Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reflections on Job #3

In reading through the book of Job it is quite clear that everyone, at least through the first thirty or so chapters, has an overly simplistic view of God. Job's friends seem to have reduced God to the Just Judge, the Holy Other. True, but I doubt God can be reduced to justice or even holiness. Their words to Job reveal that their God isn't one of mercy, grace, or compassion.

Job's God seems equally lopsided, though he seems to emphasize his sovereign power over everything else. God can do whatever he wants in Job's mind, no one can resist his almighty will. I would agree, but without kindness, goodness and love that God is repulsive not attractive. This seems like a trap many Calvinists fall into - emphasizing God's power over his goodness, his sovereignty over his love.

Other attributes have sometimes been elevated as the essence of God's being. Some have asserted that God is essentially power, though in a different way than Job. For Plato the Ultimate, God, was the Unmoved Mover, the power that started everything. Yet, for Plato, God has no personhood and it was foolish to think a human could be in relationship with God. For others God's love is the all defining attribute. This too is problematic, for a God who is just love would never allow suffering, let alone eternal suffering.

The list could go on, but the point is that God refuses to allow us to reduce him to one attribute. He is simple and his attributes cannot be parsed up. All his attributes interpenetrate one another, are qualified by one another and together make God the being he is. Reading Job reminds me how important our understanding of God is.

We tend to see theological dialogue about God's attributes as irrelevant. Well, I don't think they're irrelevant to God. (He likes to be known, loved, and worshipped for the God he is, not the God we suppose him to be. Kind of like my wife likes to be known, and loved for the woman she is, and wouldn't appreciate it at all of I told her I preferred to think of her as a 6ft. tall blond). Nor do I think it's irrelevant to our lives. At times it may seem that way, but then a crisis hits (hopefully never as intense as the ones that his Job). Then your understanding of who God is and how he operates is incredibly relevant.

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