Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Does God only speak in pain?

For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.
Job 33:14

Elihu's oversimplification of the revelation of God and the purposes of His Word is very disturbing. It is short-sighted. Elihu's version of God's revelation makes him a fear mongering, fiery fundamentalist. He reminds me of evangelists that I was abused with in my youth. But he is not telling Job all the truth about how God speaks or what God says when He does speak.

Elihu sees two ways that God grabs each individual's attention. Both of them are highly subjective personal experiences. The first way Elihu mentions sounds like the experiential theology of Eliphaz. Really it is just like it. Elihu talks about God speaking to humanity through visions and dreams, but he seems to center on God only using nightmares to get our attention (Job 33:15-18). So now we have Elihu as both a fundamentalist AND a charismatic. And the emphasis is all negative. Dreams come in our slumber to terrify us, convicting us of sin and hopefully showing us the error of our ways so that we will turn direction. It is all about God's wrath. So... add a pinch of Fred Phelps into the theology. It is not an encouraging process.

Elihu then says the other way that God "talks" is through trial and pain. And this is what he focuses on with Job, insinuating that because Job paid little attention to calls to repent in his guilt-ridden dreams from God, that the Almighty moved on through trial to get him to repent through pain (Job 33:19-28). Again, it is a gruesome picture of God twisting a person's arm until they submit and cry "Uncle!"

This is why I cannot think that Elihu gave good counsel to Job. He is as negative and accusatory as the rest of Job's older friends. I find his words offensive about God. Elihu's God is a frightful bogeyman and a cruel sadistic bully who guilts, frightens, and intimidates humans into obedience to Him. That ain't right.

It disturbs me most that Elihu limits God's Word to the experience of night terrors and physical disease. There is nothing good about God in this view of how God speaks. And God will show up to speak to all of the men around Job, and just be showing up in the whirlwind, God will rebuke this sick theology of Elihu's own making.

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