Monday, November 27, 2006

Miserable Comforters

DagoodS raises some questions about some of the content found in the book of Job:
God reiterates again in 42:8 that the three friends had not spoken of God what is right, as Job has. In 42:9 it is indicated again that what Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shulhite and Zophar the Naamathite all said was incorrect.

Clear enough. What Job said about God was correct. What the three friends said was incorrect. But have you ever read the book of Job with the mindset that what Job was saying was right, and what the three friends said was wrong?
While DagoodS' understanding of the book of Job is--I believe--simplistic, it is not altogether uncommon. Even many believers are confused about what was so wrong with what the "three friends" said. This is often because they have failed to recognize the overarching theme of this book. The problem is that many haven't read the book of Job "with the mindset that what Job was saying was right, and what the three friends said was wrong."

The three friends attempt to convince Job that his suffering is a result of some sin he has committed. This is because they have bought into the thesis that all suffering is a direct result of sin (in the sense that each instance of suffering corresponds to an instance of sin). But Job is convinced that he has committed no such sin that would lead to this experience. The friends, however, continue to argue on the basis of their theology of suffering.

Eliphaz, after commending Job for how he has "instructed many" (Job 4:3), effectively reverses this comment by then supposing to know Job's motives in what he does. To Eliphaz, Job's suffering is evidence of the fact that Job has lived a life of hidden sin:

"But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it" (Job 4:5-8).

According to Eliphaz, the good that Job had done was insincere and contained evil motives. Since, he argues, it is impossible for suffering to happen to those who haven't done wrong, Job's suffering must be the reaping of some evil he has sown. Job, according to Eliphaz, must be a hypocrite. Notice that this is the very thing which Satan sought to prove, but failed at. Now Satan is attempting to make Job himself think that he is a hypocrite, and he does this through Job's friends.

Eliphaz's false theology causes him to make terribly presumptuous and arrogant statements about the heart of Job. And Bildad buys into the same false thesis: "Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin" (Job 8:2-5). To Bildad, it would be perverting justice for God to afflict the innocent. Therefore, Job must not be innocent. Notice that this is not only a false conclusion about Job, but a false premise about God. The statement itself is true: God doesn't pervert justice. But the premise and conclusion of Bildad's argument are incorrect.

Bildad convinces Job of his premises, but Job rejects his conclusion: "I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me" (Job 10:2). Job buys into the thought that his suffering indicates that God is judging him, but he declares his innocence.

Zophar also adopts the same thesis: "You say to God, 'My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.' Oh how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you" (11:4). Zophar really asks for it when he pleads for God to speak to up!

DagoodS rightly recognizes the theological accuracy of much of what the "three friends" have to say. But there is an irony of being theologically accurate while being theologically misinformed. The right statements with the wrong premises lead to the wrong conclusions.

Thus, Job declares, "Miserable comforters are you all!" (16:2). His friends have filled up their time with him with "long speeches" in which they try to convince Job that they know his heart better than he does!

Job, however, remains devoted to God and places his hope in him alone: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. Yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (19:25-27).

In misunderstanding the present situation, the three friends misunderstand God, and, essentially, did not speak "what was right" (42:7) about God and Job. They had a false theology. This is the same false theology that caused the disciples to ask Jesus concerning a blind man, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2). Jesus answers, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him" (v. 3). This is the answer that God implies in his rhetorical questions to Job. God gives no specific answer for why Job in particular must suffer. He only rebukes the attitude that would cause anyone to question or speculate why God does what he does, and he refutes the notion that all suffering is always indicative of a sin pattern in a person's life.


Continuing with DagoodS:
How about a game of “Believer or Infidel” where we guess whether the statement about God was correctly made by a believer, or incorrectly made by an Infidel?
As we play this "game", let's not forget that the problem with the "three freinds" wasn't that every word which came out of their mouths was false. The problem was with what they were attempting to prove.

The rhetorical question: “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?”

Made by an infidel. Job. 4:17. If God says this is wrong, is it true that humans CAN be more pure than God?
Where does God, specifically, state that this exact phrase is wrong? Again, the problem here isn't with the statement itself but with the premises and the conclusions. To Eliphaz, for Job to claim his innocence is to claim that he is more righteous than God because, to him, the only reason why God would afflict Job would be if he is punishing him.

Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

Infidel. Job. 5:17
It's a true statement with a false application. Was God correcting or disciplining Job? Is that the only reason why God ever allows suffering?

Why do you not forgive my sins?

Believer. Job 7:21. Interesting how many times we have discussed here the problem of God only forgiving some sins, or how atonement could be so incomplete. We are often told “Who are you to ask God, ‘Why?’” Yet that is exactly what Job did, and God found that acceptable!

Did God find everything that Job said acceptable? Obviously not, for God rebukes Job for questioning him.

In any case, Job makes this statement as a result of his friends' arguing with him. Since his friends have convinced him that only willful sinners suffer, Job asks, "If I have sinned, what have I done to you? ...Why do you not pardon my offenses?" (7:20, 21). Notice that Job doesn't admit that he has sinned, and therefore doesn't really believe that God's forgiveness is "incomplete." He only accepts, for the sake of argument, that he has sinned, and then points out that if he had sinned, the Lord would have pardoned him. Thus his agenda here is to refute what has been postulated to him.
If you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.

Infidel. Job. 8:5-6 Again, we have been informed by Christians that we can still turn to God. That we can still beg forgiveness for our inability to believe. Apparently according to God, all those believers are quite incorrect and should beg for forgiveness for saying such inaccurate statements about him. ‘Cause when Bildad the Shuhite said the same thing, God said it was wrong.
Once again, DagoodS needs a little help. The problem isn't the statement but what it's attempting to prove. Bildad is trying to get Job to admit that he has done wrong.

The problem is, if Job has done wrong, then both Job and God himself (1:8) are liars. So Bildad is consequently slandering both Job and God.
I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?

Believer. Job. 10:2-3. (I’ll bet you are getting the hang of this Game!) Let’s see if I have this right—What Job says is correct. Job has the audacity to question why God condemns him. Therefore, it seems quite appropriate that we, too, even as infidels would be correct to ask God why he condemns us. Especially given the vast amounts of information that point to his non-existence.

God would seem to give the stamp of approval to us questioning his ways—including his methods of judgment! Remember THAT, next time we are told, “God does not have to answer to you.” According to Job, we are at least allowed to ask the question and it is appropriate.
Above, I've already dealt with this exact passage. Job isn't questioning God's right to condemn. Rather, he's questioning his friends' contention that his suffering is a result of his sin. If God is punishing him for his sin, he'd like to know what sin that is.

If DagoodS is wondering why God condemns him, I'd point out that God has already answered that question (John 3:18).
Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know?

Infidel. Job 11:7-8. This has always intrigued me. Remember—God says that this statement about him is incorrect! Very, very often, when discussing God we are informed by Christians that some question, some problem is unknown—because we cannot know the ways of God.

Yeah, this is exactly what Zophar the Naamathite said, “God is too mysterious for you.” And God says that is wrong! So, if God says Zophar is wrong for saying it, are you? Dare a Christian ever revert to the “God is mysterious” defense, in light of Job 11:7-8?
(I'll bet you're getting the hang of DagoodS' confusion!) :-)

Zophar's point is that "Surely [God] recognizes deceitful men" (11:11). This is true, but Zophar is arrogantly assuming that Job is one of them.

DagoodS gives a few more examples, but all of them commit the same error.
....We could go on for the next few chapters, but hopefully the point has been made. I strongly encourage you to read the book, noting who is speaking, and whether what they are saying is “correct” or not.
I'd encourage DagoodS to do the same.
...What, exactly, did the three friends say which was incorrect about God? What was so wrong that God demanded a sacrifice for these horrible statements? I would suspect that any pastor could preach about God working from any of these chapters and not a single person would stand up and say, “Hey. Wait a Minute. What you are saying about God is wrong.”

What did the three friends say that was incorrect?
Their entire theology of suffering was based upon a false thesis. The problem with their statements about God was that they assumed an untrue understanding of how God works. They arrogantly assumed that they had God all figured out, and they presumptuously claimed to know Job's motives.

But, no biggie, really.

17 comments:

  1. So here's what you're suggesting is the "proper" theology of suffering: good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, it could be a punishment, but it isn't necessarily so. God's ways are inscrutable so who the heck knows why little children starve to death in the middle of the Sudan every day (despite the implications of this passage: "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" - Matthew 6:25)

    So we have no real way of knowing WHY suffering occurs, but one day (after we're dead), God will finally spill the beans about the "big secret" as to why humanity was afflicted with the horrors it has. Until then, sit down and shut up and quit asking questions.

    Actually, let me spoil the surprise a bit and tell you why: watching humans suffer is entertaining! I mean, it's not like the "elect" COULDN'T be saved without those pesky heretics bugging them and making life difficult, but what would the point of THAT be? There would be story, no development, no plot!

    See, now that wasn't so complicated was it?

    - Todd

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  2. Paul's mommie11/27/2006 11:09 PM

    All good fairy tales have suffering, and then a happy ending!

    Night Night Paulie. Sleep tight. You will live forever, because god likes little bullies.

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  3. Hey Evan,

    I see a lot of parallels between the "miserable comforters" in Job and conservative evangelical theodicy. You sort of make fun of how stupid these guys are for thinking that Job's suffering is related to sin.

    But, isn't that the going theology around here? I understand conservative evangelicals don't point to each experience of suffering as a being causal linked to a particular sin, but I'm wondering if that 1:1 mapping really changes that much. That is, where Bildad is supposing that suffering on Job's part *must* be from some transgression of Job's, aren't evangelicals convinced that similar suffering *must* be from Adam's sin?

    This post strikes me as a salient critique of evangelical views of the Fall of Adam being the cosmic cause of all suffering, death and decay. Just as Bildad could *not* imagine suffering "coming from nowhere", neither can YEC theologians. At least as I'm told, suffering had to be introduced with Adam's sin, because, well it had to. There was no suffering, or death, or decay in the pre-Fall world, according to them.

    Anyway, that's a thought provoking post, and these are the thoughts it provoked. Do "no death/no suffering/no decay before the Fall" theologians recognize themselves in Bildad at all?

    Remember, as you said, Bildad didn't get it all wrong in situ, but was working from bad premises.

    -Touchstone

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  4. But, isn't that the going theology around here? I understand conservative evangelicals don't point to each experience of suffering as a being causal linked to a particular sin, but I'm wondering if that 1:1 mapping really changes that much. That is, where Bildad is supposing that suffering on Job's part *must* be from some transgression of Job's, aren't evangelicals convinced that similar suffering *must* be from Adam's sin?

    What type of suffering are we talking about? Animal? Human? And to what degree? Death?

    The Bible rejects Bildad's causal link between particular sin and particular suffering (so that it is always the case), but it doesn't go as far as to say that no suffering is ever a result of sin. Indeed, it is very specific in telling us that death entered because of sin.

    I assume that you are relating this discussion to the TE debate. But in doing so you treat Steve and myself as generic YEC adherents.

    But Steve has stated on this blog in the recent past that he opens the door for some degrees of human "suffering" as well as animal mortality to exist before the fall.

    So my post hardly indicts myself.

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  5. Evan,

    I have *no* idea what your theology is on this. This is the first post of yours I believe I have ever read. I wasn't asking you to defend your specific beliefs, but rather asking if you saw the parallels I saw.

    I didn't know then, and I don't know now, where you stand on this.

    Which makes it a much more interesting question for me to ask. A true question, rather than a rhetorical one.

    -Touchstone

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  6. I'm miserable, therefore I shall become a Christian and join the ranks of miserable people everywhere. Maybe if one day I am lucky, I can join Triablogue and parade my misery in the form of miserable non-arguments before the blogosphere, just like they do!

    Oh, if only I were as miserable as them!

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  7. No Peewee, just put your faith in science and secular philosophy, as they've demonstrated a stunning historical propensity for alleviating misery.

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  8. PeeWee,

    You are a dirty, stinking, sinner. Worthy of death, and eternal torment.

    Join the God who made you so, or die forever!

    Love in Christ,

    the apostle

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  9. Thanks for the response, Evan May. I see a very difficult problem, though, that would need to be addressed, I think.

    If I understand your argument, the three friends were correct in their theological statements about God, but incorrect in their application. They claimed that God would only inflict suffering on an individual in response to sin, and since Job was suffering he therefore must have sinned. You seem to be saying that God is not limited to inflicting suffering on solely the guilty, but equally may inflict suffering on the innocent.

    However, your statement leaves this a bit muddled:

    Evan May: To Bildad, it would be perverting justice for God to afflict the innocent. Therefore, Job must not be innocent. Notice that this is not only a false conclusion about Job, but a false premise about God. The statement itself is true: God doesn't pervert justice. But the premise and conclusion of Bildad's argument are incorrect. (emphasis in original)

    This raises a fascinating window of discussion as to the limitation of God, if any, to respond to our actions. It would appear that I can perform a sinful act and God can choose to either punish me (justice) or absolve me (mercy.) I can perform a righteous act and God can choose to reward me, or inflict undeserved and unnecessary suffering. Simply put, there is no gauge or limitation on what God can do, regardless of the immorality or morality of an action. We are left with an arbitrary response.

    As interesting as that conversation may be—sadly I do not see how we can reach that point. There are three problems to consider:

    1. God says what the three said was incorrect about God, not Job. “For you have not spoken about Me what is right…” Job 42:7 If the three friends were accusing Job of sinning, and Job did not sin, the more obvious statement of God would have been, “You have not spoken about Job what is right. He is blameless before me. Apologize to him.”

    Now, it would seem you are claiming what God was saying, at the conclusion, was, “What you have spoken about me is not right. I DO inflict suffering when there has been no sin. I DO have the ability to punish when there has been no sin.”

    But this would appear to be a perversion of justice. According to what I quoted—what God does not do. The first question is why God wouldn’t have pointed out they offended Job—not God.

    2) Elihu. The forgotten friend. In chapter 32, we are introduced to this Elihu. He is not mentioned before, makes a long speech, and is not mentioned again. God never refers to him, favorably or unfavorably. He is not one of the three.

    However, Elihu accuses Job (repeatedly) of sinning:

    Look, in this you (Job) are not righteous. I will answer you, For God is greater than man. Job 33:12

    For He (God) repays man according to his work, And makes man to find a reward according to his way. Job 34:11

    For he (Job) adds rebellion to his sin; He (Job) claps his hands among us, And multiplies his words against God." Job 34:37

    But you (Job) are filled with the judgment due the wicked; Judgment and justice take hold of you. Job 36:17

    If God was angry with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar (Job 42:7) to the point they were required to sacrifice (Job 42:8) for accusing Job of sinning, as this apologetic claims—why did Elihu get the pass? I agree the three insinuate that Job has sinned (although they do acknowledge the possibility he has not (Job 8:20-22)) but Elihu comes right out and accuses Job of sinning. No “if”s, “and”s or “but”s about it!

    This makes no sense. Look, if what Elihu said about God was correct, it is plausible that God would simply ignore it. If what the three said about God was incorrect by accusing Job of sinning, to the point that God was angry and called them on it—it is completely implausible that God would ignore Elihu who went far beyond the same type of accusation.

    One way (Elihu is correct) falls in line. The other (Elihu was incorrect) requires further explanation as to why God ignored him.

    3) Job repents. “Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:6

    If Job didn’t sin, what is he repenting of? (Before one claims this is nit-picking, I would note how many times it has been claimed to me that David’s census must have been a sin, despite the ordering of Census taking by Mosaic law, for this exact same reason—that he repented.)

    Note the order. Job 1—Job is blameless. Job 2—Job is blameless. At the end of Job 2, the friends have made no accusation. But at the very beginning of Job 3, Job curses the day he was born. He complains. He whines. Only after this, did the friends address him. Job subsequently repents.

    The biggest problem with this apologetic (as I see it) is that Job Did sin! By admission of Job’s own mouth! (Remember, God says that Job speaks correctly! Job 42:7)

    Therefore, how can it be incorrect for them to accuse him of sinning, when it is correct for him to admit sinning?

    I see that as a difficult, perhaps insurmountable problem, to this defense.

    (Note: Posted simultaneously on Debunking Christianity and Triablogue.)

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  10. If I understand your argument, the three friends were correct in their theological statements about God, but incorrect in their application.

    This is a bit of a generalization and a simplification. It depends on the statement.

    You seem to be saying that God is not limited to inflicting suffering on solely the guilty, but equally may inflict suffering on the innocent.

    What do we mean by guilty? What do we mean by innocent?

    I’m saying that the three friends were incorrect in their thesis that the only reason for a particular instance of suffering is the result of a particular sin in that particular person’s life.

    But this is not to reject the fact that suffering is a result of sin (namely, the fall of Adam). Since sin is imputed to the entire human race, the entire human race is worthy of experiencing suffering.

    It would appear that I can perform a sinful act and God can choose to either punish me (justice) or absolve me (mercy.) I can perform a righteous act and God can choose to reward me, or inflict undeserved and unnecessary suffering. Simply put, there is no gauge or limitation on what God can do, regardless of the immorality or morality of an action. We are left with an arbitrary response.

    This reads far too much into what I said. God doesn’t punish the innocent. Nor does he fail to punish the guilty. On the cross, Christ was viewed as guilty that man might be viewed as innocent. Thus even here God’s justice is upheld.

    Suffering, indirectly, is a form of punishment and the wrath of God. It is a result of the fall. But that doesn’t mean that every instance of suffering is an instance of God’s wrath being poured out on an individual (as a result of an instance of sin), though that may be the case sometimes. Indeed, in Scripture we find that God often uses suffering in the lives of believers, not as punishment, but as a means of building up their faith (James 1:4). Or he may use suffering in the life of an unbeliever in order to bring him to faith. In these two instances, suffering is merciful.

    The point in the book of Job is that we don’t always know why God causes suffering. Thus the three friends had an uninformed theology about the very character of God. But God has his own reasons for what he does. A few of these have been generally revealed to us in Scripture. But to suppose that we have the type of revelation that informs us about why God does everything he does in every instance of his ordinary providence is simply arrogant. This was the problem with the three friends—they spoke as if they had some direct channel into the mind of God in this situation. This is how they failed to “speak rightly” of God.

    Now, it would seem you are claiming what God was saying, at the conclusion, was, “What you have spoken about me is not right. I DO inflict suffering when there has been no sin. I DO have the ability to punish when there has been no sin.”

    This, again, is a simplification. God doesn’t ever punish the innocent. But no one is innocent.

    But this isn’t the point. The point is that it isn’t always the case that each instance of suffering corresponds to an instance of sin in a person’s life. The three friends weren’t simply accusing Job of sin in the general sense. They were convinced that he had lived some hypocritical lifestyle of sin. This false notion was a result of their false understanding of how God works.

    2) Elihu. The forgotten friend. In chapter 32, we are introduced to this Elihu. He is not mentioned before, makes a long speech, and is not mentioned again. God never refers to him, favorably or unfavorably. He is not one of the three.

    Elihu took a different position than the three friends. Elihu rejected their contention that all suffering is judgment for particular sin. Elihu’s theory, rather, was that God was using suffering in Job’s life as a means of keeping him from sinning. To Elihu, Job’s suffering wasn’t wrathful judgment, but loving discipline: “For God does speak …he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones” (Job 33:14, 16-19). “God does all these things to a man—twice, even three times—to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him” (33:29-30). Elihu doesn’t accuse Job of some secret sin that God is judging. Rather, he builds upon the presupposition that Job is a sinner and thus needs God’s merciful disciplining in order to keep him from sin.

    Was Elihu right? Was God, in fact, disciplining Job through suffering? We don’t know. The book ends without telling us why Job suffered.

    If God was angry with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar (Job 42:7) to the point they were required to sacrifice (Job 42:8) for accusing Job of sinning, as this apologetic claims—why did Elihu get the pass? I agree the three insinuate that Job has sinned (although they do acknowledge the possibility he has not (Job 8:20-22)) but Elihu comes right out and accuses Job of sinning. No “if”s, “and”s or “but”s about it!

    We can’t simply rip their statements out of context and forget the argument behind them. What were Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar saying about God in claiming that Job sinned? What was Elihu saying about God?

    In any case, God, as you say, never refers favorably or unfavorably to Elihu. This is probably because in this discourse, Elihu was viewed more as a moderator than a debater. He handled the discourse differently than the three friends did, and his participation in it was far less significant.

    3) Job repents. “Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:6

    If Job didn’t sin, what is he repenting of? (Before one claims this is nit-picking, I would note how many times it has been claimed to me that David’s census must have been a sin, despite the ordering of Census taking by Mosaic law, for this exact same reason—that he repented.)


    Yes, Job repents, but what is he repenting of? Is he admitting that what the three friends said was accurate? Was he repenting of a hypocritical lifestyle of secret sin?

    Hardly. What he repents of is the desire to want an answer. He wanted to know why he was suffering. God doesn’t answer the question, but simply declares that Job has no right to know. Job repents that he “spoke of things [he] did not understand” (42:3).

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  11. Touchstone said:

    This post strikes me as a salient critique of evangelical views of the Fall of Adam being the cosmic cause of all suffering, death and decay. Just as Bildad could not imagine suffering "coming from nowhere", neither can YEC theologians. At least as I'm told, suffering had to be introduced with Adam's sin, because, well it had to. There was no suffering, or death, or decay in the pre-Fall world, according to them.

    If I might shoe-horn my way into the ever keen Evan's discussion, I'd like to make a few comments please. Especially in light of the fact that Touchstone and I interacted a fair bit on the topic of TE.

    1. Personally speaking, I do lean YEC. This is primarily because of my hermeneutics. I believe the Bible should inform how one views the world rather than the reverse.

    2. However, I'm open to OEC.

    3. Among other things, Steve has mounted an internal critique of [Christian] theistic evolution in his interactions with Touchstone. TE has its own internal problems. E.g. see this post.

    4. More than that, Touchstone has argued for allegorizing or mythologizing the first few chapters of Genesis (either Gen. 1-3 or Gen. 1-11) as a means of harmonizing the Bible with evolution. But this poses hermeneutical difficulties which (insofar as I understand him) he's been unable to surmount.

    5. With this in mind, I'm not sure from which source Touchstone has received the idea that "suffering had to be introduced with Adam's sin, because, well it had to. There was no suffering, or death, or decay in the pre-Fall world, according to them."

    a. First, the informed YEC would never make a statement such as, "suffering had to be introduced with Adam's sin, because, well it had to" -- ipso facto. He would give hermeneutical reasons for doing so, for example. So at best, this is an unfair representation of the YEC position. Worse, perhaps it's even a deliberate caricature, given that Touchstone's track record in describing YEC has been prejudicial.

    b. One could turn the tables and say, "Adam and Eve must've descended from ape-men, because, well they had to." I think Touchstone (and others) would rightly find this an unfair representation of claims made by theistic evolutionists.

    c. Speaking for myself, at least, what I remember pointing out is that TE needs to have a reasonable answer consistent with its own claims for why processes like decay, decomposition, and death are present in the world given (one presumes) a belief in passages like Gen. 3 and Rom. 8. At the time I didn't take the stronger position that all these processes -- decay, decomposition, death, etc. -- simply had to come about because of the Fall. Although, as Evan points out, death certainly did.

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  12. The_Disciple11/28/2006 7:39 PM

    the_apostle said to peewee, "Join the God who made you so, or die forever!"

    This makes it sound like one has a choice and that he is in a position to make his own choice. I thought God made all the choices. Isn't it up to God who joins Him and who rebels against Him? I'm supposing that no amount of insistence that peewee join God is going to make much difference on his fate. If God wants peewee, peewee will not be able to resist.

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  13. The_Disciple -

    Clearly you are ignorant of TRUE Christian theology, AKA Calvinism.

    Even if PeeWee doesn't have a choice in the matter, that doesn't take away my duty to preach the gospel. I may be used by God as the instrument to bring the good news.

    Turn or burn.

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  14. The_Disciple11/28/2006 8:12 PM

    the_apostle said, "Clearly you are ignorant of TRUE Christian theology, AKA Calvinism."

    So, you think that peewee *does* have a choice in the matter? He can choose his fate? He can choose to believe, or choose not to? Your next statement suggests that you're not prepared to say this:

    "Even if PeeWee doesn't have a choice in the matter,"

    Well, does he, or doesn't he? Why the dissembling, especially after saying that I am "ignorant of TRUE Christian theology"? I may not know what *your* personal brand of theology teaches, but that does not make me "ignorant of TRUE Christian theology." You need to do more than throw your opinions around.

    You said, "that doesn't take away my duty to preach the gospel. I may be used by God as the instrument to bring the good news."

    So, does your gospel hold that peewee has a choice, or not? If your gospel holds that it's up to peewee whether he joins God or not, then what does your gospel say about the role that God plays in this? If your gospel holds that peewee does not have a choice, then how does it edify God to preach a gospel as if it taught something it in fact does not teach?

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  15. Disciple,

    As far as PeeWee is concerned, he has a choice. As far as Jehovah Gireh is concerned, the choice is ordained from the foundations of the world.

    Turn or burn.

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  16. Helter Skelter11/28/2006 10:54 PM

    the apostle: "As far as PeeWee is concerned, he has a choice. As far as Jehovah Gireh is concerned, the choice is ordained from the foundations of the world."

    Thanks! You just made The_Disciple's point.

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  17. Evan May,

    Thank you for the continuing discussion. There are many intriguing paths in which we could tangent only too easily. I will attempt to stay “on subject” here, and only touch them without digging too much further.

    Unfortunately, I see that I need to backtrack a bit first. You indicate that the sin the three friends are accusing Job is living a “hypocritical life of sin.” While I do agree that the three friends are accusing Job of sinning, it is not clear that it is this hypocrisy you claim.

    You support the claim it is a hypocritical life of sin, first with Eliphaz’s statement of Job 4:5-8 in which Eliphaz indicates, “Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?” Is Eliphaz saying this rhetorically, mockingly, or sincerely? Difficult to tell. However, Eliphaz continues and affirms that “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” Job 5:17

    Eliphaz goes on to state that, after this correction, God will deliver a person from troubles. Eliphaz recommends Job take his cause to God. Job 5:8

    This is remarkably similar to Elihu’s statements. Statements which you intone are in line with God. In fact, I am left puzzling as to the difference.

    Evan May: To Elihu, Job’s suffering wasn’t wrathful judgment, but loving discipline:

    It was with Eliphaz’s original statement, as well. Again, though, God appears to give tacit approval toward Elihu, but condemns Eliphaz.

    You go on, to support the claim of a hypocritical life of sin, with Bildad’s statement of “Does God subvert judgment? Or does the Almighty pervert justice?... If you were pure and upright, Surely now He would awake for you, And prosper your rightful dwelling place.” Job 8:3-6

    Thus, you indicate (and as I quoted before):

    Evan May: To Bildad, it would be perverting justice for God to afflict the innocent. Therefore, Job must not be innocent. Notice that this is not only a false conclusion about Job, but a false premise about God.

    But Elihu, who you commend, Says the exact same thing!

    “Let us choose justice for ourselves; Let us know among ourselves what is good, For Job has said, 'I am righteous, But God has taken away my justice; should I lie concerning my right? My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression’….Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding: Far be it from God to do wickedness, And from the Almighty to commit iniquity. For He repays man according to his work, And makes man to find a reward according to his way. Surely God will never do wickedly, Nor will the Almighty pervert justice.” Job 34:4-12

    Isn’t Elihu saying EXACTLY what Bildad said—in that God repays the wicked with suffering, which is just? And even states the God explicitly repays a human for their work.

    Finally, in this apologetic that the three friends were accusing Job of a hypocritical life of sin, you end with Zophar’s statement of Job 11:4-5 of “You say to God, 'My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.' Oh how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you"

    But what does Zophar continue to say? He goes on to wish that God would show Job secrets of wisdom. Because Job (or any other human) is not able to search out the mysteries and knowledge of God. They are higher than heaven, deeper than Sheol and more than the earth encompasses. Job 11:6-9.

    Zophar is most certainly NOT claiming to have a “direct channel into the mind of God” (your words) but left it a mystery.

    Again, I agree that the three friends believe that Job has sinned at one time. (He is human, after all—is that not a safe thing to say of us all?) But I do not see a specific sin that the three friends claimed he was hiding. They did not accuse him of being gay.

    With that backtrack in hand, now to (finally) proceed forward.

    Evan May: Elihu doesn’t accuse Job of some secret sin that God is judging. Rather, he builds upon the presupposition that Job is a sinner and thus needs God’s merciful disciplining in order to keep him from sin. (emphasis in original)

    I found the distinction between Elihu vs. the three friends a bit of hair-splitting. (Sorry) Elihu does accuse Job of a sin, secret or otherwise. I pointed it out in my first comment, but I can do it again here. Every statement is by Elihu:

    ”For he (Job) adds rebellion to his sin; He (Job) claps his hands among us, And multiplies his words against God." Job 34:37

    ”But you (Job) are filled with the judgment due the wicked; Judgment and justice take hold of you.” Job 36:17

    “Look, in this you (Job) are not righteous. I will answer you, For God is greater than man.” Job 33:12

    ”For He (God) repays man according to his work, And makes man to find a reward according to his way.” Job 34:11

    I guess I am not seeing the difference you indicate between Elihu and the three friends. Couldn’t these statements be the exact same as those of the other three?

    Further, you indicate that Elihu was claiming that God was using this suffering to keep Job from sinning. For this you rely upon Job 33:29-30, talking of turning a man from the pit three times. However, if you look at the verses immediately preceding them the human speaks of being “restored” to righteousness. Not maintaining it. The human speaks “I have sinned” not “I almost sinned.” Job 33:26-27. These verses, read in context, actually support my contention that Elihu was saying the same thing as the other three friends—you sin, justice is a punishment of suffering.

    Although Job does refer, in Chapter 42, to speaking of things he did not understand, and repenting for that, previously, way back in Chapter 7, he refers to sins and offenses he has committed. He questions as to whether he sinned or not. (Job 7:20-21) Job indicates that if he has not sinned, this suffering is not justice. (Job 27:2)

    What is different about Elihu’s statements and Job’s statements as compared to his friends?

    Evan May: What were Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar saying about God in claiming that Job sinned? What was Elihu saying about God? (emphasis in original)

    These are GREAT questions, which I think will bring into sharp focus the difference between what we are saying. I will let the reader decide as to which is the more viable path.

    Me: “In claiming that Job sinned, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were saying that God punishes the wicked.”
    You: (I think) : “In claiming that Job sinned, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were saying that God was punishing Job.”

    The difference? You take this specific example, and limit it to ONLY this incident. I take this specific example and generalize it to a broad principle.

    (Note: I would obviously say the Elihu said the exact same thing about God/Job. You would indicate that Elihu (incorrectly as it turns out) was saying that Job did not sin. But he had, because he repented.)

    The entire book of Job, including God, Job, the three friends, and Elihu all universally agree that God was deliberately causing Job to suffer. All agree that God, in utilizing his justice, will punish wickedness with suffering. All agree that Job (at some point) sinned. Although not stated in Job, I think you would agree that all humans are sinners.

    So what is the heinous crime to make the natural conclusion that God (who certain DOES cause suffering as punishment for wicked people), caused suffering for Job (who certain DID sin, at least at one time)? And remember, Job and Elihu came to the same conclusion yet God did not claim they were incorrect. Quite the opposite, as to Job. We have the same statements made by the same individuals and we have:

    Eliphaz: Incorrect. Burn 7 bulls and 7 rams
    Bildad: Incorrect. Burn 7 bulls and 7 rams
    Zophar: Incorrect. Burn 7 bulls and 7 rams
    Elihu: No comment, although we both seem to agree tacit approval by God.
    Job: Correct.

    They all say the same thing as this apologetic claims—that Job was suffering because of punishment for some sin! I cannot see how this aligns.

    I guess I am also questioning whether you would continue with this principle in real life? Or do you claim this was only an isolated incident, with Job, and that Christians are allowed to accuse others of sinning today. Because they are not Job.

    The reason I ask, is that when we discussed deceit and apostates, the basis for allowing deceit was numerous examples from the Bible. The methodology was that use of examples derived general principles. Now, under this apologetic, we have another example. The apologetic claims that God condemned a person (the three) for claiming that another person (Job) was suffering as punishment for sin. Is it limited to just Job. Or would people, now, be equally prohibited from doing so?

    Can Christians no longer claim that individual suffering comes from individual sin?

    (Posted on Debunking Christianity and Triablogue)

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