Why Trust God? (Part II)

Steve at Triablogue in The Servant King,responded to Why Trust in God? I will respond to him here.

Notice Steve didn’t say anything about my claim that Job is not reporting historical conversations between God, Satan and Job.

But Steve does say: “How does he know that God's interaction with Satan had no larger motives than "winning a bet"? He doesn't. Loftus just assumes it, because that assumption helps him in making the God of Christianity look bad. It's not difficult to think of potential reasons for God to have done what He did. It's not difficult to think of potential benefits to Job and his family, indications of God's love for Job, etc. Does Loftus somehow know that Job's later blessings and his eternity in Heaven, for example, are outweighed by what he suffered for a portion of his life on earth? How would Loftus know such a thing? If Job's sufferings led to the glorifying of God, the improvement of Job's character, the further punishment of Satan, the instruction of millions of people who would later read the book of Job, etc., how can Loftus possibly know that Job shouldn't have been allowed to suffer?”

There’s a lot in Job I don’t have the time to comment on. But God merely says that Job is his faithful servant, blameless and a man who fears him. (1:7-9) After the first test, God later adds that Job maintained his integrity “even though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason (2:3).” Notice that God says there was no reason for the suffering brought on Job. God said it! This is gratuitous suffering without a point…“without any reason.” That’s why I said it was basically a bet with satan, for that's the only reason for God ruining Job for no reason. And the text says that God caused the suffering too, for God accepts responsibility for causing it. The question of the bet was whether or not Job would buckle and curse God. And I maintain that Steve’s view of God already knew what Job would do. So my question was why did God accept the challenege in the first place, according to the story.

And Steve totally misses the carnage that God caused upon Job’s family, as well as upon Job himself. All of his and his wife’s sons and daughters were killed, as well as all of his sheep, camels and servants, except three of Job’s servants. This happened, according to God “without any reason.” And then Job was stricken with boils and had to deal with idiots who said the reason why this happened was because Job had sinned. “Without a reason.” Nevermind there were other people involved. Like his children, servants, and his wife. His servants may have had families of their own, who suffered the loss of their loved ones. His wife advised him the only rational thing there was to do: “Curse God.” Why? Because it was all done “without any reason.” The God in this story does not care about Job, his wife, his children, his servants, and his animals at all.

And what are we to gain from this story that has instructed so many readers down through the ages? What? That God can do whatever he wants to do with his creatures “without a reason.” That’s comforting, isn’t it? So Job went through these things, as told in this story, so that I can learn God can do whatever he wants to with us and that we are supposed to accept that God can give and God can take away, but we’re supposed to accept all that God does and maintain our integrity? Hmmmmm. We already knew God can do what he wants to with us. He's bigger than us. God is the biggest bully on the block. He’s more powerful than us, if he exists. So? That’s not news at all. What we want to know is whether or not God cares for us. We want to know if he’ll protect us from most of our sufferings. We want to know if God has a reason for the sufferings we encounter in this life. But in the story of Job the only answer we receive is that God can do whatever he wants with us to win a bet with the heavenly prosecutor….for his own self-serving “glory.”

Steve again: “He also assumes, without evidence again, that Satan was "fully credentialed" in Heaven and that there couldn't have been a good reason for allowing Satan to act as he did. How does Loftus know these things? He doesn't. But acting as if he knows them prepares the way for his criticism of the God of Christianity and makes his article more emotionally appealing to people who already agree with him.”

In the Old Testament Satan is seen as a Servant of God. “The original faith of Israel actually had no place for Satan. God alone was Lord, and thus whatever happened, for good or ill, was ascribed to God. “I kill and I make alive,” says the Lord, ‘I wound and I heal.’ (Deut. 32:39; Isaiah 45:6-7; I Sam. 2:6-7). It was not inconsistent, on the one hand, to believe that God might call Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt, and on the other hand, for God to want to murder him on the way, (Exod. 4:24-26). When Pharaoh resisted Moses it was not ascribed to his free will, but to God’s hardening of his heart (Exod. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17; Joshua 11:20, etc). Likewise, it is God who sent an evil spirit on Saul (I Sam. 16:14-16,23), and it was God who sent a lying spirit to enter the mouths of the four hundred prophets of Ahab (I Kings 22:22; see II Sam. 17:14).” [Walter Wink’s Unmasking the Powers, pp. 11-44].

“The one instance where śātān describes a celestial figure who is not in any way hostile to God is Num 22:22, 32. The Angel of Yahweh is sent to be a śātān to sinning Balaam. The angel performs his task first by blocking the path so that Balaam’s ass may not proceed, then by rebuking Balaam. Only when Balaam’s eyes are opened does the angel śātān become visible to Balaam. The angel is both adversary to and accuser of Balaam, and is dispatched on his mission by Yahweh. [The Anchor Bible Dictionary].

“One possible translation of “Yaweh,” God’s name, is “He causes to happen what happens.” If, then, God has caused everything that happens, God must also cause evil. But God was also the God of justice (Gen 18:25). So how could God be just and still be the one to cause evil? This was the terrible price Israel had been forced to pay for its belief that God was the primary cause of all that happens. Gradually God became differentiated into a “light” and a “dark” side, both integral to the Godhead. The bright side came to be represented by the angels, the dark side by Satan and his demons. This process of differentiation took a long time to complete so that Satan makes only three late appearances in the O.T.” [Walter Wink’s Unmasking the Powers, pp. 11-44].

In II Sam. 24:1 an angry God incites king David to carry out a wrongful census. But in I Chronicles 21:1, which is a post Babylonian captivity revision of Samuel and Kings, it is now revised to read that “Satan” (used here for the first time as a proper name) is blamed as the one who incited David to carry out the census. Of course, if God indeed used Satan to accomplish his purposes here, then why not just do it himself--but such a relationship seems contrived. In Zech 3:1-5, Satan (Lit. “the accuser”) is seen in the role of prosecuting attorney who brings a valid accusation against Joshua, which God rejects because of his mercy. While we don’t like prosecutors, they aren’t evil just because they are doing their job. It does, however, say a great deal about us as people if we greatly fear and greatly dislike the prosecutor. If we think the prosecutor is evil, then it’s most likely because we are the evil ones. In Job 1-2, Satan (again, Lit. “the accuser”) cannot be an evil being if he is still a fully credentialed member of the heavenly court, one of the “sons of God.” “Satan’s role here is somewhat like an overzealous district attorney, where in his zeal to uncover injustice steps over the edge into entrapment. In all of this Satan manifests no power independent of God, and there is no condemnation of him by God.” “There is nothing in the context to indicate that the angel is evil.” [Baker’s Encyclopedia of the Bible, “Satan”].

Steve again: “Loftus is criticizing the Christian God's behavior, as if he knows of a higher standard by which to judge that God, and he suggests that we should object to the behavior of Josef Mengele. He doesn't give us any reason to agree with his assessment of the Christian God or Mengele. He's relying on the assumption that his readers, most of whom have lived under the influence of largely Christian societies, will agree with his moral sentiments. But what reason do we have to accept Loftus' moral assessments under his belief system?”

I’m actually dealing with the text itself. God says he did it “without any reason.” God said that! God! When I criticise God’s moral standards in the story of Job I am criticizing the story itself, from what the story itself tells me.

Steve again: “And why are we supposed to think that the Christian God is similar to Mengele? Was Mengele the creator of the Jewish people, did he express his love to them before experimenting with them, did he give them resources that would help them endure their suffering, and did he restore their health and give them even greater blessings afterward, as God did with Job? No. Mengele didn't have the authority of God, the foreknowledge of God, the good intentions that the book of Job assumes God had, etc.”

I’m saying that God acted in the story of Job just like Mengele did. They both had the power to do what they wanted to with the people involved. And neither one of them acting in a kind matter. Neither one of them cared about those they were experimenting on. Just because God was supposedly Job’s creator doesn’t give him the moral right to do what he did to Job, his wife, his children, his servants and his animals “without any reason.” It just makes God more powerful than Job, just like Mengele had more power over his victims.

Steve again, “If the Christian God was modeled after ancient kings, and those kings were so unconcerned with love, then why do we find "God is love" and similar comments, as well as many passages about loving God, in both the Old and New Testaments? How many ancient kings took on the form of their people, lived among them, and suffered and died for their sins, to reconcile them to himself?”

I’m just commenting on the book of Job. Looking at that book what do we find? We find a God who will inflict a great amount of pain and suffering to win a bet he supposedly knew in advance the outcome. Now if other books in the Bible (including the NT) state that God is love, that’s fine. But whatever it means for this God to love us must include what he did to Job. And in Job we find a God who is willing to experiment upon an captive person is devestating ways to win a bet. Either this is love, or there is a contradiction between Job and the other books in the Bible that state otherwise. But I find no love of God for Job, his wife, his children, his servants or his animals in the book of Job.