Through the Eyes of Its Creator

Tom McLeish focuses on the book of Job in his excursion through Faith & Wisdom in Science. This is not the whole focus – or even the conclusion – but it is the summit. ‘Nature’ plays an important role in the book. Both Job and his friends have an incomplete and/or incorrect view of God’s creation. The friends are sure that creation operates according to God’s justice and the retribution principle. God gives rain to the righteous and drought to the wicked. In this view Job’s troubles are a sure sign of his failings. Job, on the other hand, agrees that creation should be ruled by justice, but in light of his own situation suggests instead that it is ruled by uncontrolled chaos.

McLeish sees six themes that govern the relationship between humans and nature as revealed through the speeches of Job and his friends. (p. 139-141)

  1. Simple moral pendulum – the story of nature as both anthropocentric and driven by a moral law of retribution. Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.
  2. Eternal mystery – humans are kept in the dark. Job and his friends all express this at times.
  3. Nature reveals God – Elihu especially gives this view, but all three friends express the sentiment at times: “nature constitutes a giant message board from its maker for those who have eyes to read it.” (p. 140)
  4. Uncontrolled chaos – Job in his suffering sees nature as chaotic. “Humanity is swept up in the storm and flood, which God might have held at bay, but chooses not to.” (p. 140)
  5. Nature worship – this is dismissed, but nonetheless given voice to as one alluring possibility. Certainly the surrounding cultures did worship “natural” phenomena assigning divinity to sun, moon, and stars.
  6. A sixth storyline is hinted at, but not spoken with clarity. It has something to do with the centrality of the created physical world over any claim by humanity to a pivotal place within it.” (p. 141) Given the role played by humans in the Mesopotamian creation stories – slaves to perform work for the gods – it is not a stretch to think that such a theme may lie in the background of some of the dialogue in Job. The physical world is not anthropocentric.

The message of Job, however, is not found in the speeches of Job or any of his friends. The message is found when God appears on the scene and addresses Job from the whirlwind. This isn’t a putdown squashing Job’s questions under God’s majesty. Rather McLeish views it as an acknowledgment of the significance of Job’s questions and his right to pose them, “for the invitation to ‘gird up your loins’ is spoken, shockingly, to a legal adversary of equal standing, not an inferior.” (p. 141) The walk through creation, including the questions posed to Job, for example:

Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? (38:12-13)

(Following Clines, McLeish suggests that the words here translated wicked should instead be “Dog Stars” in light of the absence of any (other) moral reference in the speech.)

Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? (38:16)

is designed to give Job a God’s eye view of creation.

The voice is far from simply making a point by taunting Job with his now-exposed ignorance; it is showing him other ways of thinking about creation than in relation to his human predicament. It is beginning to invite him to think about it through the eye of its creator. (p. 143)

The apparent chaos of creation certainly exists, but is channeled for God’s purpose. The fruitfulness of the earth is not solely from human benefit. ‘Anthropocentric justice’ is not at the center of creation.

Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? (38:25-27)

Rather than bypassing Job’s questions and squashing them with is majesty, the Lord is answering Job’s questions – or more accurately guiding him to the answers for the questions he should have been asking in the first place. McLeish sees five lines of argument for this view. (p. 146-148)

  1. Creation is not out of control. “The axis of control and chaos is subverted by the revelation of a third path of constrained freedom in which true exploration of possibility, of life, really lies.” (p. 146)
  2. The Lord’s answer reconciles Job’s complaint and brings him peace. “I have heard you with my ears, and my eyes have now seen you. So I submit, and accept consolation for my dust and ashes.” (Clines’ translation of 42:5 as quoted p. 146)

We are not privy to Job’s inner response to the Lord’s answer, … But we do know that he has been led towards a radically new perspective, one that in one way totally decentralises humanity from any claim to primacy within creation, yet in another affirms the human possibility to perceive and know creation with an insight that is at least an image of the divine one. (p. 147)

  1. The Lord’s response is participative and invitational. Job is invited into an encounter with wisdom.

The possibility of a new relationship with the physical world is laid before Job that leaves behind the irresponsibly polarised positions to which he and his friends have been clinging. It recognizes that although ignorance is always an aspect of the human predicament, and in particular of its confrontation with the physical world, it is not a static one. (p. 147)

  1. The Lord’s focus on creation – the physical workings of the world – makes it clear that this is of fundamental significance.
  2. “The Lord’s answer is ‘eschatological’. There is a future to which everything points.

McLeish next turns to the New Testament narratives to delve deeper into the eschatological implications. We will dig into this in the next post on the book.

How does the book of Job shape our understanding of creation?

Is the biblical view of creation human-centered at its core?

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One Response to Through the Eyes of Its Creator

  1. Paul says:

    How does the book of Job shape our understanding of creation?

    God’s answer to all of Job’s questions is, in essence: “I am Creator, you don’t think that I know what I am doing?” And Job’s ultimate response is: “Ahhh…, I heard about you, I saw you, I repent….” I am reminded of the prophet Isaiah in chapter six, standing at the door of heaven, observing the Holiness and Glory of God: Elohim, Adonai, Yahweh, and Isaiah’s response: “Woe… is me, I am a man of unclean lips…” And the angels response: “Your sins have been atoned for…”. God has provided the Way for sinful man to be perfect, blameless, innocent (Job 1:1,8) before God. The same Adonai Yahweh of heaven, the One that is worthy of every blessing, is the same Elohim, Adonai, Yahweh of Job; Creator, the One who suffers every insult…. The Fulness of the Holy God of heaven… enters Creation, and involves Himself with sinful man. In that incarnation we begin to answer the second question:

    Is the biblical view of creation human-centered at its core?

    The biblical view of Creation is both heavenly and carnal. And it involves both science and theology. The single greatest purpose of scripture is that: “…you will know that I am Lord…”. To that end, science has preformed a great service. Science has revealed a great perfection in Creation that exceeds our full grasp…. There’s always more to discover, to know and understand. The idea of Creation exceeds us.

    Adonai of Isaiah 6 and Job 28:28 is Jesus in John 12:41 and 17:1-4. And Jesus, Adonai, is the Light of the world (John 8:12-17), the day one Light of Creation in Genesis 1. And from that Light all of the stuff of the cosmos was made, day two through six (two different Hebrew terms: ‘create’ and ‘make’. After everything was ‘made’ God at last ‘created’ man and woman in his image, and that idea of marriage is a very important part of the book of Job…). Albert Einstein summarized this Creation singularity as E=mc2, and he said that he wanted to know the mind of God. Adonai of heaven is the subatomic Energy of Creation; He is omnipotent, omnipresent…. And the word that Elohim spoke in Genesis 1:3, became flesh in John 1:1-14. In Jesus, Adonai instructs us, both in a physical and metaphysical sense. He enlightens us….

    Yahweh of heaven, in Isaiah 6, becomes the Lord of Creation in Job, and Yahweh-jirah of Abraham, the Lord our Provider; and Yahweh-shalom of Gideon, Peace; and Righteousness of Jeremiah; Shepherd, Healer, Salvation…. For Job, perhaps the most significant manifestation is Shaddai, the Lord of (B)blessings. The unapproachable, overwhelming, perfection of the Holy Elohim of heaven, reveals Himself in Creation, in a way that does not overwhelm carnal man. When a blinding bright light passes through a prism, the seven colors of the rainbow are arrayed to our vision. And by that light we are able to navigate Creation, and marvel…. Ezekiel 1:25-28 describes the appearance of Elohim in heaven as surrounded by the radiance of a rainbow; also Revelation 4:3 and 10:1. And in Genesis 9:12-16, God establishes His covenant of the rainbow. Yahweh Adonai of heaven arrays Himself in Creation like a rainbow of Light. The physics of light beacons the theologian.

    There is much more to be said on His behalf. In the dilation of time, the physicist can explain how scripture views Creation from a heavenly perspective. Outside of Creation and cosmic time, Creation occurs very quickly, in ‘days’. And science, observing the same events from inside of Creation, sees each event in a cosmic sequence of billions of years. Heaven and the cosmos are traveling at different speeds, and different gravity. The scientist and the theologian are looking at the same event. Rather than diverging in disparity, they are converging in consensus (Go figure). Many of the apparent contradictions of scripture can be reconciled by considering the issue first from a heavenly perspective and then from the perspective of Creation. (How can God both remember and forget our sins?)

    Adonai Yahweh of heaven arrays Himself in Creation to our perception. In the prism of our eyes we perceive the colors of Creation; and in our aptitude we make sense of it; and in our passion we marvel… and through it all we ‘know the Lord’ even as we are known by Him…. Even, it is not we who perceive and sigh…, rather it is He who animates the hydrogen and carbon… that becomes us. In our soul, we are only the stewards of his Love, Righteousness…. There is no self righteousness (very important idea in Job). Creation did not come from nothing, it came from everything; Elohim…. Creation is not heaven, and man is not God. But man has the ability to ‘know’ God. Creation is suspended somewhere between heaven and hell. Even as we cannot fully comprehend the wonders of the Creator, man likewise cannot fully comprehend the horrors of His antithesis, Satan, hell. In Creation, everyman must navigate pain and pleasure. Therein we are ‘job’. At the same time we are both the greatest man and the least man, and everyman has the capacity to either bless or curse God. God takes each man to a place of (F)faithfulness; and He enables our (I)integrity and iniquity. In eternity, God is predestined to accomplish His eternal plan: moral beings will come to ‘know’ Him, and involve themselves with Him, or not…. In Creation, man has the capacity to choose or refuse God. He will not force Himself on Job.

    And that brings us to God’s encounter with Satan. In the book of Job, God brings together the two greatest created moral beings, side-by-side. God explicitly describes Job’s integrity…, and implicates Satan’s iniquity (translated 20 times in the text) by comparison. Integrity is man’s ability to ‘know’ and ‘agree with’ God. Job did not create it or develop it, he ‘maintained’ it. In his aptitude and passion and faithfulness, Job ‘knows’ God’s Faithfulness and Blessing and he returns blessings to God, who is worthy of every blessing. Yahweh’s Righteousness occupies Job’s faithfulness. Iniquity disagrees with God, and ‘curses’ God…. The poetic contrast of integrity and iniquity, and blessing and cursing… is important to understanding Job.

    God indicts Satan for his iniquity, and in response Satan attacks the integrity of Job and the character of God, and the effectiveness of the sin offering…. Satan claims that the only reason Job blesses God is because God overwhelms Job with Blessings…. God forces himself on Job…. Job doesn’t love God, he loves the stuff that he gets from God. Take away the stuff and Job will curse God, and therein Satan will be vindicated. God removes His hand of Blessing and allows Job to ‘suffer’, and through it all Job will not withdraw his blessing with a curse. In Job, God proves his (F)faithfulness, and perfects his (I)integrity; and administers His Justice and Mercy…. The scientist and the theologian must, at the same time, navigate the wonders and the horrors of Creation.

    The idea of God removing His compelling hand of Blessing is very important. If man’s integrity realized the fullness of God’s Wisdom, and Love… man would be overwhelmed, compelled to honor God. Man would bless God because he must, not because he loves Him. God does not really ‘withdraw’ from Job, rather He allows the integrity of Job to desire God for who He is; worthy of every blessing. In fact, Job can not fathom the full majesty of Elohim…. Thus, Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. 3 As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.”

    Whoever desires after God must search His revelation in scripture and in science and seek that which is True. Yet, it is not even we that search, rather it is the Wisdom of the transcendent Elohim that takes up residence in our faithfulness; He searches us out. He fills our lungs, and our minds and hearts; He strengthens us; He leads us like a Shepherd, according to His providence; He Heals; He Provides…. Is He Good? Or is ‘job’ good? ‘Kings’ have the capacity to begin to connect the dots. Woe… and Wow…! To that end, the book of Job is a grand overture.

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