Archive for July, 2012

h1

It Ain’t No Thing: Privation in Job…

July 31, 2012

Section Three

This is part of my series on Theodicy in the book of Job.  In Part one we introduced the book, in part two we evaluated the presence of the Free-will theodicy in Job, Now we will examine and evaluate the presence of the Augustinian ‘privation’ theodicy in the text.

The Privation Theodicy

If God is holy and good, then how can evil come out of His good creation?  In a sense this is the question that Job poses in his lament.  As it relates to suffering, Job seems to recognize that what has befallen him is a calamity without a cause.  “Is there injustice on my tongue?” He asks, “Cannot my palate discern calamities?”[1]  For those who advocate for the privation theodicy, Job’s calamites do not arise out of what he receives but rather out of what he lacks.

The privation in view here within this explanation is the lack of goodness we experience within God’s good creation.  Evil is not a substance rather it is the lack of good substance from God.  The root of this defense is found in the writings of Augustine.  Who writes in the City of God,

Let no one, therefore, look for an efficient cause of the evil will; for it is not efficient, but deficient, as the will itself is not an effecting of something, but a defect. For defection from that which supremely is, to that which has less of being, — this is to begin to have an evil will.”  [2]

Creation is able to defect, able to foster evil because it is not eternal.  God alone is eternal and unchangeable.  Creation, is created from nothing/ex nihilo, and as such has the capability to change (and sin) because it is deprived of God’s eternal being.   God is therefore removed from liability under this defense because He has not created evil.

Privation focuses more on the substance, or lack thereof, than on the actions of mankind.  At their very essence, men and created beings are lacking the full measure of divine goodness.  As a result, sin occurs causing evil and suffering to follow.  Unlike the free will defense, suffering is not seen as a consequence of free will but rather as incidental to the nature of creation.  Evil and suffering follow after creation rather than being a response to man’s exercise of will within that creation.  For Augustine, evil is not about our freedom to will but rather the object of our love.[3]  Man still wills, but evil arises not because man has the freedom to choose it; evil arises when man loves that which is less than good.  Evil then is fundamentally “self-defeating and absurd for the extent to which it succeeds it can only destroy that upon which it lives.”[4] So how does privation manifest itself in the book of Job?  And is it a valid explanation for the suffering Job is experiencing?

Privation in the Prologue

The prologue of Job is permeated with privation.  One could even describe the suffering Job undergoes as being defined by privation.  The Adversary is seen seeking the removal of all that makes Job’s life outwardly good, all that he possesses.  And God allows this activity.  Job is deprived of God’s protection (1:12); he is deprived of his flocks and servants (1:15-17); he is deprived of his children (1:19); and finally deprived of his health (2:7).  Job’s affliction could easily be described in terms of what he lost rather than on anything that he received.  All of this is removed from Job’s life in order to create vulnerability, so that the Adversary may deprive him of the one thing that made him righteous; his character and fear of God.

Any reader of the text could argue that it is in fact God who has instigated the privation.  It is God’s hand that is extended his hand against Job (1:11) and God himself claims credit for the first round of calamities to befall Job. (2:3)   To critique this view we note that it would appear that there is an active, substantial element to the existence of suffering in Job’s life.  Even though this evil has taken the form of privation; the existence of God’s action in this passage seems to do a disservice to the elements of privation.  We now turn to examine privation in light of the poetic dialogues.

Privation in the Poetic Dialogues 

Job has lost all that is dear to him and in the dialogues he will even lose those who have come to comfort him, his friends.  Job complains in chapter 3 that the evil he has experienced has not gone far enough.  He longs that the world be deprived of the day of his birth, even the night of his conception.  If there is any redemptive purpose to such suffering it is lost on Job.  Indeed all of creation seems flawed in light of the misfortune that he has experienced.  His question in 3:23 gives some further support to those who would advocate a privation defense.  He states, “Why is light given to those whose way is hidden?”  Put another way, a hidden way (life) is a life deprived of purpose and focus.  If one’s life lacks purpose, why is he given life to begin with?

Job’s friends add insult to injury by depriving him of their support and lending him their criticism.  But beyond their withdrawal of support, there is little evidence that Job’s friends subscribe to a privation explanation of evil.  While they might acknowledge that evil and suffering sometimes occur in the form of privation, the deprivation of God’s favor, the loss of wisdom etc.  For the most part they all seem to be focused on the will of Job and on how his actions, hidden or exposed, have derived negative consequences.

Zophar appears, at one point, to define evil in terms of privation.  In chapter 11, he posits that Job is in fact morally defective due to hidden wickedness.  Here he is arguing against Job’s innocence in terms of what he must do to make a mends with God and forget his troubles.[5]  According to Zophar, the wicked lack sight and Job has previously confessed to having lost his sight due to his malady.[6]  The wicked also live for their final breath, Job too has been robbed of steady breathing.[7]  Job appears to be the picture of one effected by a privation of goodness.  But Zophar does not see this as merely incidental, rather he sees Job’s affliction as being a consequence of wickedness, and therefore aims to convince Job to confess thereby remitting what has befallen him.  So there appears to be little support within the dialogues for a privation view.  It is not necessarily a detriment that this perspective is not present in the dialogue of Job’s friends.  For their methods and views will later be rebuked by God in the Divine speeches.  We will now examine privation in the divine speeches.

Privation in the Divine Speeches

Interestingly enough, God’s proclamation of his ever-present sovereignty against the smallness of man, lends itself to a privation defense.  God is all-powerful, the master of all the created universe.  Able to observe the remotest star and the loneliest animal giving birth.  Man by contrast is limited; unable to discern the scope of God’s creation much less the purpose behind it.  It is just this creaturely construction that makes mankind prone to evil and susceptible to suffering.  Key to the notion of privation is that man is capable of flaw do to the fact that he is not God.  God does not respond to the actions of Job’s will, rather he objects to Job’s lack of understanding.  “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”[8]  God gives added to idea of evil as privation when he restores Job at the end.  Good comes to Job when he is restored, surpassing his former state of goodness.

It would be incorrect though, to read the divine speeches solely in the light of the privation defense.  Superintending this defense is a larger message of God’s purpose for allowing the evil to occur.  For the speeches take place against the backdrop of the book in its entirety, including the prologue.  One of the points that can derived from reading the prologue and the speeches together is that God, in responding to the Adversary’s prompting, was determined to validate what Job had rather than what he lacked.  Namely God wanted to affirm the presence of Job’s righteousness.  Job’s righteousness was not based, as the Adversary assumed, on the existence of the creature comforts of life.  Job’s righteousness was rooted in his fear of God.  Carson describes God’s motive in this way,

“God’s intent is to show that a human being can love God, and pursue righteousness without receiving any prompt reward.  This pursuit of God is therefore independent of material comfort; it may be in defiance of material comfort.  Satan’s thesis, that all religious interest is ultimately grounded in self-interest, or worse, in mercenary commitment, is thus shown to be false.[9]

While there are some elements that ring true regarding the privation defense, in and of itself proves somewhat lacking in tackling the evil and suffering we encounter in the book of Job.  So if “free will” fails, and privation is inadequate is there a satisfactory system to account for the evil and suffering that Job experiences?  We shall now in the final section propose such a system, define it, evaluate it against the text and draw our conclusions.


 

[1]Job 6:30

[2] Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Kindle Electronic Edition: Book IX Chapter 1, Location 7221-24.

[3] Charles T. Matthewes. Evil in the Augustinian Tradition. Cambridge: CUP. 2001. 15

[4]John Hick. Evil and the God of Love. San Francisco: Harper and Row. 1978. 48.

[5] Job 11:14-15 Zophar states, “do not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then indeed you could lift up your face without moral defect.”  Removing the wickedness allow Job to “be steadfast and not fear, for you would forget your trouble.

[6] Job 7:7-8

[7] Job 9:18

[8] Job 38:2

[9]  Carson. Job…, 43

Advertisements
h1

All That Glitters: The context of the Golden Rule…

July 27, 2012

20120730-111439.jpg

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

There are some verses in scripture that seem to transcend the bounds of the body of Christ. Matthew 7:12 is one of these texts that could most likely be quoted by anyone the street regardless of their religious affiliation. Known as the “Golden Rule” it serves to guide discussions from the playground to the boardroom; but what does this verse, which claims to be the sum of Biblical teaching, really mean in its context?

Charles Quarles, in his book The Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church gives some invaluable insight into the power of this text within its context.

“Strong evidence suggests that the “therefore” [in verse 12] looks both to and beyond the immediate preceding verses. The mention of “the law and the prophets” in both 7:11 and 5:17 intentionally form an inclusio that brackets this major section of the sermon. Consequently 7:12 summarizes and concludes Jesus’ interpretation and application of the law (5:17-48), His instruction related to deeds of righteousness (6:1-18), and His instruction for life in this world including both one’s relationship to possessions (6:19-34) and to people (7:1-6), as well as 7:7-11

[“This principle is known to many as the ‘Golden Rule’ a name for the principle that dates to at least as early as the end of the middle ages. Contrary to popular opinion, this name was not inspired by the preciousness of this important moral principle. This name relates to accounts claiming that the Emperor Alexander Severus had Matt 7:12 inscribed in gold on the wall of his throne room.”]

“Jesus described this principle as “the law and the prophets.” The point is that verse 12 is the summation of the essence of the character God required of His people in the OT. THis statement is similar to Matt 22:34-40 in which Jesus answered the question, ‘Which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus pointed to Deut 6:5 and Lev. 19:18, which called for love for God and love for others respectively. Jesus then concluded, “all the law and the prophets depend on these two commands.”(Matt 22:40)”

The Christian life is not easy, and we as Christians are not called to do easy things. The admonition to do unto others as we would have them do unto us is a mission that embodies the whole of the Bible’s teaching on the way we should live. And this mission is surrounded by verses that testify to its difficulty. Verses 7:11 teach the necessity of our persistent reliance on God for the good things necessary to accomplish what He has called us to. Absent His aid, and absent His good gifts we are incapable of fulfilling Matthew 7:12. This is the beauty of the life that God has called us to, in that He has not called us to a life that He will not equip us to carry out. John Broadus noted, “the real novelty of Christian ethics lies in the fact that Christianity offers not only instruction in moral duty, but spiritual help in acting accordingly.” “Jesus not only commanded His disciples [and by extension us] to live in accord with the Golden Rule; He also empowered them to do so through the new exodus, the new creation, and the new covenant.” Verses 13-14 testify to the difficulty of the Golden Rule in that so few actually carry it out. It is much easier to ignore others and live an inconsistent life, pointing out specks in others despite the logs in your own life, but God has called His disciples to the narrow road, a “way that is hard” but leads to life. Few choose His road, few find it. And as we look around we can see ample evidence that few have chosen the narrow Golden road of obedience, most are comfortable on the freeway of selfish desires that leads to destruction

h1

Pearls before Swine: Using Discernment when Declaring the Word

July 22, 2012

 

One of the most enigmatic verses in the Sermon on the Mount has to be Matthew 7:6

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
(Matthew 7:6 ESV)

So what are we dealing with here? What does this verse mean?

Verses 1-5 are dealing with judgement and the extent to which followers of Christ should judge one another. These verses do no preclude all forms of judgement or discernment, rather they provide a timely and helpful admonition for those seeking to judge to deal and grapple with their own sin before they proceed to tackle the sin in other peoples lives. While Jesus is admonishing His disciples and by extension us to guard agains hasty and hypocritical judgments, He is by no means saying that we are not to exercise discernment in dealing with others. Verses 1-5 paint a picture of someone going to a brother and addressing sin in that brother’s life. There is some anticipation in these verses that the one confronted with his sin, if confronted in a un-hypocritical way, might have the speck in his eye removed. To put it another way, there is some anticipation that the brother confronted with his sin is agreeable to receiving correction. We learn from Jesus’ instruction from Matthew 18, that acknowledged sin in a brothers/sisters life is to be confronted openly and consistently with the aim of seeing the wayward brother turn and repent of sin and be restored to fellowship with his believing family. If that wayward “believer” refuses to repent, he is from then on to be treated as someone outside the family of God. But what of those around us who are not our brothers and sisters in Christ who are openly hostile to the gospel of God’s grace?

If the teaching in verses 1-5 serve as an example of how we are to avoid displaying hypocrisy in judgment. The parable in Matthew 7:6 serves as a example of how and to what extent Jesus’ disciples, and by extension us, are to avoid displaying futility in proclamation. “This passage gives us a balance for the teaching against judging. Discrimination is to be applied according to the attitude and receptivity of our hearers.”[1] In the Sermon, Jesus is equipping His disciples with the wisdom necessary to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. He lays out the method by which one becomes blessed in the Kingdom 5:1-11; He describes how one lives and interprets the law in the Kingdom 5:12-6:34; And now He lays out the consequences of Kingdom living, the personal consequences and the eternal consequences 7:1-27. Here He tells his disciples that the precious truth of God’s word (what is Holy and the pearls) will not be received by all, and therefore should be proclaimed with discretion. This attitude is confirmed throughout this gospel (Matthew 10 for instance) and throughout the Bible. Proverbially it is consistent with proverbs like Prov. 9:8 and 29:1, and this attitude is exemplified by Paul’s reaction to the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews of Corinth… (Acts 18:1-6, see also Acts 13:44-51, 28:17-28; Ro 16:17-18). And also (Titus 3:10-11).

Jesus is clear, those who despise the word of God will perish and are not worthy to receive it, but to any who ask “it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds…” (Matt 7:7-8) In this Kingdom we are to live as salt and light, to live in such a way that others are prompted to question the hope we have displayed, and we must be prepared to give an answer. (1 Peter 3:15) God will always answer one who asks, seeks and knocks. However, concerning those who lack spiritual understanding (1Cor 2:14) the Word is but folly to be trampled; and we are encouraged to withhold, with discernment, the glory of God’s truth from those who would treat it with disdain.

So based on this verse can we simply write some people off and abandon them in their sin?

 

Well yes and no. “Jesus’ teaching demonstrated that the disciples were not to presume that any person would reject the gospel. They were to offer it to anyone. However, when the gospel was rejected, the disciples were to refocus their evangelistic efforts on others.”[1] Jesus displays this throughout the gospels. When individuals like the rich young ruler come to Him and ask Him about the gospel, He answers. When the young man rejects the gospel and leaves, Jesus does not chase him down and continue to offer the gospel, he lets him go. Likewise when Jesus is before Herod, He does not answer him when questioned about His ministry. Jesus spoke in parables so that those with ears would hear and those without hearing would remain in darkness. We must never “write people off” if writing people off means that we cease to love and pray for them. We are to continually love others and to pray with persistence that it be God’s will that the unrepentant repent and that the hard hearts be softened. For we all at some point stood against our king in hostility to His message, but His grace overcame our sinful will and changed our heart.

We constantly pray that His will be done in the lives of all we come across. But when we encounter those who refuse to listen to the gospel, and repudiate it and profane it treating the Gospel of glory like dirt; we must not continue on at that moment offering them what they do not want. We withhold what is holy and wait for a time when their hearts are softer and their ears are more open. John Hannah, a Scholar from DTS once said that we live out the great commission by loving our neighbor and waiting for the hand of God to strike their life; we love, we wait, and when God sees fit to soften their heart we are their with the message of His glorious Hope.

 

 

 


[1] Quarles, 295.

[1] Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom. 106.

h1

Judging Others: Hey You’ve Got Something in Your Eye…

July 21, 2012

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:3-5 ESV)

 

Fundamentally the log in our own eye should be replaced with the cross. We take that beam of sin, and relate it to the beams of the cross. When the cross is before us, and in our eyes all sin is given its proper perspective. When I say see the cross I mean come to Jesus, for the only way the plank is removed is if He removes it because of His great mercy and through His grace. At the foot of the cross of Christ, the single beam in our eye is replaced by two intersecting at God’s judgment and forgiveness.

 

John MacArthur has a helpful word on how we experience this forgiveness and mercy, and how the beam is removed:

 

“How do you remove the plank? How do you do that? I believe it’s a matter of confession of sin. Don’t you? I think first you have to look and see that it’s there. Verse 3, “consider not the plank in your own eye?” And the word “consider” there means to perceive in a meditative, prolonged way. It is used, for example, in Luke 12:27. “Consider the lilies.” In James 1:23, “as we behold our face in a glass.” It is a constant look, a look of understanding, a look of comprehension. And so he’s saying, “Take a good look. Don’t you see you’ve got a spiritual problem yourself? Don’t you see you’ve got an ungodly self-righteousness that makes you judgmental and critical of other people? Consider that.” Having considered it, you go to verse 5. “Cast it out.” And how do you do that? By confessing it to the Lord. I Corinthians 11:21, “If we judge ourselves, we won’t be judged.” Right? God’s not going to have to chasten the sin of self-righteousness if we deal with it. And so I bring my life fully to the judgment of God, and I ask Him to cleanse, to purify, to remove it.”

 

“And once I’ve done that, I can move on to verse 5, and “then shalt thou see clearly to cast the moat out of thy brother’s eye.” Listen, we’ve got to get the thing out of our brother’s eye, don’t we? We can’t let him go on in sin. That’s to hate him, Leviticus 19:17 says. We’ve got to get it out. But we’ve got to deal with, first, ourselves. Listen to how David put it. Psalm 51. “Create in me, oh, Lord, a,” what? “Clean heart.” Did you hear that? “Create in me, oh, Lord, a clean heart.” Now listen. “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways and sinners shall be converted to thee.” But there’s no way to teach a transgressor the right way, and there’s no way to convert a sinner to God, until I have in my own life a clean heart.”[1]

 

So confession removes the plank, and compassion is the result once the plank is removed. We confess our sins at the cross of Christ, His compassion overwhelms our sin, heals our sight, and we in-turn act in compassion towards others; sparing judgement and proclaiming grace.


h1

The People’s Court: Judging Others vs. Matthew 7…

July 20, 2012

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

No one can read the Sermon on the Mount without being prompted to question.  When we come to Matthew chapter 7, the questions inevitably abound; is Jesus saying we can never judge?  Can we ever judge others?

Yes, there are times in which it is permissible, even mandated that we judge or pass judgment on others. One can think of the process of Church discipline in Matthew 18, or the commendation that if a brother sins we are to rebuke him, and if he then repents we are to forgive. (Luke 17:3)  Also later in this chapter, Jesus’ clearly instructs the listener to discern (judge) false prophets and false disciples by their behavior. (7:15-23)   But this passage is not talking about mere judging righteously (Proverbs 31:9); this passage is dealing with hypocrisy and hypocritical judgment.  Jesus first addressed this theme earlier in the sermon, in Matthew 6:2, 5 and 16.  The grammatical construction of the negation “do not Judge” uses the negative “me” which “calls the hearers to cease an action already in progress.”[1]  This allows us to assume that Jesus was addressing a behavior already present within His disciples, “Jesus had observed a judgmental attitude among His disciples and He now urged [them] to abandon that outlook.”[2]

The notion here in this passage is to admonish against the judgmental self-righteousness that fails to reflect the experienced mercy of God.  We judge not, lest we be judged much like we show mercy, so that mercy will be shown to us.(Matthew 5:7)  Jesus is addressing the prevalent mindset of one who would pass judgement on others all the while oblivious to his own sin, perhaps the same sin he is condemning.  There is a consistent scriptural teaching regarding this tragic abuse and denial of mercy: i.e. Romans 2:3 “do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgement of God?”  Christians who have truly experienced God’s forgiveness and mercy are loath to focus on the transgressions of others, as they are rightly so overwhelmed by the weight of their own sin overcome at the cross.  “The story is intended to restrict hypocritical correction of others rather than to restrict all helpful correction.  Jesus calls for His followers to avoid prejudice, prejudgement, and stereotyping.”[3]

Another major question that arises out of this passage is what is the difference between confronting a brother in sin and wrongly judging others?

There are two important aspects of this teaching that we must emphasize:

First. It is important to remember, that in order to observe we need to be able to see in the first place.  This is integral to Jesus’ teaching in this passage, that we deal with our own spiritual blindness before we move on to addressing the need of others.  If you have a log or beam in your own eye you are blind, you can not see your own troubles let alone address the needs of others.  You would not want a blind optometrist performing eye surgery on you; likewise one blinded by their own sin is incapable and ill-suited to address sin in the life of others.  But praise be to God that we serve a Lord who gives sight to the blind and removes our afflictions.  Wh must first address our own sin with God before we move on to others.

Second.  In this passage, Jesus is addressing the hypocritical practice of judging others out of turn.  The observation in view in regards to observing a brother’s sin is completely different.  In this case, one who is well and sighted (having dealt with their own sin first) is tasked with shepherding the flock of God, or keeping another accountable.  When one claims to know Christ, but acts wholly inconsistent with that knowledge those with in the body are tasked with the responsibility of addressing that sin.  They observe and address the sin both for the brother’s soul and for the reputation of the body of believers as a whole.  The intent is not merely to point out flaws or to call someone out, judging them irrationally; the purpose of this observation and confrontation is to lead the brother to repentance and restoration.  If the brother repents, then he/she is to be forgiven and accepted with no malice back into the fold. (Mt 18, Gal 6:1, Col 3:12-15)

 

 


[1] Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the basics, 724.

[2] Quarles, Charles. Sermon on the Mount, 284.

[3] Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom, 104.

h1

A Will to Live: The Free Will Theodicy in Job…

July 10, 2012

The existence of evil and suffering poses a problem to many who profess a belief in the God revealed in the Bible.  God has revealed himself to be omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving; God cannot be the author of evil and still be the God He has declared Himself to be.[1]  When evil is made manifest in suffering the sufferers cry out for restitution to those responsible.  If God has made all things, and made all things good, why then is there evil?  Is He not responsible?

The free-will defense postulates that God is indeed good; and that his creation is good.  One of the good things created within God’s universe was the freedom of the individual will.  Free will makes evil possible, or rather God made evil possible by creating free will; but it is the incorrect exercise of free will that makes evil actual.[2]  Evil actions then are solely a result of human choice.  God is hence removed from responsibility for evil acts.  While they happen under His sovereign purview, He is bound to allow them for he must respect human free will.  Without free will, mankind would lack the capability to choose freely and would be relegated to a world of determinism and would be incapable of making good moral choices.[3]  Mankind, too, would lack any culpability for the choices it made since acts would not be the result of free choice but some other compulsion.

Key to this understanding is the realization that in this system of thinking, suffering can be seen as consequential to the acts of evil freely chosen by the will of others.  In this system, misfortune is a consequence of free choice; God is removed as the responsible party and man is left with little recourse but to plea that God will deal mercifully with His creation based on their choices, whether good or bad.

When considering the full ramifications of the free will defense, one cannot help but view God in a somewhat limited capacity.  God is the creator of the universe, including freewill, but seems somehow restricted in the exercise of His power.  Maintaining man’s ability to exercise a will free of coercion is paramount.  In the words of Harold Kushner, “God gives us room to be human.”  There is little room in this view for a divine sovereignty who arranges everything in advance.[4]  How we act determines whether or not evil occurs.  The evil that we do, we do freely, otherwise we could not justly face punishment for our acts.[5]   God is left to react to our deeds and either redeem them or condemn them.  So how does this explanation for evil and suffering interact with the text of Job?

Free-will in the Prologue

Within the created order on display in the prologue of Job there are many competing wills.  Job wills to be upright and chooses to flee evil.  His children will to eat and drink, perhaps to excess; as a result Job seeks to atone for them.  The Adversary wills to roam about the earth and question the motives of God’s creatures.  The Sabines and Chaldeans will to gain property via theft.  These separate free wills collide and impinge upon each other resulting in the drama of the text.  Absent the divine council, we would be left to sort out the disparate wills and watch how they interact; attempting to determine where, if anywhere, God is in the mix.  However, within the text we have an unprecedented picture of how God interacts with his creation in the image of the divine council.  Job’s exercise of his righteous will has gained God’s notice.  But it is unclear as to whether Job is righteous due to his actions, or because God declares him to be so (1:8, 2:3).  Satan’s desire (or will) is directed toward Job[6], in an attempt to see if Job can be made to curse God and renounce his righteous position.  It is hard to escape the ramifications of the chain of events that follows.  God grants the Adversary permission to strike Job; the Adversary in-turn uses the Sabines and Chaldeans as well as natural forces to do just that.  While Job, his family, the Sabines and Chaldeans all appear to have free will, it is undeniable that they are being orchestrated by the foreknowledge and permission of God through his instrument, the Adversary.  The wills of the attackers seem reliant on the Adversary; the will of the Adversary is reliant on God; and the will of Job, rather than being rewarded, is frustrated by suffering loss.   Job has willed nothing to incur judgment yet, suffer he does.  We are left at the end of prologue with an unsatisfied Adversary and an undeterred Job.

If suffering within the free-will defense is seen as consequential, it is difficult to identify the freely committed evil acts of Job, his servants, livestock or children, that merited the consequences of suffering and death they incurred.   Job himself, will argue as much in the following chapters as he seeks to defend himself against unmerited disfavor.  The reactions of his friends illuminate for us the prevalence of the free-will defense within the ANE world.

Free-will in the Dialogues

The dialogues begin with Job’s lament over his situation as well as an indictment of the way the world appears to operate.  Job’s tirade in chapter 3 seems to bring all of creation under critique and question why life is given if it is not honored according to ones actions.  “Why is light given to a man whose way is darkened?”[7]   Each of his friends assume the position that suffering is consequential, the result of man’s will given over to sinful action.  Perhaps the sinful action is hidden in Job, but it is assumed by his three friends that sin is present in his life and he is suffering the due recompense for his actions.   If you have not sinned you should not be suffering.  This is part of the human condition; those who are innocent have nothing to fear as Eliphaz states, “He sets on high those who are lowly…and saves the poor from the hand of the mighty.”[8]  He goes on to ask mockingly in chapter 22, “is it because of your reverence that He reproves you, that he enters into judgment against you?”

It is assumed by the parties that Job’s “wickedness is great, and (his) iniquities without end.”[9]  To each reproach Job will maintain his innocence and protest his state.  Suffering, under the free-will defense and within the arguments of Job’s friends, is seen as a punitive measure taken by God to repay sin.  There appears to be very few other explanations offered other than Job is receiving his just deserts for sin.[10]  Furthermore, they argue, he should cease his protest, confess and accept the world the way it is.  In the Divine speeches God will effectively confound this man-centered defense and reorient Job’s view to take into account God’s control over creation and the comfort that brings.

Free-Will in the Divine Speeches

If Job has exercised his free will up to this point in questioning God and demanding answers, God immediately challenges Job’s will by in essence asking, “who are you to question me without knowledge.”  God does not disprove the existence of man’s free will, rather he renders that free will as almost inconsequential within his creation.  Whether addressing the creation of the cosmos, the stars in heaven, or the rain on uninhabited lands, God seeks to explode upon the mind of this man a vision of a world far more complex and glorious than previously considered.  Indeed God validates Job’s innocent will, by failing to attribute to him any specific sin and restoring his lost possessions and health.  So it would seem that Job’s sufferings are not the consequences of his actions.

The free will defense maintains the absolute need of free will within God’s created order.  However, God displays in His speech a control over nature that is absolute.  His control extends even to those feared forces outside of man’s ability to control, behemoth and leviathan.  Both creatures from the perspective of man seem to go where they please, it has been argued that leviathan is a representation of the Adversary himself.[11]  Hidden for some thirty-nine chapters, he reappears immune to the will of man.  God asks, concerning leviathan, “will you take him as a servant forever?  Will the traders bargain over him?”[12]  What man longs, in vain, to control God understands and overpowers.

That evil arises from man’s God-given ability to will freely; and that God is somehow subservient to the necessity of that will’s existence, seems ludicrous in light of the awesome display of the divine presence in Job.  God arrives at the time and in the manner of his own choosing; in a storm which “cloaks the fierce otherness of the presence of God in his fullness in the midst of the world of human experience.”[13]  God communicates the message that the only free will that is inviolable is His own, as He withholds light from the wicked and breaks the uplifted arm.[14]  We must conclude then that the free-will defense is lacking as an explanation for evil’s existence and suffering’s meaning.  We shall next consider the privation defense; evil as a privation of good and evaluate it as it relates to the book of Job.


[1] We know that no one should call God evil, for He tempts no one, nor does he insight anyone to commit evil. See James 1:13

[2]Norman Geisler. If God, Why Evil. Grand Rapids: Bethany House Pub. 2011. 29, 31.

[3] Geisler, 38.  Geisler states that the existence of free will is absolutely necessary in a moral universe, for “all moral choices are free choices.”  To remove free choice would be to remove both praise and blame for any act committed.

[4] Douglas John Hall. God and Human Suffering. Minneapolis: Augsburg. 1986. 151.

[5]Hans Schwarz. Evil: A Historical and Theological Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 1995. 103.

[6] (See footnote 11.)

[7] Job 3:23

[8] Job 5:11,15b

[9] Job 22:4-5

[10] This is the only meaning for suffering offered by the free-will defense, that those who suffer do so necessarily due to their sin or the sin of others. Marilyn McCord Adams. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithica: Cornell Univ Press. 1999. 34.

[11] Fyall, 20.

[12]Job 41:4,6

[13] Bartholomew, 145.

[14] Job 38:15

h1

On the Catholic ‘Sacrament’ of Baptism…

July 8, 2012

The following is a brief consideration of the Catholic understanding of Baptism:

From the mission of ministry of Christ the Catholic church defines seven instituted sacraments of the new law, which are seen as necessary for the Christian to fulfill. These sacraments touch all stages of life and are meant to resemble the natural stages of life with spiritual acts.[1] Within the Catholic sacramental economy there are three stages of sacraments, sacraments of initiation, sacraments of healing and sacraments of service of communion and the mission of the faithful. [2] The most foundational of these stages is the stage of initiation, consisting of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Through these the faithful are born into the new life of Christ, confirmed in that life and then blessed by the receipt of His body and blood given for them in sacrifice. The initial part of initiation essential to all the rest is that of baptism.

It is through baptism that the faithful are incorporated into the church; they are reborn as sons of God.[3] This is an initiatory right in which the participant is regenerated through water in the word.[4] Baptism is called baptism to display the way in which the sacrament must be acted out. To Baptize is to “immerse” or “plunge” underwater. This symbolizes burial into Christ’s death and being raised into a new life in Him. This is to be accompanied by the enlightenment of catechesis. An adult can only be baptized if that adult is a catechumen, one receiving the teaching of the Church; infant baptism necessitates a post-baptismal catechumen.[5]

The Catholic Sacrament of baptism, is celebrated in several stages. First comes the sign of the cross, then the proclamation of the word of God, a confession of faith to serve as an exorcism, the baptismal water is then purified by epiclesis, then triple immersion into the water or the pouring of water of the head three times. The adult or infant is then anointed with oil or chrism.[6] Who can receive this sacrament?

Both adults and infants can be baptized in the Catholic Church, and each type of baptism carries with it certain demands and significance. For Adults any one not yet baptized can receive baptism. As long as the catechumen is seeking to bring their faith to maturity, and be in union with the ecclesial community. Adult Baptism has been occurring since the beginning of the church in the Gospels. Infant Baptism is seen as a way of displaying grace to children and removing from them the taint of original sin.[7] Baptism is necessary for the faithful Christian. Christ was baptized, commanded his disciples to baptize others in his name, and baptism is seen as necessary for salvation to whom the gospel has been proclaimed.[8]

All though baptism is seen as a necessary element of the Christian life, the church does maintain a number of scenarios in which those who are not baptized will experience salvation. Baptism is seen as an assurance of salvation, whether it occurs in infancy or adulthood. Absent this assurance one may still experience the benefits of salvation. If one is undergoing catechesis, and dies prior to baptism, one will still have access to Heaven, through their repentance and charity. Even those outside the faith, are seen as able to access salvation through the churches belief in the possibility that even those ignorant of God’s truth may still have access to its benefits. If they are pursuing truth, and doing the will of God according to their understanding of it, they would most likely have been baptized had they know of it, so they receive the benefit of God’s grace, even though they did not experience the new birth of Baptism.[9]

The church sees baptism prefigured throughout the recorded history of scripture. Baptism is seen as early as Noah, prefigured in the flood of Genesis 9 is the concept of sin being washed away by water. Likewise the crossing of the Red Sea by Israel represents the people of God moving from bondage into new life through water.[10] Baptism, including infant baptism figures prominently in the New Testament as well. John the Baptist baptizing those who confessed their sins, Jesus’ own baptism, and the baptism of entire household in act. The baptism of households in act is seen as possible justification for infant baptism going all the way to the apostolic period.[11] The church sources its beliefs concerning baptism to the Scriptures but also makes appeals to tradition and official teaching as well. The Catechism of the Catholic Church along with Vatican II documents Lumen Gentium and Saccrosanctum concilium speak to the issue of baptism. All speak with equal authority and weight informing the church as to its stance on this sacrament. Few issues between the Catholic and Evangelical communities are as divisive as that of baptism, both the form of baptism and those who can participate.

There is much to commend in the Catholic church and in their dedication to the great commission of our Lord to make disciples and to baptize. Fundamentally, though, the common conception of baptism on the part of the church is greatly flawed both in its method and effect. While immersion is the preferred form of baptism for Catholics, pouring and/or sprinkling has become the dominant form of baptism, contrary to the meaning of the word in Scripture. Chief among the disagreements between evangelicals and Catholics regarding baptism is the issue of infant baptism. Both in terms of its method and its perceived effects, infant baptism as practiced by the catholic church seems to have little explicit grounding in scripture. The New Testament gives the picture of baptism as something which follows an express statement of faith in Christ and a confession of sins. It is an outward sin of an inward reality, that the old has passed away and been buried and that the new believer is raised from the water into a new life, in Christ. There is no notion explicitly present in scripture that denotes the efficacy of baptism to remove the “taint of original sin” of infants or adults for that matter. One thing alone mitigates the effect of sin, the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, both of which are pictured beautifully in the protestant rite of baptism.

A second critique is found in the necessity of baptism put forth by the catholic church. While baptism is seen as necessary, their inclusiveness represented in the Catechism, especially section 1260, which allows for non-baptized and even the non-believing to gain access to God’s salvific grace, seems to mitigate their stance on the necessity of baptism. If one need not hear the gospel but merely do the will of God “in accordance to his understanding of it” then there seems to be little teeth in the call to ‘be baptized.’

With regard to mystery or fascination, there seems to be little presence of either within the evangelical protestant community concerning infant baptism. Of course with in mainline Protestantism, infant baptism is practiced. But it is viewed differently not as a sacrament, necessary to salvation, but a mark of the covenant of God. The Catholic understanding of sacramental baptism seems to be inconsistent and un-biblical. Inconsistent in its both being a necessity within the sacramental economy and not necessary if one exists outside that economy but is “pursuing truth.” And un-biblical in the force with which they endow baptism as salvific, even removing the taint of sin.

Glossary

Baptism: the sacrament of immersion, denoting one’s initiation into the family of God, for adults a vehicle into the community of Christ; for infants the experience of grace and the removal of original sin.

Sacraments of initiation: there are three, baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Through these believers are initiated, confirmed and blessed into the family of God.

Epiclesis: the calling upon of the Holy Spirit to move upon the baptismal waters and bless the waters, allowing the baptized to be born in both the water and the Spirit.

Chrism: The oil which the priest uses to anoint the newly baptized believer.

 

Bibliography

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ligouri: Liguori

Publications. 1994. Sections 50-141 the Revelation of God and Sacred Scripture.

 

Lumen Gentium. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Nov. 21 1964)

Sacrosanctum Concilium: The constitution on the sacred liturgy (Dec. 4 1963)

 

 


[1] Catechism Sec. 1210

[2] Ibid. Sec 1211.

[3]Lumen Gentium (LG) Ch. 2:11

[4] Catechism Sec. 1213

[5]Ibid Sec. 1231

[6]Ibid Secs. 1234-1243.

[7] Catechism Sec. 1250

[8] Ibid Sec. 1257

[9] Catechism, Sec 1258-1261

[10]Class Notes Dr. Gregg Allison, Roman Catholic Theology, SBTS Fall 2011

[11] Acts 16:15, 18:8, Catechism Sec. 1252