Thinking About God When the World Goes Crazy

Tremper Longman III and John Walton teamed up to write short book How to Read Job. This book is a useful guide to reading Job – raising as many questions as it answers – and a lot shorter and more readable than their rather formidable commentaries on the book. The book of Job is theological wisdom literature that addresses the question “How should we think about God when the world goes crazy?”

How should we think about God when plagues, pandemics, pestilence, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, and floods hit; when evil appears to conquer good and God-fearing people suffer at the hands of unscrupulous thieves and murders?How should we think about God when cancer strikes a five year old … or a forty-five year old – or an eighty-five year old loved one?

These questions are not new. They plagued the ancient Israelites as they plague us a Christians (or non-Christians) today. The book of Job, if we dig in and think it through, can help us wrestle with these questions. It isn’t a theodicy – “a vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil.”  It isn’t history, providing us with an example of a righteous man (or with an image of a God who makes wagers with Satan). It is wisdom literature in the form of story (with some rather long and sometimes boring dialog) designed to help us think about God.

I have posted many times on the book of Job, because the book fascinates me. It isn’t a book that will offer comfort in a time of deep distress and suffering, but it is a book that will help us prepare for such times and help us in a time of lower grade confusion about God and the way the world works. It is a book worth thinking about today when pretty much everything is uncertain, when we don’t know whether things will “get back to normal” in six months (not likely) or four years (I pray it isn’t this long).  Many of us are having to learn new ways to work and new ways to parent. We have elderly parents far away or a houseful of rambunctious youngsters.

For my classes at the University, I have rapidly adjusted from in-person teaching and discussion  to online learning using one of the many platforms available. While this can work (although running chemistry labs this way is a bit challenging – fortunately not my problem this term), we are social creatures designed and empowered by personal and social interaction. This is even true for introverts like me. I miss the direct contact and conversation, and its only been about a third of a term.

I am going to dig into Job once again – although it is taking longer than I expected to get my thoughts together. Fortunately I give my final tomorrow (in a brand new format that has taken a great deal of time to prepare) and then my workload will lighten – so look for more soon. For today I would like to point us to a recent conversation between John Walton and Jim Stump on the book of Job. The audio will be available Thursday on the Language of God Podcast. The YouTube version is embedded here and linked through the title.

Language of God: Coronavirus and the Book of Job

How should we think about God when the world goes crazy?

How do you wrestle with the seeming injustice of it all?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

This post is also visible at Jesus Creed now at Christianity Today.

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