bible blog 1406

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:



does our imagination of God include this?

Job 8 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Bildad the Shuchi spoke next:

“How long will you go on talking like this?
What you are saying is raging wind!
Does God distort judgment?
Does the Almighty pervert justice?
If your children sinned against him,
he left them to be victims of their own offense.

“If you will earnestly seek God
and plead for Shaddai’s favor,
if you are pure and upright;
then he will rouse himself for you
and fulfill your needs.
Then, although your beginnings were small,
your future will be very great indeed.

“Ask the older generation,
and consider what their ancestors found out;
for we who were born yesterday know nothing,
our days on earth are but a shadow.
10 They will teach you, they will tell you,
they will say what is in their hearts:
11 ‘Can papyrus grow except in a marsh?
Can swamp grass flourish without water?
12 While still green, before being cut down,
it dries up faster than any other plant.
13 Such are the paths of all who forget God;
the hope of a hypocrite will perish —
14 his confidence is mere gossamer,
his trust a spider’s web.
15 He can lean on his house, but it won’t stand;
he can hold on to it, but it won’t last;
16 for its destruction will come like the lush growth
of a plant in the sun,
its shoots may spread out all over its garden,
17 but meanwhile its roots cause the stone house
to collapse, as it seizes hold of the rocks;
18 someone who tears it away from its place
denies he has ever seen it.
19 Yes, this is the “joy” of the way of the godless,
and out of the dust will spring up others like him.’

20 “Look, God will not reject a blameless man;
nor will he uphold wrongdoers.
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.
22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the tent of the wicked will cease to exist.”


Or this?

Bildad is shocked by Job’s outburst against God and reiterates some of the key beliefs of traditional faith:

1. God is just and controls the world justly. If suffering comes, it has been earned

2. Only God’s favour brings fruitfulness. If people forget God their lives come to nothing.

3. If Job is wise he should accept suffering quietly for God will surely be good to him, if he is blameless.

The problem with Bildad’s pious words is that they are not true. One clear look at the world should be enough to disprove the notion that it reflects God’s justice: many innocents suffer and many evil people prosper. It may be of course that God’s justice is very different from human justice. Maybe, but if so, does it deserve the name? 

There’s no doubt that wisdom such as Bildad’s has nevertheless sustained many people, but  it becomes destructive when an innocent sufferer has to blame some secret sin for the misfortune that has occurred. Bad enough when people blame themselves but quite pernicious when people seek around for a scapegoat, a sinner who has flouted the community custom, or secretly linked themselves to evil – which gives rise to witch hunts- or perhaps a foreigner whose presence has contaminated the community-which gives rise to ethnic cleansing. It’s always easier to take that course than to question the inadequate belief about God which has created the problem. 

Or this?

Or this?

We should all remember that our words for God and our stories about God are just that; they are our inventions or the inventions of our forebears which we have adopted. “God” is our name for the goodness which is not the universe and we may represent the experience of this goodness more or less adequately. The Christian tradition teaches us to respond to our human experience by imagining a goodness which is not the universe and is the source of all goodness. Does the source of goodness “really exist”? That’s an unanswerable question. A better question is, “Does it illuminate human experience?” for if it doesn’t it may not be much use to human beings. If it sidelines the experience of much of humanity by ignoring suffering or by blaming the sufferer, it’s unlikely to be illuminating and suggests we should imagine this goodness more fully than we have done. When our imagination of “God” is adequate to the heights and depths of human experience, we will still acknowledge that it is utterly inadequate to the divine goodness to which our imaginations point. Our best imagination is like Ezekiel’s vision in the Bible:

Like the appearance of the bow in the clouds on a day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. It was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God. And when I saw t I fell on my face as if dead.

Ezekiel imagines the divine goodness but he knows that it is only the appearance of the likeness of its glory. Yet it brings him to his knees.


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