Sunday, September 30, 2007

High Priests in Caesar's Court?

Hello fellow thoughtful bloggerites,

Well, I'll just start by saying I'm delighted Marcia has decided to unilaterally disarm. She has put down her swor... uhr... camera and taken up the cross. Admirable. But it was just getting fun! (If you bloggers could eavesdrop in on our small group for a typical 10 minutes, you'd see that bantering like Marcia and I have been doing is our "Love Language.")

Ok. Moving on. Here's something to chew on.

Someone e-mailed me with a question worth wrestling with. He said he heard a well known preacher recently call his church to take a stand against the injustice of his local government that had cut funding for inner city recreational facilities. This e-mailer wanted to know what I thought about this. How could a Christian not be against this sort of cut? And so, shouldn't churches "take up arms" and fight for such causes?

As understandable as it is to get angry about inner city funding being cut, I honestly think this preacher is misusing his Kingdom authority in giving this charge to his church. I'm very concerned about any pastor using his or her spiritual authority for any reason to tell his church to tell Caesar what to do.

When did Jesus ever do anything like this? And remember, our job is to mimic him (Eph. 5:1-2).
Some readers may have just gotten angry, but I ask you to hear me out.

Think about this. If the American church wasn' t fragmented into a million isolated units (churches), hardly any of them talking with each other let alone working together, and if the average American Christian didn't spend (according to George Barna) 97% of their income on themselves, we Christians could build our own inner city recreational facilities -- and many other things. And this would be done to the glory of God rather than to the credit of Uncle Sam.

Sadly, instead of confessing our greed and ungodly divisiveness and sacrificially pooling our resources to serve the poor, we tend to rather point the finger at government while positioning ourselves as people who are smarter at spending public funds and solving tough issues and more righteous in caring about the needy. I suspect the American Church has been so divided, so influenced by American greed and thus so impotent for so long, most can't even imagine it being otherwise. Related to this, we've relinquished so much responsibility for caring for the poor to the government for so long, most American Christians can't picture the Church itself, without the aid of government, taking responsibility for this.

Due to this impoverished imagination, we sadly assume our highest calling is to be the high priests of Caesar's court, telling it how God allegedly wants it to spend its money.

Of course, being the high priests of Caesar's court means you've got to get into the messy complexity of this court. How do we know that fighting for money to go to recreational facilities is the right thing to do? Maybe fighting for more funding for schools, or housing for the poor, or for more and better public transportation is a better fight? And what about the unlivable low minimum wage, or the lack of adequate shelters for the homeless, or the increasing number of people who lack basic health coverage, or the inadequate presence of police in dangerous neighborhoods? As the high priests of Caesar's court, we have to make these tough decisions -- and there's only so much money to go around.

Not only this, but every action creates a reaction, and as Caesar's wiser and more caring counselors we have to be experts about all these. For example, it certainly feels wise and righteous to insist on higher wages for workers. But are we sure this won't force many small business owners to fire workers, thereby harming the poor more than helping them? And it certainly feels wise and righteous to insist U.S. troops pull out of Iraq right now. But are we sure this won't result in a greater bloodbath than we already have over there?

It's all very complex and ambiguous, but once we position ourselves as Caesar's high preists we have no choice but to wade through it all. And so, inevitably, we'll disagree about many of these matters and have to fight each other over which are the "right" battles to fight and what is the "right" way to be fighting them. The Matthews (conservatives) and Simons (liberals) in our churches will inevitably start wondering if the other "really" cares and is "really" Christian.

And now we've invited the polarizing ambiguity of the political realm into our Kingdom fellowships -- as if we needed further dividing!

And I haven't even mentioned the REAL divisive issues of abortion and gay marriage!

And notice this: all the while we're wading through these issues and fighting over what we think Caesar should do, we're still spending 97% of our wealth on ourselves and not getting anything done for the Kingdom.

Folks, as citizens who get asked your opinion about what Caesar should do, you can express your opinion as best as you see fit. Try to understand the issues surrounding poverty and everything else and make the best choice you can. But as citizens of the Kingdom of God, this isn't where our hope is to be placed or where our time or energy is to be spent. (Of course, God may call some to political offices, meaning much of their time and energy will inevitably be spent in this realm. But even they shouldn't place their ultimate hope in this area). As citizens of the Kingdom, our job isn't to tell Caesar what to do -- as though we were wiser and cared more. Our job is to just do it.

Lets start by confessing that, for the most part, we aren't getting the job done at present.

Maybe if we stopped blaming government and started to do what we're called to do, after 100 years Caesar would be ASKING us for advice on how to address issues of poverty.

If I was asked by this preacher what I think he and his church should do about the funding cut for inner city recreational facilities, I'd advise him that, if God has indeed called he and his church to take up this cause, they should partner with whatever other churches were willing to catch this vision, call on believers to make radical sacrifices, put together a volunteer work force, and build their city the best inner city recreational facility anyone has ever seen.

And now the glory would go to Jesus instead of Caesar.

And now even Caesar might take an interest in learning a thing or two from the Church.

And now the Kingdom would be advancing.

Think about it.

And Keep the Kingdom holy.


bless him...

many are asking if this is an all out friend war, what will be my next step?

all I can say...
I have the camera...
I'm committed to truth with my lens...
but this is not the time...
this is a time to put down the camera and pick up the cross!

I bless you Greg. Bless you!

love from one of your faithful admins,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Marcia the Lard and Revolting Beauty

Hi Folks,

Thanks for blogging in.

First want to express my profound appreciation for my dear FRIEND Marcia (the lard) Erickson who kindly showed the entire WORLD what a slob I am. ( : My therapist says it will take time, but I may recover.

You know, if I had a camera, and if I knew how to use it, and if I knew how to put the pictures on the internet once I figured out how to use it, and if I could sneak over to Marcia's house when she didn't know I was coming so she wouldn't have time to clean it up like I'm sure she always does when she knows company is coming ... boy, then I'd get her back really good. For sure! Wow! Wouldn't that be great!

But I don't know how to do any of those very technical things. So just take my word for it. Marcia Erickson is a total pig!!! Folks, her house is so messy, the cockroaches get lost! Her house is so messy, no one could remember what color carpet she had. So someone dug down through a pile to find out, and they still couldn't tell. You know why? Because it was so full of coffee, wine, food, vomit and cat pee stains!

One good thing did come of this, however. They found the kitten they thought they'd lost several months back. It was pretty badly decomposed. But still, closure is a good thing.

Maybe I can't prove any of this like Ms. Fancy pants techno-wiz Marcia lard. But who cares. I'm a preacher. And people believe preachers. For sure!

Okay, I feel vindicated. Felt good. I don't care what Jesus says. Sometimes retaliation is a good thing. Sorry Jesus.

Now onto something only slightly more important.

As some of you may know, I've taken another short little break from working on the massive ten (or twenty) year project called The Myth of the Blueprint in order to work on a little book on the Kingdom called Revolting Beauty: A Theology and Practical Guide For Kingdom Revolutionaries. (Well, it was supposed to be little, but it's up to almost 300 pages, and it's getting less little by the minute). I've got two more chapters to go (out of 14) and it's due in 3 days. But Zondervan graciously gave me a one month extension -- which is STILL going to be brutal to make, especially because I have about a zillion speaking engagements in October.

To make matters worse, I just accepted an invitation to participate in a conference on Politics and Religion at Yale University in two weeks. There's a lot of theological and political celebrities showing up, but I probably would have said "no" except for the fact that I learned that my new friend David Kuo (love ya dude!) is going to be there. (He wrote a great book called Tempting Faith, which all of you have to read). He shares my view that we need to keep the Kingdom separate from politics. (He actually called on Evangelicals to "fast" from politics for two years. Love it!) So at least I won't be the only odd ball out there telling everyone on the right AND LEFT that they're both wrong.

Anyway, back to my book Revolting Beauty. It's basically the prequel to Myth of a Christian Nation. In the latter book I said what the Kingdom isn't (namely, the "right" set of political options). In this book, I'm saying what the Kingdom IS. And what it IS, I argue, is a giant Jesus. Insofar as we individually and collectively look like Jesus, we manifest the Kingdom of God. Insofar as we don't, we don't. It's that simple.

The title of the book is rooted in the fact that the cross --which is the quintessential expression of the Kingdom -- is both revoltingly ugly and supremely beautiful. Not only this, but the beauty of love revealed on the cross revolts against all that is ugly (viz. all that opposes the Kingdom). So, our main job as Kingdom people is to live in a way that manifests a beauty that revolts and that looks like Jesus, dying on Calvary for the people who crucified him. This, my friends, is the revolution he unleashed into the world.

Shoot! I was now going to get into an issue on racial reconciliation and politics that I'm struggling with in chapter 12, but I have to go. I spent too much time lying about Marcia. So I'll blog about it tomorrow, or whenever.

In the meantime, why don't I just give you a little teaser about the book by sharing with you the very tantalizing TABLE OF CONTENTS.

Here it is. See ya later!

Revolting Beauty A Theology and Practical Guide for Kingdom Revolutionaries

Very Important Up-Front Stuff

Part I. The Kingdom Revolution

1. Cosmic Hitler and the White Rose Rebellion

2. The Conquest of the Trojan Horse

3. A Tribe of Deepest Magic

4. Giant Jesus

5. Future Tribe

Part II: The Kingdom and the Individual

6. The Beautiful Mind: Revolting Consciousness

7. Invoking Your Spiritual “Say-So”: Revolting Prayer

8. Leap of Faith! Revolting Wholeness

9. The Exorcist: Revolting Freedom

10. The Triune “We”: Revolting Community

Part III: The Kingdom and Society

11. Unto the Least of These: Revolting Generosity

12.The One New Humanity: Revolting Reconciliation

13. A Tribe Without Class: Revolting Equality

14. Warring Against War: Revolting Peace

cool? heh?

I was going to include a chapter 15 on Revolting Dominion, but my next book-break from Myth of the Blueprint will be on The Corrupted Creation (my Satan-in-nature hypothesis) and will include a chapter on the call to exercise loving dominion over the earth and animals, and since Revolting Beauty is already getting longer than it was supposed to be, I cut it.

bye again


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Greg Boyd and the Very Bad, No Good, Messy Study

I'm really glad Greg professes to be non-violent...he won't hurt me for posting this picture of him working from home. I had a photo shoot with Greg for a project we're doing and as Shelley and I went up to the study I "snapped" him in true form. He was embarrassed. Oh well.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

In the Valley of Elah

Hello bloggers,

Went out with my small group Friday night and saw the movie, "In the Valley of Elah," starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon. This is a great movie, mainly because of the incredible acting of these three stars. All three pull you into their characters in a way only great actors and actresses can.

Based on a true story, the plot revolves around a young Marine who returned home from Iraq, went missing from his military base and then turned up dead -- grotesquely dismembered and charred. So on one level, the movie is a "who done it?" detective story. And on this level it's good. From a series of badly damaged phone videos that are only gradually decoded throughout the movie to a mysterious package sent by the Marine to his parents before he arrived home and not opened until the last scene of the movie, this flick creates that level of intrigue that is necessary for gripping detective stories.

But the detective plot, as good as it is, is really only the occasion to drive home the real point of the movie. This is ultimately a story about what war does to people. In the process of trying to discover who murdered the young Marine, the players in this drama each discover something of how war can ruin the souls of soldiers (as well as something about how their own souls have been dulled by war as well as the pervasive violence in our own society).

I left this movie reflecting on how each act of violence we engage in, however small, dulls our capacity to experience and appreciate the sacredness of life, while each act of self-sacrificial love, however small, increases our capacity to experience and appreciate this sacredness. This, I believe, is the true meaning of ethics. It's not that we are tallying up an account of good deeds verses bad deeds, as though God were some sort of ethical ledger-keeper. Rather, the importance of ethics is that each one of our behaviors (which, remember, includes each of our thoughts) moves us forward in becoming a certain kind of person. God wants us to experience abundant life, and each act we engage in either increases, or diminishes, our capacity to do this.

And now for a left turn (but it's really not).

This morning I found a spider in my sink. Now, I happen to not like spiders very much. It would have been easy -- some would say "natural" -- to just wash this bug down the drain. But instead I got out my handy dandy bug-suction gun (a toy for kids to collect bugs alive), sucked it up, then released it outside.

Now, I know this may sound like a perfectly silly thing to do. But think about it. Why should this bug die just to spare me the 25 seconds it would take to allow it to live? Consider that GOD made that little spider -- and in doing this, he made something humans with all of our ingenious technology can never replicate. Doesn't that give the spider some worth -- at least a worth that warrants 25 seconds of inconvenience?

The reason I don't kill bugs or anything else unless I have to is that four years ago I took a vow to always try to place life -- all life -- above convenience. I have over time discovered that this vow has increased my capacity to experience and appreciate the sacredness of life. Because I chose not to kill the spider this morning, I enlarged my capacity to appreciate the element of the sacred in the life of the spider -- and ultimately, of all things.

You may think I've gotten a bit off track from my movie review, but I actually haven't. For "In the Valley of Elah" is all about the sacredness of life and how violence dulls our capacity to see it, experience it and appreciate it. This detective story makes the point as powerfully as I think I've ever seen it made.

One warning: The movie is very realistic about military life. So there's A LOT of vulgarity and a bit of nudity, made all the more offensive because it's in strip bars that dehumanize both the women who dance and the base men who watch them like cattle at a meat market. But in its own way, even this element of dehumanization contributes to the profound point the movie is making.

As to why the movie is entitled "In the Valley of Elah"...well, it's not obvious. But it too is, I think, profound.

But you'll just have to check the movie out for yourself to find the answer.


and consider not taking life simply because its convenient for you to do so. You might find this does something beautiful in you.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

God's Being Sued!

Hot off the press (I kid you not)!

Omaha senator Ernie Chambers (a long time critic of Christianity) is bringing a lawsuit against one who has caused "untold death and horror" while "threatening to cause more still." The defendent is God. The claim was filed in Douglas County, and since God exists everywhere, he can presumably be sued anywhere. (see the article here)

In his lawsuit Chambers claims that God has made terroristic threats against him and his constituents, inspired fear and caused "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants." He also alleges that God has caused "fearsome floods ... horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes."

The news did not report how much Chambers is seeking in compensatory damages or whether he's considering a class action suit that might involve all of humanity.

Now, it seems to me everything rides on which God takes the defense stand. If the omni-controlling God of classical Calvinism shows up, I suspect God's defense attorney is going to have a rough time of things. He would have to concede that God in fact did all the things Chambers alleges, but that he had good reasons for doing so. His glory would have been displayed less brilliantly had each disaster alleged in the lawsuit not transpired.

The burden would then be on God's defense attorney to explain why his glory requires such massive nightmarish suffering (intensified to an infinite degree if Chambers brings in the traditional view of hell as eternal, hopeless, conscious suffering). This could be very rough going for God.

But I suspect a very different God will take the defense stand. In fact, I suspect the defense attorney himself will take the stand as God.

This heavenly defense attorney will no doubt testify that God is not to blame for the horrors Chambers alleges, for he had to make humans and angels free if the world was going to be capable of genuine love. And free agents themselves, not God, are responsible for the way they use their freedom. Then, given this attorney's New Testament track record, I suspect he may turn the case around on Chambers himself. "I gave my life to free the world from sin and suffering," he may argue. "Are you doing everything you can to rid the world of sin and suffering Mr. Chambers? Why aren't you joining my cause?"

It's just possible Chambers will come to see that he's actually the one on trial and just possible he'll come to realize and confess his guilt.

This is where the defense attorney will really shine. For he'll step down from his defense chair, put his arms around this confused senator, and remind him that he's not really in the court to defend God: he's in the court to defend Chambers (I Jn 2:2).

Think about it.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

My friend Dr. Jen

The other day we said goodbye, at least for a while, to a wonderful young lady named Jennifer Halverson.

No she didn't die. She left for Haiti.

Let me tell you about my friend Jen. I first met Jen when she was a naive, geeky looking freshman at Bethel University back in the mid-90's. She took theology from me and immediately stood out as an exceptional student. This, combined with the fact that I liked her sweet personality, led me to ask her to be my Teaching Assistant. She did this for two years and was outstanding! I tried hard to get her to pursue a higher degree in theology, but she (somewhat to my chagrin) decided her calling was medicine.

After graduating with a 4.0 she went on to Medical School and of course blew away the competition, getting one of the highest score in the country on her boards. After this she spent one year of residency at Harvard and finished up at the University of Minnesota. During this time, she managed a couple of mission trips to Haiti and did other good deeds along the way.

So here she is, finally done with all her schooling. You'd think a person with these medical qualifications would perhaps cash in on it a bit, earn the six-figure-plus income she deserves, pay off her medical school debts, get a nice car, buy some nice clothes. You'd think. But not Jen.

Jen decides to leave all the high buck opportunities behind as well as leave the people she knows and loves to work in a third world hospital! Why? Because the people of Haiti need her to.

In Haiti she'll work twice as hard as she would in the states while earning less per month than she would earn per hour if she stayed here. She'll have to attend to however many patients show up (usually a lot!), treat whatever illnesses or injuries they happen to have (there's little-to-no specialization in third world hospitals), work with limited help and even more severely limited resources.

If you assess Jen by "normal" American standards, she's an absolute idiot. But Jen knows that Kingdom people don't assess anything by "normal" standards. Kingdom people try and assess in terms of whether we're imitating Jesus and obeying God. And by these standards, Jen is hitting the bullseye! She's forsaking privilege to serve as God leads her and is thus advancing the Jesus-looking Kingdom.

I'm proud to know Jen! Though she would hate the tag, she's a model of Kingdom living for all of us.

Thank you Jen! We love you, miss you, and will keep you in our prayers!

In his Love


Jen plans to blog as she ministers in Haiti...check it out here.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What’s “the Christian Position” on Whether or Not the U.S. Should Immediately Withdraw its Troops?

Since the publication of The Myth of a Christian Nation, many have become aware of my conviction that Jesus calls us to love our enemies and live a non-violent lifestyle. As a result, I’ve gotten invitations to speak at various peace rallies protesting the Iraq war and urging our national leaders to pull our troops out of the Iraq immediately.

I have declined all offers.

One leader in a peace organization recently wondered how I can preach non-violence and yet be unwilling to publicly urge an immediate troop withdrawal. I suspect she thought I was being inconsistent and cowardly. I don’t believe I am. So I’d like to now clarify my position, and in the process use the question of troop withdrawal from Iraq to illustrate the inherent ambiguity of political issues.

While the New Testament calls on followers of Jesus to love, bless and serve our enemies rather than use violence against them, it also acknowledges that God uses the sword-wielding capacity of governments to keep sin in check. For example, four verses after Paul tells disciples to love and serve enemies and to leave all vengeance to God (Rom. 12:17-21), he goes on to say that God orchestrates governments to exact vengeance on wrongdoers (Rom. 13:4). In other words, he’s saying that God will use governments to do things God explicitly forbids disciples of Jesus to do.

In this light, it seems to me there is in principle no inconsistency in a Christian being personally committed to non-violence and yet embracing the opinion that a particular government should in some tragic instances go to war or use violence in other contexts. (I’m not saying I personally believe this, only that there’s no inconsistency in believing this way).

For this reason, two Christians may agree that they are called to love their enemies and never use violence and yet disagree about whether in any particular instance their nation – or any nation – is doing the right thing in going to war. As with most political matters, there are a million complex factors that go into assessing whether or not a war is “justified” (though it seems to me most people usually ignore this vast complexity). And this is why two sincere, intelligent followers of Jesus who share the same core values may completely disagree about questions such as whether the U.S. should pull out of Iraq immediately.

We have to humbly respect the inherent ambiguity of political issues, including issues of war. And this is why, as a matter of principle, I cannot christen my own opinion about whether U.S. troops should get out of Iraq as soon as possible as “the Christian position.” You can believe there are “smart” and “dumb” positions on this and every other political question (yours is of course the “smart” one). But there is no distinctly “Christian” position on this.

Even on a personal level, I’ll confess that I am not convinced a speedy withdrawal from Iraq is the best thing to do. Now, I detest all violence and all war. It grieves me to the core of my being. And I’ll admit that I personally think (this is just my opinion) that the way the U.S. got involved in this particular war was perhaps the worst international blunder in U.S. history. Honestly, it has from the start left me absolutely dumbfounded.

BUT, now that we’re there, I’m not convinced we should immediately pull out. Doing so could very well create a bloodbath among warring factions that would make the present on-going bloodbath look like a small puddle. And given the fact that the U.S. helped create this mess, one could argue that we have a responsibility to stay there and try to minimize the damage. Since Iraqi lives are as valuable as U.S. lives, this is no small consideration. (On top of this, one has to consider many other factors, such as how the impression that the mighty U.S. has been defeated might embolden Islamic extremists, etc.)

Now, I could be dead wrong about everything I just said in the previous paragraph. Perhaps there are factors I haven’t given sufficient weight to in my assessment about the U.S. getting into this war and in my assessment of whether we should immediately withdraw from this war. My views do not represent “the Christian position.” But I mention them to illustrate how complex and ambiguous political issues are – especially on an international level.

In politics, a person can sometimes end up supporting something they absolutely despise. A person committed to non-violence could end up believing their nation should stay and fight!

And this massive irony is simply another reason why followers of Jesus shouldn’t think it their distinct calling to resolve political disputes; shouldn’t get overly preoccupied in political disputes; and shouldn't put any of their hope on particular ways of resolving political disputes. Our unique call is rather to individually and corporately imitate Jesus in sacrificially serving the world – including our enemies. This is where our time and energy should be spent. And this is where all of our hope for the world should be placed.

Next to the high and costly calling of following Jesus, arguing about what our nation should or should not do in Iraq amounts to little more than a distraction.

And this is why I have declined, and will continue to decline, offers to speak at anti-Iraq war peace rallies.

Pray for peace


Sunday, September 2, 2007

The 35W Bridge Collapse and the Book of Job

On my August 9th blog, I argued that there’s no reason to suppose that God was involved in the collapse of the 35 W bridge. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the amount of blog activity this has generated.

On one particular blog a person argues that my view is inconsistent with the book of Job. He writes:

[Boyd’s] view fails to make sense of texts like the biblical book of Job. In Job, it’s very clear that Satan caused all of Job’s suffering. It’s also very clear that God controls every move Satan makes—such that when Job says that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21), the narrator says that “in all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10; cf. 1:22). In other words, even though Satan was at work to destroy Job’s life through a series of calamities, Job did not err when he said that the Lord was ultimately behind everything that happened to him. (

This blogger is raising two points from the book of Job against my theology:

1) God controls every move Satan makes.

2) Job’s statement that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21) is a view the narrator endorses.

Hence this blogger concludes that God, not Satan, was the ultimate cause of Job’s sufferings. And so, by implication, God, not Satan, was the ultimate cause of the 35 W bridge collapse.

I beg to differ. I’ll briefly make four points from the book of Job against this argument.

1) First, it's interesting that Satan was not one of the invited guests to the council meeting of the “sons of God” (1:6-7; 2:1). Indeed, Yahweh is surprised to see him! He asks Satan, “Where have you been?” and Satan answers, “going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it” (1:7; 2:2). Far from controlling “every move Satan makes,” Yahweh didn't even know where he was! Now, I grant that we’re dealing with epic poetry here, so we shouldn’t press the narrative for metaphysical details about the going-ons of the heavenly realm. But at the very least the point of the passage is to show that, unlike the sons of God (the angels), Satan is not under Yahweh’s control. Indeed, Yahweh has to protect people like Job from him (1:10).

2) It’s true that Job didn’t sin at first, even when he said “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” But that’s not the same as saying the author of this work is endorsing this theology. Consider the fact that at the end of this book the author depicts Yahweh commending Job for speaking “right” (koon), in contrast to Job’s friends (42:7). Yet, Yahweh strongly rebukes Job for the theology he espoused throughout this work (chs 37-41) and Job himself says “[s]urely I spoke of things I did not understand” (Job 42:3) and repents of it (42:6).

How can Yahweh say Job spoke “right” when he nevertheless corrects his theology and Job himself repents of it? The Hebrew word translated “right” (koon) has the connotation of “straight.” Yahweh commended Job for being honest, not for speaking theological truth. So too, the fact that the author says that Job didn’t sin or accuse God of wrong doing (1:22; 2:10) in the first part of the book when Job exclaimed “the Lord gave and the Lord takes away” does not mean the author is endorsing his theology.

3) If you examine what Job actually says about God throughout this book, it's very clear the author has no intention of endorsing his theology. For example, throughout the narrative Job depicts God as a cruel tyrant who controls everything. “When disaster brings sudden death,” Job exclaims:

[God] mocks at the calamity of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
He covers the eyes of its judges –
If it is not he, who then is it?
(Job 9:23-24, cf. 21:17-26, 30-32; 24:1-12)

According to Job, God mockingly laughs at the misfortunes of the innocent and causes judges to judge unjustly! Can anyone imagine a biblical author endorsing this perspective? Of course not.

So too, consider verses like this:

What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
And what profit do we get if we pray to him?
(Job 21:15)

From the city the dying groan,
And the throat of the wounded cries for help;
Yet God pays no attention to their prayer.
(Job 24:12)

When victims of injustice cry for help, Job says God pays no attention to their prayers. Are we to believe that this is the view the author is recommending?

Yet Job’s depiction of God is even harsher when he considers the injustice of his own state. For example, Job cries out to the Lord:

Your hands fashioned and made me;
And now you turn and destroy me (Job 10:8).

Bold as a lion you hunt me;
And repeat your exploits against me…
Let me alone;
that I might find a little comfort (Job 10:9, 20)

You have turned cruel to me;
And with the might of your hand you
persecute me (Job 30:21).

And to his friends Job testifies:

…God has worn me out;
he has made desolate all my company.
And he has shriveled me up…
He has torn me in his wrath, and hated me;
He has gnashed his teeth at me;
my adversary sharpens his eyes
against me (Job 16:7-9, cf. 11-17).

With violence he seizes my garment;
He grasps me by the collar of my tunic… (Job 30:18)

Are we to believe that these are theological insights the author of this work is recommending to his readers? Are we to view God as our “adversary” instead of our “advocate” (cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; I Jn 2:1)? Are we to believe that our comfort is to be found when God leaves us alone (Job 10:20) rather than when he is with us? Doesn’t the God Job describes in these passages sound much more like “a roaring lion… looking for someone to devour” – in other words, “your adversary the devil” (I Pet 5:8)? Of course it does, which is why Job later confesses “I have spoken of things I did not understand” (Job 42:3) and proclaims, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

When the despairing Job complained, “Your hands fashioned and made me; And now you turn and destroy me” (10:8), he was simply expressing, though in somewhat less pious terms, the same view of God when he earlier said, “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Though his willingness to submit changed to rage as his despair deepened, his view of God remained the same thoughout this book. In essence, Job consistently expressed (in increasingly impious language) a mistaken, omni-controlling, Calvinistic view of God. And this is the theology God rebukes Job for and that Job repents of! It’s not the view the book is recommending.

4) As a final piece of evidence that the book of Job isn’t recommending Job’s omni-controlling theology, consider what God says to Job when he finally shows up at the end of this book. In the concluding speeches, God no more acknowledges Job’s omni-controlling theology than he does the omni-controlling theology of Job’s friends. Yahweh doesn’t say, “I’m God and I have the right to bring misery on whoever I want.” Rather, he refutes this theology and puts both Job and his friends in their place by alluding to two facts: humans are ignorant about the vastness and complexity of the cosmos (chs. 37-38) and humans are ignorant about the enormity of the powers of chaos (Leviathan and Behemoth) that God must contend with (chs. 39-41). Yahweh chides Job by basically saying, “Do you have a clue as to how vast and complex this creation is?” and “Do you think you can do a better job fighting the forces of evil I contend with?” (On this, see chapter 4 in my book Is God to Blame?)

If God was controlling everything, then there obviously would be no point for God to bring up the unfathomable complexity of creation or his warfare against powers of chaos. If God is controlling everything, such matters are utterly irrelevant. In fact, if God was controlling everything, there’d be no point for God to show up at the end of the book and correct Job and his friends – for this is basically the theology they both espouse.

God’s appeal to the complexity and war-torn nature of the cosmos is significant precisely because it shows that God is not an omni-controlling deity, and that because we humans have next to no understanding of this complexity or the spiritual battles that engulf it, we should not be quick to attribute catastrophes to God.

In fact, we should follow Jesus example and not attribute catastrophes to God at all (Lk 13:1-5).

A lot more could be said, and needs to be said (see my aforementioned book if you’re interested), but this blog is already way too long. Hopeful what I’ve said has been adequate to refute the view that the book of Job depicts God as controlling “every move Satan makes” and the view that Job’s statement that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21) is a view the author of this book endorses.

And, hopefully, this has further helped readers accept a theology that doesn’t credit the collapse of the 35W bridge and the death and suffering it brought about on the Almighty.

God is not our adversary. Satan is.