The Future of Orthodox Christianity in the United States

White House lights up rainbow colors to celebrate SCOTUS ruling | TheHill

The White House Bathed in Rainbow Colors, Celebrating the Supreme Court Ruling on Gay Marriage

With its recent 5-4 ruling on gay marriage the Supreme Court has given official approval to the dominant secular culture in the United States.  This culture has been in de facto dominance for many decades.  This now officially sanctioned culture is defined by:

  • atomized individual sovereignty over all aspects of life
  • open rejection of standards that claim origin in religious revelation
  • active persecution of individuals and groups who deviate from the dominant culture’s norms
  • moral authority based primarily on identity and feelings
  • post-modern deconstruction of language and knowledge into a means of emotional manipulation to achieve any end
  • conviction that external reality must reconfigure itself to conform to whatever desires or beliefs that they hold at any point in time
  • dehumanizing contempt for anyone who opposes the current party line
  • reliance on overt government power to coerce compliance by all to their world view.

Make no mistake, this dominant culture is utterly antagonistic towards orthodox Christianity.  It has no intention of leaving orthodox Christians alone to practice their faith.  With the Supreme Court’s decision it will move forward with new confidence and vigor to stamp out any and all opposition.

This is not just my personal opinion.  Commenters from organizations as diverse as Time

The alarm that the four dissenting justices sounded in their minority opinions is chilling.

and The Federalist 

“As a result of Friday’s ruling…” Six simple words to turn dissent into sedition. … to justify anything in the name of the state.

agree on this point.

The PCUSA has officially accommodated itself to this dominant secular culture.  My concern is that accommodation will transform into open collaboration in the near future.  Remaining orthodox Christians, acknowledging the incompatibility between this secular culture and their Christian beliefs will be forced to make a decision on which way to go.

Who can claim knowledge of God’s infinite, sovereign mind?  Certainly not me.  However, Christ’s letter to the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) has a fresh relevance today.

14 “And to the angel of the church in La-odice′a write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (RSV)

For four uninterrupted centuries it has been a clear social benefit to identify yourself as a Christian, first in the colonies and then in the United States.  With its recent ruling the Supreme Court may well have brought down the curtain on that period.  We have passively and carelessly floated along on a social current that we assumed would always be to our advantage.  That false dream has been shattered.  God is indeed patent and forgiving, but ultimately He will not be mocked.  I believe that He may now be bringing us to the place of testing.

May God have mercy upon our souls.

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Why Can’t You be Nice Like Christians are Suppose to Be? (Part 2)

How did you respond to the previous post’s questions?  My answers are:

  1. Only in the first scenario did the wife demonstrate love for her spouse
  2. In the second scenario, the wife demonstrated the opposite of love, which is not hate or anger, but indifference

When we are angry with someone it means that we care enough to respond strongly to what we consider to be their wrong beliefs and/or behavior.  However, when we are indifferent to someone, when we have no feelings one way or the other about what they believe and/or do, we are showing that there is no care in our heart.

The wife in the second scenario was so indifferent to her husband that she raised no opposition to his self-destruction.  The wife in the first scenario cared so much that she engaged her whole self in an attempt to prevent that same self-destruction.

When I engage in criticism of the PCUSA leadership it is a sure sign that I care about them and about what they are doing to the church.  I believe that their beliefs and actions are causing destruction to themselves and the church, and thus must be opposed.

Were I to cease this criticism and move on to other things, that would be indifference.

The question now is how did we arrive at an understanding of Christianity that has led to practical indifference to virtually anything that others believe and/or do, which I believe is the exact opposite of love.

Why Can’t You be Nice Like Christians are Suppose to Be? (Part 1)

the-niceties-of-being-nice

Opening Comments

I’m certain that some who read this blog are uncomfortable, if not off-put, by my deep, broad and sustained criticism of the PCUSA leadership.  This reaction may be independent from the merits of my arguments.  That is, there is a powerful presumption that the defining characteristic of a true Christian is that they are always nice to everyone.  I’m going to explore this idea in the following posts.  But, before I dig into the details, I’d ask that the reader consider the following two scenarios.

Background

There is a married couple with a young child.  They have been married for three years.  The husband injures his neck, and, is prescribed pain medication.  His condition improves, but, he has become addicted to the medication.  So, he begins to obtain these and other drugs illegally, and, over time his behavior shifts markedly towards dishonesty, unreliability and selfishness.  These behavioral shift and the underlying addiction have a negative impact on all of his activities and relationships, most severely on his family.

Scenario #1

Early on the wife senses subtle but disconcerting changes in her husband’s behavior.  She engages with him in conversation, attempting to understand what’s going on in his life.  However, he is not responsive, and, over time, his condition worsens.  His wife begins to investigate this change.  She engages the husband in probing conversations, she thinks about his words and actions, seeking to find a credible motivating cause, and, she becomes progressively more aggressive about engaging her husband on this set of issues.  But, all is for naught.  As her husband descends into ever more serious deception and addiction, his job suffers, their friends are off-put and their once happy family begins to fall apart.

Finally, after having tried every other conceivable means, the wife confronts her husband directly.  She forces him to observe the wreck his behaviors have wrought.  She exposes the lies that he has told.  She points back to all that has been lost.  In this last desperate measure she is attempting to save him and all that his life had meant prior to the descent into this dark and dangerous addiction.

Scenario #2

Although the wife eventually becomes aware of changes in her husband’s behavior, she is so focused on her own personal and career issues that she doesn’t pay much attention.  Over time, as his condition worsens, she responds by taking on responsibilities that her husband had previously covered.  This added load causes increased stress, which leads her to further distance herself from her mate.  Over time, their lives increasingly separate, with him descending into ever greater addiction.  As his life falls apart she focuses on creating a new life for herself and the child.

Finally, she files for a divorce.  She puts her husband behind her and moves forward into a new life.  She loses touch with him, and has no idea if he was able to right his life or not.

Questions:

  1. In one of these scenarios did the wife show love for her husband?  If so, which one?
  2. If you said “yes” to one scenario in question 1, how would you characterize the wife’s behavior in the other scenario?

Taking Stock at the 100th Post

100_in_the_skyThe research and thought required to generate the previous 99 posts has certainly changed me, and perhaps, some of my readers as well.  So, with this 100th post, I’ll pause to take stock.

The most significant change has been in how I understand the motives for what our PCUSA leadership has wrought.  Near the very beginning, in My Sojourn into a Foreign Land, I made the following statement.

Many of the individuals and organizations that I include in postmodern Christianity are seeking to be kind, generous, loving and honest. They truly believe that they are “doing good” in all that they propose and achieve. Thus, it is not their motives that I am primarily calling into question. Rather, I am pointing out that this group has bought into fundamental errors regarding the nature of truth; God’s character, purpose and Word; Christian theology; and human abilities and prospects as moral actors, among others. As has been often demonstrated in history, good motives applied to the promotion of flawed ideas leads to negative, and sometimes disastrous consequences.

However, as it has become clear how this group has abused the PCUSA’s rules to make life miserable for any majority that opposes their radical ends, and eventually, to drive them out of the church, my willingness to assume good will has waned considerably.  Here’s what the Presbytery of Santa Barbara had to say about one aspect of this abysmal situation at the 2014 General Assembly (emphasis added).

Official committees of the PC(USA), like the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), have failed to recognize the spirit and intent of prior General Assembly actions and have continued to promote the very kind of negative approach to peacemaking that prior General Assemblies have rejected. This is wrong and must end.

This situation is ending, not because of a change in heart by our leadership, but rather because so many orthodox-minded Presbyterians have been driven out of the PCUSA that there is no longer the realistic possibility for majority opposition to their schemes.  As I have noted on numerous occasions (most recently in The Disappearing PCUSA, 2014 Data (Part 6)):

There is an extraordinary, disconcerting compulsion that appears to drive this process. While in pursuit of their goals there appears to be no damage to the PCUSA – massive departure of existing members, collapsing influx of new members, stress to mission relationships, loss of theological, intellectual and institutional credibility, among others – that our leadership will not accept until their demands are fully met. No matter how many times the denomination rejected their demands, they continued in their quest.

This is not the work of a group steeped in Christian prudence, temperance and justice.  Rather, it is the action of a self-defined elite whose every opinion and goal is presumed to sit at the pinnacle of moral perfection.  There is no trading-off of one good against another, no self-awareness of their own limitations in motive or knowledge — there is only the naked determination to impose all that they have agreed to be “the good” on this denomination.  As Joan Didion wrote in “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.”

…when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.

For all the PCUSA elite’s presumption of having a “prophetic voice” by mimicking whatever is trending in radical secular Progressivism, with a thin veneer of faux Christian theologizing as their only contribution, I note that Didion’s statement is the real thing.  Fifty years ago, in 1965, she saw the seed of the bad tree that would come in its fullness to bear the bad fruit that I have been chronicling for the past 99 posts.

If 99 posts seems like a lot of ground to cover, then this excerpt from An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America by Joseph Bottum provides a concise summary.

Formed in the victory of civil rights activism, a new version of the social gospel movement became the default theology of church bureaucrats in the Mainline.  The churches “increasingly turned their attention to the drafting of social statements on a variety of contemporary problems,” as the religious historian Peter J. Thuesen has noted, and their statements “revealed a shared opinion among Mainline executives that the churches’ primary public role was social advocacy.”

Note well — not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but “social advocacy” of a particular secular stripe.  When the General Assembly Moderator, Heath Rada, addressed the April 18 Presbytery of Chicago Assembly meeting he had precious little to say about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, he had a lot to say about the effectiveness of the PCUSA’s social advocacy.  In fact, I’d say that the central theme of his “pep talk” was something to the effect of ‘Rejoice sisters and brothers!  The PCUSA is a highly regarded little cog in the Progressive political machine!’  This was the same meeting in which the Rev. Sara Dingman, Transitional Synod Executive of the Synod of Lincoln Trails, did an end-zone dance about the PCUSA’s contribution to the evisceration of Indiana’s RFRA law.  I’m certainly not alone in this position.  For example, here’s an excerpt from  Edward R. Norman’a Christianity and the World Order.

Christianity today is, in this sense, bing reinterpreted as a scheme of social and political action, dependent, it is true, upon supernatural authority for its ultimate claims to attention, but rendered in categories that are derived from the political theories and practices of contemporary society. . .

I am also more convinced than ever that our PCUSA leadership is utterly dominated by post-modernism. They appear to believe that their primary purpose is to continually dissolve boundaries. That is, to a post-modern Christian, their identity appears to be entirely bound up by the destruction of theological, social, political, personal and any other kind of norm that can be imagined.

This idea is at the core of their identity because they appear to have concluded that most of what actually exists in our civilization is defective or worse. The only “good” that exists is in their false presumption of moral superiority. For example:

Thus, they live to impose their “superior” moral precepts on us poor, ignorant, unenlightened folk. They can never be proved wrong because, in their presumed enlightened state, they can always imagine reasons why the evil world of existence prevented the arrival their perfect but non-existent world.  Returning to An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America:

This is the final remnant of the Christianity of their ancestors, the last enduring bit of their inheritance: a social gospel, without the gospel.  For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills.  The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to existence, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling that they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob.

Their disdain for our civilization implies a disrespect for the toil of generations past, filled as it was with imperfect people.  We certainly see this in their disregard for the historic PCUSA Confessions.  They therefore seem unable to integrate the profound Christian insights from our history, such as those so powerfully conveyed by by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn into their world view.

It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political

parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. . . . That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” … I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” (The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, 615-617)

marriage_xlargeAnd finally, they are literally careless about the consequences of their actions on future generations.  Living as they do in a hermetically sealed bubble of moral presumption they can’t imagine that future generations, looking back at their enthusiastic support for abortion on demand, that they dissolved the foundational institution of the family into meaninglessness, that the State of Israel was weakened in its defense against the monsters at its doors, and, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was turned into nothing more than a helping hand to secular radicals (just to name a few), might judge them to have been both ignorant and dishonorable.PCUSA-Zionism

Even with humbling considerations such as these, leading to lives of Christian prudence and temperance, we are still susceptible to acts of misjudgment and ignorance.  However, the absence of such considerations leads to a far more dangerous situation, where we are actively courting catastrophe.  This is the appalling state of our current PCUSA elite.  May God have mercy upon us.

The “Interracial Marriage” Argument for Same Gender Marriage

The Presbytery of Hudson River argued in their Rationale supporting same gender marriage that:

And yet we don’t often consider that prohibiting the right of our fellow Christians to marry someone of the same gender is wholly analogous to prohibiting the marriages of people of different races.

To which I responded, after due consideration:

I invite the Commissioners and leadership of the Presbytery of Hudson River to explain their actual justification for accusing their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who oppose same gender marriage, based on Christ’s teaching, of bring the equivalent of racists.

It has recently come to my attention that:

nbci-logo2010Approximately 15.7 million African Americans belonging to 34,000 churches have broken their ties with the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) following its decision to allow same sex marriage.

The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), led by its president Rev. Anthony Evans said the main reason for their coalition’s departure from the PCUSA is the recent vote of the Presbyterian General Assembly to revise its constitution, specifically the terms that define marriage, reports Charisma News.

“In this case, PCUSA deliberately voted to change the Word of God and the interpretation of holy marriage between one man and one woman. This is why we must break fellowship with them and urge the entire Christendom to do so as well,” he added.

The NBCI further denounced PCUSA’s manipulation and declared it a “universal sin” against the entire church and its members.

“With this action, PCUSA can no longer base its teachings on 2,000 years of Christian scripture and tradition, and call itself a Christian entity in the body of Christ. It has forsaken its right by this single wrong act,” Evans noted.

So, I have two more questions for the Commissioners and leadership of the Presbytery of Hudson River:

  1. Do you believe that the NBCI’s position is “wholly analogous to prohibiting the marriages of people of different races?”
  2. If not, do you have any sense of remorse for having so cruelly treated the orthodox Presbyterians who opposed same gender marriage?

The sorry truth is that it’s not just the Presbytery of Hudson River who used this cynical and callous argument to intimidate their fellow Christians into submission, or, at least silence regarding same gender marriage.  No, this appalling argument was used in countless group and personal discussions as well.

I really do think that they all owe us answers.


 

The next post will be my 100th on this blog, in which  I’ll share the cumulative considerations and conclusions of this work to date.

LoS: Job – Closing Thoughts

Closing Thoughts

After Job’s repentance, the LORD specifically repudiates his three friend’s positions, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7b) They were instructed to bring seven bulls and rams to Job to sacrifice as burnt offerings, and to have Job pray that the LORD forgive them their folly. Interestingly, Elihu is not mentioned. The LORD then restores to Job all that he had lost but in even greater abundance and he lives to a ripe old age, seeing his children and their children to the fourth generation.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Job is the only book of the Bible that is exclusively focused on the problem of suffering. And yet many have walked away in frustration because it appears to raise all the right issues and then fail to deliver clear answers. There are answers though, for those willing to dig deeper than the Q&A format.

Perhaps of greatest importance, Job teaches that God repudiates the theory, put forward in endless variation by Job’s three friends, that suffering is the punishment for specific sins (as opposed to a general condition that falls on all, regardless of rightness in relationship to the Almighty). This interpretation is made concrete by Christ himself in Luke 13:1-5.

13 1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

But Christ’s words are only a reconfirmation of what the Book of Job had taught many centuries earlier. Isn’t the discovery that suffering is not punishment for particular sin of the utmost importance? Consider how much manmade suffering could have been avoided if human societies (including some Christian communities to this very day) had embraced this profound truth.

Job also teaches us that great suffering; though it leads into the darkest night of the soul, where pain, fear and despair conspire to destroy all faith, hope and love; can be a path that leads to unexpected discoveries of God’s healing, wisdom and salvation. And, the light of those discoveries can profoundly change a life. It takes but a small exercise of the imagination to see Job after his suffering experience as far more humble, patient, thankful, worshipful than he had been before. And so too may it be for us.


I’m going to step away again from the Language of Suffering to deal with thoughts on the PCUSA.  When I return to LoS the topic will be “The Suffering and Glory of the Servant,” Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12.

LoS: Exposition – Job 42:1-6

Clouds-and-LightJob 42:1-6

42 1Then Job replied to the LORD :

   2“I know that you can do all things;

       no plan of yours can be thwarted.

   3You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’

       Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,

       things too wonderful for me to know.

   4“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;

       I will question you,

       and you shall answer me.’

   5My ears had heard of you

       but now my eyes have seen you.

   6Therefore I despise myself

       and repent in dust and ashes.”

This second reply is markedly different from the first. Where there had been merely admissions of unworthiness and silence, now there is the affirmative acknowledgement of the LORD’s sovereignty, his own limitations, and, finally, a self-repudiating repentance before the holy God of the universe.

The LORD has indeed won a great victory – the restoration of right relationship between Himself and a soul as well as lessons about His true character and man’s need for humility and salvation deeply taught and ready to be transmitted from generation to generation.

~*~*~*~*~*~

But there is one phrase in Job’s response that bears deeper scrutiny. Job says, Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

To begin with, note that the LORD did not answer a single of Job’s questions. In fact, the LORD didn’t convey a single answer about anything in the entire interview. Thus, this statement cannot be based on communication of information by words from the Deity to Job.

What has likely happened is that his experience, in its entirety, has made Job intensely aware of the limitations under which we humans operate. He had listened to the explanations of his friends and crafted his own retorts with great care. All of this brilliant use of the human mind and language was swept away as so much worthless refuse when the LORD arrived – Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?

But the LORD didn’t even attempt to provide the correct answer. We could conclude that He simply didn’t want Job, or us, to know. It’s possible that this is the case.

There is, though, a second, more profound possibility. It’s possible that, were the LORD to explain in their fullness the reasons behind suffering, either human language would be incapable of conveying them or the human mind would be incapable of grasping them, or both. That is, there are things loosed in this universe so vast, so deep that they exist beyond the ability of human resources to capture and/or comprehend.

Is this concept really so radical? Consider the problems associated with teaching the Special Theory of Relativity to a mouse. You will immediately agree that the endeavor is a hopeless one. Well, it is also easily agreed that the distance between a human and the LORD is immeasurably greater than that between a human and a mouse. Thus, it stands to reason that there exist concepts within the mind of God that are not communicable to humans within the limitations of human resources. Job may well have become aware of this fact through the combination of his own experience of terrible suffering, the experience of his and his friends inability to explain or correct it, and his experience of the LORD’s demonstration of might, wisdom, mercy and salvation.

I use the word experience in the above paragraph intentionally. For it is my argument that experience, under the guidance of the Holy Sprit and within the bounds laid out by God’s Word, provides believers with another resource, another language if you will, by which to search out the mysteries of God’s will. Suffering is one dialect of that language by which inexpressible, but nonetheless real insights into God’s mind occur.

May we lift our sails to the Spirit’s wind, guided by the map of the Word, and be brought home to You!

LoS: Exposition – Job 40:1-14

Job 40:1-14

William Blake - Job Confessing his Presumption to God who Answers from the Whirlwind

William Blake – Job Confessing his Presumption to God who Answers from the Whirlwind

40 1The LORD said to Job:

   2“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?

       Let him who accuses God answer him!”

The LORD demands an answer from Job. Now is the moment that Job has been waiting for, the moment when he can throw all of God’s injustice back in His face. He’s rehearsed his lines; he’s sharpened his arguments against the best that his friends could give.

The skeptic in us feels that God is guilty of making bad things to happen to a good man. These questions appear to be just a smoke screen, a change of subject. All Job has to do is make his case and the jig will be up for God.

3Then Job answered the LORD:

   4“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?

       I put my hand over my mouth.

   5I spoke once, but I have no answer—

       twice, but I will say no more.”

The skeptic is let down with a resounding thud. There will be no comeuppance for the LORD who willed suffering into our existence. Job has completely lost his nerve. But what could we expect from a man ground down to a mere pulp by this bully God (so says the skeptic). God has won and the story is over…

6Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm:

   7“Brace yourself like a man;

       I will question you,

       and you shall answer me.

But what is this? The LORD isn’t finished with Job. Why continue, He’s won? Even more inexplicably the LORD again addresses Job with the honorable title of a man who must stand to answer questions from the LORD.

8“Would you discredit my justice?

       Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

These questions strike deep. The LORD has established beyond any doubt the unbounded distance between our knowledge and His. Isn’t it likely that One with access to all information would be immeasurably better positioned to know the real justice than those who by their own admission know only a infinitesimal fraction? And of that fraction that we think we know, how much of it is certain? Perhaps all of those questions from the LORD may have been germane after all.

But the LORD is not here to win a debate. His purpose is to save and restore a soul. That is always His purpose.

     9Do you have an arm like God’s,

       and can your voice thunder like his?

   10Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,

       and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.

   11Unleash the fury of your wrath,

       look at every proud man and bring him low,

   12look at every proud man and humble him,

       crush the wicked where they stand.

   13Bury them all in the dust together;

       shroud their faces in the grave.

   14Then I myself will admit to you

       that your own right hand can save you.

Much more questioning will follow. This, however, is the crux. Who will save us? But before that, do we even recognize the need to be saved? If we do recognize the need to be saved and conclude that we can save ourselves, woe to us! If we don’t even recognize our need to be saved, even greater woe! So, how does Job fit into this context?

We have it from the LORD Himself that Job was “blameless and upright” (Job 1:8). But we also know that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3, Romans 3:10-12).

Job was blameless but not sinless. We also know from the stories of the Pharisees (and the personal testimony of the Apostle Paul) of the particular spiritual danger of a life blamelessly lived before the law. There is the creeping sense of superiority, of self-sufficiency, of pride and position. A reading of 30:1-14 and chapter 31 give hints of just such spiritual failings.

This is not to argue that Job’s specific failings were the direct cause of his specific suffering, which would be to fall into the same error as his friends. The issue at stake is the purpose of suffering in general, and, if there is the possibility that God’s intention for suffering’s existence includes the potential for great good.

Thus, Job’s suffering may have brought him to the point of facing his own insufficiency to save himself. With this discovery, there would be the opportunity for a Savior.

LoS: Exposition – Job 38:1-7, 31-36

William Blake - The Lord Answering Job Out of the Whirlwind

William Blake – The Lord Answering Job Out of the Whirlwind

38 1Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:

   2“Who is this that darkens my counsel

      with words without knowledge?

   3Brace yourself like a man;

       I will question you,

       and you shall answer me.

The impact of the LORD’s arrival must have been awesome in every dimension of experience. The combination of vast natural and supernatural forces with the LORD’s own angry WORDs booming like thunder into this beaten man’s consciousness could only bring on a terror that is beyond our poor ability to imagine.

The LORD’s first words (v. 2) set the theme for what is to follow. But the next phrase, “brace yourself like a man,” is striking; for it addresses Job as an entity that is capable of dignity, of honor – a man – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27).

4“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

       Tell me, if you understand.

   5Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!

       Who stretched a measuring line across it?

   6On what were its footings set,

       or who laid its cornerstone-

   7while the morning stars sang together

       and all the angels shouted for joy?

The cascade of impossible questions continues for four chapters. They remain unanswerable even today. But what do they have to do with Job’s situation? Why is Job in the dock? It is God who willed suffering into existence, who unleashed Satan to inflict this terrible suffering on Job.

Even though it doesn’t seem to make sense, let’s follow the thread of thought to see where it leads. The LORD has accused Job (and us?) of “darkening his counsel with words without knowledge.” He’s now asked a series of questions that Job and we can’t begin to answer, but that clearly the LORD can. So, we can agree that the LORD does have more knowledge than do we.

     31“Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?

       Can you loose the cords of Orion?

   32Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons

       or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

   33Do you know the laws of the heavens?

       Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

   34“Can you raise your voice to the clouds

       and cover yourself with a flood of water?

   35Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?

       Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?

   36Who endowed the heart with wisdom

       or gave understanding to the mind?

The unanswerable questions continue. The cumulative impact can only be felt by reading these four stunning chapters in one sitting. They have a terrible beauty that both draws one in while simultaneously eliciting a sense of holy fear.

LoS: Exposition – Job 31:6 and 32 through 37

31 6let God weigh me in honest scales

       and he will know that I am blameless-

If only he could get a hearing from this persecuting Deity he would convince God of the error of His ways!

Job 32 – 37

William Blake: The Wrath of Elihu

William Blake: The Wrath of Elihu

In chapters 32 through 37 Job silently suffers the relentless diatribe of the younger man, Elihu. This would have been a terrible insult in a culture that revered elders. Whereas he had energetically debated his other three contemporary friends into submission, Elihu holds the field unopposed. One has the sense that by the time Elihu speaks up Job is a spent force, nothing more than the husk of what once was a warm, proud man.

But, without missing a beat, just as Elihu completes his six-chapter harangue, the LORD Himself arrives on the scene. Has there ever been a man in worse shape to confront the LORD of the universe? Suffering has destroyed every resource that Job could have possibly drawn upon to meet this challenge – his dignity, self-respect, family, friends, success, standing, rightness with God Himself – he was ground down to absolute zero.

So, is now the time for a loving God to begin the process of restoring Job’s soul? No, it is not. It’s not because absolute zero is simply the absence of everything. What’s required is the presence of an acknowledged, excruciating negative – the recognized need for God the Savior to fill the infinite negative void of our soul. And so, God speaks to Job in love, although we in our sentimentalized culture are often incapable of recognizing it as such any longer.