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Redeeming Evil: God’s Instrumental Use of Evil…

August 1, 2012

We have been evaluating various theodicies present in the book of Job, we now propose a theodicy which differs from the Free-will defense, and departs from the Privation defense.

Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy

We have already stated that the book of Job is a singular book with a multitude of meanings. It does not represent just one perspective, nor does it have just one focus. It is not just the story of a man’s individual hardship and an example of God’s providence in Creation. It serves as a comfort to readers, as well as a conundrum to intellectuals and philosophers. Regarding the topics of suffering and evil, the book is enormously on point and helpful to Christians who approach it. There is an undeniable comfort in knowing that whenever one undergoes trial and one groans in despair that, Job still walks at the side of the race and guarantees that there is victory.”[1]

The book of Job goes beyond what evil is, its source, its being and its function. Job illuminates for the reader the role of evil and suffering within God’s creation as an instrument of Divine purpose, wholly controlled and wholly utilized by God. Evil and suffering are not foils to God’s sovereignty, but rather elements over which He frequently and freely exercises dominion; and does so to the realization of His Glory. God’s dominion is demonstrated in His Lordship over all creation, including evil. God’s Lordship is essential to rectifying the existence of evil with His declared being of Love.[2] This Lordship is on display throughout the book of Job and in the Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy.

Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy (RIT) posits that God redeems the existence of evil by utilizing suffering in an instrumental fashion to transform creation and orient his elect toward repentance. Where “free will” sees suffering as the consequential result of human choice, and privation sees suffering as incidental to the matter of creation; RIT sees suffering as instrumental to God’s purposes for mankind. This lends meaning to what is seemingly chaos within the book of Job. The myriad of tragedies Job experiences and the profound suffering he endures, is for him an inscrutable mystery.[3] If there is a theme for this book, which carries more weight than the rest, it would be the theme of spiritual transformation.[4] God is sovereign over a set of circumstances which cause Job great suffering, but the suffering is redeemed in the transformation of Job to his repentance and recognition of God’s glory in Himself. How that glory is manifest throughout the book, and how RIT is presented throughout the book will be our focus now.

RIT in the Prologue

Few passages in Scripture give us greater insight into God’s relation to evil and suffering than does the prologue in Job. God elects Job for this challenge. It is God who first draws the Adversary’s attention to Job. God who places Job into the Adversary’s hand; and God who prescribes the extent to which the Adversary may test Job. Job experiences suffering, not because of the acts of his free will; for he is called righteous by both the narrator and God himself. Job experiences suffering due to the act of the will of God, “if God reigns then God reigns in the midst of evil.”[5] God is not surprised by evil, nor is he limited by its character. He uses evil in Job to accomplish his purposes.[6] We see in the prologue that “God has become the agent of specific suffering and death.”[7] While suffering is used by God to punish, here we see an echo of a common theme in Scripture, that God can use for good what some meant for harm.[8] This nuance is lost on Job’s friends as they attempt to reconcile Job’s suffering with what they know of God’s character. It is worth examining Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy in the poetic dialogues as well.

RIT in the Poetic Dialogues

As we have described Job’s friends seem particularly focused on the punitive role of suffering; that suffering can only the necessary consequence for evil existent in a persons life. Failure to recognize the instrumental purpose behind God’s activity leaves Job’s friends with very little to say in terms of comfort. Job acknowledges the role suffering has in punishing the deeds of the wicked. He just consistently maintains his innocence.[9] Job’s vision throughout these dialogues is unclear due to his own vexation.[10] Yet in response to the myopic perspectives of his friends, Job does outline a purpose for his suffering beyond their cries of punishment.

In chapter 17, Job endures the gaze of mockers and confesses that his spirit is broken. (vs.1) This condition has prompted him to call into the darkness for his hope. “Where is my hope? And who regards my hope?”(vs. 15) In chapter 19, we learn the focus of Job’s hope. Job’s hope is in his redeemer. In a passage worthy of the psalms Job proclaims,

25 As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,

and at the last He will take His stand upon the earth.

26 Even after my skin is destroyed,

Yet from my flesh I shall see God.

27 Whom I myself shall behold,

and whom my eyes will see and not another

My heart faints within me.

Pregnant in this passage is the telling recognition by Job that there exists a greater purpose for his suffering. A greater purpose that will be revealed, if not now, then in the future. While Job may not fully understand his circumstances he does possess a greater understanding of character of God than his friends. The Redeemer in view here must not be confused with just any objective concept of mere vindication or legal representation. For Job, this redeemer is to be as “Yahweh himself; to be everything the friends have failed to be.”[11] God reveals himself to Job in the divine speeches, in such a way as to confirm and exceed Job’s understanding of His character. It is to those speeches we now turn, to examine the existence of Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy in God’s address.

RIT in the Divine Speeches

Amid the chaos of Job’s experience God appears to address Job and reveal His character. That God Speaks out of a whirlwind or storm is illustrative. Something that appears completely out of control is in fact orderly and congruous with God’s divine cosmic scheme. From the chaotic storm God will describe a scene of purposeful order. In fact what God offers Job and the reader is the opposite of chaos. God provides a “vision that staggers the imagination, a vision of only order, of everything — even that which must be called evil — gathered into the hands of a just God.”[12]

Job asks early on in chapter 3 why light is given to a man whose way is hidden. God’s appearance provides an answer. Job has darkened God’s counsel “by trying to justify himself at the expense of condemning God; and Job is in no position to do that.” Even though Job’s way is hidden for a time, light is given to him so that he might see God in the midst suffering and repent.[13] That the revelation of God has resulted in personal transformation and repentance is by no means accidental; nor is it unique within Scripture.[14] God’s description of creation not only communicates His control over that creation but also His “maternal care for His creation.” This care is displayed in Job’s life against the backdrop of his suffering. “If an innocent person suffers, then, it will be because a good God, a loving God involved face to face with his creatures, produces out of his suffering a good meant for that person which in the circumstances couldn’t have produced, or produced as well, without the suffering.”[15] Suffering rather than being merely punitive, as envisioned by Job’s friends, is utilized instrumentally to transform Job and bring him to repentance.

Though many complain that God does not explicitly address Job’s individual complaints, and perhaps seems cold and distant; one cannot argue with the image of God’s care pictured in Job’s final restoration. An additional picture is present in the Job story that when seen in the full counsel of scripture gives credence to the Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy.


[1] Soren Kierkegaard. Edifying Discourses. Translated from the Danish by David F. Swenson (Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. 1944. Vol. II pp 7-26. Reprinted in the Voice out of the Whirlwind: The Book of Job, ed. Ralph E. Hone. San Francisco, 1960. 140.

[2] I John 4:16 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”(emphasis mine)

[3] Carson, Job…, 43.

[4] “Stephen Mitchell observed that William Blake, Who created a series of engravings on Job, “is the only one who seems to understand that the theme of this book is spiritual transformation.” Thomas G. Long What Shall We Say?: Evil, Suffering and the Crisis of Faith. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2011. 96. Susannah Ticciati likewise argues that Job’s integrity is “not about being or becoming anything… but about being transformed. Job’s integrity is constituted by his ongoing transformation.” (Bartholomew, 164.)

[5] Johnson, William Stacy. The Reign of God in Theological Perspective. In Interpretation: a Journal of Biblical Theology. Vol 47. No. 2 April 1993. p135. Also consider these scripture texts as evidence of God’s sovereignty in the face of sin: Gen 31:7, Ex. 21:12-13, Mark 5:12-13, Acts 14:15, 16:7, I Cor. 16:7, and Heb 6:3. (Ware106-107) See also Deut. 32:39 “”‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Also Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]” (KJV)

[6] A foreshadowing of what is to come with Christ. Acts 2:23.

[7] Dumbrell, 261.

[8] Genesis 50:20

[9] Dumbrell, 256.

[10] Job 17:7

[11] Fyall, 47. Fyall also writes concerning the “go’el”, “Throughout the Old Testament is a legal and relational term referring to Yahweh as champion and kinsman of Israel, and the term applied to him and sees them operating essentially as Yahweh’s representatives.” (47)

[12] Long, 108.

[13] Job confesses in 42:5-6, “now my eye sees you, Therefore I retract and I repent in dust and ashes.”

[14] One can consider Isaiah’s vision in Isa. 6 or even Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road. Acts 9

[15] Eleonore Stump. “Faith and the Problem of Evil.” In Seeking Understanding: The Stob Lectures 1986-1998, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. 524

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