genesis ch. 1, Genesis ch. 2, Job 38-41, Psalms ch. 104, Proverbs ch. 8:22-31, Ecclesiastes ch. 1:2-11, 12:1-7, and excerpts from Isaiah 40-55. Each of these passages gives a different perspective on the nature of God’s creation and should be considered as we contemplate the nature of creation and God’s creative plan. Brown discusses each passage and then “applies” it to our modern understanding of science and God’s creation. His isn’t a concordist approach, finding modern science in the text – but it is, perhaps, something of a post-modern approach. The point in the application isn’t to give an accurate historical exegesis of the passage but to reflect on what the passage teaches about creation and how it applies in the context of today’s view of the science.

Over the years I have reflected on Job 38-41 as a creation passage, having been introduced to the idea by Brown. A common topic arising in any discussion of science and faith is theodicy. Evolution seems to run on death, red in tooth and claw, but death is an alien in God’s good creation – or so many will claim. How then can we reconcile a good God with the natural and human evil in creation?  Here it would seem Job is an excellent place to turn. Job ch. 38 begins (Translation from The Seven Pillars of Creation):

Then YHWH addressed Job out of the whirlwind saying:
Who is this that darkens (my) design
with words lacking knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man!
I will question you, and you shall inform me.
Where were you when I founded the earth?
Say so, if you have understanding!
Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!
Or who extended a measuring line upon it?
On what were its footings sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone?
When the morning stars rejoiced together,
and all the divinities shouted for joy?

What does Job teach us about creation?

Does the book of Job play any part in your thinking about creation?

Brown suggests that the book of Job is something of a thought experiment, along the lines of Schrodinger’s cat or Maxwell’s demon. A date for the book as we have it in the sixth century BCE seems likely. As with many OT books it may have antecedents dating a good bit earlier. Its purpose is to explore and illustrate important aspects of the nature of God, considered in context of the exile of Israel as well as circumstances in the life of individual God fearers.

As a non-Israelite character, an outsider no less, Job is given the freedom to challenge traditional notions about God and the world. At the same time, Job’s God is Israel’s God, YHWH (1:20-21; 12:9), and Job himself is the paradigm of piety. Taking place in the land of Uz, a place nearly as elusive as Eden, Job’s story stretches the theological envelope in ways that no orthodox Israelite could imagine, for it reaches behind and beyond Israel’s story. The narrative returns to the world of primordial beginnings even as it ventures far beyond human culture and control. …

As a thought experiment, the book of Job is essentially a “What if?” story aimed at dismantling conventional views about human identity, God’s character, and the moral construction of creation. (p. 115-116)

As a story – an inspired and canonical text – the view that the book of Job provides concerning the moral character of creation is, or should be, an important piece involved in the formation of our views of creation and of the presence of good and evil within God’s creation.  Whether the book of Job relates a historical event, or is a thought experiment, something akin to a parable, makes no difference to the message of the book or the inspiration of the book.

In Job chapter 41 God reflects on the Leviathan … a rather terrifying creature by any measure.

Can you pull Leviathan out with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue
Who can strip off its outer garment?
Who can penetrate the double coat of mail.
Who can pry open the doors of its face?
All around its teeth is terror.

Its sneezes flash forth light,
and its eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.
Out of its mouth shoot forth flaming torches;
fiery sparks escape.
Out of its nostrils pour forth smoke,
as from a boiling, seething pot.
Its breath kindles coals,
and a flame issues from its mouth.

On the earth there is nothing like it,
a creature made without fear.
It surveys all who are lofty;
it is king over all the sons of pride.

There is no indication in the book of Job that any of the wondrous, awe-inspiring, or terrifying features of creation, including the Leviathan, arise from the sinfulness of mankind. In fact the entire book of Job and the tour God gives of creation appears to belie such a claim. Brown notes that Job 38-41 depicts creation as a mighty wilderness, Job is given glimpses of the world at its wildest and there is nothing wilder than the Leviathan.

The world is neither a cosmic temple nor a lush garden nor a playhouse for child Wisdom. No, the world is a wilderness, uncultivated, and untrammeled, and it is valued as such. (p. 137)

Job is given a view of God’s creation and God’s power that puts him in his place – not as a sinful wretch but as a mere man, part of God’s creation and not one to challenge God. At the beginning of Job chapter 42 we find Job’s reply:

Then Job addressed YHWH saying:
I know that you can do everything.
and that no plan of yours can be thwarted.
Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?
Yes, I did declare what I did not understand,
things too marvelous for me, which I did not know.

Whatever view we have of the nature of God’s creation – both before and after the fall – the book of Job should provide part of the data. The tendency of the evangelical church to jump from Genesis ch. 3 to the New Testament and the coming of Jesus, with only a brief consideration of key characters in the story of Israel misses the point (primarily as moral lessons for us today) – misses the story of the Old Testament and the way it frames the New Testament and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What lessons should we take from the dialog between God and Job?

Is the book of Job consistent with the idea that God’s creation was a deathless, clawless, rainless, paradise corrupted by the sin of a man?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    RJS,

    I think you are mistaken that Job gives no evidence of the Fall. Just take the “depravity of all men”:

    • Job 15:14-16 “What is man, that he could be pure, or one born of woman, that he could be righteous? If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!” (Also Job 4:17-19)

    • Job 25:4 “How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?”

    It seems that because you have started out with the wrong assumption (Darwin), your conclusions are necessarily skewed.

  • http://whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    Fascinating. I was interested to read Nate Wilson’s “Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl”, in which a very similar point was made to the one you’re making here – God’s creation is wild, occasionally violent, and can be celebrated as such – by a writer who (I assume) believes in young earth creation. Similarly Annie Dillard et al. It’s an important discussion!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Daniel Mann, I hardly think that Job lamenting that he cannot be pure is the same as total depravity. Hmmm, if I cannot be free from sin I must only be able to sin! No, that does not make sense.

  • RJS

    Daniel Mann,

    My point wasn’t that man is capable of sinlessness, purity, and God-like righteousness. The utter humanity of Job formed from the dust and born of woman compared and contrasted with the awesome majesty and power of God is an crucial part of book.

    My point was that creation is not displayed as an idyllic paradise corrupted and misdirected by the sinfulness of man.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    It sounds to me like the writer of Job is obviously not a Christian! They should spend more time in god’s word so they know what it says. [/tongue out of cheek]

    Thanks for posting this RJS, I have been reading the bible based on prodding and topics lately, and need to get back to a generalized reading so that I make sure I am getting the full measure. But since I have not done that yet, I appreciate you pointing out this perspective.

    As far as what it teaches, I think it directly teaches that we do not know how god created the world! That is also why it is likely that there are so few references to the methods of creation, because books like Job, and in my opinion Genesis, actually teach us that we do not know.

    A bit more on Gen teaching us we do not know. I find it obvious that Gen 1 is poetry of some form (perhaps godly), and Gen 2 does not match Gen 1. I also find the unbelievable ordering of events, and anthropomorphism of god’s walking and breathing into man (and don’t forget the snake), to emphatically point toward it not being literal history. Those who look at it as literal history miss out on one of the biggest points about it. The point that we do not know how god did these things and we should put our trust in him. The point that he is wonderful in how he did create the universe. The point that we really are just man and he did not reveal to us how he did these things, leaving the wonderful investigation to us in our lives. Asserting that god taught us how he did these things makes the world a much less wondrous place.

  • Bev Mitchell

    RJS,
    What a great meditation on a truth we often neglect. I’m glad you remembered to return to this book. It’s clear from Job and elsewhere that God’s creation was not “a deathless, clawless, rainless, paradise corrupted by the sin of a man”, and equally clear that we are in a battlefield. It may even be that the good creation work of God has been resisted from the beginning, hence the reference to
    “…. a creature made without fear.
    It surveys all who are lofty;
    it is king over all the sons of pride.”

    Fortunately, our Creator has let us have a look at the end of the story and this revelation, and the presence of his Spirit, are sufficient to give us the courage we need. 

    Greg Boyd posted something similar on his blog about Job a while back (probably late 2010) entitled “The Point of Job” but I can’t find it in their archives. After reading Boyd’s article, I wrote the following. It outlines some of the lessons we can learn from dear old Job. Hope it is helpful.

    A Letter from the Father of all

    To my dear theologically inclined sons and daughters, Greetings.

    I have been following your ongoing deliberations and must say I’m impressed at the way you are able to apply your mental capacities in the consideration of my nature, purpose and acts. Normally I don’t interfere much in such generally wholesome activity, but I have become concerned that certain clear lessons from my Word seem to be often missed, with unfortunate consequences. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, the consequences can border on the dangerous. 

    The heart of the matter seems to be the difficulty my creatures have in taking to heart the simple lesson that I gave to Job and his friends in my first revelation, and have repeated frequently enough since – viz, I am the Potter, you are the clay. You are not able to come up with a description of me, my work or my purpose that is sufficient for more than formulating the most basic understanding. Don’t get me wrong, I love you very much and want you to think hard, because you are in a hard place and you do need to be wise as serpents, but also harmless as doves. It’s the second part that needs some work.

    You see, it really is harmful when you fall for the idea that your mental abilities and your finely tuned words can come close to describing my nature, my purpose and my acts – the clay should know its place better than this. I am the one who does the revealing around here and I thought I had made it clear to Moses that there is so much to me and my reality that the best I can do for you, in your present condition, is give you a tiny glimpse of myself. This, however, is enough for you to know the precariousness of your situation and to give you some understanding of what I have done to rescue you from this situation. You are in no position to be able to comprehend more than I have revealed.

    The harmfulness I refer to really is serious. You see, when your ideas about me have been developed to the full extent of your abilities, you have a strong tendency to think of them as a nearly complete work, certainly something of great value that others should use as a guide. In short, you get quite enamored of your intellectual work, the same way the Canaanites thought of their little carvings and even my people thought of their golden calf or of their interpretation of the symbolic serpent on the staff that I provided. Your tendency to see yourselves as more able to know things than you actually are often leads you very close to idolizing the creations of your own mind. Now, with respect to my opinion of idolatry, I am sure that I have made myself perfectly clear. 

    Please keep your eyes and mind fixed on the centre of my revelation to you. You actually live on a battlefield that you only vaguely comprehend, and you need all the help you can get. The battle which is underway in spiritual reality is the real thing and will overcome you if you don’t lean completely on the sufficient suffering and sacrifice of my Son, and depend on the full power of my Spirit, as He did. Now, as you know, from the perspective of eternity this war has already been won. Your everyday perspective is different however, making the world appear to be completely out of control. 

    Remember, it is fairly easy for you to know if you are understanding my revelations correctly. My Spirit, abiding in the centre of your being, will fill you with joy and cause you to love me more and more. As this happens, you will love other people more and more, even those who say they have a better description of me than the one you have developed. The love that comes from my Spirit, through you to the world, will be combined with a wise and warm humility that will be very attractive to those who know me not. Equally important, the fully available power of my Spirit will allow you to win real victories on the temporary battleground where you live. As a reminder I close by giving you Job’s prayer to me following my corrective comments to him. Job really got the message. 

    “I know that you can do anything. No one can keep you from doing what you plan to do. You asked me, ‘Who do you think you are to disagree with my plans? You do not know what you are talking about.’ I spoke about things I didn’t completely understand. I talked about things that were too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak. I will ask you some questions. Then I want you to answer me.’ My ears had heard about you. But now my own eyes have seen you. So I hate myself. I’m really sorry for what I said about you. That’s why I’m sitting in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2-6 RNIV

    I’m sure you will take these loving, corrective words to heart and continue to faithfully serve the  Kingdom that I am building in and among you.

    Your Loving Father and Sovereign Lord

  • JohnM

    As for the original creation being a deathless kind of paradise, I’m not sure Job either confirms or denies. However, lessons from Job, about creation? Expressed poetically – God did it, and humankind is foolish to deny or forget that fact. God allows things to work they way He made them to work, and allows some things (like people) to work somewhat differently then that, but God is not disengaged, either from the physical creation, or human affairs.

  • Matt

    Very simply, the Book of Job affirms that we don’t know as much about creation as think we do.

  • http://www.borrowedbreath.com/ Nathanael

    From where did we receive the doctrine that there was no death in the original creation, if it was truly a “mighty wilderness,” with beasts like Leviathan, and not the deathless utopia we’ve heard so much about? Other than the promise that eating the fruit would bring death, and other than God killing an animal to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness, what verses are used to back up the deathless garden?

  • Joey Elliott

    I like this:

    “As a story – an inspired and canonical text – the view that the book of Job provides concerning the moral character of creation is, or should be, an important piece involved in the formation of our views of creation and of the presence of good and evil within God’s creation.”

    But to your sentence that directly follows:

    “Whether the book of Job relates a historical event, or is a thought experiment, something akin to a parable, makes no difference to the message of the book or the inspiration of the book.”

    I would respectfully say that I think it surely makes some difference. Saying it makes no difference is a convenient way to conclude for yourself that it is parable only (which I won’t presume to argue against in this forum). It could be historical. There is really nothing conclusive to say it isn’t, so I think it is worth considering that if it is historical, it is so for a reason that is beneficial to us.

    Which is how I would approach Genesis also, but I don’t want to distract this conversation from Job, which I appreciate you highlighting for an added perspective on creation.

  • RJS

    Joey,

    Isn’t it clear from the text – especially the opening scene with God and Satan that there is an element of story here? Even if the remainder was written by Job as an account of his experiences? And he, of course, is the only one who could have written it as history (with a postscript added by a descendant). I am not going to argue history or story here because I really don’t think it makes any difference to the message of the book.

  • Joey Elliott

    RJS,

    Of course there is element of story here. It is a story. I’m just offering that it could have been a true historical story, told by Job or through God by whomever. History and story are not opposites. And I’m suggesting it does (or could) make some difference whether it was historical or not, because if it was, perhaps that makes the message more real and powerful. If it mattered whether it was historical, than it would be worth arguing, no? I’m not asking for the argument, just the acceptance that it is possible that it could make some difference whether it was historical. Because of course I think it was (is), and for good reason: our good and God’s glory.

    I also was suggesting (perhaps wrongly – please correct me if so), that you were downplaying the significance of whether it was historical or not, because you indeed believe it was not. Respectfully, the conversation might be easier and more beneficial if we (those believing each) both just stated what we think and got the differences on the table, and not imply that the difference doesn’t mattter. As I said, I appreciate the highlighting of Job for a perspective on creation, so while I disagree (I think) with your view of the nature of the book of Job, I still benefit from this conversation. I could just have easily been lost in the argument because of your vagueness on what you believe.

    Does that make sense?

  • holdon

    “what verses are used to back up the deathless garden?”

    A verse that is often used is Rom 5:12, but that verse clearly says: “thus death passed upon all men”. Therefore it does not say that there was no death of other organisms in the garden.

    This thing (“no death in absolute sense before Gen 3″) is often used as a straw man to argue that the Bible could not possibly be correct.

  • EricG

    I agree with RJS about the interesting points Job raises about death and creation.

    When it comes to theodicy, I’ve always been troubled by the two points this book of the Bible suggests about God’s involvement in Job’s suffering. First, the beginning suggests that Job’s suffering resulted from what was essentially a bet that God and Satan made. Second, when Job raises questions, in the passage RJS quotes God says in strong terms that Job as a man is in no position to pose the question.

    I understand that some believe the chapters toward the end (including God’s response) may have been added to the original story, which may raise questions of inspiration — or may not, depending on your view of how inspiration works. Either way, Job raises further questions about the role of a good God in suffering.

  • Rodney Reeves

    For an artistic approach (making the same point as RJS and William P. Brown), one couldn’t do much better than Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life”–a brilliant reading of the Job story.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    I think his point is that his point is that it COULD be historical or it COULD be parable/Wisdom but to cling desperately to either is to fall into the very error that the book of Job warns of—to presume to hold God within the palm of our imaginations and ideas is pure folly and a driving NEED to understand concretely how everything works (rather than experience and give experience of God in Christ) is in fact the original Sin.

    I’m not anti-intellectual. My faith has been enriched deeply by intellectual pursuit of God. However I’ve found that the moments hen my faith and sureness in Christ have grown have not been so much in moments of increased knowing, but in moments of increased un-knowing. Those times when my ideas and imaginations and mental constructs are graciously shattered and i have to confess, as Job, that i presumed to have saving knowledge of God are the events immediately preceding my deepest union with him in humble Love.

    To quote my favorite modern day prophet (Bono, haha)

    “The more you see the less you know, the less you find out as you go, I knew much more then than I do now…the more you know the less you feel, some pray for—others kneel—blessings not just for the ones that kneel—luckily. “

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Oops, typo. Song says “others steal”, not “others kneel”. Very different. : )

  • Andrew

    Daniel Mann: Bear in mind that what Job’s friends say is not necessarily consistent with the overall message of the book. In fact, some would say that it’s the opposite, and that that’s precisely the point.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Bev — what an awesome and creative letter. I think you beautifully captured the tension between God’s compassion for us as we try to seek Him within the limits of our humanity and His eternal Word that we don’t have to understand Him in order to Know and Love Him.

    I think in all this discussion it’s important to remember that there is death and there is a “death that is worse than death”. To die, or even to suffer bodily, is often a Godly calling, not a punishment. It is God’s provided way to make His love known. To enter physical death or suffering and yet Love is to defeat Death alongside Christ on the cross. To experience God’s absence is to identify with Christ.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    Two things on deathlessness before the Garden:
    1) Adam and Eve were closed out to not eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, otherwise they will be immortal. This says one thing for the “mystery of iniquity” (sin and “Total Depravity”) and another that deathlessness was not intrinsic to man.

    2)Eating fruit is a form of breakdown?

    Also, makes me think of that cheezy line from Lewis: “Is Aslan safe?” “No, but he’s good”

    Lord Jesus doesn’t call us into a safe life but a war against spiritual darkness (injustice, cruelty, greed, hatred etc.) and to take up our own crosses daily and be willing to die for others. God is a God of order but also of the wilderness. Lord of all?

    Cal

  • LexCro

    This is a cool post–and a much-needed one at that! I’ve been drinking all the Greg Boyd Kool-Aid with respect to this issue ever since I read his “God at War” (which is CRIMINALLY neglected by we evangelical folks). That said, I do have a question about RJS’s (and by extension, Brown’s) statements about Leviathan. Commenting on Brown, RJS states the following:

    “Brown notes that Job 38-41 depicts creation as a mighty wilderness, Job is given glimpses of the world at its wildest and there is nothing wilder than the Leviathan.

    ‘The world is neither a cosmic temple nor a lush garden nor a playhouse for child Wisdom. No, the world is a wilderness, uncultivated, and untrammeled, and it is valued as such.’ [Brown, 137]”

    From these statements, it sounds like RJS is, at the very least, neutral on Leviathan’s nature/character and that Brown actually views Leviathan in a positive light. But being that Brown is (rightly) critiquing folks for isolating Genesis 1-3 from the remainder of the OT material that describes creation, isn’t it a bit ironic that he might be doing the same thing here with respect to Leviathan? Granted, in Job 41, God is focused on two things: Leviathan’s utter untamed might and Yahweh’s singular ability to tame him. But in the OT, Leviathan is a variant of the Near Eastern Lotan, the serpentine sea/chaos monster. This creature is not good, and is not a part of God’s good creation. When Job is cursing the day he was born in 3:1-10, Job envisions his accursed state as the systematic dismantling of creation, a reversal of Gen. 1:1-5. In 3:8, Job places Leviathan right in the middle of the undoing of God’s good creation. While this is nothing like saying, “Hey, Leviathan is an evil dude!”, it’s a far cry from being neutral on Leviathan’s nature, and even further from portraying him/it positively.

    When we synthesize the Job material about Leviathan with Psalm 74:12-17, the picture becomes even more clear. Distraught and crestfallen over the fact that God has given Israel over to her enemies, the psalmist of Ps. 74:12-17 is forced to hearken back to God’s previous cosmic conquest of the chaos monsters/waters and Leviathan. In v. 14, the psalmist says, “You [Yahweh] crushed the heads of Leviathan / You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.” This is followed by verses 16-17, in which the psalmist’s affirms God’s creative work recorded in Genesis: “Yours is the day, Yours also is the night / You have prepared the light and the sun. / You have established all the boundaries of the earth / You have made summer and winter.” These verses correspond to Genesis 1:1-5, 9, 14-19. I don’t think it coincidental that Job associates an un-creation with Leviathan, while the psalmist of Ps. 74 couples Yahweh’s victory (not mere taming) of Leviathan with an affirmation of God’s created order. The upshot is that Leviathan is hostile to God’s good creation and His creative purposes.

    Brown states that “Job’s story stretches the theological envelope in ways that no orthodox Israelite could imagine, for it reaches behind and beyond Israel’s story.” But that only works if we take God’s statements about Leviathan Job 41 positively (or neutrally). But God’s statements about Leviathan are merely intended to underscore humankind’s helplessness in light of Leviathan’s might and, by contrast, God’s supremacy over Leviathan. In other words, I don’t think that Leviathan is part of God’s good and blessed intentions for His universe. God’s statements about Leviathan in Job 41 are a counterpoint to what Job says about Leviathan in Job 3. However, in Job 3 Job envisions a creation that is spiraling out of control and being ultimately given over to Leviathan. By way of contrast, in Job 41, God contradicts this by affirming His control over Leviathan. So Job is spot-on about Leviathan’s nature/character, but wrong about Leviathan swallowing up creation. God holds Leviathan’s reigns, and holds them skillfully despite his power. While I firmly believe that Job’s story stretches the theological envelopes of many Christians (notice our unwillingness to deal with the issue of lesser “divinities” in Job 38 and a plethora of other OT and NT texts), I really don’t see the dissonance between what Job is stating and what orthodox Israelites would say and did say in the OT. This is especially true when we bring in material like Psalm 74, is brought into the mix. (I should add that, following Greg Boyd, I also believe that Leviathan corresponds to the many-headed dragon in Rev. 12.). Put briefly, Leviathan is not merely a wild creature that is apart of God’s good creation. Like other fallen semi-divine entities, he/it is evil and poses a threat to Yahweh and His good intentions for His world.

    Granted, I may be taking RJS’s comments incorrectly, and I may be taking Brown’s statements the wrong way (especially as I am interacting with Brown via RJS). If so, I’m open to correction. But if I’m right, then we’ve got to be sure that in synthesizing biblical creation accounts that we are fully integrating all the elements of all of the material.

  • RJS

    LexCro,

    Is there anything “uncreated” and not part of God’s creation other than God himself?

    I am not trying to be trite – this is a question I don’t think we deal with well in evangelical theology. The snake was, we are told, the craftiest of all the creatures, but it was not uncreated or outside of creation.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Cal, not sure I entirely hear what you’re saying in number 1 but “amen” to number 2. So often we think of only the hope, love, and peace, promised in Christ, but we fail to see the difficult Truth that these are not “something to be grasped” but are found only in giving up our need to find them in love for others.

  • LexCro

    RJS,

    I don’t believe that there’s anything un-created aside from God. Did my use of “un-creation” prompt the question? If so, I apologize. When I used the term, I was referring to the undoing of creation, not something that has always been in existence. My fault. If you meant something entirely different, then I’ll need more clarification. Thanks for the correspondence.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Joey,

    Let me give this a try. With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, when it comes to Scripture, at least, the medium is definitely not the message! Scripture reveals the message rather than being the message itself. This is not playing with words – there is a great reality behind the words, to which the words refer and in which we put our faith. This is why it really doesn’t matter if the story really happened or was made up for the purpose. As long as we grasp the reality to which the story refers we are getting the intended message. It is for reasons like this that literalism fails.

    For a much better version of the same thing, I recommend what T.F. Torrance says in the opening chapter of “The Trinitarian Faith” (pg. 22)  when he refers to that “which the Holy Scriptures……..bear witness independent of themselves. Biblical statements (dicta) are for their part to be interpreted in the light of matters or realities (res) to which they refer and under the control of which they were made, and not the other way around.” and a bit further on “the primacy accorded to faith in our knowledge of God reflects the absolute priority of God over all human thought of him, even over the human media which he has brought into the service of his self-revelation.”

    Hope this helps,

    Bev

  • Mark Z.

    LexCro: “When we synthesize the Job material about Leviathan with Psalm 74:12-17, the picture becomes even more clear.”

    And if we synthesize it with an article from the March 26 Weekly World News, “SEA MONSTER WASHES ASHORE”, the picture becomes even MORE clear!

    There’s no reason at all to treat Psalm 74 as context for Job 41.

  • Joey Elliott

    Bev,

    Thanks for the effort. Sadly, I’m not sure I completely understand your point, and I respectfully find T.F. Torrance’s words you quoted altogether unhelpful. My comfort in suffering is strengthened by the example of the real historical person Job and the real historical story of what happened to him, and how God revealed Himself, in all His glory, to him. That may stand alone as my personal testimony, not valid evidence, but I can surely say my testimony is not unique in church history.

    Though I agree the message is more important than the medium (and more than that the Person revealed in the message is more important yet!), that reality does not automatically mean the medium is not historical, or irrelevant as to its historicity. The message over medium approach is an easy way to accept only what we want in the Bible yet throw out its authority. And before I get hanged for offering the dreaded “slippery slope” argument, all I’m saying is there’s a balance. Sometimes the message depends and is enhanced by the nature of the medium. Not always. But sometimes. I think, it is in the case of the Book of Job and its historic accuracy. For what it’s worth.

  • Dan Arnold

    RJS,

    Why do you have to post such interesting things on days where I’m way to busy to comment on them? :)

    The idea that Job is referencing creation is clear not just starting in chapter 38, but all the way back in chapter 2. Notice how Job talks about cursing the night he was conceived and the day he was born? The words through out chapter 2 echo the creation narrative but for Job, the natural order of things is being uncreated (reversed). It appears that chaos is reigning; Leviathan, who embodies the chaos of the sea, seems to be in charge on the land.

    For Job, part of the right ordering of creation is moral retribution: do right and good things happen to you, do wrong and bad things happen. This is also the basis of Job’s friends’ discourse with him. For them, Job must being doing something wrong. But for Job, who is explicitly blameless (which in itself doesn’t fit our paradigm of original sin), creation itself must be breaking down and Leviathan is out of control.

    In the end, YHWH addresses Job and states that creation is far more complex than what Job perceived; not just in what was created but in the moral ordering of the universe. Leviathan is not winning but there are realities in creation that are beyond what Job is aware of. There is no narrative of creation and fall here but rather, creation versus the powers of chaos, which are trying to uncreate (remove the boundaries) what YHWH has rightly ordered. In essence, the subtext of Job is about the moral ordering of the universe, not it’s material creation.

    Shalom uvrecha,

  • Bev Mitchell

    LexCro, (#21)

    You are correct to lament our tragic neglect of views like Boyd (eg. his relatively new “Satan and the Problem of Evil”) and also Walter Wink “The Powers that Be”. It’s nearly impossible to come up with a defensible Christian theodicy without something like this.

    As JRS points out, we may well have to be concerned with what was created when, because the snake was there…..how long had he been around? We may even need to revisit our understanding of the word ‘beginning’. I am finding R.R. Reno’s recently published commentary on Genesis very helpful in this regard. Reno argues, quite convincingly, that we would do better to have a substantive, as opposed to temporal, view of ‘beginning’ when interpreting Genesis. Comparing Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 he suggests the “in the beginning” could be better read as “in his all powerful word” – “God created the heavens and the earth.” 

    He draws the following from Col. 1:13-16; 1 Peter 1:20; Rev. 22:16 and Col. 2:3: “….the world has a beginning by and in the divine Word, and we best orient ourselves to reality when we focus on Christ.” And a bit later “….Christ is the beginning from which and for which God creates….” then quite a bit later “Christ is the master plan of all creation, and his call is necessarily toward a fulfillment rather than effacement or denial of creation.” To link with the Church thinkers he quotes Athanasius “There is no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the one Father has employed the same agent for both works, effecting salvation of the world through the same Word who made it in the beginning” (from On the Incarnation), and interestingly points to 2 Cor. 5:4, observing….”That which is created and mortal shall not be defeated or destroyed; it will ‘be swallowed up in life’”.

    As Reno summarizes, “The divine plan or project, however spelled out, is the beginning out of which and for which God creates.”

    At the moment, I have settled on the following to summarize all of this: Creation is God’s ‘YES’ to Satan’s ‘no’.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Joey (#27),
    I was probably too wordy – occupational hazard :) Torrance is difficult. I put him in to recommend him, nevertheless. His thinking is well worth the effort to understand (there are several secondary aids, if you want references just ask). His strongly Trinitarian and unfailingly Creed upholding theology would form a wonderful foundation for anyone engaged in science- faith issues.

    Now to the point, which was to say, it does not matter at all if we read ‘real’ Job or ‘invented Job to make a point’ – the point is made equally well either way. To worry over real vs invented is……. well…. to miss the point. Consider the greedy dog, the bone and the reflection in the lake conjured up by Aesop……….

  • LexCro

    @ Mark Z.

    Mark Z: “And if we synthesize it with an article from the March 26 Weekly World News, “SEA MONSTER WASHES ASHORE”, the picture becomes even MORE clear! There’s no reason at all to treat Psalm 74 as context for Job 41.”

    LexCro: Wow. With respect to context, in the ancient near east belief in evil supernatural entities (read: not the Loch Ness Monster) was part and parcel of the average society’s conceptual framework. They had a cosmic warfare theological outlook, and that is powerfully reflected in the Old Testament. Leviathan was one of those supernatural entities. What basis (aside from a snarky and irrelevant appeal to contemporary tabloid articles) do you have for segregating what Ps. 74 says about Leviathan from what Job says about Leviathan in Job 3 and Job 41? How do you deal with the parallels between the Ps. 74 material and the Job 3 material with respect to Leviathan and creation? I’m not sure how your comment even begins to address anything that I–or RJS or Brown, for that matter–have put forward.

  • holdon

    “In essence, the subtext of Job is about the moral ordering of the universe, not it’s material creation.”

    Creation includes the forces that we do not perceive as such (at least today). Leviathan is one of the tannim (monsters or dragons or serpents) of Gen 1:21. See Ps 74 and Is 27:1 for the link between these. The serpent of Gen 3 is the old serpent of Revelation and called dragon in Rev 20:2: it’s Satan. He is also an “angel” created by God but fallen.

  • LexCro

    @ Bev #29,

    Cool stuff, but I’m still a bit in the dark about how the serpent’s presence in the Garden impacts questions of temporality and creation. This is not to say that everything is settled with respect to time and creation. I’m just saying that the serpent’s presence can be explained easily by positing that he (along with some other angelic beings) rebelled against God at some point prior to his tempting of Adam and Eve. Other than that, I’m in the dark about exactly “when” angelic beings fell. Sorry to be so thick, but if I’m missing something I’m open. Oh, and I’ll be sure to check out R.R. Reno’s material; it sounds fascinating.

  • Joey Elliott

    Bev,

    I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but you seem content to close the issue with your opinion that it does not matter whether Job was “real” or “invented”. I think it matters greatly. I don’t think it makes the point equally, and personally, it does not make the point coherently to me at all, as it relates to the theology of and comfort in suffering, if it was indeed “invented”. Were this not a limited forum, I could back that up more robustly. But it needed to be said.

    Thanks for the interaction.

  • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

    Joey –

    I can see where you’re coming from. It is comforting to know that someone in the past has felt what I feel and dealt with the fears and doubts that I have. Keep in mind though that job, whether historical or not, was written by a real person as an expression of a real heart. If a story, it is a story born out of real experience and real suffering. Like poetry and art, the truth is that it communicates the heart of one who has experienced and helps us relate to him whether he is recounting a historical event or reselling a story that he sees as common to every man in a way that brings truth to light for every reader.

    Hope that makes sense.

    : )

  • Bev Mitchell

    LexCro (#33)
    You correctly observe,
    “I’m just saying that the serpent’s presence can be explained easily by positing that he (along with some other angelic beings) rebelled against God at some point prior to his tempting of Adam and Eve”

    I’m glad you will check out Reno’s commentary – his points are difficult to capture in a paragraph or two. I should have more clearly separated the serpent comment from the how should we read ‘beginning’ comment. As you picked up on, they are not directly related. It’s simply that we really have to consider a good number of things, often simultaneously, in discussions like this.

     It does indeed seem clear from Scripture that the rebellion of Satan was the rebellion of some of God’s creatures. We are probably not too far off in seeing this as an event preceding the ‘big bang’. It seems to have been an event that took place in purely spiritual reality. At this point many Christians want leave the room.:) However, as Boyd, Wink and lots of tradition point out, we must deal with this. Of course, if we find ourselves extremely limited in understanding how God created the universe, then thinking about how spiritual and physical reality might interrelate makes me want to leave the room along with the other brothers and sisters.

    Creation really does appear to be God’s good response to really powerful rebellion. The rebellion (negation or attempted denial of creation, perhaps) is perpetrated by spiritual rebels who were created by God, given authority by him, and who used their God-given freedom to rebel. This evil resistance to creation is the likely source of the resistance to God that we find in ourselves, and for which the work of the Holy Spirit is the only solution. Fortunately, the permission to resist is time-limited, by a Sovereign God who will have the kind of creation, people and Church he wants – the resurrected Christ being the first evidence of what will be.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Nate (#35)
    Good points re Joey’s concerns.
    Joey (#34)
    I, for one, would be glad to hear why it is actually necessary for it to be a real story (beyond being real writing by a real, inspired person about a real problem regarding human understanding of God). It’s for JRS to call, but I’m not sure your defense would fall outside the rules of the blog. JRS?

  • Joey Elliott

    Nate and Bev,

    I see where you’re coming from also, and I do appreciate your words. I know I seem difficult to please, but I still think I’m not getting through.

    I don’t believe the story of Job is historical because it is more comforting to me that way, as if I could convince myself of something not true to make myself feel better. I do not make the story true so that it is more comforting. The story of Job is more comforting to me because it is true. I could be wrong, but that is the order of my thinking. My comfort is not driven by emotion, but by truth. So, if it wasn’t true, I would have less comfort. I think that it is the way God intends it. God is the God of comfort, so I believe he reveals true things to us as a comfort. Invented things would be less of a comfort, in my opinion, even if the “message” is the same. And I believe he reveals Himself through true things, because he is the God of truth, and the gospel is the word of truth, and so he would have no conceivable reason to invent stories to communicate truth if he could communicate that same truth through true stories, which he can, and does. (As an aside, the parables of Jesus were identified as parables by Him and explained. Not so with Job and other stories commonly assumed as “invented”. So it’s not legit to use the parables of Jesus as evidence that stories like Job are not history).

    It’s important to note that the Book of Job, and the entire Bible, is not about us, but primarily about God. It is not meant to be read to get truth about similar, relatable human experience. It is meant to be read to see and understand truth about God. This is profoundly the case in Job. The comfort I get from the relatable experience in Job’s story pales in comparison to the comfort and growth I experience in the revelation of the nature of God in suffering, revealed through true events. Truth about God communicated through invented stories is less compelling, in my opinion, and less consistent with the nature of the God I understand from the Bible.

    Clearly we’re just coming from different starting points. I take stories like Job in the Bible as factual because nothing explicitly says it isn’t. You and others take stories like Job in the Bible as most likely “invented”, or parables meant to communicate true realities, because you see no compelling evidence of history (and in some cases claim to see evidence against history). I see no reason to question its historicity, and you see no reason to demand it be history.

    My only and original point was that I think something is lost if it’s not history. There is no way to prove this by setting my experience next to yours, for example, but I just wanted my experience on the record. Many, likely not those interacting here, have significant trouble getting real, lasting, helpful, true meaning from a God who inspires invented stories to get points across. For what it’s worth, more I see have trouble like this, than have trouble with all of Christianity because of the “intellectual incoherence” of believing supernatural things in the Bible that seem to contradict science. If that’s true (and I of course don’t know), than its worse to even imply that stories like Job are not history, than to suggest they might be, and probably are, history. Invented stories are more abstract than the personal God that we as Christians are communicating to people. So I just think it’s worth consideration that it matters whether its history or not. Maybe not to you, but to many. So we all should be open to that fact that it matters.

    My hesitation going deeper with my personal testimony to comfort in suffering from the truth of Job as history, is mostly about lack of time, not limitation of rules. Although I certainly don’t want to disobey the rules!

  • CGC

    Dan #28,
    I always appreciate your thoughts and insights. Maybe you have said this before but what does “uvrecha” mean?

    Thanks!

  • EricG

    Joey (38),

    Is it comforting to you if it is true that God and Satan essentially made a bet over Job’s sufferings? Or that God’s actual response to Job was that he shouldn’t question? If so, how so? Those things seem, to me, to be the opposite of comforting. I’m not sure that our comfort is the point of Job.

  • AHH

    Joey @38 says,
    Many, likely not those interacting here, have significant trouble getting real, lasting, helpful, true meaning from a God who inspires invented stories to get points across.

    Yet that is how Jesus taught much of the time.
    What are Parables if not “invented stories to get points across”? Is the point of the Good Samaritan lessened if the story Jesus told was not of an actual historical event? If not, then I think we can apply the same reasoning to Job, or Jonah, or any story that our scholars tell us is probably of a parable-like genre.

    If some people have trouble getting meaning from inspired stories, I think the problem lies with the hearers of the stories, not with the stories or those who tell us about their genre. Maybe another symptom of how the modern post-Enlightenment world has elevated some ways of knowing while devaluing things like story.

  • CGC

    Hi Joey, (#38)
    I appreciate you unpacking this some more. I suspect that others said it did not matter whether Job was historical narrative or simply a theological narrative for us to historize in our own experience really does not matter in the end (ultimately, I agree in the sense that what does ultimately matter is whether we appropriate the scriptures into our own lives). Certainly some people believe Job is a historical person and yet it means nothing in how they live their actual historical lives! I sometimes think we are taught that more liberal minded people take the Bible not literally whereas more conservative people take it literally and therefore liberals have a greater problem with either the world of the Bible or a world of the miraculous and supernatural.

    In the case of Job, it seems like much of the book is written from a poetic perspective from its own literary features. If that is true, then I doubt it is wise to suppose that people just don’t want to take the Bible or Job literally. I mean, I run into people who believe that Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazerus is literal and not a parable simply based on a name in the story and not on the type of literature or literary style in which it comes to us.

    Lastly, I do believe the book of Job can teach us a thing or two about pain and suffering but I for one really don’t believe this is even what the book is really about. What Job is really about is the Soverignty of God!

    By the way, my own perspective for some time is that Job is probably a historical person but I am doubtful that is true about his friends? They at least from my perspective seem to be more literary foils for the story of Job than real or actual people. And I for one certainly understand why others might not even look at Job as a historical person at all because of the text itself!

    Shalom.

  • Joey Elliott

    Eric G.,

    You are right that the point of Job is not our comfort. Nor is that the point of the Bible. The point is Jesus. Jesus is truth. Truth happens to gives comfort (at least to me!). So I’m more worried about truth than comfort, but yes, the fact that Satan does not have ultimate control over my suffering but is subject to a Sovereign God is extremely comforting. That is maybe the most comforting thing I can think of. But what’s more important is that it is true. Also, the fact that God in his sovereignty allows some level of suffering for my ultimate good, while mysterious, and not the way I would have done it, is amazingly comforting to me. Again, more important thing is that it is true. Maybe Job could have been fictional and this all still be true, but what conceivable reason is there for God to have communicated this through something other than a true story, and then not explained it as such (like Jesus did with parables).

    AHH,

    I specifically address parables. You can’t use those as evidence that stories like Job are invented. Jesus referred to them as parables, and then explained them.

    CGC,

    Thanks for the comments. I agree the point of Job is the Sovereignty of God. I don’t think any of my comments alluded to my thinking the point was anything else, but I apologize if they did.

  • Dan Arnold

    Thanks CGC (#39),

    The U in uvrecha means “and” vrecha (it’s a hard “ch”, as in JS Bach) is a form of the word barach, which means blessing or to bless. In Hebrew (without vowel points) it looks like וברח.

  • EricG

    Joey — those aren’t the questions I asked though — I asked, for example: Do you find it comforting that God and Satan made a bet over Job’s suffering? That is different from what you are responding to. And, if true, it is troubling.

  • Joey Elliott

    Eric G.

    I do not believe that the Book of Job teaches that God and Satan made a “bet”. That is a distracting interpretation to what is really going on there.

  • holdon

    “Do you find it comforting that God and Satan made a bet over Job’s suffering?”

    I wouldn’t say it was a bet. But God was proud of Job. Satan comes up with his version of testing Job. God allows and Job stands out. Those are the first 2 chapters and that history stops right there.

    The remaining 40 chapters are about how Job can be truly right with God: by repenting in dust and ashes.

  • RJS

    Joey,

    Job 1 and 2 may not convey a “bet” as nothing was wagered, but it was a test to prove something to Satan. Is this any better?

    It is this beginning in Job 1,2 that sets up the book, and this is why I think it is best viewed as a parable like story. The cues are just as strong as many of the parables of Jesus.

    I don’t doubt the possibility of supernatural and don’t consider it a problem for this book. I think the form suggests something else.

    But I still think it doesn’t matter at all either way for the point I was trying to make in this post.

  • EricG

    Joey,

    Well, I think that a bet is precisely what it was, and a very good understanding of Job 1. But let’s get more specific, then:

    God says to Satan, have you considered my blameless servant Job? Satan says, but’ve you’ve put a protective hedge around him! Strike everything he has and he’ll curse you. So God says very well, he’s yours, but don’t kill him. Which then leads to all the terrible suffering — we watch to see as he suffers a series of terrible outcomes to see whether the prediction is correct.

    So my question is: Is this specific set of events troubling or comforting? A lot of people would see this as very troubling. Job, his family and their awful suffering is a mere pawn in a dispute between God and Satan.

  • EricG

    RJS, well said — except I think there was something wagered: It was God’s reputation vs. Satan’s. God even said — have you considered *my* servant Job? Kind of like my Cubs vs. your Tigers.

    But I think we agree about the more basic point. To me, this strongly suggests it isn’t true. God help us if it is!

  • Bev Mitchell

    Joey (#38),

    Thanks for your clear, heartfelt summary of why you feel as you do. At one level, and to risk a metaphor, your response to this issue is similar to mine with respect to abstract art, it just doesn’t move me the way art should. Yet, I know it can move others profoundly – and I believe they are being very sincere when they express this.

    To close, we have yet to address the most important and fundamental question of all biblical interpretation – are either of us getting the essential message God wants us to get out if the text? Do we get anything terribly wrong? Are we missing anything important? I think that, despite our different responses to true vs invented stories, it is possible, without changing our outlook, for us to be guided by this part of God’s word essentially as he wishes. Does this sit well with you?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    The discussion about the historicity of Job is interesting to me because some have made the assertion that the story carries more weight for them personally if it is historically true. This view also sheds quite a bit of light on my view of those who insist on reading Genesis as history.

    Is the story more real and more authoritative if it is historically true? Now this would have to be considered in addition to the notion that the story is true morally, and religiously etc. I guess I could understand that some may need for it to be historically true to be a sensing oriented reality.

    So for those who do not need it to be true, historically, do we do a disservice to those who do need it to be by saying it is not? Interesting question.

    The wisdom of the way the bible presents itself says that the ambiguity is OK…..

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey, I would find more comfort in knowing that Job is made up because the image of a god torturing some poor guy for no good reason is waaay outside what I think of my god.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Eric #(50)
    Probably unfortunately, your comment re God’s reputation vs Satan’s reminded me of another confrontation between God and Satan at the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. And this is an account of a real event, because it makes no sense at all if it is an invented story.  The temptation of Christ can be seen as yet another version of the archetypical conflict between God and his former big shot angel. Satan says God (Jesus) should just take over everything and act like some kind of despot, use his sovereignty to rule, decree, show everyone who is boss. God’s view prevails, thanks to the faithfulness of Jesus, and a sovereign God continues to employ his sovereignty in a completely loving, sacrificial, heart of a servant way. Satan was once again defeated by someone who obeyed God.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Now I have to go help the Red Sox get out of their latest mess. :(

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Bev Mitchell,

    And this is an account of a real event, because it makes no sense at all if it is an invented story.

    Why? I don’t see it.

  • EricG

    Bev —

    I echo DRT’s comment.

    I also see far greater parallels between (1) Jesus tempted by Satan in the desert and (2) (rather than Job) Adam and Eve tempted by the snake in the garden.

    And Red Sox?! Have you considered my team the Cubs?

  • Joey Elliott

    RJS,

    I regret if I contributed to derailing your original point, as like I said, I appreciated the emphasis on creation from Job. I don’t personally question God’s sovereignty in places just because I don’t like it, so I don’t think it’s a matter of better or worse when it comes to whether it was a bet or a test for Satan. Though I would say a test gets closer to the reality of what’s going on, if not for Satan, then for Job, and for his good (not for satan’s good).

    EricG,

    If the specific set of events in Job 1 & 2 were the end of it, of course that would be troubling. Just as the OT without the NT would be troubling in its incompleteness. But either way, troubling is not an argument against truth. I may be mistaken, but you seemed to imply that the sovereign purposes of God in suffering were but a “pawn”. That can’t be right.

    Bev,

    I think my point has been taken, and yes, your statement sits just fine with me. Go Yankees! Totally kidding. I hate the Yankees. I actually am a Cubs fan like Eric!

    DRT,

    The suffering, not “torturing”, of Job was for very good reason. I am sorry that this is not more clear to you from the text of Job as well as the rest of Scripture. Also, do you honestly question the historicity of the temptation of Jesus? 

  • Bev Mitchell

    Eric, 
    Yes, the parallels are very clear – this can be true if the early stories are invented while the other is real. After all, Christ’s came to make it all real.

    DRT and Eric,

    What could be accomplished by an invented story about a discussion between God and Satan over how to run the world? Satan was offering to give up all his authority on earth, if Jesus would just agree to run things his way. If this was not a real argument, a real possibility, a real temptation, then we might as well give up our belief in the Incarnation. I realize that some Christians do this.  However, the Incarnation is the core of God’s revelation to humanity – If God is not with us, really human and divine, then we are free to invent whatever God we like. What real function would an invented story about the temptation of a real Incarnate God serve? On the other hand,  if it is read as a morality play about a man who was only a great teacher, OK, pick any story you like. Personally, if I didn’t believe in the Incarnation, and all that flows from it, I would be a Buddhist :)

    P.S. Just as I was finishing this up, between innings on the i-Pad, my wife was watching a show called Duets with two contestants singing one of the best renditions of “How Great Thou Art” I have ever heard. A better way to make my point I could not imagine. Hope you all can catch it – probably on You-Tube eventually. 

    Oh yes, and the Sox are ahead……for now.

    Thanks everyone for a great day of discussion. It’s 9:45 here in Atlantic Canada – we slow down early in these parts. Wonder what JRS will come up with to top this topic?

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    We can read these stories with belief or unbelief. We can read the scripture in the worst light possible or read it in a more positive light. What I find troubling is some of you are reading the Job story the exact same way I hear from skeptics and atheists. Maybe that is fine with you but if some of you are troubled by the Job story, I am troubled by how some of you are reading it.

  • MWK

    CGC – you stated my thoughts better than I could have done after reading these comments.

  • RJS

    CGC,

    I think you are exactly right that we can read these stories with belief or unbelief.

    This has gotten off the track of the point I was trying to make in the original post. Reading Job with belief means that we take seriously the discourse between God and Job in 38-41 as having an inspired purpose and message. Through descriptions God takes Job on a tour of creation – a tour that is designed for a purpose and uses the framework of Job’s time and culture (ANE cosmology for example). The text is part of our inspired scripture and thus should help shape our understanding of creation.

    On the sidetrack … when I contemplate the meaning of Luke 10:30-36 I don’t worry whether Jesus was relating an incident or telling a story as a thought experiment. The text of Luke doesn’t actually tell us which it is. But the story of the Good Samaritan has a purposeful truthful intent perfectly compatible with its origin from Jesus either way. Likewise, contemplating the meaning of Job, I don’t think we need to worry whether it relates an incident or tells a story as a thought experiment. Job is a story with a point very much like the parable of the Good Samaritan is a (much shorter) story with a point.

  • EricG

    Bev, DRT, Joey,
    I did not mean to suggest the story of Jesus’s temptation wasn’t true – some understanding of Jesus’s temptation is crucial to Jesus’s humanity, I think. I meant instead that Job can be just a story without the Jesus temptation being untrue.

    Joey – are you suggesting that where Job’s story ended – he gets news children to replace the old – makes things right? Don’t you find that troubling? What about his first set of kids who died as a result of God’s arrangement with Satan? And what of the fact that ending part appears to have been added to the story later?
    As for God’s sovereignty, that can mean many different things; what I am saying doesn’t do violence to that, unless your view of sovreignty is that God does anything he wants, even things inconsistent with his character. I don’t think that is an accurate understanding of the Christian tradition’s understanding of God.

  • Mark Z.

    LexCro #31:

    They had a cosmic warfare theological outlook, and that is powerfully reflected in the Old Testament. Leviathan was one of those supernatural entities. What basis (aside from a snarky and irrelevant appeal to contemporary tabloid articles) do you have for segregating what Ps. 74 says about Leviathan from what Job says about Leviathan in Job 3 and Job 41? How do you deal with the parallels between the Ps. 74 material and the Job 3 material with respect to Leviathan and creation?

    Let me try that with less snark. I think it’s inappropriate to synthesize these texts because they ought to be antithesized. The author of Job is exploring a theological idea that’s opposed to everything in Psalm 74.

    Psalm 74 celebrates God as the victor over the forces of evil, and expresses hope that God will act as a moral agent and champion the righteous against their enemies. Leviathan is there to be the greatest and most dangerous of those enemies. This is very much in line with the Near Eastern “cosmic warfare” outlook that you mention (cf. Marduk).

    Job, taken as a whole, is about God’s failure to deliver on that hope. “Cosmic warfare” isn’t in view. Leviathan didn’t muscle its way past God and eat Job’s children. (The only consensus in the book on the cause of Job’s misfortune is that God allowed it!) You write that “In 3:8, Job places Leviathan right in the middle of the undoing of God’s good creation.” But God’s speech in 39-41 is a recitation of things that are his good creations even though they seem threatening or unlovely to humans: storms, ravens, wild horses, lions, apocalyptic world-devouring chaos monsters. God sees the terrible dark majesty of Leviathan rising out of the sea and says “That is so cool!” The millions of fish that (one assumes) Leviathan eats every day might not see it that way, but God doesn’t take sides.

    But the Psalmist absolutely expects God to take sides. In Psalm 74, God is awesome because God defeats Leviathan. In Job, God is awesome because nobody defeats Leviathan.

  • Meri

    To Joey and Bev and Nate and RJS… And any others as regards the literal historicity of the Job character…

    Several months ago I listened to Christine Hays lectures from Yale on the OT and her lesson on Job was the most impactful one of the entire semester for me. She made the point that the writer’s overall intent was to painfully and poignantly illustrate that righteousness is to be pursued whether or not it brings us any reward at all… Righteousness should be pursued for the sake of righteousness.

    It seems to me that this reading is breathtakingly poignant in light of Israel’s checkered history of failing to stay true to their covenant with God. Finally, for possibly the first time in the entire OT, someone totally nails what God has been telling man all along: believe me, trust me, obey me, be a servant to your neighbor, a caretaker of the garden and animal world… And do it simply because it’s the right thing to do whether it results in personal gain or not. This clearly hearkens to the Genesis creation account.

    When one considers the view that the book of Job might be this statement of opinion in parable form by a real historical person (the anonymous author), I am suddenly left breathless with the realization that after several millennia, someone finally understood what God had/has been telling us all along.

    In my view, this is far more impactful than if Job himself was a real person, which gives rise to all sorts of conundrums.

  • Tom R

    Joey, in #38 you said,–”I believe he reveals Himself through true things, because he is the God of truth, and the gospel is the word of truth, and so he would have no conceivable reason to invent stories to communicate truth if he could communicate that same truth through true stories”. It looks like you are conflating truth with historical events. Have you ever read a novel and thought this is true even if it didn’t happen, I know people just like this. I remember a history prof telling the class we could get a better understanding of the estates of pre-revolutionary Russia by reading Checkoff’s The Cherry Orchard than by all the economic data. I’am not saying history is not important when it comes to the Gospel. As Paul says if Christ be not raised we are still in our sins. However, not every thing in the Bible was an historical event and there can be truth in “invented” stories.

  • Tom R

    LexCro and others, about leviathan in Ps.74, Is.27,and Job 41 this looks like the chaoskampf with God as victor but I always think of Ps.104 at the mention of leviathan. The representation of chaos turns out to be a creature God made to play in the sea.

  • RJS

    Meri,

    Great comment. Although “statement of opinion” in your second to last paragraph may bring the wrong association for some.

    I don’t think Job is a statement of opinion by someone who finally realizes the truth any more than I think Isaiah is a statement of opinion by some one who sees or The Parable of The Good Samaritan is a statement of opinion by Jesus who finally gets it. This kind of statement seems to ignore the guidance of the Spirit in both the writing and the canonization process. The book of Job as part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament is a powerful book – and it is wisdom literature not historical reporting.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Meri’s point that ” And do it simply because it’s the right thing to do whether it results in personal gain or not.” is one of the things the soterian gospel ruins. It seems that the soterian gospel says we are to follow Jesus because he will save us, because we will be rewarded. While I believe that we will, after all following the true King and Lord is likely to result in good things, I believe that misses the point.

    And what if the following results in good things for others and not for us?

    I struggle with this whole if we are going to get rewarded then can we actually follow out of it being the right thing to do. Being rewarded with eternal life for following is a there no matter what.

  • CGC

    Hi RJS and all,
    Yes, we do like Rabbit trails ;-) I can’t speak for others but Job undoes me. I don’t even come close to having the faith and perseverance that Job has. I mean, what does Job do after he loses everything? He worships God. I don’t know how many Christians would do that today? Job is so far ahead of us in many ways from my perspective. And RJS, yes, Job is wisdom literature. We should more be comparing it with books like Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon rather than First or Second Chronicles.

  • http://www.knowinginpart.wordpress.com Thomas

    The death of animals before the fall is one of the most troubling ideas for those who object to an old earth, but I am not altogether sure it is viewed as morally evil by scripture. If it is morally evil that animals should die, then the natural conclusion would be that we shouldn’t kill animals. The creationist who laments the eons of animal death pre-fall seems to have no beef with his hamburger. If there is a moral dimension to animal death, then it seems strange that God sanctions the killing of animals after the flood. Psalm 104:21 would also seem strange, “The young lions roar after their prey And seek their food from God.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Thomas, that does indeed seem to be an inconsistency. None of the other 4 members of my family admit to being christians (though they probably are), and none of them eat meat, exactly because they think it is cruel.

    Isn’t it ironic that non-theists are often so much more compassionate toward our fellow animals.

  • John Inglis

    Re: “Isn’t it ironic that non-theists are often so much more compassionate toward our fellow animals.” by DRT

    Is it more compassionate? or is it misplaced or wrongful compassion? Or is it incorrectly anthropormorphizing animals?

    I certainly don’t believe that one fails to have compassion for animals if one kills and eats them. There may be implications to the manner of death, but not the death per se–at least not in the present age. In Job God claims to be providing food for carnivores by way of the flesh of other animals. Hence, it is currently not wrong for carnivores to kill and eat others, so death for sustenance is not evil per se. It could only become wrong if there is some relevant difference between us and animals. I don’t see the Bible as indicating that any of our differences from animals are relevant to the issue of whether killing an animal for our food is compassionate.

    Indeed, it is my position that refusing a gift from God is wrong (in the sense of ungrateful at least, and possibly improper in the sense of being a wrong in our relationship with God), and that we should neither refuse his gift of meat, nor refuse his gifts of wine, beer and strong drink.

    J.

  • John Inglis

    As to Job being tested, I don’t have an issue with that, as we are told in the New Testament that we will be tested. Who is the tester? Typically Satan. And how does he get to do it? by the permissive will of God (obviously, since God is omnipotent and could stop him any time). So the beginning of the story says no more that what is obviously true, and does no harm to our image of God.

    As to Job and creation. A very interesting and useful way of handling the material. I’m very intrigued, love the post and comments, and want to read more (the book, Job, comments, etc.).

    Good post, RJS.

  • EricG

    John – if you think the story is true, it says a lot more than “God allows testing.” At a minimum, it says God and Satan are using massive suffering of Job and his family as a mere plaything or pawn in their dispute.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Drt, you know your family better than anyone else but I seem to recall you speaking before about a kind of brokeness over your children being atheists and then here you say they may be Christians without knowing it?

    Eric, is the desired result is you want the story to not be true because that would give you comfort and save your reading of the text that makes God look like a moral monster? Or do you take it as a true myth but simply are pushing back on others who read the story more literally than you?

    Maybe in the end some people hope we can stand before God and say things to God like not enough evidence or as one of my friends said, “I will stand before God and tell him to his face that I still don’t believe in him!” Really? Maybe God simply doesn’t measure up to our expectations or our own moral or theological imaginations? Maybe there is still something yet to be learned from the story of Job in all this?

  • EricG

    CGC,

    Those are fair questions. My motivation is that I am in a position akin to Job’s — likely to die within several months a painful death, leaving behind my wife and 2 young kids to grow up without a father. I am sincerely seeking to understand a world in which this type of thing happens not only to me, but this and much worse happens to millions of other people and children. I am primarily interested in a better understanding of God’s character.

    My take is that wisdom literature like Job can help with this, but serves more of a take off point for discussion, which I am interested in having. The Wisdom literature provides quite different answers — Job, for example, stands in marked contrast to Ecclesiastes on these sorts of issues. The truth, I believe, is likely in the dialogue.

    The discussion of what these books mean for us is terribly important, as is what we can learn from them, but unfortunately we can get bogged down in questions that I believe are irrelevant — like whether the details are true stories — rather than what they are really saying about the human condition and our relation to God, which is the key question, and seems to be avoided in many instances.

  • CGC

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for sharing . . . that certainly puts things in context and what you are facing. I don’t know where you are theologically Eric but I really don’t know if you understood God’s character better, that really helps or changes anything? The reason I say this is so many people have lost a child or loved one who never reached their senior years and say, ‘if I only knew why God took them now, I would be okay?” Even when some arrive at some answers later, it really does not take away their pain or make things ultimately better.

    All I can really suggest is Job really didn’t care what answers he got from God. What Job really wanted was God! When God showed up, that was the difference for Job. So I pray Eric that you may come to experience God’s presence in these coming days in a real way that gives you strength and comfort.

    Shalom!

  • RJS

    Eric G,

    We are continuing to pray for you and your family.

  • Joey Elliott

    EricG,

    I typically avoid debating or even presenting a theology of suffering to those who are suffering, so I sincerely apologize that it what I was essentially doing with you. I guess suffering is so prevalent that I should always assume someone is in the middle of a trial when I don’t know. Preparation for suffering I think is an essential element of the Christian life.

    So I’ll do what Job’s idiot friends should have done and shut my mouth and point to Him and say He is good; I don’t understand how that works right now, but He is good.

    And I’ll pray for you that you do relentlessly pursue the nature of God, see His goodness, and suffer well and make Christ look precious to your family and others.

    “therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:19

    Prayin for you brother.

  • EricG

    CGC,

    I am part of several communities of relatively young people going through similar terminal cancer experiences, with numerous friends having passed through death within the past 16 months. My experience has been that what helps one is often very different from what helps another. We not only have different life experiences, but we tend to experience the dying process very differently too.

    Some want to know why things happen in one particular circumstance, and even seek to create reasons; for me that seems counterproductive, so, at least for me, I tend to agree with you on that one point. However, that is differrent from seeking to understand God’s character better. For some, that becomes an essential question — and it is not just an academic question, but an experiential/existential one as well (and it sounds like you understand that, based on what you say about feeling God’s presence). For me, this is one big intertwined whole — understanding God, experiencing God. Seeking greater understanding of God’s character by any means, and challenging the assumptions I have made, is a key part of the process, and it is healthy.

    Also, a word of caution: Unless you have walked in the shoes of the person going through this, or know them very well, it is a dangerous thing to give advice. In my experience, many have reacted very badly to that sort of thing (however kindly worded it and intended, as your comments plainly are!).

    And RJS and CGC, I appreciate your prayers.

  • EricG

    Joey — no need at all to apologize. It is sometimes easier for me to avoid saying where I’m at with my health situation, because I’m sincerely interested in the dialogue and how people think about these issues, and if I say anything about my situation it sometimes makes the conversation harder. On the other hand, I suppose being up front about my motivations is important too, and can promote communication.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    EricG, I hope this does not seem selfish, but I would like for you to continue to share your thoughts with us. I appreciate them. I imagine that there is a certain immediacy to things for you.

    Blessings and prayers all around!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    To the temptation real or not crowd….

    First all, I don’t believe there is a real or supernatural being called Satan. It just does not make sense to me. I believe satan is what we get when we don’t have God. A historical temptation like it is portrayed would force me to believe there is a being like Satan.

    Second, it seems that there are some imaginary elements to the temptation. There is no mountain high enough to see the world, for example.

    Another point is that I feel the richness of the story is too purposeful. It follows the hardship of Israel, being baptized (parting the red sea), and continues from there. Did Satan wait for that moment on purpose?

    I do think it is likely that Jesus did go into the desert and was indeed tempted. He likely anthropomorphized the whole thing to clearly understand what was going on, and to communicate it to others. Because the story had to be told by Jesus to the writers, no one else was there.

    Given Jesus proclivity toward parable, I think it is likely one of Jesus stories, and an excellent one at that. That does not mean it has to be historically true….

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Here is an article discussing the temptation and the correspondance with the wandering of Israel.

    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/OT/view/Readon-the-temptations-of-jesus-and-the-disobedience-of-israel

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    …and I am going to draw the line at the wine at the wedding. Certainly it makes no sense to have a story about Jesus being a winemaker without the people actually getting to drink!

  • EricG

    DRT – thanks for the encouragement.
    Maybe it is a dramatized account, but doesn’t it seem like some sort of actual, serious temptation of Jesus (if not by Satan, then otherwise) seems important so that he isn’t just God dressed up to look like a man, who never suffered and never was truly tempted.

  • Jon G

    Meri in #65
    Beautiful comment. I think you’ve nailed it!

  • CGC

    Hey DRT,
    You always keep everyone here on their toes :-) Hey, maybe Jesus turning the water to wine was the parable and the temptation thing actually happened :-)

    I suspect Fr. Patrick Reardon would not understand the issues as you put them but I am glad to see you cite him nevertheless (ie, no Satan, no real temptation of Jesus story, etc.).

    And yes, there certainly is some kind of visionary or figurative imagery in the temptation story of Satan showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.

    Whatever you think about Satan, what do you think about such things as demons and angels?

  • Jon G

    DRT in #84 – I share your thinking here. An actual Satan seems to me to be more problematic than a character who represents Sin.

    Eric G in #87 – we’ve talked privately about this particular passage in regards to my unorthodox views of the Trinity, but I still don’t understand how losing this passage as literal truth makes Jesus less human. He led a meager life, he was betrayed by everyone he knew and, finally, he died on the cross. Does this not adequately demonstrate his humaness?

    I find the parallels to the Israel story in the desert and Jesus’ temptation in the desert being a rewriting of that earlier story to be a much more compelling exegesis. That’s not to say that it can’t have other meanings, but that seems the most likely to me.

  • Jon G

    sorry, I meant “characterization of Sin” (evil). oops!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    CGC#89, It would ruin my view of god to have non-alcohol containing wine ;) It must be real.

    Just imagine what a bottle of Jesus wine would go for! And how good it would be! Yum. Somehow I think he did not improve on the loaves and fishes when he made them, just the wine since it tells us that he made a good batch in the bible.

    ..and I am certain you are right about Fr. Patrick Reardon.

    To your question…… angels and demons…..

    I believe that god would be so different from us that we would not be able to conceive of what he is actually like. We need analogies and representation, with Jesus being our representation in human form.

    Given that, if by angels and demons we are talking about entities that have some sort of autonomous free will and agency outside of god, I would say it is highly possible and even probable. But not in the way that we talk about them. Does that make sense?

  • CGC

    Hi Drt,
    Perfect sense from my new wine drinking friend. I suspect yuu like “the real stuff” :-)

  • EricG

    Jon G – I’m not suggesting at all that it needs to be literal – just that some sort of serious temptation is important, even if this story is a dramatization. The points you mention are important to show his suffering, but not temptation.
    I don’t follow how this fits your views on the Trinity, but we can talk sometime.

  • Bev Mitchell

    DRT (#84 and elsewhere),
    I appreciate your points and concerns while not agreeing sometimes. Speaking of not being qualified to debate this – I am the chief of sinners. However, also not having the good sense to be quiet, here are some thoughts re the metaphysical change issues that you raise.

    It does seem clear from Scripture (and many testimonies in the history of the Church) that there is a spiritual reality in addition to the material reality we are, more or less, familiar with. This reality is more than just our inability to explain some pneumatic feeling, or the general, and not very useful common statement that ‘we are spiritual beings’. (as in: ”Then did of th’Elements Dust  Man’s Bodie frame A perfect  Microcosm, the Same He quickened with a sparkle of Pneumatik Flame.” E. Benlowes, Theophilia II. xi. 24 (from the OED)). Instead,  (in Scripture) God himself appears to be opposed by something/someone of a pneumenous nature that is more than the absence of good and more like the active, unrelenting negation of everything. We believe, because of creation, and because of the supreme creative event of Christ’s resurrection, that the battle is unequal, that God wins. But, the battle is still underway.

    How material reality relates to this pneumenous reality is,  apparently, above our pay grade to know. However, since even material reality is turning out to be way weirder than we ever dreamed, is it too much of a leap to think there may be far more to existence in pneumenous reality than we could begin to grasp? And, if this is so, could not God have something truly amazing in mind that ultimately will bring these two realities together, perhaps as they should be? And finally, could it be that our resurrected and glorified Lord is exactly the kind of new creation that God intends to perpetuate? Hence, the risen and glorified Christ is the first born from among the dead.

    If we don’t work with categories having some resemblance to these, we have to explain away a very large number of pneumatic references in Scripture.

    I don’t mind saying that I’m out of my depth here and would welcome any help we can get. But, DRT brings up very important points, and answers are not all that obvious, to say the least :)

    P.S. This blog is incredibly important. Where else can we discuss not only creation/evolution issues, but do it in a context that welcomes orthodox Christian thinking, more liberal thinking, and is open to related topics, like this, that practically no one is willing to take on? This is important not just for our intellectual entertainment, though it is that, but the issues discussed are obviously important to encouraging faith, and they are all related at many levels. Any advances in understanding these things will require a serious commitment to holistic thinking, which also seems to sit well with many contributors. Discussion of topics like this in isolation will get us nowhere. 

    Did you see those Sox go last night? Awesome!

    And Eric. Thanks for sharing. Your courage is a real blessing, certainly more that we can ever know. I will be praying for you brother.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Bev Mitchell, thanks for your thoughtful response. I love to speculate on things like this, and have a quite an active imagination concerning all things supernatural. But then again, I also like to play the mental game, would animal x be able to beat up animal y, and under what conditions…..I probably should not admit to that…..

    You paragraph

    How material reality relates to this pneumenous reality is, apparently, above our pay grade to know. However, since even material reality is turning out to be way weirder than we ever dreamed, is it too much of a leap to think there may be far more to existence in pneumenous reality than we could begin to grasp? And, if this is so, could not God have something truly amazing in mind that ultimately will bring these two realities together, perhaps as they should be? And finally, could it be that our resurrected and glorified Lord is exactly the kind of new creation that God intends to perpetuate? Hence, the risen and glorified Christ is the first born from among the dead.

    is something that I could have written exactly the same, love it.

    I guess where I am coming from is that I used to hear people talk about how this event of the fall had such a material change on humanity and creation, and how the atonement also had these metaphysical consequences, almost seeming to imply something tangible, that I start to wonder whether that is true or not. I don’t believe that anything material actually changed at the fall. No, literal death did not enter the world, no, animals and humans did not suddenly start to eat each other, no, that does not make sense and I don’t think it is required by scripture. It seems to me that it was more of a change in our relationship with god than with an actual change in the world and with us.

    Please believe that I am as gun ho as the next chap to love a good mystical experience and regularly wax poetic about the potential in our universe that we have not begun to explore or recognize. But this one seems a bit different to me. God did not change at the atonement. God did cause Jesus to physically, at least, change. But to generalize that into some sort of event that has an impact across all of creation given that god himself did not change seems to overstate our importance. I just can’t help but think that it caused us to change, our new realization, our new relationship that we now know is true, our new pursuit and clarity, but I don’t believe that god himself changed so how can there be a change in reality? Perceived reality maybe, but reality reality, not so sure.

    Thanks for giving me more thoughts Bev.

  • Bev Mitchell

    DRT,

    Sounds like you might appreciate T.F. Torrance’s little story about his response to a student who asked him, “When we’re you saved, Dr. Torrance?”. His answer, “When Jesus died on the cross.” Of course, in the wrong company, this comment would probably get TFT into loads of trouble. I’m no Calvinist, not even close in many respects, but I get what he means, I think. But then again,  neither was TFT, if by Calvinist one means the current Bezan, 5-point, neo-puritan variety :(  

    Have you read Torrance’s “The Mediation of Christ”? I think you would like it.

    Blessings,
    Bev

  • Meri

    RJS (#68) – I stand corrected as regards the phrase “statement of opinion”. Job is indeed wisdom literature; certainly not an expanded editorial column. I kind of see Job now as one man’s eureka moment explained in parable form. If in the it turns out Job is an historically literal man, I’m afraid I’d be a little disappointed.

  • CGC

    Hi DRT,
    Great discussion you and Bev are having . . . I appreciate what you are both saying. I just wonder if the discussion would take a little different shape from a Trinitarian perspective? For example, to say that Jesus changed and God did not change, God could be viewed soley as the Father. But aren’t there bigger dimensions to all this from a Trinitarian perspective? (unless someone wants to argue that Jesus was not God, then yes, I understand then the total disconnect then).

    Hi Meri,
    By the way, your thoughts on this thread have probably been my favorite! One person has suggested it seems that Job being a historical person would be more meaningful to him and you possibly suggest it would be less meaningful to you. Why?

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I was contemplating the discussion by Lexcro and Mark on the Leviathan. Since I am always trying to build bridges, I wonder if both of you have a point at different levels of the text? If the Bible is just read as a flat text with one single meaning, yes, all bets are off. But if there is a literal meaning to deeper spiritual meanings with different layers even between these two, then I wonder if one person could be dealing with a more literal surface meaning and the other person could be dealing with a deeper spiritual meaning or significance of the text?

    Just thinking out loud . . .

  • Bev Mitchell

    CGC #99

    Good point. I really believe that a solid Trinitarian grounding is what will yield 
    very good results in this, and many, arenas. Torrance claims that the Nicene and post-Nicene fathers thought things through this way: for God to human relations all goes “… from the Father, through the the Son and in the Holy Spirit” and for human to God relations all goes “in the Spirit, through the Son and to the Father.” Habitually thinking like this can keep us from losing important bits and pieces.

    Also, the relations referred to are one with the perichoretic relationship shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In this modern world, viewed from society or from science, we should have no trouble grasping the importance of relationship. Nevertheless, we often forget that the relationship between two or among several things/people is as real as the things or people in relation. In fact, the relation is an emergent property of the interaction. With Trinitarian thinking, the most perfect and important relationship in the universe is the perichoresis shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. An important point of the Gospel, the Very Good News, is that we are invited, through the Holy Spirit and because of the faithful work of Christ to actually share in that perichoresis right now. Presumably it is also this same perichoresis that we will be totally caught up in and enveloped by at the parousia.

    I’ve been convinced by Paul Molnar (“Thomas F. Torrance: Theologian of the Trinity”) and Elmer Colyer (“How to Read T.F. Torrance: Understanding his Trinitarian and Scientific Theology”) that exploring Torrance himself will be well worth the effort. So, I have just begun to read his “The Trinitarian Faith” and can see already it will be a gold mine. If, like me, you are not trained theologically, it would be best to start with both Molnar (Ashgate, 2009) and Colyer (IVP, 2001). 

    Warning:
    Re the application of “perichoresis” Theopedia more or less completely encloses its application within the idea of God bringing glory to himself. As wonderful as this is, the application of this important relational reality is far broader, as Torrance and his interpreters point out. Consider the source and don’t get boxed in. The Holy Spirit cannot be packaged or systematized.:)

  • CGC

    Thanks for this (some good stuff) Bev,
    On a side note, since you are such an advid reader, I just briefly started “The Dome of Eden: A New Solution to the Problem of Creation and Evolution” by Stephen H. Webb (Cascade books, 2010).

    I don’t know if RJS has read this book but I would especially be interested in her thoughts on it. It seems like Webb deals with a lot of the similar things we all do on this list in the interaction between science and creation.

    Although he was dealing with a different issue, he helped me understand better an issue that DRT brought up that I was not sure about. Anyhow, this guy is so well read and brings so many ideas to the table.