Luther and America


#1

[QUOTE=Administrator]**Welcome to the Hall of Fame!
**This is one of the best discourses I’ve personally read on RO. I’ve had it bookmarked for months and revisited it often to better understand Luther and the Book of Job. J.Anderson and Jack Hectormann’s discourse is deeply insightful, philosophical, theological, and genuinely pleasant to follow. The whole thread is a treat, as others also gave excellent contributions, but for this Hall of Fame post I edited it down to J.Anderson and Jack Hectormann’s dialogue. The original unedited thread can be found here: http://www.republicanoperative.com/forums/f22/luther-america-37622/[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]wonder what Luther would have to say about modern day America if he somehow came back for a visit and spent 10-15 hours surfing the cable news channels and sitting in on the U.S. Congress in session and watching several hours of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) ? … /grin.
[/QUOTE]

This is an interesting question. I suppose my thoughts are that Luther would have quite a bit to say that would be useful to groups like TBN (that’s the Pat Robertson channel, I’m assuming), such as recommending healthy and careful re-readings of the Book of Job. I’m astounded by how little humility these people have when it comes to speaking for God.

On politics, I think there are important ways in which we would have more to teach Luther than he us. Let me explain. Consider the following passage from Luther’s On Secular Authority:[INDENT=2]
[T]here neither can, nor ought to be any superiors amongst Christians . . . . how can there be superiority [or inferiority] when all are equal, and all have the same right, power, goods and honor? . . . Nature will not tolerate superiors when no one wants to be, or can be, a superior.

[/INDENT]

Now, this sort of language is going to give virtually every American a warm and fuzzy feeling, which isn’t surprising given that our political values are in many respects the direct descendents of these Reformation values. We can see here that Luther is making a radical break with the hierarchical and authoritarian structure of Catholicism in favor of the profoundly democratic notion that “every man is a priest.” Reading the above, we might expect Luther to favor political equality and at least some form of republicanism, but in fact he does not. It was left to later Protestants, especially the early American colonists, to make these connections. Personally, I view these differences as improvements over Luther, even if we still say that the colonists were often simply taking Luther’s own teachings to their natural conclusions.

However, I think there is an important idea in Luther that we’re increasingly losing sight of, and that’s the classical liberal recognition that liberty and virtue are complimentary values. Unfortunately, that’s a prohibitively long discussion for an internet forum.


#2

/grin … Close enough. Pat Robertson’s 700 Club has been featured on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, but TBN itself is the baby of Paul and Jan Crouch (shudder) who have assembled a conglomeration of some of Christendom’s good, bad, and ugly.


Start Quote.
"TBN broadcasts programs hosted by a diverse group of ministries from traditional Protestant and Catholic denominations, Interdenominational and Full Gospel churches, non profit charities, Messianic Jewish and well-known Christian and Mormon media personalities.[3] TBN also offers a wide range of original programming, and faith-based films.[4]

Other personalities featured or have been featured on TBN include: A.R. Bernard, Carl Baugh,[27] Kirk Cameron,[28] MC Hammer, Katy Hudson, Marilyn Hickey,[29] Benny Hinn,[30] D. James Kennedy,[31] Carol Lawrence, Gavin MacLeod, Jay Sekulow, Fulton J. Sheen, Nasir Siddiki, Charles Stanley,[32] Paula White,[33] and Jack Van Impe.[34]

[Add] Joyce Meyer, Robert H. Schuller, and Joel Osteen."

Trinity Broadcasting Network - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
End Quote.


I understand you to mean that the Book Of Job pictures the Christian life as sometimes burdened with trials and difficulties which argues against the claims of some modern day Prophets Of Guaranteed Continual Uninterupted Bliss such as Joel Osteen that pictures the Christian life as a well funded joy ride through life so long as one follows his prescriptions, moreorless. They may not be as bold as the late night radio preacher Sweet Daddy Grace who was fond of saying, “If you love me, send me your money and all will go well with you and yours”, but some of them clearly imply thats what they really mean.

Btw, that “prosperity gospel” up there is not the same as the indulgences sold in Wittenberg back when Luther walked the Earth, but it might be a second cousin? /grin

Also, none of that up there even gets into the area where clearly some of them have a strong desire to become the Main Authority Figure in the lives of their flock.

All my Protestant life I have clung with gusto to the principle that Every Man Is His Own Priest and would never even consider forsaking it. When I first became a Christian they handed me a Bible and said “Read it for yourself and decide what it means” and then they quoted 2 Tim. 3:16-17 to me. That simple passage (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and what they told me has stuck with me all these years.

I am not all that fond of hierarchical and authoritarian theological or political structures, and do not even like the notion of local churches legally connected to a denomination. The Top Dog Elites sitting up there at General Headquarters might decide to start issuing Proclamations one fine day, and the local congregation, if they rebel, might end up losing their infrastructure after they fanned out 1 or 2 million dollars to have it built. I have heard of that happening.

'Course, all that is important, but the principle “every man is a priest” has far reaching political ramifications, as you suggested with your phrase “the profoundly democratic notion” in your statement up there in the quote block.

We build upon each other. True I think in all areas of knowledge: science, technology, medicine, space travel, politics, and theology. One man builds a foundation, decades or centuries later other men come along and perfect it, or at least make it better.

I understand the meaning of the words liberty, virtue, and complimentary, but I need some concrete examples of what you mean say applied to 21st century America’s political/economic situation.

Perhaps. Yet hopefully “we ain’t going no where” anytime soon and I have seen threads last 2-3 months. At any rate, “Luther and America” has some far reaching ramifications about issues dear to hearts and minds, and maybe this thread can be used to kick these ideas around a bit. If I am not mistaken Pete is a Lutheran and he might make some interresting contributions.

Anyway, this will be a good place, over the weeks and months, to post ideas and passages that relate to Luther’s principles. Many of the people I respect and read hold that Martin Luther (and the other Protestant Reformers) were the true founders of the American Republic.

:cool:


#3

Job is some profound stuff, with a lot going on in it. When I picked it up for the first time as an adult, I realized that it’s easily as good (philosophically) as anything from the ancient Greeks during the same period. I read Job as essentially an epistemological text which holds that God’s justice is beyond the ability of human beings to grasp. Extremely short version of my interpretation: the text opens by telling us that Job is a man that was “perfect and upright…and eschewed evil.” When God permits Satan’s offer to test Job’s faith, Job’s friends give several fine and plausible sounding speeches which hold, among other things, to the following general argument: God is perfectly and wholly just. If God is perfectly and wholly just, then all misfortune is punishment for wrongdoing, because a perfectly and wholly just God would not allow the innocent to suffer. Therefore, Job must have done something wrong or evil to deserve his misfortune. It’s noteworthy that these speeches are rather well-argued and persuasive at times. Nevertheless, we know that they are all wrong. Job hasn’t done anything wrong: he’s “perfect and upright.” Job protests his innocence (correctly) and even begins to doubt God’s justice.[SUP]1[/SUP] Finally, God appears and engages in a deeply mysterious conversation with Job, which emphasizes the vast epistemological gap between the universal position of God and the local position of mankind: “Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” (38:33)

The upshot as I take it is that people ought to be humble when presuming to understand God or divine justice. Job’s friends make fine, persuasive, and rational speeches, but in trying to understand God by the terms of human justice, they ultimately blasphemed against God and were punished. It seems to me that Paul echoes these ideas in Corinthians: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent,” and “the world by wisdom knew not God” (1:19-31).

[SUP]1[/SUP]I’m going to skip over Elihu, because I’m still not sure what to make of his speech. On the one hand, I’m very tempted to adopt Calvin’s reading of the text (which holds that Elihu’s speech was essentially correct), because Elihu for the most part vocalizes my interpretation of the story’s moral lesson: that it’s vain and dangerous to attempt to understand God through the standards of earthly justice. On the other hand, there is enough controversy over Elihu that I feel it best to pass over him. I don’t think it matters for my interpretation, because I think God’s speech also confirms my interpretation.

[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]I understand the meaning of the words liberty, virtue, and complimentary, but I need some concrete examples of what you mean say applied to 21st century America’s political/economic situation. [/QUOTE]

Hopelessly quick and dirty example, consider the leftist economist Joseph Stiglitz’s discussion of the bank bailouts and the differences in culture between the United States and Japan:
[INDENT=2]

In Japan, the CEO of a major bank would have apologized to his employees and his country, and would have refused his pension and bonus so that those who suffered as a result of corporate failures could share the money. He would have resigned. In America, the only questions are whether a board will *force *a CEO to leave and, if so, how big his severance package will be. When I asked one CEO whether there was any discussion of returning their bonuses, the response was not just no, but an aggressive defense of the bonus system.

[/INDENT]
Somewhere along the line, Americans stopped expecting people to behave with real and meaningful civic honor in their engagement with the economy.


#4

In the context of your quote up there, Pat Robertson and perhaps some on TBN would represent people that were short of proper humility and this shortage has led them to speak for God in areas where they had no authority to speak for God. For example, as I recall, twas Pat Roberson that announced to America that Hurricane Katrina was the judgement of God upon America for her various sins. Clearly Pat Robertson does not have the authority to speak for God on any subject, Pat has the right to speak on any subject, but not the right to speak for God on any subject. ( Imo, Pat would do Christendom a better service if he restricted his speaking to preaching exactly what the New Testament says.
In Health, But Not Always in Sickness - Top 10 Pat Robertson Gaffes - TIME )

Your position is that one of Luther’s messages to Pat Robertson and to some on TBN would be to admonish them to seriously re-read the book of Job paying special attention to it’s central moral lesson, namely that “people ought to be humble when presuming to understand God or divine justice” and stop “trying to understand God by the terms of human justice?”

For example back to Hurricane Katrina, it would be impossible for men to know what was in the mind of God when He sent or permitted Katrina to strike New Orleans, and since they cannot know, all men should be humble in their attitudes and not attempt to explain God’s reasons for the misfortunes that have plagued the world since the beginning of time? (With the exceptions, imo, where men merely repeat what God Himself has explained in the Scriptures regarding His reasons for sending misfortunes upon men in certain instances, eg. upon Egypt.) Other than such instances, all men should bookmark Job in their Bibles and write the word Humility on the bookmark?

I think if human men actually took Luther’s advice and seriously heeded the book of Job, we would see entirely different kinds of posts in Faith And Beliefs Forums across the web. :smile:

Gone, in *Faith And Beliefs Forums, * would be human criticisms of God with regard to the rages of nature and the rages of human beings.

If men actually did what Luther (echoing the book of Job and Paul) says they should do, then men would be taking one important step toward building a foundation for exercising faith in God, namely they would stop sitting in judgement upon a Being that they do not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend with regard to such of His works as discussed in the book of Job.

:cool:

PS
In my mind, your concept of liberty and virtue being complimentary [mentioned in your post up-thread] is going to lead us to the idea of the necessity for individual freedom and a necessity for enough time so that a learning process can occur, and from there on to the question: ** “Can the state make men good?” ** … /grin My answer is going to be No!

`


#5

I agree with all of your comments above, with one exception, and your summary of my own position is also accurate. If you’re re-reading Job now, notice how well argued are the opposing positions in the text by Job’s three friends. The dialogue somehow manages to tackle in a relatively few pages some of the most profound problems in theology: are we justified by faith alone, or by works also? Is the suffering of the innocent consistent with a just God? To what extent can we know God through reason?

Plato, as great as he was, typically reduced Socrates’ opponents to straw men. There are really only a few cases where an opponent of Socrates gives him a real fight (e.g. Callicles from Gorgias), but the Jobian dialogue presents the opposing positions in their full force, dealing with them head on. It’s really a masterpiece of literature and philosophy.

As for the one exception:

[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]With the exceptions, imo, where men merely repeat what God Himself has explained in the Scriptures regarding His reasons for sending misfortunes upon men in certain instances, eg. upon Egypt.[/QUOTE]

We’re probably going to simply disagree here. Following Luther (as I understand him), I feel the need to distinguish between God as he actually is in himself, and God as we finite human beings experience him. To quote Luther directly: “In the Scripture you must often take the rule into account that Scripture speaks of God as we feel him to be. For as we feel him to be, so he is for us. . . . Thus when Scripture says that God is wrathful this means nothing else than that we feel he is wrathful.” In other words, human concepts such as “wrathful” cannot possibly explain the real truth of God. It’s the (inevitably inadequate) attempt of our finite minds and language to explain how God was experienced.


#6

Yeah I am thumbing back through Job these days. I, as a non-philosopher, had never before considered the book of Job as a philosophical work containing points and principles of interest to such as Plato and Socrates. Thats interesting to know, I suspose sooner of later all serious thinkers end up facing the same major issues and problems.

(Callicles from Georgias? I never even heard of that cat! I would have guessed: "A Metal-Rock Band ♫♫ somewhere in Europe, ha.) :smile:

Here are my very short observations on some of the issues you referenced:


“Are we justified by faith alone, or by works also?”__J
The New Testament Pauline doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is strong enough to be inarguable for a man that accepts the truth of 2 Tim. 3:16-17, and also the book of James is strong enough to establish that any man who is in fact justified by faith alone is going to have some good works as evidence of his faith.

Faith is the foundation and means of our justification and good works are the evidences and fruits that our genuine faith produced, otherwise the New Testament is destroyed
as a hopeless contradiction, that is to say, Paul and James must be harmonized else one can hang up Christianity as contradictory nonsense.

Moreover, its not difficult to see why a N.T. writer [James] would insist that a “faith” without any good works would be a dead faith IE a false faith and no faith at all.

( /grin … Btw, I recall reading long ago that Luther once refered to the book of James as a “right strawy epistle” but I think he later came around to the above view?)


“Is the suffering of the innocent consistent with a just God?”__J
The truth is the words “human” and “innocent” are genuine oxymorons. Adolph Hitler was once a cuddly “innocent” baby. From our limited human perspective Hitler at age 2 had not yet murdered and burned up 6 million human beings. But I cannot give up the Omniscience of God: God saw the life of Hitler not unfolding in gradual progression, but rather as one completed whole unit. On this truth-reality of perfect justice based upon complete knowledge, perfect justice would demand the immediate destruction of the entire human race. (Very important point: The correct and just demands of perfect Justice was satisfied here: Rom.3:21-28. Thereby leaving Love, Mercy, and Grace free to began the gradual millenniums long process of redeeming the fallen race of men.)

I include myself and all men in that up there. At age two I was guilty, in principle, of all crimes known to man. The only reason I did not grow up and actually commit those crimes was because of God’s mercy and grace. The only thing about me or any human that is innocent is the imputed righteousness of Christ to our account, what Paul called “credited righteousness” in Rom.4:18 through Rom.5:2 IE Christ’s righteousness and His innocence was imputed or credited to us.


“To what extent can we know God through reason?”__J
My view is: If we didn’t have the Scriptures as our guide, and had only our reason’s capacity to analyze the natural world of men and things as our means of knowing God, that we’d end up mostly ignorant of the true God. For example, one man looks at the huge vicious wars going on within the insect and animal world and concludes that the true God is a warrior killer.

Another man looks at the huge number of endless acts of love and kindness going on throughout the world and concludes God is nothing but love and kindness.

My view is the Scriptures give us the proper balance, the true God is both a Warrior [“The Lord is a Warrior” Ex. 3:15] and a Lover of humanity [John 3:16], that is to say, the Sovereign God is loving and compassionate in His character but He is not a wimpy pushover that will not stand His ground against men who demand the right to do evil at their whims therby destroying or making more difficult the advancement of the New Testament’s Love-Mercy-Grace solutions to humanity’s problems and delimmas.

In the war between Evil and Love, Love wins, but Love is not a wimp and Love’s Warrior will do whatever it takes to stop evil [eg. World War II] from becoming institutionalized and over-powering or making more difficult the advancement of the New Testament’s Love-Mercy-Grace solutions throughout the Earth. On the big picture we’re gaining ground, Christendom started out with a mere handful in the 1st century just a short 2000 years ago, we now have over 2 billion world wide, and the human race is just in it’s infancy, we’re only in kindergarten, historically speaking.


We might end up disagreeing here, but maybe not?

Its true I can never completely understand the Being of God and can never fully understand His attributes, at least not in my present state (our sinful natures are totally removed before God’s people enter Heaven), and maybe not even fully in the next life in Heaven. I would hate to have the job of proving true, from the Scriptures or from reason, the propostion: “At some point we will know all there is to know about God.” … ( I’ll pass on that job.)

Take for example His attribute of Love:
[“God is love” I John 4:8]

I can never know and understand fully the Love of God. In order for me to be able to do that I would have to know and understand everything God knows and understands, thats true because His knowledge of Himself is connected into one whole unit. That means all His attributes such as Love, Mercy, Grace, Holiness, Infinitude, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Unchangeableness, etc are connected and have a relationship to each other, so that God is by nature a consistent Being.

It is utterly impossible for me to fully know and understand all the above and that which I listed is just a small fraction of all that makes up the Being of God. And again, it may well be that no human beings will ever come to know in all of Eternity, all there is to know about the Being of God. (All this is true with regard to His wrath as well, 'course His wrath hath an end on the time line, but His Love never does end, thats cheerful news.) :smile:

Now here comes the elements I feel most concerned about:

God has made it very easy for me to understand enough about His attrubute of Love so that I can do a decent job of loving my family and loving other people by bestowing upon them acts of kindness and compassion, while putting up with their faults, sins, and imperfections. God has given me all the knowledge and understanding that I need in order to actually do this. I have plenty of understanding-knowledge for now, about how to actually get this done. God, so to speak, is waiting on me to fully use what I already know, I am not waiting on Him to give me more knowledge and understanding.

So the truth is I already know more about God’s Love than I actually use, that true to my shame that I have a surplus of knowledge and understanding of God’s Love, how so? Well, because sometime my sorry butt fails badly to do what I should do in the area of following God in His demonstrated examples of how-to-love. I have Christ as an example of what the Love of God looks like in action here in the real world of men, yet sometimes I am unkind and unloving.

So I think I can do as you suggest and “distinguish between God as he actually is in himself, and God as we finite human beings experience him” and at the same time know enough about Him so that I can live a good moral life, love my family, love my friends and neighbors, do good deeds, do acts of kindness, feed and nurture faith, seek to learn more about God, enjoy good music, good literature, and life in general.

:cool:


#7

Well, I wouldn’t say that Job is a philosophical work. I would rather say that it’s a theological work that just happens to contain some really great philosophy (as good as anything in Plato). Theologically, there is no comparing Job and Plato; Job is far superior. My point is that the Jobian dialogue is actually superior philosophically in several ways, e.g., the Jobian dialogue doesn’t make straw men of the opposing positions.

[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]“Are we justified by faith alone, or by works also?”__J[/QUOTE]

It seems to me that Job has a lot to say about this, specifically, that we are justified by faith alone. We can go over this more if people would like.

But really, maybe we should take the topics one at a time. Job is an incredibly rich and overwhelmingly complicated dialogue. I think there’s a lot to learn from it, and I have a lot of questions also that maybe can be worked out by discussing them here.

[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]“Is the suffering of the innocent consistent with a just God?”__J
The truth is the words “human” and “innocent” are genuine oxymorons. Adolph Hitler was once a cuddly “innocent” baby. From our limited human perspective Hitler at age 2 had not yet murdered and burned up 6 million human beings. But I cannot give up the Omniscience of God: God saw the life of Hitler not unfolding in gradual progression, but rather as one completed whole unit. On this truth-reality of perfect justice based upon complete knowledge, perfect justice would demand the immediate destruction of the entire human race. (Very important point: The correct and just demands of perfect Justice was satisfied here: Rom.3:21-28. Thereby leaving Love, Mercy, and Grace free to began the gradual millenniums long process of redeeming the fallen race of men.)

I include myself and all men in that up there. At age two I was guilty, in principle, of all crimes known to man. The only reason I did not grow up and actually commit those crimes was because of God’s mercy and grace. The only thing about me or any human that is innocent is the imputed righteousness of Christ to our account, what Paul called “credited righteousness” in Rom.4:18 through Rom.5:2 IE Christ’s righteous or innocence was imputed or credited to us.[/QUOTE]

O.K., I’m open to instruction here if you think I’m getting something wrong, and I think you make several good points in the above about the actual condition of human beings in regards to original sin.

It might be useful to break this down into several questions:
[LIST=1]
[]Was Job “innocent” at the start of the dialogue?
[
]What, if anything, did Job do wrong during the dialogue?
[/LIST]
In respect to question (1), I don’t think that invoking original sin is all that helpful here, for a number of reasons (let’s stick close to the text).
[LIST]
[] The first thing we learn about Job is that he’s “perfect and upright,” and according to Barnes, in the Greek this line reads: “He was a man who was true (ἀληθινός alēthinos), blameless (ἄμεμπτος amemptos), just (δίκαιος dikaios), pious (θεοσεβής theosebēs), abstaining from every evil deed” [1]. God confirms this by his own words.[2]
[
]After Satan’s first failure to tempt Job into sin, God says to Satan: “and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.”[3] Again: the suggestion is that Job did not deserve to be punished; he is “blameless.” In this sense, he is innocent.
[/LIST]
In a way, doesn’t invoking original sin as a way to blunt the problem of suffering commit the same mistake made by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar? (I’ll be primarily discussing Eliphaz, as he is the eldest, the most respected, and the others mostly follow him)

Again: one of the central tensions of the dialogue is the question of why the innocent suffer, and the answer from Eliphaz is that the innocent do not suffer. All suffering is deserved suffering for some wrong-doing. But doesn’t God himself contradict this explanation for Job’s suffering? According to God, Job is “blameless” and Satan caused him to suffer “without cause” or sufficient reason. It would seem that God himself is saying that Job doesn’t deserve to suffer. Here is my suggestion: invoking original sin at this stage is an example of the very thing the Book of Job is warning us against: trying to justify God through a *human *understanding of justice. Just like Job, we want something “too wonderful” for us (42:3); namely, comprehension of God’s justice.

[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]God has made it very easy for me to understand enough about His attrubute of Love so that I can do a decent job of loving my family and loving other people by bestowing upon them acts of kindness and compassion, while putting up with their faults, sins, and imperfections. God has given me all the knowledge and understanding that I need in order to actually do this. I have plenty of understanding-knowledge for now, about how to actually get this done. God, so to speak, is waiting on me to fully use what I already know, I am not waiting on Him to give me more knowledge and understanding.

So the truth is I already know more about God’s Love than I actually use, that true to my shame that I have a surplus of knowledge and understanding of God’s Love, how so? Well, because sometime my sorry butt fails badly to do what I should do in the area of following God in His demonstrated examples of how-to-love. I have Christ as an example of what the Love of God looks like in action here in the real world of men, yet sometimes I am unkind and unloving.

So I think I can do as you suggest and “distinguish between God as he actually is in himself, and God as we finite human beings experience him” and at the same time know enough about Him so that I can live a good moral life, love my family, love my friends and neighbors, do good deeds, do acts of kindness, feed and nurture faith, seek to learn more about God, enjoy good music, good literature, and life in general. [/QUOTE]

I agree with all of this. I’ve come across quite a few folks who deny Luther’s position, and who argue that if the Bible quotes God as saying “I am a jealous God,” then we can actually literally attribute to God the quality we human beings call “jealousy.” Following Luther, I would deny this, and say that “jealousy” is just how God was experienced by human beings, and that it is a hopelessly inadequate attempt to understand God with human language.

[1] Job 1:1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (bible.cc is an incredible resource)

[2] Job 1:8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

[3] (Job 2:3 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to r)

Job 42:3 [You asked,] ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.


#8

[QUOTE=RET]God made it pretty clear to Job that he is “entitled” to nothing in his response, God blessed Job with the motivation of Grace. Job in turn proved that love, submission and respect for God was inherent to his whole being as opposed to being “purchased via blessings” like Lucifer had claimed. Job’s only error was believing that he “deserved” a response from God, God let him know that any interaction at all from himself toward Job was also by Grace. [/QUOTE]

I agree with this, particularly the interpretation that Job’s error was to seek for explanations from God regarding his misfortune (13:3, 13:15), rather than maintaining before God humble faith (42:3).

[QUOTE=RET]If you are saying that Luther’s opinion regarding the individual human perceptions of God can be carried far enough to say that Luther did not believe that the Scriptures are a reliable portrayal of what God wants us to know about himself and his agenda then I would take issue with this.
[/QUOTE]

I don’t mean to suggest that. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that Luther believed that the word is *the only *reliable source.[1] In theology, there is only the study of scripture; if we attempt to know God through philosophy, then reason becomes “the Devil’s whore.”[2]

Still, there is a distinction between God in himself and God as he is revealed and then understood by human beings. Scripture is the revealed God (i.e., God as we perceive him), but this is still merely a mask that he wears, and not the real truth of God (which is unknowable to us).[3] “I am a jealous God” is not the real truth of God, but “clothing” he adopts for his own purposes.

[1] “It is therefore insane to argue about God and the divine nature without the word or any covering. . . [and] those who want to reach God apart from these coverings exert themselves to ascend to heaven without ladders — that is, without the word.” (Martin Luthers Werke - hereafter, WA - 1, 13)

[2] “Reason plays blindman’s bluff with God; it makes all kinds of attempts to grasp him but always without success. It invariably misses him. For this reason, it always identifies as God something that is not God and denies that the real God is God at all. . . Therefore it simply jumps in and gives divine titles and honor to what it thinks is God, while actually never hitting upon the true God but always upon the devil. . .” (WA 19, 206)

[3] “He has covered himself with veils and clothing so that our weak, sick, and leprous nature might grasp him and know him. If he came to us in his majesty, we would not be able to comprehend him and to bear so bright a light.” (WA 39I, 244)


#9

RET and Jack:

Looking back over it, I actually think I misunderstood what Jack was trying to say. The original statement:

[QUOTE=Jack Hectormann]For example back to Hurricane Katrina, it would be impossible for men to know what was in the mind of God when He sent or permitted Katrina to strike New Orleans, and since they cannot know, all men should be humble in their attitudes and not attempt to explain God’s reasons for the misfortunes that have plagued the world since the beginning of time? (With the exceptions, imo, where men merely repeat what God Himself has explained in the Scriptures regarding His reasons for sending misfortunes upon men in certain instances, eg. upon Egypt.)[/QUOTE]

My point was merely that, even when God is quoted explaining himself (i.e. “I am a jealous God,”) this is still God “clothing” himself, and not the real ultimate truth of God (which is unknowable). But reading this again, I don’t think Jack meant to suggest otherwise.


#10

Yes you are right on that. I wrote impulsively and incorrectly the word philosophical when I should have written: “theological work containing points and principles of interest to such as Plato and Socrates.”

You know more about Plato than I do so I’ll take your word for that, nothing with cheerfulness that you think Job is far superior philosophically.

Thats a great idea so far as I am concerned. Justification by faith alone is one of my most treasured New Testament doctrines and I’m forever open to discussing it and learning more about it.

Another good idea. We can take the topics one at a time, no need to hurry. I have never done an indepth study of Job but I know from pecking around Job web sites in the last few days that the book is packed with some very profound ideas.

Thanks. And I do not think you’re getting anything wrong. I am not clear about the final conclusions you will draw, but it will be interesting to find out /grin.

Okay, we can go one question at a time and we can put Original Sin on the shelf for arguments sake so we can get at the points you are wanting to make.

Agreed. I have always understood the above to be the case, that Job was blameless and innocent.

Yes, in a way it does because Original Sin is going to insist that all men, including Job, deserved whatever was put upon them. Nonetheless, we can lay aside the New Testament doctrine of Original Sin in order for you to make your points, because I feel certain you are not working toward the voiding of the doctrine of Original Sin.

The New Testament doctrine of Original Sin is crucial to the very existence of Biblical Christianity because our sinful condition was the reason for the need of the Incarnation and the Atonement. Without the New Testament doctrine of Original Sin there is no need of a Savior because there is nothing to be saved from. Here man is not a sinner in need of salvation.

The New Testament doctrine of Original Sin will flat out deny that any human being ever was or could be (in his own righteousness) perfect and upright or true or blameless or just or pious or abstaining from every evil deed or innocent. Original sin would deny that God would ever confirm that this was the case for any human beings or that there was ever any man that did not deserve to be punished.

I do not believe you are heading in that direction because that would be building a miniature theology on one book in the Old Testament and using the gleanings from that book to basically void and gut the New Testament’s doctrines of the Person and work of Christ.

My larger point is this: In my view, any correct interpretation of the book of Job (or any other book in the Bible) will have to be consistent and harmonious with the New Testament’s theological system. James cannot be interpreted so as to contradict Paul, and Job cannot be interpreted so as to contradict Paul in Romans, Ephesians, Galations, etc.

As I say, I feel certain you are not heading in that direction, so I can lay aside the New Testament’s doctrine of Original Sin in order to get to your gleanings in Job.

Misc Points:

  • The New Testament doctrine of Original Sin can be true and known to be true in the mind of God , and at the same time the book of Job can be interpreted to make a useful point.

  • The Theological System always carries more weight than the issolated passages and/or interpretations that appear to contradict it and which would if pressed destroy the whole system.

  • If we interpret the book of Job in such as way as to remove and void the New Testament doctrine of Original Sin then the Person and Work of Christ has been destroyed because there was then no need for Christ to die on the cross to save sinners because there were no sinners-by-nature to be saved in the first place.


** This Point Is The Vital Point: **

  • Again, this is why I feel certain you are not heading in this direction, and so we can lay Original Sin aside while we get to your points from Job that can be harmonized with Original Sin.

Sometimes two things that appear on the surface to be contradictory are really harmonious and can be blended into a useful doctrine.

In other words in some very meaningful sense Job could have been perfect and upright and true and blameless and just and pious and abstaining from every evil deed and innocent, and God could have confirmed that this was the case and that Job did not deserve to be punished and at the same time the New Testament doctrine of Original Sin can be true and known to be true by God at the same time He was declaring Job to be innocent.

Again, just because two doctrines appear to be contradictory does not in fact mean that they are contradictory. We have agreed already that we mortals cannot comprehend the being of God and His thoughts and plans.

Two doctrines can even appear contradictory and remain appearing contradictory for as long as time endures. It is not written anywhere that we mortals have to know everything in this earthly life.
** End Vital Point. **


Sorry I rattled on and on about Original Sin but I felt I had to write that out for clarity’s sake.

I would agree with that in the sense that the use of “jealousy” is an anthropomorphism (“an interpretation of what is not human in terms of human characteristics”), for example God is said to have a “right arm”, to be “jealous” to get “angry” to “rest”, etc.

Permit me to include the following passage on Anthropomorphisms. I am well aware that you know what Anthropomorphisms are, but there may be some reading along here that have never had any reasons to give this any thought, and so here is a helpful passage:


Start Quote.

** Anthropomorphism: God relates to us in human terms. **

Anthropomorphism comes from two Greek words: anthropos (man) and morphe (form). **Therefore, an anthropomorphism is when God appears to us or manifests Himself to us in human form or even attributes to Himself human characteristics. **

We see this all over the Bible – and rightly so. After all, we cannot ascend to where God is, but He can descend to where we are.

Following are a few verses from the Bible that ascribe to God human actions, attributes, and emotions.

Remember, God works with us in our time frame…

** Should we then assume that God would not relate to us in terms familiar to our own actions? **

** And should we not also assume that in so doing God will present aspects of Himself to us that would be paradoxical? **

Take for example the fact that God is all powerful (Jer. 32:17,27 ), **yet He rests **(Gen. 2:2).

We see that God is in all places (Psalm 139:7-12), yet He asks Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9).

We see that God knows all things (1 John 3:20). Yet, we see that God says, “Now I know that you fear God…” (Gen. 22:12).

Following are various verses that demonstrate God’s human-like manifestation to us in actions, emotions, and physique. Thus we can see that such condescension on God’s part to us will naturally result in God saying things that will require a deeper examination:

1.Human actions - **changed mind, relented, remembered, rested. **A.Exodus 32:14, “So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.”

B.2 Sam. 24:16, "When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity, and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!”

C.Gen. 9:16, “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

D.Gen. 2:2, “And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

2.Human emotions - sorrow, jealousy, pity, regret. A.Gen. 6:6, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”

B.Exodus 20:5, “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” …

D.1 Sam. 15:35, “And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.”

3.Human physique - hands, face, mouth, eyes, arm. A.Exodus 7:5, "And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”

B.Num. 6:24, “The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you.”

C.Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.”

D.Psalm 34:15, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” …

4.Other - Wings A.Psalm 57:1, "Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in Thee; and in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by."
End Quote.

Anthropomorphism: God relates to us in human terms. | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

The point being that God does not actually have an arm, face, ears, eyes, wings, hands, mouth, etc and He is not actually jealous in the sense that he experiences jealously as we human experience jealously.

But all these anthropomorphisms can easily be understood by we humans as a means for God to teach us truths about Himself.

`


#11

Jack,

You’re quite right of course that I have no intentions of denying the doctrine of original sin. Nor am I arguing that the Book of Job is somehow in conflict with original sin (I don’t think it is); I don’t think we need to rob Paul to pay Job. My only claim is that original sin isn’t an important part of what I take to be the lesson in Job.

For further clarification, one central question of Job is, “why does God allow the innocent to suffer?” A very common answer to this problem from Christians is something like the answer given by Eliphaz; viz., that God doesn’t allow the innocent to suffer, because no one is innocent (original sin), and all suffering is deserved suffering. In fact, I just noticed this morning that Eliphaz actually seems to invoke original sin during his second speech (15:14-16): “What is man, that he could be pure, or one born of woman, that he could be righteous? If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!”

The point is not to dispute the accuracy of these points by Eliphaz — it’s a fine and persuasive speech, and some of it contains good theology — the point is that we already know that the Jobian dialogue isn’t taking this “easy way out,” so to speak. We already know from God’s own mouth that Job does not deserve the suffering he endures; as I’ve already argued in the previous post, the text seems to me as clear as day on this point.

When God speaks, he doesn’t condemn Job from a moral standpoint: God does not mention the inherent sinfulness of man or anything of the sort. The entire speech deals with one major theme: the complete and utter incompetence and inability of man to understand God and God’s works. When Job responds, he does not say something like “I now see that I am inherently sinful, and that my suffering was a matter of deserved retribution for my sins,” rather, he emphasizes his own epistemological poverty and a renewed commitment to humble faith (42:2-6). Eliphaz is punished: “ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.” (42:8)

My suggestion regarding the lesson in the Book of Job is this (I think RET is getting at much the same point in his own post): original sin may or may not be a good answer to the problem of suffering. What matters is that we don’t knowand can’t know — one way or the other. God’s justice is “too wonderful” for us, and completely beyond our understanding. God does not need to be justified before us, and it is dangerous to attempt to justify God before others through human reason and understanding (lest one speak wrongly like Eliphaz). The proper position is humble faith, and to accept without pride our epistemological poverty. The Book of Job doesn’t give us the answer to why the innocent suffer, because man could never understand such things. It’s only pride that prevents man from accepting this.


#12

I understand now. Agree totally, it isn’t an important part of the lesson of Job.

Exactly!

  • “Not taking the easy way out so to speak”
  • “We already know from God’s own mouth”
  • “that Job does not deserve the suffering he endures”
  • "The above is clear as day"
    Exactly. Yes to all that. I see it.

Full agreement.

  • “utter inability of man to understand God and God’s works”
  • “he emphasizes his own epistemological poverty and a renewed commitment to humble faith”
  • "Eliphaz got it wrong with regard to Original Sin being the cause"
    Amen to all that.

Exactly!

  • “What matters is that we don’t knowand can’t know — one way or the other”
  • “God’s justice is “too wonderful” for us, and completely beyond our understanding”
  • “God does not need to be justified before us, and it is dangerous to attempt to justify God before others through human reason and understanding”
  • “The Book of Job doesn’t give us the answer to why the innocent suffer, because man could never understand such things”
  • "It’s only pride that prevents man from accepting this"
    Exactly! Exactly! An infinite number of yeahthats

Re RET’s post: Yeah I caught that and did one of my weirdo formats /grin as a way of emphasizing a good thing. As you know I am addicted to bold, color, and the tool bar. It was only with great effort that I didn’t turn RET’s post into a rainbow.

Re your post up there: I wish I had written that :slight_smile:

Cheers.


#13

Humbling.
Magnificient.
Brilliant.
Amazing.
Profound.
Astonishing.
Printed.


#14

Thanks Jack. I should point out, though, that my interpretation is really just Calvin’s. I read once that Calvin gave more sermons on Job than on any other book.

I think we can mine Job for a lot more wisdom, but that will have to be later in the week for me. I’ll be keeping up on the discussion here, though.


#15

J, I think so too, and then perhaps tie some of Job in with Luther’s ideas on the two kingdoms and then tie all that in with some of the issues facing America.

Father Time has refused my request for 50 hour days :smiley: so we will have to stick with the 24-hours-in-a-day reality, which means we will get to our project here as soon as possible.


#16

Hey Jack,

Your outline sounds good, and I’ve been keeping this thread in mind. Much like you and the others in this thread, however, right now is an insanely busy time for me (and will remain hectic for at least a few weeks). I do hope more people take up the discussion, though, as I think these direct biblical study groups are hands down the best way to grapple with the word, and a lot more constructive than the typical thread in this forum. I’ve learned more from Bible study groups than I ever have at even the best services. Indeed, it was just such a study group (of Corinthians and Romans) that helped me to realize that my former demand that faith justify itself before philosophy was misguided and question-begging,[SUP]1[/SUP] which in turn liberated me to re-embrace faith.

[SUP]1 [/SUP]I accepted the dubious crypto-Catholicism of “Protestant” philosophers, such as Plantinga, who try to justify faith through philosophical argument. When I realized that their arguments fail, I wrongly concluded that the problem was with faith itself rather than with the intellectual aspirations of Plantinga and his ilk.


#17

One of the best threads I’ve read around the site. I hope the authors revisit it whenever they have more to add. The world would benefit from reading this discussion. Added to the Hall of Fame.

Original thread (with more discussion) is here: http://www.republicanoperative.com/forums/f22/luther-america-37622/