Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Problem of Evil - Solved

This is Week Ten of Giford's Bible Study Programme.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, 'Whence comest thou?'
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, 'From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.'
And the LORD said unto Satan, 'Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?'
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, 'Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.'
And the LORD said unto Satan, 'Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.'
So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

Job 1:6-12
Length: 3/5

Controversy: 0/5

The Book of Job is one of the truly great philosophical treatisies of the ancient world. It deals with timeless questions, such as how people of religious faith can understand the existence of suffering in a divinely ordered world, and why good people suffer while the evil prosper; and the author does not seem to feel compelled to come to easy answers.

Unfortunately, it appears that a later writer has added a prose introduction and coda to the poem, in which we are given a simple reason for Job's suffering: Satan has made a bet with God. So the book as it stands today offers a trite and simplistic vision of a cruel and whimsical deity as the explanation for evil.

The central, and much longer, part of the book (also believed to contain a lengthy insert by a third author) deals with Job's friends trying to explain to him why a just man such as himself must suffer. They try a range of arguments, with a heavy emphasis on 'You must have done something to deserve this, God must have His reasons for torturing you, and it is not for you to know them.' With the addition of the introduction quoted above, we can of course see the answer to this. God's reason for torturing Job is because of a pompous bet with Satan, and God Himself later shows up and refuses to explain this to Job in what can only be described as a rant:
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? [...] Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; [...] Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? [...] Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
- God
The foundations of the Earth are a subject we will be returning to.  There will be more on unicorns in Week 15.

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