Job: Moral Catch-22

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Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 05:44 pm
Greetings to all...

It's my understanding that Book of Job was originally written as an attempt to explain moral law. I'd like to rephrase in logical form the late Judaic version of this moral conundrum that caused anguish to Job. [I will be using the form of Premise + Premise --> Conclusion.]

It was widely believe that:

Sin (and only sin) causes suffering + Job is suffering. --> Therefore, Job has sinned.

Note the validity also of the following belief is explicit in the Book of Job:

The degree of one's suffering is proportional to the degree of one's sins. + If one sins much, he will suffer much + If one sins little, then he will suffer little + Job is suffering much. --> Therefore, Job has sinned much.

The doctrine assumes that sin and suffering are causally related, and if one alters the cause, then he will alter the effect:

Sin (and only sin) causes suffering + If you stop sinning, then you stop suffering + You, Job, have not stopped suffering --> Therefore, you, Job, have not stopped sinning.

Job's Friends: "Job, dear friend, you persist in proclaiming your innocence. Protest all you want, but you're guilty! Your manifold tragedies prove your sin."

Since there might be a time-lag between the cause and effect (eg. between the sinning and the suffering), then perhaps an after-the-fact recognition and confession of one's sins would reinstate the sinner in the Lord's favor:

If you recognize and confess your sins, then you'll stop suffering + You're still suffering --> Therefore, you haven't recognized and confessed your sins.

Job's Friends: "Job, you're not being honest with the Lord. Try to remember what you did..."

On the other hand, when we reflect on this argument from Job's perspective, we begin to see why the doctrine produced such religious and intellectual agony:

Job: "My friends all agree..."

Sin (and only sin) causes suffering + I am suffering --> Therefore, I have sinned.

"But they're wrong! I maintain I am innocent of any wrong-doing or blasphemy and I have not sinned."

I have not sinned + I am suffering --> Therefore, suffering is not caused solely by sin.

"Then why am I suffering? Why?"

A just God would not allow an innocent person to suffer + God is just --> Therefore, God would not allow me to suffer.

"But He is allowing me to suffer! Therefore, maybe..."

A just God would not allow an innocent person to suffer + God is just --> Therefore, I am not suffering.

"No, that's not right! I am suffering! Therefore, could it be..."

A just God would not allow an innocent person to suffer + I am innocent + I am suffering --> Therefore, God is unjust.

"But how could that be? God is just! So therefore..."

I must conclude (from belief and definition) that God is just + I must conclude (from experience and logic) that God is unjust --> Therefore, God is both just and unjust (God is both A and not A in the same sense at the same time)

"But this is impossible! Is there no way out?"

No, there is no way out. However intuitive the writers of the Book of Job might have been, their insight into the problem is essentially correct. A logical contradiction is involved, which, given his premises and his limited data, Job could not have solved.

Since we readers are priviledged to be outside observers of the story, we are let in on a secret from the beginning: we know the whole episode was planned as a test of Job's patience and piety. God and Satan agree to do a number on Job to see how long it will take for Job to break and curse God.

This doctrine of moral law has been a headache for philosophers for thousands of years. Logic didn't solve the problem; it merely clarified a few aspects of the problem.

It's interesting to note the solutions which the writer's of Job give us.

One can be found in 40:6-42:6 and another in 42:7-16.

-ITL-
 
re turner jr
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 12:16 am
@IntoTheLight,
IntoTheLight;105480 wrote:
God and Satan agree to do a number on Job to see how long it will take for Job to break and curse God.

...just a passing note...
There is a distinction between the active will of God and the permissive will of God. In this story God is not the one putting Job to the fire, although He does allow it.


IntoTheLight wrote:
I must conclude (from belief and definition) that God is just + I must conclude (from experience and logic) that God is unjust --> Therefore, God is both just and unjust (God is both A and not A in the same sense at the same time)

"But this is impossible! Is there no way out?"

No, there is no way out. However intuitive the writers of the Book of Job might have been, their insight into the problem is essentially correct. A logical contradiction is involved, which, given his premises and his limited data, Job could not have solved.


Is this your position? that God is both just and unjust?
 
KaseiJin
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 08:28 am
@IntoTheLight,
One thought which firstly comes to mind is that this might much better fit under the Judaism sub-forum. Then, there is also the proposition that this story had originally been before the Mosaic Law Code period, and had been adapted when Judaism shifted more towards monotheism--away from polytheism. Lastly, you mention some 'the late Judaic version of this moral conundrum.' Could you give a source for that? I'd like to verify it against some other source materials.
 
IntoTheLight
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 12:53 am
@re turner jr,
re_turner_jr;106803 wrote:
...just a passing note...
There is a distinction between the active will of God and the permissive will of God. In this story God is not the one putting Job to the fire, although He does allow it.


Interesting distinction, but I'd argue that the difference in actively performing an action and permitting the action to occur is very slight in a moral sense. For example, what would be the difference if I order someone to be killed vs. if I do the killing myself?

Quote:

Is this your position? that God is both just and unjust?


In the example given in Job, I'd say yes.

However, in general I don't believe that the concept of "justice" applies to God nor do I think that God goes around trying to enforce justice, though I do think that God encourages justice.

-ITL-

---------- Post added 11-29-2009 at 10:53 PM ----------

KaseiJin;106849 wrote:
One thought which firstly comes to mind is that this might much better fit under the Judaism sub-forum. Then, there is also the proposition that this story had originally been before the Mosaic Law Code period, and had been adapted when Judaism shifted more towards monotheism--away from polytheism. Lastly, you mention some 'the late Judaic version of this moral conundrum.' Could you give a source for that? I'd like to verify it against some other source materials.


I'll see if I can dig up that source for you. Thanks for asking.

-ITL-
 
KaseiJin
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 07:40 am
@IntoTheLight,
IntoTheLight;107012 wrote:
I'll see if I can dig up that source for you. Thanks for asking.

Thanks, IntoTheLight . . . of course, no need to rush, either--I'm quite near to being overloaded with stuff until the middle of December...pretty much.

IntoTheLight;107012 wrote:
However, in general I don't believe that the concept of "justice" applies to God nor do I think that God goes around trying to enforce justice, though I do think that God encourages justice.

Well, it's really (whether one wishes to ignore it or not, actually) quite like I had pointed out . . . we'll have some problems here. We are looking at a story which, for all purposes at the moment, had been handed down to us in the collection of scrolls which made up several of the canons of, especially, the Second Temple era. This canon, and these scrolls have a very, very specific deity, YHWH.

Therefore, here, in this context, and this topic, what might you be talking about when you say "God"--when in this very context, and this specific topic, in the English bound societies of Christendom, the referent for the word "God" is specifically and only, either the pure OT model (YHWH), or a later, and Greco-Roman influenced, version of that?
 
re turner jr
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 11:34 am
@IntoTheLight,
IntoTheLight;107012 wrote:
Interesting distinction, but I'd argue that the difference in actively performing an action and permitting the action to occur is very slight in a moral sense. For example, what would be the difference if I order someone to be killed vs. if I do the killing myself?

In the example given in Job, I'd say yes.

However, in general I don't believe that the concept of "justice" applies to God nor do I think that God goes around trying to enforce justice, though I do think that God encourages justice.

-ITL-


the example you gave 'ordering someone to be killed' would still be exerting active will. let's try something like, allowing a friend to leave your house intoxicated and them having a wreck vs. intentionally causing a sober friend to have a wreck.

About justice applying to God... In the context of the Job story (and the whole of OT and NT) God is not only just but the very nature of God is the objective point of reference for what is right, wrong, just, unjust, etc...
This same issue was addressed by Jesus in the NT scriptures when the group came upon a man who was crippled from birth. the diciples of Jesus asked if it was the sins of this man or the sins of his parents that caused his condition.
 
KaseiJin
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 05:42 pm
@re turner jr,
re_turner_jr;107080 wrote:
About justice applying to God... In the context of the Job story (and the whole of OT and NT) God is not only just but the very nature of God is the objective point of reference for what is right, wrong, just, unjust, etc...


I do hope that IntoTheLight will clarify the referent behind the word "God," as he (yet am not sure of the gender) may be using it, because I am not sure that he is talking about YHWH , or the later, early Christian model, actually. We'll have to wait to get that information, I'm afraid.

However, the point which you are driving at is a very fair take of the hermeneutically more accurate understanding. The resistor was accusing YHWH of protecting those who worshiped him, thus receiving their reverence, admiration, and faith. The resistor's charge was kind of along the lines of, 'well let's see if they'll still adore and worship you, if you remove your protection. I dare you to remove that protection. Additionally, if you do not, then how can you say that their worship of you is really 'true and from-the-heart-simply-because-they-want-to-worship?' In a way it was a challenge to YHWH's right of sovereignty. Partially, for this reason as well, it is thought to have been a pre-Mosaic, city-kingdom based moral story--the king has sovereignty, and in the end, will protect the subjects, so their reverence to the king is due.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 09:23 pm
@IntoTheLight,
IntoTheLight;105480 wrote:
It was widely believe that:

Sin (and only sin) causes suffering + Job is suffering. --> Therefore, Job has sinned.
This is certainly not the interpretation that I've come to understand, both as a Jew and having read much on it.

The whole thrust of the story comes down to this:

1) Job is a GOOD person
2) When Job suffers, it seems (and he feels) that it is completely unjust
3) God's ways are not to be questioned, and Job cannot help but come around to this

It's very similar to the story of Abraham and Isaac, only God is more removed in the story of Job.
 
prothero
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 10:06 pm
@IntoTheLight,
[QUOTE=IntoTheLight;105480] Sin (and only sin) causes suffering + Job is suffering. --> Therefore, Job has sinned. -[/QUOTE] That was the common perception in ancient times. That good fortune was a sign of divine favor and bad fortune a sign of divine punishment or disinterest. Kings ruled by divine right and the wealthy achieved their status through gods favor. The book of Job sets out to question that assumption.

[QUOTE=IntoTheLight;105480] Job's Friends: "Job, dear friend, you persist in proclaiming your innocence. Protest all you want, but you're guilty! Your manifold tragedies prove your sin." -[/QUOTE] Job's friends are merely representing the dominant view of the time. The story however lets you know from the beginning that Job's friends are wrong and that something else is in question and at work. The story is questioning that ancient view about divine favor.

[QUOTE=IntoTheLight;105480] I have not sinned + I am suffering --> Therefore, suffering is not caused solely by sin. [/QUOTE]
IntoTheLight;105480 wrote:

"Then why am I suffering? Why?" -
Job knows he is innocent. The readers know Job is innocent. The story has another message. The dominant view is wrong. Suffering may be undeserved and affect the innocent.

[QUOTE=IntoTheLight;105480] A just God would not allow an innocent person to suffer + God is just --> Therefore, God would not allow me to suffer. [/QUOTE]
IntoTheLight;105480 wrote:

A just God would not allow an innocent person to suffer + I am innocent + I am suffering --> Therefore, God is unjust. -
And in the story the punishment of Job does seem arbitrary. A bet between god and "satan". Suffering may be undeserved and suffering may be a test of true faith. Not all suffering is deserved or a sign of god's disfavor.

[QUOTE=IntoTheLight;105480] It's interesting to note the solutions which the writer's of Job give us. [/QUOTE]
IntoTheLight;105480 wrote:

One can be found in 40:6-42:6 and another in 42:7-16.
-ITL-
God does not directly answer Job and the question about undeserved suffering. God basically says that man is not in a position to question god's actions. Divine ways are not mans ways and divine justice is not mans justice.
The book of Job is part of the wisdom literature of the Bible.
The book of Ecclesiastes also comments on suffering and justice perhaps in an even more cryptic and cynical fashion.
 
IntoTheLight
 
Reply Tue 1 Dec, 2009 06:51 pm
@KaseiJin,
KaseiJin;107046 wrote:
Thanks, IntoTheLight . . . of course, no need to rush, either--I'm quite near to being overloaded with stuff until the middle of December...pretty much.


Join the club. =) December of 2009 is a complex time for me in a lot of areas. More on that in other posts in other bases...

Quote:

Well, it's really (whether one wishes to ignore it or not, actually) quite like I had pointed out . . . we'll have some problems here. We are looking at a story which, for all purposes at the moment, had been handed down to us in the collection of scrolls which made up several of the canons of, especially, the Second Temple era. This canon, and these scrolls have a very, very specific deity, YHWH.


It's interesting to bring up what is "cannon" because the ideas surrounding it are widely diverse. For example, the Apocrypha, which is considered "cannon" in the Roman Catholic faith is not considered "cannon" in the Protestant faith.

-- This confused me to no end when I discovered the Apocrypha as a Protestant United Methodist Christian (in my early teens).

Quote:

Therefore, here, in this context, and this topic, what might you be talking about when you say "God"--when in this very context, and this specific topic, in the English bound societies of Christendom, the referent for the word "God" is specifically and only, either the pure OT model (YHWH), or a later, and Greco-Roman influenced, version of that?


Well..now, that's a different topic altogether when we get into personal interpretation.

I mentioned the Book of Job in a general philosophical context, but not because I personally believe in it.

I have no faith in the Christian "God" nor in the theology of Christianity for several reasons. When I get a chance, I'll start a new thread on it because it would be an interesting discussion.

-ITL-
 
KaseiJin
 
Reply Tue 1 Dec, 2009 08:06 pm
@IntoTheLight,
I appreciate your getting back, IntoTheLight. When I had mentioned canon, in my earlier post (just to make sure things are transparent), I had been talking of the most likely used canon during the Second Temple Period; which ended in 70 CE. Even with that, of course, there is some grey zone (meaning some uncertainty as to what had been considered canonical, and by which cult of Judaism). Nevertheless, the general canon was the Palestinian canon (as opposed to Alexandrian, Samaritan, or Babylonican canon) in the Palestine area.

Yes, I fully understand your position regarding your outlook towards either the Christian god-model, or the Judaic god-model, and I am surely right with you there. Again, however, when discussing the matters from these several data bases, we have to hold the god-models as they are for consistency in argument. . . that's all. So, when talking in any philosophical matter, even, about a scroll of the god ("God") of the Tanakh, we are exactly talking about that model as given and described/prescribed by those very works.
 
 

 
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