We’ve been talking about the Book of Job and more generally about the problem of evil in my freshman course on Faith, Doubt and Reason. It struck me that one can make a point relevant to academic assignment writing from the Book of Job (although I wonder how appropriate it is to do so). One of the main reasons that Job’s friends are criticized at the end of the book is presumably that they simply defended their existing belief, without allowing room for new evidence, and cutting short or not taking completely seriously objections that could be or were being voiced.When it comes to the academic study of religion, many fall back on the views that they have inherited when confronted with challenging perspectives – such as those offered in J. L. Mackie’s classic article on the problem of evil, or the objections raised by Ivan Karamazov in the excerpt from Dostoyevsky’s novel, both of which we’ve read this semester along with the Book of Job and much else.
Presumably, lest a professor give the impression that they are deifying themselves, it might be best not to put it this way: just as God was not pleased with Job’s friends for simply defending their traditional view (and God!) and cutting short discussion of other views and possible objections, so too professors will not be pleased when students do much the same thing when addressing challenging religious topics in their academic assignments.
What do others think? Is the analogy with Job’s friends a useful one when it comes to academic assignment?