the book of Job

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“Pacific Rim” – A Brief Christian Reflection

Pacific-Rim-02Thankfully, a slew of science fiction films are being released this year. “Pacific Rim” has generated quite a bit of buzz. I recently had the chance to view the film and will here offer some reflections from a Christian perspective. I feel obligated to put a disclaimer here: I realize this film is 99.9999% about blowing things up. I still think that a saying I often use is correct- there is no such thing as a film without a worldview. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I do not offer a plot summary, as one can be found easily.

Master of the Storms?

Early in the film there is a scene in which Raleigh Becket, a Jaeger (think giant mech-tank) pilot, is marching out into a storm to fight a Kaiju (think Godzilla). As one watches this epic man-made titan march out to fight a monster, one is struck by the hugeness of it, the power of it. If humans can make this, what next? Raleigh discusses how once, humans were afraid of storms like hurricanes. Now, given the might of their creations, they need not fear a hurricane.

The quote seems impressive. After all, many today hope that humanity will reach heights like this. One day, we may be able to face down a hurricane and laugh. The powers of wind and rain may be overcome. But what then?

Interestingly, in the film the very next scene is that of a Kaiju absolutely beating down Raleigh’s Jaeger.

What? That’s not how the story is supposed to go. The story is supposed to show how we have finally transcended ourselves. But that is not the reality. The reality is that a giant Godzilla beast can still destroy even these hurricane-defying machines.

It is ironic, really. In the context of humanity’s defiance against the storms given their machines, another, greater challenge is thrown out there. One can almost imagine people railing against God once more. Why have we been left to fight this world on our own? But then one must remember what God has said:

[The LORD says:] “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?

…Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?

Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:1, 3-4, 11)

Ultimately, God is in charge. Our attempts to control the seas, the storms, or the leviathan do not match up to God’s sovereign control over all creation.

The film does nothing to explore this avenue, but one can wonder: what of humankind’s efforts to try to best God? It seems that the answer is: it’s not going to happen. There is always a bigger Kaiju. There are always larger storms. Our fascination with these powerful aspects of creation may itself be a reflection of the Creator.

In the film, of course, humanity triumphs. As in all good action movies, the good guys win (no, I do not like sad endings for movies). But one can only wonder: if the Kaiju could come; what next? The God who rules the storms is the same God who can draw the leviathan with a hook.

Mind and Evolution

How much can our minds handle? In the film, the mental strain of piloting a Jaeger is too much for one person to handle. How do minds work in this context? Somehow they manage to create some linkage between two humans’ minds and create some kind of mental pathway such that the people are able to integrate and work together. What does that mean? I don’t know. It is techno-babble for an action flick. But suppose we were able to do this. What would it imply about minds? Well, no more than what we already know, it seems: our minds are connected to a physical reality. We as humans are grounded in embodiment.

The Kaiju turn out to be clones. I found that pretty surprising given the immense diversity of the creatures. Some had wings; others spit acid; still others had huge hammerheads to use as weapons. What kind of genetic diversity would have to be included in their DNA in order to allow for such radical diversity. I am absolutely not a geneticist–and this movie is absolutely not an attempt to portray anything scientifically accurate–but I wondered about this as I watched the movie.

Conclusion

Let’s be blunt. “Pacific Rim” is a movie for those who want to watch giant walking tanks fighting Godzilla clones. There is a plot to be found, and there are some themes involved–as in any movie–but at its heart, this movie is a pure action flick. That said, there were a few things to reflect upon, such as the notion of humanity trying to overpower God or the forces around us.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.”

Did you like Pacific Rim? Check out John Carter.

Be sure to check out my other looks at movies here (scroll down for more).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 8/17/12

Another really diverse round of posts this time. Politics, reading the Bible, and creationism are just a few of the featured topics. Check them out. If you like them, let me know!

Why don’t we read the Bible?– An exhortation to reading the Bible. We need to set aside the time for real Bible study. Why don’t we?

Who is Paul Ryan? What are his political views and motivations?– Frequent readers will know that I very, very rarely discuss politics. However, I can’t help but be excited about Mitt Romney’s nomination of Paul Ryan for his running mate. Why? Well Paul Ryan’s track record as far as pro-life politics are concerned is nearly spotless. His fiscal policy also seems spot-on to me. I highly recommend checking this post out to those of my readers interested in U.S. Politics.

“What Books Are a Good Investment for Scholars?”– Doug Geivett outlines which types of books will make good investments for scholars.

Debating Tips for Atheists– Want to have genuine discussion with Christians, atheists? Here are some tips.

The Correct View of Creation?– A survey of views on creation (old, young earth) along with some discussion over how to determine which is correct.

Ehrman’s Problem 16: Cosmic Issues He Doesn’t Understand– Bart Ehrman has a lot of problems. One is that he completely misunderstands the book of Job and the cosmic issues therein.

Book Review: “Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job” by Hugh Ross

Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (hereafter HTBJ) by Hugh Ross provides unique insight into one of my favorite books of the Bible, Job. Rather than approaching this book as a treatise on the problem of pain, Hugh Ross dives into it in search of scientific truths. What he finds is surprising.

Ross begins with an exhortation to Christian leaders to stop avoiding the issue of Creation and to come up with a reasonable “strategy of engagement. Christians who take the Bible as a trustworthy revelation from God need to study science and engage with scientists at the highest academic and research levels” (12). I pray Ross’s words will not fall on deaf ears.

Ross goes on to point out the historical backdrop of the book. The debaters present, Job, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad were “likely the intellectual powerhouses of their day…” (28). Along with Elihu, who most likely recorded the book, they comprise the major characters. Interestingly, Eliphaz was named as a Temanite. Teman, Ross points out, “was famous in the ancient world for its exceptionally wise scholars” (28). Contrary to some who may accuse Ross of demeaning the historical value of Scripture, it is clear that he affirms the historical realism of the Book of Job.

Interestingly, HTBJ doesn’t start with the scientific questions; it dives in to “timeless questions” about God. Ross points out answers given throughout Job about the reason for death (39-40), the shorter lifespans of humans (40-41), blessings for the wicked (43ff), and more. Ross provides an argument about what is often called “natural evil.” He points out Job’s rejection of a “direct cause-and-effect relationship between destructive natural events and the people affected by them”  and goes on to argue that scientifically, these “acts of God” are necessary for life (49). Hurricanes, for example, bring a number of benefits (51).

Ross quickly moves into scientific questions throughout the book of Job. He argues that God’s challenges to Job and friends reject naturalism, deism, evolutionism, and young-earth creationism (54). Job specifically points out that God continually interacts with creation. Perhaps most interestingly, Ross points out that in Job the Bible specifically points towards the Big Bang–with language of God “stretching out the heavens.” This, thousands of years before any scientific evidence existed (56-58). Not only that, but the book also alludes to dark matter. Rather than treating darkness as the “absence of light” as was the belief historically, Job points out the actual existence of darkness and its separation from light. Here again there is evidence that Job lines up powerfully with science (60-63).

Another fascinating aspect of the Book of Job, argues Ross, is its ability to speak to current situations like Global Warming (63ff).

Central to Ross’ argument in HTBJ is the thesis that the book of Job can be used as an interpretive backdrop for the Genesis creation account. Ross argues that Job 38-39 can be read in their entirety as a creation account (72). This opens the gate for interpreting other creation accounts through the lens of Job 38-39. He points out that there are areas of Moses’ creation account that Job makes explicit. Some of these points include a correct interpretation of “heavens and earth” (74); an outline of when plants were created (78-79); and perhaps most interestingly, one of the best explanations of the problem of light before the sun I’ve ever seen (80-84). Ross argues that, contrary to most interpretations, the Genesis account does not explicate that there was no sun before light, but rather that the light had been hidden by the atmosphere (82-83). Again, this would serve as powerful scientific confirmation of the Bible.

Ross is unafraid to pull his punches. He takes on the question of the extent of the flood (92ff) and argues convincingly that the flood was localized to all of humanity. Perhaps the most controversial point Ross makes is in regards to one of the best arguments for young-earth creationism–death and the Fall. Often, the young-earth argument is that the Bible excludes any possibility of death before the Fall. Ross argues that, given Job 38-39’s creation account, that interpretation can no longer be valid. He urges that Job 38:39-41  coincides with creation day five, and because these verses include death before the fall, this argument for a young-earth is unsuccessful. Ross’s argument here will really depend upon how convincing his assertion is that all of Job 38-39 lines up with the days of creation. Ultimately, I think, most young-earth creationists will remain unconvinced and argue that only the early part of Job 38 is a creation account. In Ross’s favor is the continuing tense (it appears as though the verbs throughout the section are in the Qal stem). But Ross doesn’t make this argument. Thus, it seems that this part of Ross’s argument will be convincing only to those willing to agree that Job 38-39 are, in their entirety, a creation account.

Later, Ross soundly demolishes the young-earth argument that Job provides evidence for dinosaurs living with humans. He convincingly argues that the behemoth is a hippopotamus (178-180) and the leviathan a crocodile (180-183).

Ross doesn’t leave the book of Job without discussing what seems like its primary question: suffering. He presents evidence that Job argues for both a greater good theodicy along with a free-will defense (190ff). Both of these sections are interesting, if brief.

There are many areas of interest within HTBJ I have left unexplored. Ross focuses extensively on soulish creatures and the differences between humans and animals. Most interestingly is Ross’s explication of the list of 10 “soulish” creatures named in Job and their import for humans (150-165). Suffice to say that there is much more content in the book worth reading.

There were times as I read Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job that I was filled with marvel at the magnificence of creation. At one point I stood up and surprised my wife, saying “Can you believe what God has made? And we know it from the Book of Job! Can you believe this!?” as I described some of the things Ross reveals in the book. There are some astounding ways that the Bible lines up with the evidence we have from cosmology, astronomy, biology, and other sciences. While some Christians may remain unconvinced by Ross’s argument for interpreting Genesis 1 through the lens of all of Job 7-39, the book deserves a reading and response by even those who disagree. Ultimately, readers of Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job will come away with some powerful evidence from science for the truths of Scripture–and vice versa.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book by Reasons to Believe. You can learn more about this science-faith think tank at reasons.org.

Source: Hugh Ross, Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

What if? The “Job Answer” to the Problem of Evil

“Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Job 41:11

There are many different kinds of theodicy or defenses to rebut the problem of evil. As I read the Bible I see a few different answers, but one extremely important theodicy in the Scriptures is what I shall deem the “Job Answer,” which is found in the book of Job, although a similar idea is touched upon by Paul in Romans.

Job was known as the most righteous of all the people on earth. Yet God allowed terrible things to happen to him, as part of a test to show Satan that Job was indeed as faithful and righteous as was thought.

But why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is it that Job, who God Himself called blameless and upright (1:8) has so many bad things happen to him?

Job’s friends gathered around him and offered various explanations. Job must have done something to deserve it, he must have erred in some way, etc, etc. Yet all of these, Job says, are wrong. He is indeed without blame, and he remains faithful. Yet despite this faith, he cannot help but complain to God. And in this defense of himself and appeal to God, he again points out that he is righteous (see Job 31).

God’s answer to this complaint is where I draw the “Job Answer.” God responds, basically, by saying “Job, you don’t know how I operate, but don’t you think it’s reasonable to conclude that I know what I’m doing?”

Is this a satisfactory answer? Can Job demand another answer? Should he?

That is often the route taken by atheists and even Christians when they investigate the problem of evil. They demand that God provide an answer they themselves find suitable. They act as though God owes them the answer, as if God cannot possibly be good unless the answer is found acceptable in their own eyes. But what does God say to that? In Job chapter 41, He says “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

Is that easy? Is that the answer we Christians like to see? Not really. It would be so much easier if God just said “You know, I gave you guys freedom of will, so given your sinful nature (which you chose, by the way), wouldn’t you expect to see some pretty awful things happening?” That’s the kind of answer I find more appealing. That’s easy.

But that isn’t the answer God gave. He said “Everything belongs to me. Who must I repay?” Does that mean God is not good?

Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle’s recent book Erasing Hell has had me reflecting on these very questions. Hell is a tough issue, and it has some serious implications for the problem of evil. In a particularly intriguing part of this book, the authors quote Scripture and follow it with a few questions. Specifically, they are reflecting on the idea that God knows who is going to hell before they themselves choose to do so. Check it out:

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?” (Rom. 9:22-23)

…What if God, as the sovereign Creator of the universe, decided to create ‘vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”? …And what if it’s His way of showing those He saves just how great His glory and mercy is? What would you do if He chose to do this? Refuse to believe in Him? Refuse to be a ‘vessel of mercy’? Does that make any sense? Would you refuse to follow him? Really? Is that wise? (p. 130, cited below)

The passage quoted is from Paul, writing to the Romans. Note how he phrases it: he starts it with what if. He’s not saying this is what God does, or that God does operate in this way, but he’s offering it as a possibility. Chan and Sprinkle continue this line of reasoning: What would we do if this is how God works? Would it make sense to rebel… to become a vessel of wrath just because we know they exist? Does it mean that God is doing wrong if this is how He operates?

Again, we turn back to Job to find the answer. God’s ways our not our own. God answers Job by listing things Job cannot do, and cannot even comprehend. ‘These things,’ God implies, ‘are outside of your comprehension… yet you expect to understand something even more incomprhensible?’ But that is not where God leaves it. He also tells us that ultimately, He will bring justice to all. Those who are now downtrodden will be lifted up, and justice will reign. How can Job respond? By repenting “in dust and ashes” (42:6).

So the “Job Answer” fits in a unique place among various defenses and theodicies for the problem of evil. Instead of using human nature and free will or a greater good to justify evil, the answer given to and by Job is that God, being good, has a reason, even if that reason is inscrutable for us. It is a response of faith.

But this does not mean the “Job Answer” is the only answer given in all of Scripture. Jesus is the ultimate answer to the problem of evil. He came and took our pain and suffering upon Himself, which in turn defeats evil ultimately and for all time. There are other Biblical answers to the problem of evil, but the answer Job gives is simple: Have faith. It does not promote an unphilosophical or unreflective faith, but points out the obvious: If we have good reasons to believe in God, and reasons which point to God as good, then we can simply trust that the apparent problem of evil is solved, ultimately, by God.

Thus, the “Job Answer” implies a second version of theodicy. Namely, that the evidence for the existence of God provides a rebutting defeater for the problem of evil. If we know that God exists and is good, then the problem of evil simply cannot be coherent.

In either case, the “Job Answer” provides a powerful, Biblical, answer to the problem of evil.

Source cited: Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle Erasing Hell (Colorado Springs, CO: 2011, David C. Cook).

Response to an attack on this post found here (Search for “On Job.”)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Devotion for a Philosopher/Apologist: Job and Natural Theology

One thing I’ve noted throughout my involvement in apologetics and philosophy is a constant need and desire for good devotions. I’ve written some guidelines for how to go about a devotional life here, but I’ve noticed that many readers are coming to my site looking for actual devotions themselves. Thus, I’ve decided to start this series of devotions for the Christian Philosopher or Apologist.

Job and Natural Theology

Recommended reading: The book of Job, a chapter or book on natural theology

Often, I find myself struggling, as I am so enmeshed in abstract concepts of God and philosophy, to maintain that personal connection with my Lord. Nowhere do I find a better place to reignite this personal connection than the book of Job. It appeals to me on a number of levels–it has verses which demonstrate the greatness of faith, the horrors of evil, and the greatness and existence of God.

As Christian philosophers/apologists, we can smile and nod along with such passages as Job 12:7-10″

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”

We can note how often we echo these very words, pointing to such things as the teleological argument or arguments from design. Scripture preaches what we teach! We are told here that creation itself witnesses the Creator! But these aren’t the only verses in Job which help affirm the tasks to which we have set ourselves, for we are told in Job about the attributes of God (He is unchangeable 23:13, almighty chapters 25-26, majestic 37:1ff, omnibenevolent 34:10 [though note that we must be careful to assertain doctrinal truths from Job’s friends, who are often mistaken about the works of God], and sovereign 1:21) we are informed that religious experience can convey knowledge (4:12, but again note that this is a friend of Job’s, so be careful with interpretation), and we discover that there will be a physical resurrection (19:25).

Already, we have experienced many of the parts of Job which speak directly to us as apologists and philosophers. But there is so much more here! We are to focus upon faith. As I said before, I often lose sight of my personal relationship with God in the midst of the abstract arguments, but Job (the book) calls us towards such a strong relationship with God.

Job 5:8-27 can give us great comfort. It is God to whom we commit our cause (5:8). God does great and unsearchable things, providing for our every need (5:9-16). Furthermore, we are comforted in times of trouble. God may allow us to be wounded, but he binds us, we may be shattered, but God heals us (5:18).

Finally, within Job we have a stirring account from God. Another struggle I can find myself involved in is an inflated view of my knowledge. Job struggled with this same issue, as he complained to God about his sufferings. God’s response is not to explain suffering, but to reassert His greatness and unlimited knowledge (see the dialogue in chapters 38 and following). We are then shown what our proper response is to God’s great majesty, Job 42:1-6:

Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? ‘Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job understands how our lives should reflect our commitment to God. We too often utter what we do not understand, when we encounter God, we realize that compared to His great glory, we can only repent of inability to always be perfect ambassadors of Christ. Yet, along with Job, we know that our redeemer lives (Job 19:25). What a great blessing it is to know that we will walk with him, in the flesh, upon the earth!

God’s grace and peace to you, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. I hope this devotion will be helpful in your studies. I’d appreciate any feedback you can give me to help improve any future devotions I may share.

The image in this post was a (very unprofessional) photograph by me of the Lutheran Study Bible and the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

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