Dr. Greg Boyd is a well-known open theist. Open theists do not believe in God’s omniscience classically defined. They believe that God does not know the future in as much as the future depends upon the choices that will be made by His free creatures. Of course, this is a radical (and I believe dangerous) innovation in the doctrine of God that has wide-ranging implications.
Last month, I wrote a short blog post on the collapse of the I-35 bridge. In it, I took issue with Boyd‘s open theist view of how God relates to calamities, and I did so using the book of Job as a case study. I recently found out that Boyd has a lengthy response to what I wrote in which he refutes my interpretation of Job, “The 35W Bridge Collapse and the Book of Job.”
I believe that Boyd’s reading of Job has serious problems. I will respond to each of his points in turn.
1. Satan Is Not Under God’s Control
Boyd argues that “the point of the passage is to show that, unlike the sons of God (the angels), Satan is not under Yahweh’s control.” Boyd contends that God didn’t control Satan in the book of Job because it was evident that God didn’t even know where Satan was before he appears with the “sons of God” in Job 1:6. That’s why God has to ask Satan in Job 1:7, “Where have you come from?”
Boyd wrongly assumes that when God asks a question it must mean that God doesn’t know the answer to the question. In response to this I would simply point out that it is not valid to conclude that every question implies a need for information on the part of the questioner. Consider what happens when the Bible records stories of God asking questions. When God asks questions in the Bible, does He do so because He needs to learn something?
Consider, for instance, the first questions that God asks in the Bible. After Adam and Eve sin, God comes looking for them, and He asks, “Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:9-12). If we use Boyd’s hermeneutic with these questions, then we would have to assume that God is asking these questions because He needs some information so He’ll know what to do next. It’s not merely that God doesn’t know the future choices of His free creatures (as in open theism). God doesn’t know the decisions that His creatures have already made! Is that really a valid implication to draw from God’s questions in Genesis 3? I think not.
What about Jesus’ question to Philip in John 6:5 just before He feeds the 5,000: “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” Is Jesus asking this question because He needs to learn something? No. The very next verse says, “And this He was saying to test him; for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” Jesus knew all along what the answer to the question was. It was Philip who didn’t know the answer.
But we don’t have to go outside of the book of Job for examples of God’s questions. Consider God’s questions to Job in 38:2, 4: “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge. . . Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth.” Every reader understands that God is not asking these questions because He needs to get information from Job. God asks the questions in order to reveal truth to Job.
And so it is with God’s questions. It is simply a straining of language to assume that every question implies a deficiency of knowledge on the part of the questioner. As you can see, quite often the opposite is the case. So I think it is not very plausible to argue that God’s question to Satan in Job 1:6 implies that God didn’t know where Satan had been. It’s not sound hermeneutically to read divine ignorance into God’s questions. The texts just don’t work that way.
2. The Author of Job Does Not Endorse Job’s Theology
Boyd refutes the idea that the narrator of Job endorses Job’s words. I argued that in Job, it’s very clear that Satan caused all of Job’s suffering. It’s also very clear that God controls every move Satan makesâ€”such that when Job says that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21), the narrator says that “in all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10; cf. 1:22). In other words, even though Satan was at work to destroy Job’s life through a series of calamities, Job did not err when he said that the Lord was ultimately behind everything that happened to him.
Boyd acknowledges that the narrator says that Job “did not sin with his lips.” But Boyd says that phrase means that “Yahweh commended Job for being honest, not for speaking theological truth.” He bases this conclusion on the use of the Hebrew word koon (“right”) in Job 42:7. The problem with that interpretation is that the Hebrew word in question does not appear in Job 1 or 2. It’s not relevant to the interpretation of Job 1:22 and 2:10 in the way Boyd describes. The word is not even in those verses. In any case, even in Job 42:7, it’s unlikely that koon means “being honest” over and against “speaking theological truth” (the LXX’s rendering of the term does not favor Boyd’s view).
3. Job Often Errs When He Speaks
Boyd gives a litany of examples from the book of Job in which Job says the wrong thing. Job says so many wrong things that God rebukes him at the end of it (see Job 38:1ff). From this, Boyd concludes that we cannot hold Job’s opinions as reliable. Thus when Job says that the “Lord gives and the Lord takes away,” he might be wrong.
My response to Boyd’s list is that just because Job is wrong some of the time doesn’t mean he’s wrong all of the time. I never said that Job’s speech is blameless throughout the book. But the narrator thinks it’s blameless in Job 1:22 and 2:10. Thus the narrator affirms that the Lord gives and takes away and that the Lord brings good times and adversity (cf., 1:21 and 2:9).
4. God Rebukes Job for Saying God Controls Everything
Boyd writes, “If God was controlling everything, there’d be no point for God to show up at the end of the book and correct Job and his friends â€“ for this is basically the theology they both espouse.” I would contend, however, that God rebukes Job not because Job recognized His sovereign control over everything, but because Job “reproved” and “condemned” God (Job 40:1, 8 ). Job did not sin with his lips in chapters 1 and 2. But Job made all kinds of mistakes with his speech in the rest of the book. The latter foul-ups on Job’s part are the basis for God’s reproof of Job at the end of the book. Job is never faulted for affirming God’s sovereignty.
There is indeed much more that could be said on each of these points, but this post is already too long. My hope is that readers will see that Boyd’s exposition of the book of Job simply will not work. Boyd still has not given a reliable account of how God relates to His fallen creation.
Boyd seems to strangely neglect the opening conversation between God and Satan in his defense as well. God was the one who suggested that Satan pick on Job (Job 1:8). Furthermore, God seem to “take credit” for what happened to Job in Job 2:3 when He says, “you (Satan) incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”
“My response to Boydâ€™s list is that just because Job is wrong some of the time doesnâ€™t mean heâ€™s wrong all of the time. I never said that Jobâ€™s speech is blameless throughout the book. But the narrator thinks itâ€™s blameless in Job 1:22 and 2:10. Thus the narrator affirms that the Lord gives and takes away and that the Lord brings good times and adversity (cf., 1:21 and 2:9).”
Being blameless is defined as being without sin. Jumping to the author affirming Job as being theologically correct in saying that God gives and takes away is simply a stretch no matter how it is look. It’s extrapolating a conclusion based on a worldview. I think that Boyd has the better logical argument that does not require a jump to a conclusion .
Thanks for blogging. This has been a very interesting debate stemming from Piper’s original post down to yours!
Great job. What Boyd is doing is just worming his way out of what is plain Biblical truth. Such a smart guy with so much worming! I pray that Boyd is shown his error by the Holy Spirit and is enabled to humble himself under the weight of God’s great Word.
Boyd has to work so hard to guard God against any notion that He may actually be sovereign. He and others seem to find more comfort in the idea that God is good so long as He is incompetent. I recently posted a response to Roger Olson’s article on Calvinism and the bridge collapse. I was amazed that a respected theologian would make a statement like “God limits himself” without any Scriptural support.
Fantastic response Denny — Boyd is all over the place, attempting to rescue God from the very words Scripture. Unfortunately, he is reading the Bible through the lens of a pre-determined theology and not allowing the Bible to determine his theology. Backwards reading.
Thanks for your responses to and explanations regarding the Boyd discussions. I first discovered your blog as a result of Dr. Boyd’s first post regarding the I-35 bridge tradgedy. I must say that these discussions have really opened my eyes to the different viewpoints and terms – Arminianism, Calvinism, Open-theism, etc. Thanks again.
It seems to me that the prologue frames the subsequent story as the outworking of (what is essentially) a bet between God and Satan. God thinks he knows Job’s character enough to say that he can withstand any trial. Satan thinks he’s clever enough to break Job’s defenses. The fact that God agrees to lift the hedge of protection from around Job presupposes the indeterminacy of Job’s response. Otherwise, God is just trying to prove to Satan what he has already foreknown from all eternity. But why would God care what Satan thinks?
No–the story of Job is not a charade whereby God reminds Satan (he would presumably already know) that he foreknows as certain every future contingent. To the contrary, Job’s response is up for grabs, which is precisely why the trial is allowed to move forward.
As far as the internal logic of the text is concerned, Boyd seems correct in asserting the ‘unsettledness’ of the future.
I wish I shared the assurance that the commenters have. It must be nice to be so certain that one position is so evident and one is so wrong. Funny how it is never our positions that are determined by our theology and we never engage in ‘backwards reading.’
I wonder what would happen to our theology if we weren’t allowed to use the Book of Job as support. It’s an epic poem. It’s one single book. It’s a book that neither Jesus nor Paul nor Peter (church founders??) ever referenced. Why must we build our entire doctrine around one book and forsake the rest of the Word that amply reveals God’s character—from His own mouth and not the mouth of a tormented man?
For a moment, I will grant you that Satan and God wagered on Job. Silly thought, but I’ll play along. I think we can all rest assured that you and I will never be deemed righteous enough by either God OR Satan to be considered for such a wager. So let’s stop focusing on Job as if he’s the standard for our own lives.
MLM said, “For a moment, I will grant you that Satan and God wagered on Job. Silly thought, but Iâ€™ll play along. I think we can all rest assured that you and I will never be deemed righteous enough by either God OR Satan to be considered for such a wager. So letâ€™s stop focusing on Job as if heâ€™s the standard for our own lives.”
I agree MLM. There’s a habit of taking specific stories like Joseph, Pharaoh, Job and the Crucifixion of Jesus and looking at what is revealed to us as God’s actions behind those events (which we otherwise would not know or assume), and then we try to set that up as the standards by which God deals with all of us and all events and actions in the world. When in reality there is a reason why the narrators in the Bible had to specify that God was actually working behind the scenes in those events or else people wouldn’t have assumed he was or assumed he was but for the wrong reasons. The narrator of Job doesn’t act like this is always what happens, and Job is never even told what is happening. God doesn’t fess up to him or say Satan incited me to do it. Job didn’t get an answer and we really don’t either. It’s wisdom literature and in the vein of a parable. Let’s not push it beyond it’s intended purposes and build the foundation of our theology on it. As I pointed out to Burk last time. There is nothing in the rest of the Bible that seems to say anything near what you believe Job does.
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?
J. B. Hood
Tov (I think that’s the Hebrew word in play there) does not mean perfect, never having sinned; it means blameless–usually in response to a specific situation, and sometimes viz. opponents who are not blameless.
Here in Job, Denny is clearly correct: the blamelessness of Job’s speech is about his correct analysis of the situation: good and bad both (though in different ways) ultimately come from YHWH. Though we know, as the author of Job does as well based on his conclusion, that the ultimate end even of disaster and evil is glory and good.
Your post made my heart jump. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read this blog and shook my head at the assurance (arrogance?) of those who would comment (or post)!
You made me realize that I’m not the only one.
In response to Beth’s post, some context:
Listen, you Israelites, to this message which the Lord is proclaiming against you! This message is for the entire clan I brought up from the land of Egypt: “I have chosen you alone from all the clans of the earth. Therefore I will punish you for all your sins.”
If an alarm sounds in a city, do people not fear? If disaster overtakes a city, is the Lord not responsible? Certainly the sovereign Lord does nothing without first revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:1-2,6-7 (NET)
When God, in covenantal context, brings disaster upon the Israelites–it’s a consequence of their prolonged sin, and it is announced ahead of time by the prophets. At least, according to Amos.
This passage is therefore directly relevant neither to Job, nor to the Minneapolis bridge collapse, nor to establishing metaphysical principles for the sake of theodicy.
This debate/disagreement isn’t going away, I don’t think. But it can be useful to explore the worldview implications of each view.
I have a specific question for all the open theists out there:
(Disclaimer: Iâ€™m not very educated on the open theist position, and Iâ€™m trying to wrap my arms around this perspective. Any thoughts on this question would be greatly appreciated!)
Do you believe that God was incapable of preventing the bridge collapse (or any other earthly event for that matter?). If so, is this lack of power voluntary or involuntary?
Sub-questions: Iâ€™d also be interested to hear what the limit is for Godâ€™s sovereignty. In other words, is He completely sovereign over some of the worldâ€™s affairs, and not others? Is there a certain element that He is bound by? i.e. time, humankind, etc.?
I realize this could be a huge topic, and thereâ€™s probably not just a blog-post response.. I assume there are books out there on this. Does anyone have any thoughts or resources you could point me to?
Thanks in advance!
Well I’ll speak for myself here (an Open Theist) since I don’t know what Daniel will say, but I want to clarify something. My view on God’s sovereignty and how God exercises it really doesn’t have to do with be being an Open Theist. I also subscribe to Boyd’s Warfare Worldview theology. Open Theism is compatible with it but the Warfare Worldview is not dependent on holding to Open Theism, as Boyd says in his books (God at War, Satan and the Problem of Evil). I think it works better with Open Theism but it doesnâ€™t fall if Open Theism is discarded.
That being said, to answer your questions:
1.) â€œDo you believe that God was incapable of preventing the bridge collapse (or any other earthly event for that matter?).â€
2.) â€œIf so, is this lack of power voluntary or involuntary?â€
N/A â€“ see above answer.
3.) â€œIâ€™d also be interested to hear what the limit is for Godâ€™s sovereignty. In other words, is He completely sovereign over some of the worldâ€™s affairs, and not others?â€
Yes he is completely sovereign. But we probably define sovereignty differently. I donâ€™t define sovereign as completely controlling everything. I see his sovereignty as more like that of a King not a puppet master or script writer (please forgive the analogy). Nothing can raise itself above God and he, in a sense, always has the last word. He gives his creatures freedom and responsibility and when his free creatures disobey or rebel, he judges and punishes, but doesn’t necessarily take that freedom away. When does he punish and judge? Who knows? Now and in the end I guess.
4.) â€œIs there a certain element that He is bound by? i.e. time, humankind, etc.?â€
Thatâ€™s a tricky question. I donâ€™t like saying God is bound by anything (except himself, i.e. his promises, his word, etcâ€¦) Iâ€™ll have to come back to this one later.
5.) â€œI assume there are books out there on this. Does anyone have any thoughts or resources you could point me to?â€
Boydâ€™s â€œGod at Warâ€, â€œSatan and the Problem of Evilâ€, â€œIs God to Blameâ€.
Dongell and Walls â€œWhy Iâ€™m Not a Calvinistâ€ for its discussion on sovereignty.
Daniel, what do you think? Iâ€™d be interested to see what your responses are.
Thanks for taking the time to ask Carlito.
Carlito asked some good questions. I’ll leave it to brighter minds to answer (I’m looking at you here, Bryan and Daniel). But something I’d like to ask, in the vein of Pascal’s wager (since I’ve got “wager” on the brain).
What would happen to the rest of my theology if this stance of “open theism” or whatever you guys call it were proven beyond doubt to be wrong. Likewise, what would happen to Denny’s (and the rest) theology should this Calvinistic approach turn out to be wrong.
For me, it would seem that I would be able to point my finger at God and ascribe evil to Him, at least in the sense of His allowing it for divine purposes. Gone would be my personal responsiblity in the matter (I didn’t cause it by my own disobedience or ignorance) and thus gone would be my obligation to correct or change my path. Also, gone would be the devil’s role and my obligation to do something about HIM.
For Denny and co. it seems that you would suddenly be responsible for accusing God of some horrific and dastardly deeds, things which God had no part in, things which maligned His character and contradicted His Word. Also, you would suddenly be remiss in taking personal responsiblity or in directly dealing with Satan for these awful happenings.
Granted, Faimon #8 makes a good point. This side of heaven, we can each argue our side until our last breath…and still be wrong in the end. But having looked briefly at this paraphrase of Pascal’s wager, I think I’ll stick to the belief “if it ain’t good, it ain’t God” and gladly be wrong in this case if the alternative means later discovering that I’ve deeply insulted God and led others to do the same.
who are we as sinners to judge what is right and wrong?
apart from God there is no good..God IS good…anything else is imperfect…there in lies the problem of evaluating things based on a sliding rule…the only standard is God’s holiness
Thanks Denny for your careful, clear and concise response. I really appreciate your blog. My family and I serve in East Asia and we really enjoy reading your updates and posts. It helps us monitor the status of the church in the states.
I have two comments: First, I can’t imagine presenting a God who was not in control of all things. Can you picture presenting an Open Theist worldview to a brother who was just severely beaten for his faith in Jesus Christ and now is in jail for the rest of his life? Can you fathom a child who just witnessed his/her family being removed from society and never seen again because they trusted and treasured Jesus Christ as their sovereign joy? Second, if Job is repenting for his errant speech, why does he say at the end of the book in 42:2, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Does this sound like an “open” God or a completely Sovereign God?
Thanks for the good word. May the Lord richly bless you and your family.
Dangit! I was hoping for the Burkian blessing! Oh well… maybe some other day. 🙂
Rach, to say that we don’t know ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ is to say that we cannot label Calvinism as ‘right’ and open theism as ‘wrong’. Surely you don’t mean to cut this branch out from underneath yourself!
Carlito, here’s my take on your questions (though I’m not sure mlm’s ‘bright mind’ really applies to me…):
1) â€œDo you believe that God was incapable of preventing the bridge collapse (or any other earthly event for that matter?).â€
It depends what you mean by incapable. If God has chosen to structure the world in such a way that he cannot intervene unless, e.g., two people are praying for the same thing, then there may be times when he is ‘incapable’ of intervening. But this is not the same as saying that he is weak. Rather it means that he is principled. (Remember, the example I gave was just a cheap example–I don’t doubt that the reality is far more complex.)
2.) â€œIf so, is this lack of power voluntary or involuntary?â€
Any principled non-intervention would presumably have a voluntary and an involuntary component, though the former would be strongest.
3.) â€œis He completely sovereign over some of the worldâ€™s affairs, and not others?â€
What do you mean by sovereignty? It has to be able to account for both Ephesians 1:5 and Deuteronomy 30:19 (defining it as omni-control won’t do, for that is not what sovereignty means).
4.) â€œIs there a certain element that He is bound by? i.e. time, humankind, etc.?â€
Only by his nature (i.e. his goodness, justice, etc.) and by that which he has freely chosen to be bound (i.e. by how he has chosen to structure his relationship to his Creation).
5.) â€œI assume there are books out there on this. Does anyone have any thoughts or resources you could point me to?â€
If you’re philosophically minded, read William Hasker’s “God, Time and Knowledge.” Otherwise, Boyd’s “God of the possible” is a good introduction (though I’d go to John Sanders’ “God who Risks” for a fuller defense).
Wonders for Oyarsa
The book of Job has been a controlling framework for my own approach to scripture. Over the last year or so, I’ve been blogging through the Bible, and I’ve found Job’s attitude to be an invaluable guide toward approaching the difficult parts of the Old Testament.
I think I agree with your criticism of Boyd here, but I think I disagree with the conclusion. It was Job’s comforters, after all, who most strongly asserted God’s righteousness. Job demanded his day in court, accused God of afflicting him despite his righteousness, and despaired of life. Yet Job has “spoken of me what is right”, as opposed to Job’s friends who insist on calling evil good since God is sovereign.
Job is reproved, but I think mostly for his despair. He initially demanded that, if creation was to be like this, then darkness and chaos might as well swallow up all life. God says “Oh, indeed – that would be better, eh? Who are you, again?” And yet, Job recognizes that his wounds are from God, and he is nevertheless righteous before God, and it is therefore something he has a right to demand God account for.
Job is on the verge of a great mystery – how the most righteous of all suffers the most injustice (and yet does so justly) on behalf of all, but to get there he has to submit to mystery. Job’s friends insist on a consistency that ends up justifying evil and cursing the Lord’s anointed.
So the story of Job is the story of submitting the sovereignty of God in a sense, but it is also the story of how a righteous man wrestles with God rather than glibly ignore injustice.
Just a note to Sully and those who “suffer persecution for His Name’s sake” (my prayers and admiration are yours)…this sort of suffering that Sully mentioned is certainly spoken of in the NT, and by Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. This sort of persecution comes at the hands of evil men and is only brought upon Christians for doing right, for being CHRISTIAN, and for believing in and preaching Jesus Christ. This type of persecution is the good albeit painful kind, (beatings, imprisonment, death). This type of persecution does NOT include sickness, disease, calamity, bridge collapses, etc. There is a marked difference between the two and we do the Lord an injustice when we compare and combine them.
MLM, Bryan L and Daniel â€“ thanks for your posts. I appreciate the thoughtful responses. As we all know, this debate can go on forever and there are lots of implications to both views. I think we can learn from each otherâ€™s perspectives and not completely alienate or cast off each othersâ€™ views just because theyâ€™re different. The cross of Christ is what bonds us all together. Full atonement, can it be? Halleluiah, what a Savior!
Like you said, MLM, there are inherent dangers in both perspectives. Those of us on the sovereignty/Calvinism side can become complacent and buy into a fatalistic (i.e. hyper-calvinistic) view of the world and its happenings. We can just ignore what takes place in the world and not fight for social injustice, humanitarian efforts, etc. We can also become apathetic in prayer, service, etc. However, if applied correctly, I believe that the doctrine of Godâ€™s sovereignty becomes for us the very foundation for ministry and service â€“ knowing that we are called to give our lives away for the Kingdom, and that God will take care of the rest as He has promised. Not just in the big picture, but in every single minutia of our Christian journey. Even if I am met with heartache, misery and loss â€“ it is comforting to know that God is fully in control and fully at work, and that I donâ€™t have to worry about whether or not I prayed enough or sacrificed enough or had enough faith. Itâ€™s His mighty right hand that upholds me every day!
I guess at the end of the day, I choose to believe that God is sovereign over every minute detail of my life and in all events of this fallen world, and that He has fully ordained and controls all of the circumstances and trials that come my way. That gives me the confidence and assurance that I so desperately need as I face each day. I trust in an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving, just and holy God who, I believe, is not bound by ANY of the creation that He spoke into being with a mere breath.
Iâ€™ll check into Boydâ€™s books to try to get a better understanding of your perspective. Iâ€™m sure you all have done research on the â€œsovereignty of Godâ€ side. Not that you asked :), but I would highly recommend any of these books if you havenâ€™t checked them out previously â€“ Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (multiple authors), Doctrines of Grace (Boice and Ryken), and Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (J.I. Packer).
In Christ & by the power of His shed blood,
I am only responding to this quote:
“Itâ€™s a book that neither Jesus nor Paul nor Peter (church founders??) ever referenced.”
James 5:11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Oh, and one more thing on God’s sovereignty… The book of Isaiah. Nuff said. 🙂
Thanks for quoting me! :o) I puposely didn’t include James in my litany because I didn’t want to have to get into further discussion (call me lazy; it’s been one of those weeks). Anyhoo, James does refer to Job, but I still stand by my statement that Jesus (God’s Son) with all His important teachings never teaches us this “lesson of Job.” (Nor Paul or Peter.)
But since you brought James up, look closely at what James DID say. He told us that those who remain steadfast are blessed. (This is true. The Book of Job took like 19 months to transpire in full…and Job ends up with more than twice what he had before.) But what’s more meaningful to me is what James says next: “You have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
When trials come (yes, they will come) from the enemy, the flesh, or this fallen world, we are to remain steadfast. If we do, we will see the purpose of the Lord—not in the trials, but in His redeeming mercy and compassion which deliver us from the trials. (Just as in the case of dear Job.)
According to James, the purpose of the Lord is to SHOW COMPASSION and MERCY. (Not to beat us over the heads by use of Satan.) It was indeed God’s mercy and compassion that sustained Job and blessed him beyond measure. If we remain steadfast and reliant on God’s mercy and compassion, we too will triumph over whatever Satan brings our way.
I didn’t want to say anything but I think Paul alludes to Job as well. I don’t remember the exact place but I think it might be in Philippians. I seem to remember Richard Hays discussing it in “Echoes of Scripture”.
My point isn’t to exclude the book of Job from the conversation, but to ask how the NT writers appropriate and appeal to it, and how we should as well. And a lot of the 2nd question has to do with how we interpret it and what we believe its message is.
Thanks. I’ll check it out and see what I can find. I KNOW none of the NT writers referred to it as much as these guys have, nor supported doctrines with it so strongly.
Question for you: Wasn’t Job the first book of the Bible written? Long before the Mosaic Law? Since revelation is progressive, shouldn’t this have some bearing on how much place we give it? (Along with the fact that it’s Wisdom Lit, etc.)
It is interesting to observe this discussion. I wonder how Christians engaged such a debate before the Calvinist/Arminian and Open Theist categories? Accepting the prevailing framework for this discussion removes us from a vast treasure of Christian reflection on the problem of tragedy and evil. I hope I’m not coming across with the arrogance of being non-arrogant (thank you posts #8 and #13?), but God is not easily reduced by narratives into systematic categories nor is He easily dismissed as either impotent or totally responsible.
I do find it interesting that we can go to Job or address the issue of theodicy without reference to the cross of Jesus Christ. Isn’t that the only answer in the face of all evil, suffering, death and hell? The paschal mystery, in my opinion, destroys our tendencies for speculation and forces us to find our comfort and salvation in this fallen world only in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Who can fathom the mysteries of Christ for us?
I would even argue that Jesus taught His disciples that the book of Job as well as all other Scriptures find their meaning and fulfillment in Him. He is the full revelation of God and we need not look any further for solace. Well, at least there is a Lutheran perspective…
Wonders for Oyarsa
Speculation is dangerous perhaps, but I suppose Jesus conversation on the road to Emmaus might have gone a little something like this, with respect to Job.
Right on Mason and Wonders.. The sufferings of Christ should remain central in all our discussions. P.S. Wonders, I liked your interpretation of Job.. Interesting take on it…
I believe that is exactly the type of “speculation” that we ought to engage in with the Holy Scriptures- it is focused on Christ and Him crucified, which is the pont. And it is infinitely more fruitful than trying to get behind the mind of God in the narrative of the text or the viscissitudes of historical events. I just think that latter is frustrating, not to mention impossible.
One of the most interesting things about Greg Boyd’s blog is that he doesn’t even allow comments. Of course, the reason is because he can’t defend the asinine position he attempts to take on Job…
#1 Is Boyd actually attempting to say that God didn’t know where Satan was when asked the question, “Where have you come from?” Is this serious??? Did God not know Adam and Eve’s activities when He asked, “Where are you?” and “Who told you that you were naked?”
Another question: did Jesus have knowledge and control that God doesn’t possess when he spoke with the demons and cast them into a herd of swine? Is it not obvious that God is in complete control of all spiritual forces and that they can’t make a move without His permission?
#2 It’s clear from the writer of Job’s perspective that Job spoke correctly when he said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” He also didn’t sin when he said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” We know he didn’t misspeak because the very next sentence says, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” If that is not crystal clear, I don’t know what is. It’s obvious that Job’s repentance was necessary for things he said later in the book- which were incorrect.
#3 All of chapter 38 through 42 speak of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. Greg Boyd makes it sound as if God is lamenting over all of the chaotic happenings on the earth, as if He had no control over them. What a crock!
Listen to what Boyd says: “Yahweh doesnâ€™t say, â€œIâ€™m God and I have the right to bring misery on whoever I want.â€ Rather, he refutes this theology and puts both Job and his friends in their place by alluding to two facts: humans are ignorant about the vastness and complexity of the cosmos (chs. 37-38) and humans are ignorant about the enormity of the powers of chaos (Leviathan and Behemoth) that God must contend with (chs. 39-41). Yahweh chides Job by basically saying, â€œDo you have a clue as to how vast and complex this creation is?â€ and â€œDo you think you can do a better job fighting the forces of evil I contend with?”
I can’t believe this was actually written. What kind of impotent god does Boyd serve? I would suggest he actually READ the book of Job, especially the last 4 chapters when God makes His appearance. God is telling Job that He is the one who created everything and He is the one who is in control of everything. When He mentions Behemoth and Leviathan, He is not whining about the difficulty of controlling them, He is giving Job a bit of perspective on the vastness of His might and control.
Perhaps Greg Boyd needs a similar lesson.
One other thought: what does Greg Boyd (or any others here who support a similar position do with this verse from Isaiah 45:6-7?
6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, 7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
Could it be that Greg Boyd’s ACTUAL trouble has also to with his definition of EVIL and his definition of INNOCENCE?
Was the I35 collapse evil? Well, on the surface it might seem that way, but does God have a good reason for it? Absolutely.
Secondly, were those people innocent who died? Absolutely not. There is none righteous, not even one. Has God done us injustice when He allows (or causes) catastrophic things to happen to us? No. God does not owe us anything. If a person has 1 minute of breath, they have been given one more minute than they deserve. This could be the true source of the problem- a human sense of fairness and a human sense of righteousness.
“One of the most interesting things about Greg Boydâ€™s blog is that he doesnâ€™t even allow comments. Of course, the reason is because he canâ€™t defend the asinine position he attempts to take on Jobâ€¦”
I don’t think that’s it. The Desiring God blog doesn’t post comments either. When people don’t have comments it’s probably just because they don’t want to have to respond to a bunch of comments (and people wanting to debate) and then have people get their feelings hurt or mad when they don’t.
Wonders for Oyarsa
Could it be that Greg Boydâ€™s ACTUAL trouble has also to with his definition of EVIL and his definition of INNOCENCE?
Was the I35 collapse evil? Well, on the surface it might seem that way, but does God have a good reason for it? Absolutely.
Darryl, you do Job’s comforters proud. That’s right – it isn’t unjust – their suffering is deserved. If only they would realize this, the suffering wouldn’t be such a problem for their theology.
Here is Job’s response:
Will you speak falsely for God
and speak deceitfully for him?
Will you show partiality toward him?
Will you plead the case for God?
Will it be well with you when he searches you out?
Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man?
He will surely rebuke you
if in secret you show partiality.
Will not his majesty terrify you,
and the dread of him fall upon you?
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay.
God does not side with those who would defend him and his sovereignty in the face of injustice, and thus call evil good. After humbling him even to death, he sides with the one who had the hubris to cry “My God, My God – why have you forsaken me?”
Thanks for all the discussion. I’m sorry that I have been pretty swamped and unable to participate.
In all of Greg Boyd’s discussions of why the book of Job has been misinterpreted, he never mentions Job 42:10-11 where THE NARRATOR says:
“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him FOR ALL THE EVIL THAT THE LORD HAD BROUGHT UPON HIM.”
Greg – Please tell me, What do you say about these words from the narrator? Why have you never included this part in your various messages on Job over the last 8 years?
Chris (in #39),
Good point. I should have mentioned that one in my response.
In regards to Chris (#39) and Denny’s (#40) comment, Chris is using the English Standard Version which has Evil for the translation for Job 42:10-11. However, the majority of translations do not translate the hebrew “ra” as Evil except for the ESV (which rarely uses the Septuagint),KJV and other translations before 1950.
The other translations for ‘ra’ are:
NKJV : “adversity”
NLT : “trials”
NIV : “trouble”
Amplified: “distressing calamities”
That poor translation does nothing to hurt Greg Boyd’s argument. Boyd never addresses those words because they are a poor translation in light of better scholarship.
Thanks again for the riveting discussing!
What is the evil (adversity, trouble, distressing calamities, if you like) that the Lord brought upon Job? The answer to this question is the whole point of this discussion. It really doesn’t matter what word is used. One might even call it blessings for the knowledge Job gained about God through his troubles . The point is that the Lord brought it upon Job. This couldn’t be more clear. And the clarity of this is why other open theists who have posted here simply say that Job is wisdom literature and that therefore we shouldn’t use it to shape our theology. In this way they also escape the plain meaning of God’s sovereignty over Joseph and his brother in Genesis 50, God’s sovereignty over the actions of Pharoah, God’s sovereignty over the crucifixion of Christ, etc. They claim that our theology shouldn’t be shaped by these things. I am sorry but at this point we have a fundamental difference in our understanding of Scripture. If one can simply claim that certain portions of Scripture are not normative then where does it end? I think it is a dangerous situation that in order for our system to work we have to reject large portions of Scripture in this way.
Regardless of how you translate the word, the issue is the same. It was the LORD who brought all this onto Job, even though Satan was the pawn that God used. Does Boyd ever address these words?
How about Gen. 50:20 or 2 Cor. 12:7? The issue is all the same. Job is not unique.
To everyone else…
I am quite embarrassed that some would imply that we should not try to find theology from Job. All Scripture is useful for teaching and training in righteousness. I am also embarrassed that people would claim that someone who strongly believes in God’s sovereignty as clearly expressed in the Bible is arrogant.
“For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Heb. 3:6, 14) Let us NOT hold up uncertainty as some kind of virtue. While we all admit there is a limit to human understanding, (and that we should be patient and sensitive in our commenting) there is an intended meaning to Biblical texts that God wants His people to understand. I am praying everyday that by seeing God in His Word daily that my confidence in Him and who He is would grow more and more until the day of Christ.
I think all of this discussion comes down to the question of God’s purposes in the universe. When I was an Arminian, I thought that this world was all about getting people saved. Now I see that this is not God’s greatest goal (or else it would be happening!) God’s goal, over and over expressed in Scripture is to reveal His glory throughout the world. He is the center – not man. I could not be a missionary in a foreign country and leave my beloved family in the U.S. if this were not the case. I would go insane here if my goal was to see people come to Christ (alone). It just does not happen very much here. I rejoice that my job is not to save anyone, but to see God be glorified in all things – of course especially in salvation (the glory of His grace), but also in a million other things. I find great joy in the Sovereign God of the Bible. He is my confidence and treasure and goal.
Thanks for your comments. As a non-reformed believer, I don’t believe that you have to believe in the Reformed viewpoint to do missions. I was a missionary to a middle eastern country for a few years and saw no one (to my knowledge) follow Christ in the years I was there. I don’t think that my goal was to ‘get people saved.’ My goal was to follow where I believe that the Lord was calling me to go. I choose to go to this country and serve without needing results even though it was very difficult at times. If God is all-powerful, He can accomplish all that he desires. I stand in awe of what He does and am amazed that He allows me to be a part of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. Read Greg Boyd’s Satan and the Problem of Evil where Boyd presents his Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy which is an argument that works even if you do not accept an Open Theology point of view. Of course, it is non-Reformed so one would need to be open to exploring other view points.
Again, often times when these arguments occur they are a battle between world views not necessarily theology. On this blog, we see mostly 2 world views. One is a Reformed /Calvinistic worldview and the other is the non-reformed/open theist/Armenian world view. When we are dealing with Worldviews, it is very difficult to try to come to a conclusion that would bring together 2 very conflicting world views. By commenting here, I don’t expect that I will ‘convert’ anyone to a non-reformed viewpoint. I may help bolster the non-reformists who are visiting this site.
So, if by arguing point by point does not make a whole lot of difference, what should we be doing to find “THE TRUTH”. I don’t think I am naive enough to think I know the Truth of this issue. There are great minds who believe both sides very strongly (Boyd and Piper are two people who will probably never agree yet they both have really throughly studied the Bible and are brilliant. I have great respect for Piper even though I don’t agree with everything he says. The man knows the Bible and probably knows more about John Edwards then anyone else.)
If you are reading this, and you haven’t made up your mind on this issue. I have a suggestion. Read the Bible. But, read it without a commentary or a devotional. Get a Bible that doesn’t have study notes in it. Let the Word speak for itself first, without the noise of hundreds of other people telling you what it says. Then, go to other sources and (with prayer) make up your own mind what you will believe.
Still enjoying this discussion. I pray that every one who has blogged here will pursue Jesus more and be conformed to His likeness.
Your suggestion to read the Bible without any input is more dangerous than helpful. The person could end up an Arian, Pelagian, Modalist, patripassian, etc.
We need others to help us understand the Bible. We are not a tabula rasa and our reason is so messed up that we have the capacity to distort the scriptures to our own damnation. See Joel Osteen.
The Word speaks to Christ, within His community, the Body of Christ- I realize this raises issues, but the only other option is a nuda scriptura approach, which is impossible considering an orthodox anthropology.
Wonders for Oyarsa
I don’t think he’s saying not to consult help – only to also try to read it afresh. We need both elements – a huge respect for tradition and community as well as the willingness to try to look past things we might be imposing on the text.
Denny, great post. Keep up the good work.
Fair enough. But we do impose things on the text, whether we recognize it or not. The question is, “Are they Christian things or not?”
If the Word speaking for itself refers to Christ, then great. If it means something else, then it may be fun and invigorating, and even moralistic, but ultimately not the stuff of Christian faith.
This does raise all sorts of hermeneutical questions…
I’ve got another post on this topic coming on Monday morning.
As I try to catch up on reading all of the response’s to your blog, I am sensing a shift of what is really being argued. Seemingly, I feel the issue needs to move past the narrative of Job. I strongly believe Job is a great asset when investing evil deeds, but only investigating the book of Job limits not only the beauty of the entire Scriptures, but also the ways Yahweh interacts with His creation through the rest of the Bible.
The point referencing Job 42:10-11, post 39, is a great Biblical example, however this is only one of the many Biblical examples indicating God inflicted trouble onto his people. More importantly, we need to look at this verse in light of the other Scriptures that are for and against the notions webbed in Job 42.
1. There may be truth that the Lord may have have allowed the evil to overtake Job. This verse is one instance of one individuals life who is following Yahweh. That is the beauty of reading about great Biblical characters because we can to see a perspective on how God interacts with that individuals life and what the fruits are. Yahweh has a very unique and dynamic relationship with Job , therefore Yahweh does some unique and dynamics things to Job.
2. If we consider the theology that is transpiring in Job 42, then it would be fair to read other verses in contrast with 42.
Here are a few verses in contrast:
Luke 4.6–the famous temptation narrative where the Devil tempts Jesus by offering Him ownership of the world. According to Luke, the devil is the king of this earthly dome. If the devil is handing over his authority to Jesus in this temptation pass, then maybe this does imply that the devil is the king and rule of this world??
Ephesians 6–Paul is pretty persuasive we need to put on our fighting suites and fight the good fight because we are at battle here on earth.
James 3.15–James makes a reference of earthly things that are from the devil. This verse also implies the earth is ruled by this satan guy.
Revelations 12.9–John is giving a depiction of how this ancient serpent leads the world astray.
Essentially these few examples identify a theme that the Devil is the king of this earthly dome.
3. The fact that the Lord inflicted pain onto Job does not discredit the notion that the devil is the boss here on earth. In my opinion I feel this is a special case of how Yahweh intervenes Himself into Job’s life. The question is: does this Job account run try with the Spirit of both the old and new testament? The Job narrative is a great story of an individual who gets tested by God, but can we build a theology off of this account of one man’s life? This is why it is essential to contest ideas stemmed from certain narratives through the entire OT and NT, before making any “thus says the Lord” theologies.
4. Lets be honest…….The Bible is full of inconsistencies. For heaven sakes, look at Paul. He says one thing one minute and a completely different thing another minute. We are missing pieces of the NT, namely the end of Mark and John 4. Luther wanted to throw out the book of James. My point is that the Bible is in fact the inspired Word of God, but there is some ambiguity to the text. The fact that in Job 42 the Lord tested Job is okay. This does not debunk any theology or the Character of God.
The Bible has many cases when it is prescriptive and descriptive. Prescriptive means that this is the Truth!! Thus say the Lord. For examples, The 10 commandments. However, descriptive means the Bible gives account of certain aspect’s within the God story. Essentially it is a depiction of that cultural context. The letter/narrative is describing what is happening in that given situation. For example:
NAU 1 Timothy 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
5. The fact that God tests Job is an another example that God presently interacts with His creation. God is tested Job to investigate his character and how he would respond. In a way, there was a risk that Job would not respond to this test. There was an openness to how Job was going to react to the tests put in front of him. Basically, the Job 42 verse is a great example of how God interacts with His creation.
In my attempt to argue that the devil is the king of this world, it is imperative to see that Job 42 does not hurt this argument but actually better illustrate that God is a God of interaction.
In His Grip,
Some interesting thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to share them. One question: You make it sound like God tested Job’s character because God wanted to see what Job was made of. Seems to me that the All-knowing God would already know what Job is made of, and therefore there’d be no need to test him…unless the test was for someone else’s benefit, namely Job’s. (Or as some argue, Satan, because he and God had a bet going.)
But as I recall all the “tests” I’ve had in my long years as a student, not one involved calamity or sickness and disease. Rather, there were written or oral exams that required my to reveal what I knew. In all cases, I had been taught lesson after lesson on the subject, so that the test would hopefully reveal that I had been paying attenting in class, ddoing my homework, and learning all along. In many cases, I was told by my instructors *exactly* what would be on the test. If not exactly, at least I knew which chapters or area of expertise I would be tested in.
These “cosmic pop quizzes” people ascribe to God are silly in my opinion. The Bible itself tells us that it (the Scriptures) have been given to test, teach, rebuke, train, etc. God already knows what we know. He doesn’t need to test us. But when the inevitable tests of this world arise, then WE find out what we’re made of and what we still desperately need to learn.
You observation is correct. I am arguing that God tested Job’s character to see what he is made of.
God ultimately knew how the Job narrative was going to end up. Job had the possibility not to chose God, but he did.
You chose to study, pay attention, and be engaged in class in order for you to pass your test. However, there were probably some other students in your class who failed the test. Essentially they chose not to study. I highly doubt God wanted your other classmates to fail. God knew that some would fail, but he did not know who would chose to fail.
God wants the best path for everyone however there is freedom for each individual. Bascically, you create your own adventure and God knows the final chapters. Does this undermine God knowledge? No, not at all. It takes a greater God to steer a world populated with free agents than it does to steer a world of pre-programmed automatons.
Job during his test chose God. Like you, he chose to do his homework. Job’s character was confirmed through his test.
You are right the Scriptures are here to test and reproof us, but after we pass a test does not mean we will pass the next one.
The fact that God intended a course of action for Job did not guarantee that it would come about.
Mlm thanks for the post.
In His Grip,
Does God intend for you to persevere in the faith and you may choose to not believe any more and thus perish in hell forever?
Are you saying that God intends for us to be saved (for the Bible says that only those who persevere to the end will be saved) but we may lose our salvation due to wrong choices?
Yes God does wants us to persevere in faith!
However we get to chose the path. I am not going to judge who will enter the gates or who will not enter the gates. I believe if we are honestly falling forwards towards our Heavenly Father then there will be no issues.
The only measurement we have to judge individuals’ faith is if they believe. If they believe, then we all should be seeing them in Heaven.
I believe God does desire for all of us to be saved. Everyone has the option to live their life in love.
Your losing salvation question is a great question and I am not sure if I am ready to answer that one. What do you think?
I believe that the Bible teaches that true believers never lose their salvation because God keeps them faithful (not to say that there are not backslidings) by His grace to the end.
False-Christians WILL fall away and not return…whether it be due to persecutuion, trials, cares of the world, etc…
The Bible does make threats to our salvation. I believe God thru the Holy Spirit uses these threats to keep His true Christians in the faith.
Your language of “true believers” seems a bit funny to me. What is a true believer? How would you define a true believer?
Lets just say, little Timmy at the age of 10 accepts Christ, however after High School Timmy never stepped foot back into a Church. He still believes, but he is not participating in a Church community. Is Timmy a true believer?
To me the distinction of a “true” or “false” believer is too concrete.
The OT presents the Lord as the ultimate cause of events and happenings, that are the direct work of satan. The language does not have a permisive mode of speach. So we read such things as:- 2 Sam. 24:1 “the Lord … moved David … to … number Israel.” The narative then goes on to deal with the Lord’s punishment of David for doing so. How can we make sense of this. On the face of it it seems God is unjust and even insites evil and sin. But we know this is not so as “the lord can niether be tempted to sin or temps anyone towards sin”. So how do we resolve this?
1 Chron. 21:1 states “satan (provoked) David to number Israel 1 Chron. 21:1. So who was it that provoked David to sin God, Satan or both of them.
The scripture clearly teaches elswhere that the Lord does not do such things so it was satan. What then does 2 Sam. 24:1 mean?
It means that God is taking ultimate responsibility, as satan’s creater He carries the responsibility as the first cause. By creating beings with a free will capable of oposing His will. It means the Lord has set up a world in which such evil is possible, as such freedom in His creation is necessary if love is to be genuine. On the part of God (who is Love) who offers His love to us and on our part who are called to respond in love towards Him. For this reason “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” NASU All Christians Calvinists, Arminians and Open Theists believe in the ultimate victory of Christ. Creation was by Him, For Him and will be re headed up in Him. Therefore the ‘Soverinty’ of the Lord is not in Question. The question relates to how the Lord has chosen to exercise His authority, a) by predetermining all events, and controling by power each participant in His creation or b) through creating in love (necessitating freedom) and calling for a responce of love through primarilly through thre cross.
The church fathers used the term “He reigns from the cross” and in my view only b) is consitent with the lord’s nature.