Job and the Theodicy Problem, part 2
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Job and the Theodicy Problem, part 2

Last essay, I discussed how the prevalence of unnecessary suffering in the world made it impossible to hold that God is both all-powerful (i.e., we live in theodicy – a world governed by God) and that God is good. The Book of Job deals with this problem.
Job begins with a description of the protagonist, who was “blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil.” Job was also the most fortunate of men, with the greatest wealth in the country and seven sons among his children. It was unlikely a coincidence that the most blessed man was also the most righteous. Indeed, after God brags about his “servant Job” to Satan, Satan replies, “Does Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.”
Satan’s comments confirm the world as a theodicy, with God in charge. What happens next is troubling. Satan declares that Job will curse God if Job’s fortunes are reversed, and God gives Satan permission to take away all that Job has. The subsequent calamities see Job lose all his wealth and his children are killed, yet “Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Even after Satan, with God’s permission, afflicted Job “with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head,” Job “did not sin with his lips.”
Job didn’t accuse God of wrong, but that doesn’t mean that God was blameless. The story describes a theodicy in which God allowed the unjust treatment of a righteous man. The goodness of God is in question. If God chooses to have those who are innocent suffer, then it seems we have two choices. We can challenge God’s goodness or we can adopt an ethic that endorses victimization. The latter approach turns the notion of “good” on its head – to the point of making morality a meaningless term.
In upcoming essays, I will explore, through the lens of the Book of Job, the challenging question of whether or not God is good. 

Go on to: Job and the Theodicy Problem, part 3
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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