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.

20 comments:

Kaffinator said...

The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still (B)holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause." (Job 2:3)

This passage does not say that God had no overriding purpose. God is simply criticizing Satan for Satan's desire have Job ruined without cause.

John W. Loftus said...

According to the story, Job did nothing wrong! There was no reason to do this to him, except to see if he would buckle under the pressure. A bet. The bet itself was the over-riding purpose in the story. Could a righteous man still maintain his intergrity if God threw it all at him? This bet also ignores the other people who suffered in the story.

Yet it was a needless bet, because we already knew God has the power to do whatever he wants, and God supposedly already knew the outcome.

Kaffinator said...

You say you are "dealing with the text itself" but your post mishandles verse 3. According to you, God said he had no purpose, but God didn't say that at all. The whole post deflates on this single point.

John W. Loftus said...

The whole post deflates on this single point.
If I have concluded more than what the Biblical text said, then you have also concluded more than you can from what I wrote.

Secularism Is A Religion said...

I just wonder how you can say "Job is not reporting historical conversations between God, Satan and Job" and yet then use the quotes attributed to God as if they were a faithfully recorded historical conversation. (The only way you can conclude that God "had no reason" to torment Job is if you are taking those quotes as a faithful reporting of historical conversations.)

If it is not historical, as you yourself have claimed, then the quotes are instead a literary device and are not intended to be taken as a literal conversation, and thus your argument that God "has no reason" to torment Job has no substance.

So which point will you now reject: your argument that God has "no reason" to torment Job or your argument than the conversations recorded are not historical?

Kaffinator said...

> If I have concluded more than what the Biblical text said, then you have also concluded more than you can from what I wrote.

I have no idea what you are talking about. I’m simply quoting you. In your post, you wrote:

> Notice that God says there was no reason for the suffering brought on Job. God said it! [and later…] I’m actually dealing with the text itself. God says he did it “without any reason.” God said that! God!

You used an explicit quote from verse 3. But I showed that you’re misusing it. God never said there was no purpose for the events. As often as you repeat “without any reason” (I count seven or eight times) you are resting on a flawed reading of the text.

Beowulf said...

John,

Just a small correction, but Jason Engwer actually wrote "The Servant King" post that you are responding to not Steve Hays.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks BF. I'm not always perfect. As far as Secularism goes, you don't realize that I was attacking an argument based upon what others believe, do you? And based upon what THEY believe I find it faulty.

Kaffinator, you don't know what I'm talking about? Figures.

Kaffinator said...

Interesting. Jason at Triablogue levels the same criticism at your handling of Job 2:3...

Jason> But if it's plausible that God is addressing Satan's motives rather than His own, then the passage loses the significance Loftus has attached to it.

Loftus> Kaffinator, you don't know what I'm talking about? Figures.

Cute. But cute doesn't make your misread of Job 2:3 any more defensible. Your reading fails, bringing your entire argument along with it.

John W. Loftus said...

The over-all purpose was the bet itself for God's selfish glory. But what glory does it bring God when he treats people like that? Such a God as that deserves no respect. It's called creating God in the image of an ancient potentate who does whatever he wills with his peon subjects.

Forest....trees. Only see the trees.

Anonymous said...

So my question was why did God accept the challenege in the first place, according to the story.

For the sake of argument?

Secularism is a religion said...

It seems to me that Mr. Loftus's argument boils down to this:

1) If God has a reason for something, I must know what that reason is.

2) I don't know what reason God had for acting in the story of Job.

.: God didn't have a reason for what happened in the book of Job.

But unless Mr. Loftus is omniscient 1) is flawed. This can be demonstrated by replacing "God" with any other person.

1) If John Loftus has a reason for something, I must know what that reason is.

2) I don't know what reason John Loftus had for wearing the clothes he is wearing today.

.: John Loftus doesn't have a reason for wearing clothes today.

In this instance we realize that simply because we do not know the reason something occurs does not mean that there is no reason, but instead only that we do not know the reason.

Mr. Loftus's argument is dependent upon the fallacy of an appeal to ignorance.

Kaffinator said...

> Forest....trees. Only see the trees.

But a forest is necessarily made of trees. You’ve done nothing here but prop up a couple of worm-ridden logs and asked, “can’t you see mighty forest of my argument?” Actually, no, I can’t.

Ebonmuse said...

kaffinator, your argument makes no sense. God is clearly saying that he was the one who ruined Job and that he had no cause to do so. Your alternative reading is clearly being driven by a preconceived desire to bring to the text what you prefer to see in it. It's the atheists, such as John and myself, who can view that text without preconceptions: we are fully capable of praising the text when it gives morally good lessons, but we are equally capable of condemning it when it teaches bad lessons. You, on the other hand, are only capable of one.

Ebonmuse said...

"Secularism"'s comment fails on a crucial point: if we truly do not know why God does what he does, then believers cannot call him evil, but neither can they call him good. Making that determination requires at least some understanding of motive and intent. If God's reasons are inscrutable to us, then the only thing an intellectually consistent theist could say is that they do not know whether God is good or evil, or even whether he is simply amoral, like a natural force.

Jon Unyan said...

Ebonmuse,

You think that you come to the text without preconceptions? Please...

--Jon Unyan

Kaffinator said...

> God is clearly saying that he was the one who ruined Job and that he had no cause to do so.

The clause as we read it in English ("you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause") can be interpreted in basically two ways. "without cause" either modifies the verb "incited" or the verb "ruin".

If "without cause" refers to God causelessly allowing Job to be ruined, then we have a problem. This reading directly contradicts Job 1:8-12 in which it is clear that God desires to show Satan that Job's faith does not depend on temporal blessings. This reading causes intrinsic problems so if we want to do justice to the text, we should prefer a reading that does not have these problems.

If "without cause" refers to Satan causelessly inciting God (and it was causeless, as we see Job continuing to praise God even in the midst of adversity at the end of chapter 1) then the text agrees with itself, Loftus' point evaporates, sanity is restored, ponies frolic in meadows, etc.

> Your alternative reading is clearly being driven by a preconceived desire to bring to the text what you prefer to see in it.

Ebonmuse, if you want to talk about what is driving people, I'm game.

Your preconceived desire is to deny the power of God in general, and in this case, to deny His power to inspire scripture. Thus you must interpret scripture passages against the general grain of the text itself in order to demonstrate false teachings and contradictions that aren't actually there. You do this because you realize, as any intelligent person would, that if an authority more powerful and more benevolent than yourself exists, the only wise course of action would be to ally yourself fully with that authority. This frightens you, to voluntarily give up your own volition, but your reason demands it. Your only alternative is to project errors and falsehoods onto that authority, impugning it until it seems to be at or below the sinfulness of your own soul. Because only then can you justify dismissing it.

Jon Unyan said...

Ebonmuse,

Kaffinator ably dismantles your argument above, which is what I was getting at about you not having "preconceptions" when coming to the text. Of course you have preconceptions when coming to the text, and you are really only capable of the interpretation that supports your position. You however also stated:

we are fully capable of praising the text when it gives morally good lessons, but we are equally capable of condemning it when it teaches bad lessons.

This makes you (a fallen sinner) judge over the God revealed in Scripture. Are you the highest authority that can be appealed to? Or have you in fact set yourself up on that throne where God is seated? This displays the man-centeredness of your worldview, as well as your idolatry. In reality it is God who will judge you, not the other way around. Know with certainty you will one day stand before the God you so glibly reject and condemn. Your arguments will do you no good then. I don't say that uncompassionately, I say it with a desire to see you saved from your sin and unbelief. Please consider what I say...

--Jon Unyan

John W. Loftus said...

The overriding cause was the bet itself. Which is no reason to bring such terrible suffering on Job, especially when God supposedly knew the outcome. This is absolutely gratuitous suffering as depicted by an author of a fictitious story who claimed prophetic information about what happened in heaven, as did many ancient superstitious people, which merely makes God out to be a king after the fashion of most kings who didn't really care about their subjects. Get my drift?

You just refuse to see it, that's all. Because of your blinders. Take then off. See what the text actually says.

DBULL said...

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.

The flaw in your reasoning stems from the fact that you are thinking like men (weak and short lived) and God is thinking like God (all powerful and ETERNAL). In the context of eternity, what were Job's sufferings? If a man suffers during the few years he has on this earth then lives in paradise for eternity how can the previous sufferings be counted as anything? 500 trillion years from now while Job is living at the Lord's side, do you think he will be lamenting the few years of suffering he had on this earth?

Cheers~brotherD