01 September 2010

Sep 1

Reference links:
Old Testament

Two thirds done with the Bible, and we finish Job today.

It is something of a let down. After God's first speech, Job humbles himself. After that, we get what seems to be the core God's speech:
Will you discredit my justice
and condemn me just to prove you are right?
Are you as strong as God?
Can you thunder with a voice like his?
That's God's answer? He's powerful? That's it? God's reasoning seems to be that since God is so much more powerful than humans, humans do not have a right to question. They should live a life of passive acceptance. But if we accepted that attitude, we would still believe that God stores the snow and the rain in the storehouses of the heavens, keeps the sea inside its boundaries, and causes the light to appear and depart.

The bulk of the content in today's section of God's speech is God going on about how awesome Behemoth and Leviathan are. After this, Job humbles himself a bit more. God then decides to bless him. The rest of Job's life is happy and prosperous. He even gets 10 new children to replace his old ones (because children are all equivalent, right?).

Before we leave Job, I want to highlight one more bit from the prose epilogue. After Job humbles himself, God says to Eliphaz,
I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.
This could be referring to Job's last two interjections where he humbles himself before God. However, Job did not really say anything in those two interjections. I think it is quite possible (and much more interesting) to understand this as saying that it was Job's challenge that provoked God, not the content of his speeches. Under this interpretation, I take two messages away from Job.

First, reality cannot be denied. No matter how comforting an answer may be, if it does not conform to the data, then it is not the right answer. This may lead you to a place where the only answer you can give is, "I don't know", but that is better than an answer that is simple but wrong.

Second, humanity should not assume it is the center of God's concern. The God of Job delights in the majesty of nature, both animate and inanimate. This is in despite the fact that this majesty may cause harm to humanity.

Earlier I said the theodicy of Job was ultimately unsatisfying. For some, this will be because of the stark picture it paint. I do not mind that. As an atheist, I already possess a world view which accepts the god-free equivalents of the themes above. What makes the theodicy unsatisfying for me is the implication that because the ultimate answer cannot be understood by humans, it is not worth questioning at all. Even if all of the knowledge humanity could acquire is but a speck compared to all the knowledge that exists, it is still worth striving for.

New Testament

Let's start with the opening line of today's reading. From context, it applies to Paul and his fellows. However, it sounds like the type of line that Christians often apply to themselves more generally (many of the bits from this section have that tone). Anywho, on to the line:
Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others.
From my point of view, this statement does not seem to apply for most nominal Christians. There are people who claim to really and truly believe that some of their loved ones are going to experience an eternity of torture. Yet they don't seem to really mind. I find this bizarre. (And I'm not the only one.)

It the rest of today's reading, Paul states what seem to be some pretty fundamental core beliefs for Christians, but as usual, he just asserts them and makes no attempt to form them into a logical argument. Not that I expect him to formulate his statements as a logical argument when he is writing to fellow believers. Still, for non-believers, it gets tiresome to read baseless assertion after baseless assertion.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing of note.