Thursday, March 21, 2013

the thoughtlessness of reductionistic "cause and effect" theology

If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression.
Job 8:4

Bildad's words come as a direct assault on the most difficult of Job's circumstances. The most painful of his early losses was the tragic death of all his children in a weather-related catastrophe (Job 1:18-19). It was at the loss of his sons and daughters that Job's mourning began. And for Bildad to so blatantly theologize over their deaths is a counseling atrocity! I cringe when I read it.

It assumes that Job's children deserved to die for a specific rejection of God or His commands. But we know that Job was committed to the spiritual welfare of his entire family. Job specifically ministered to his sons and daughters, teaching them to sacrifice to God and plead for His mercies (Job 1:4-5). The text seems to indicate that they willingly participated in this consecration to God. It is a stretch of all that we know to think that the death of Job's children was divine retribution for their sin. Even if they had done wrong (inevitable consequence for all of us sinners), the lifestyle of confession and consecration they willingly practiced with their father would have made such an action by God to seem overbearing and unloving. But Bildad does not care about the implications of this theology in the real world. He wants a simplistic "cause and effect" God to rule the universe in stark black and white terms. It is as if God is only interested in lining up dominoes so that He can start the stream of tumbling consequences.

Bildad's reasoning is still popular. In its most extreme, Bildad's "cause and effect" theology drives the hate of Westboro Baptist Church. It creates a system where vengeful prayers and hatred for sin get mixed up into a hatred for people as well. And it destroys the heart of the gospel which is the love of God in the sacrifice of His Son for us. The reality is that God sacrificed His only Son to atone for all sin WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS. It was the heart of God to give Himself for Job's children as well, for Job, even for thoughtless Bildad the Shuhite who sinned by making God look small, petty, and overbearing.

Save me from reductionistic, simplistic theology that only sees adversity as judgment on sin. The reason Job's story exists is to teach me Your sovereignty in human suffering. You are not vengeful, but merciful. And even in our worst pains, Your grace and mercies can call us to worship You from the ashes.

No comments: