Thursday, March 14, 2013

experiential dangers

As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
Job 4:8

This is the summary of the counseling methodology of Eliphaz. It is certainly not about comfort. Really, all of Job's friends do not stray away from this sort of thinking. They want to convince Job that suffering is the result of sin. Their rationale is not based on their knowledge of Job, but on their strict adherence to an unbendable works theology. It leaves them judging Job rather than comforting him.

The logic of Eliphaz is summed up in a sowing and reaping equation. And it is generally the case. It is a principle confirmed even in the New Testament. At issue though is whether every case of suffering is always the result of sinful sowing. It is true that sin always reaps trouble and pain. However, it is not true that all pain is the result of personal disobedience to God. That is the whole point of the "inside story" of the first two chapters of Job. In them we learn that God may have testing purposes in our trials.

So Eliphaz is in dangerous territory. He dares to speak for God about Job's situation to Job. And interpretation is a human trait... we want to make sense of our world. But we need revelation from God to get it absolutely accurately. Job's friends don't have the benefit of that revelation. They are winging it.

Nonetheless, Eliphaz tries to lend credibility to his analysis and argument by appealing to experiential spookiness. He desperately needs authority, so he describes a ghostly visitation (Job 4:13-17) in the night in which this reasoning that suffering is always the result of sin is expounded to him by a spirit. But I find the vision itself suspect. It smells bad from the very beginning. There is false theology in it. From the onset it is weak on God's grace and mercy (Job 4:17). It assumes that God does not even fully trust His own angelic messengers (Job 4:18), which is self defeating since Eliphaz claims a spiritual being came to him in the night with the message! The vision is obsessed with the finality of death (Job 4:19-21) as if God enjoys mortal punishment on sinful humans and that death is the end.

My conclusion is that Eliphaz is a blowhard, airbag, false prophet. He has to be right and he has no problem inventing a 'vision' from thin air to make his point. He is wrong about Job, but his greatest error is that he is very wrong about God.

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