The Theology of the Cross in Job Says No to Natural Theology and the Theology of Glory

The book of Job provides such a visceral and existential reality toward unfolding human suffering in the context of a God-world relation. What is interesting (and this is an insight I picked up while in Ray Lubeck’s class in undergrad Old Testament Biblical Theology), is that the whole story of Job is framed by the ‘suffering-servant’ motif which starts with Moses, and is reiterated in Isaiah jobsuffering53. Understood through this canon, the book of Job ought to be read through a redemptive-historical nexus wherein the suffering of Job, while evincing existential reality and heart-ache, should not be read as an ad hoc peering into one man’s suffering as an exemplary for how we should deal with our own suffering (even though it does provide depth for this!), but instead Job’s suffering should be understood as a foreshadowing of The Suffering-Servant’s suffering for all humanity. Job’s suffering then is not simply a gratuitous one that is offered as a stand-alone story of how God and evil in the world might relate; but this story provided by Job’s life is oozing rich with cross-shaped depth that finds its real reality in the cross of Jesus Christ. We see Job vindicated by Yahweh at the end of the book, over against his “friends” or naysayers who thought they knew best; and yet what is realized is that for some unfathomable reason, God most often (as Job illustrates) has us walk through horrific instances of suffering if for no other reason but that we would cease trusting in our own resources and learn a pattern of trust and filial relationship with Him that will be much more precious than Saint Peter’s notion of pure gold (i.e. ‘our faith’). Further, what this pattern of suffering and vindication also demonstrates is that God is not interested in instant gratification, but He is long-suffering, and understands the ultimate outcomes of such suffering; nevertheless, as the Psalmist notes, he also remembers that our frames are but dust. Job’s vindication, is largely one where his friend’s “wisdom” about God is shown to be foolish and ridiculous, and Job’s simple relational and dynamic trust in God was shown to be lasting and fruitful.

One more interesting point to me that stands out about Job’s “friends;” they were basing their knowledge of God on a natural theology. They thought that God worked a certain way, based on a certain sense of creational power that they had observed by way of reflection; but what Job’s vindication shows at the end of the book, is that God’s real wisdom comes revealed in cruciform shape. A shape wherein we have no resources in and of ourselves, and in that moment where we are in total desperation, and absolute dependence on God’s sustenance alone. I can’t think of a book in the Bible where an analogy of faith versus an analogy of being is more starkly contrasted than what we find in the book of Job.

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4 Responses to The Theology of the Cross in Job Says No to Natural Theology and the Theology of Glory

  1. Pingback: The Theology of the Cross in Job Says No to Natural Theology and the Theology of Glory — The Evangelical Calvinist | Talmidimblogging

  2. Great insights here Bobby. I think your correlation between Job and the futility, if not outright condemnation of natural theology is spot on. It occurs to me that further reinforcing the Suffering Servant motif is the emphasis throughout the book, whether from the narrator in the beginning or from Job himself during his discourses, on Job’s innocence. In this light, his suffering appeared terribly unjust. Christ is the truly Innocent One whose suffering, in one sense, was the greatest injustice ever committed in history, yet it was precisely in his suffering that the righteousness of God was revealed, thus providing the final and only answer to the questions of Job.

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  3. Bobby Grow says:

    Using a literary device, yes, it is dramatic irony; we get to see the big picture which Job didn’t get to see—particularly within the canonical and lived narrative of God’s life in Christ.

    In the Hebrew in Job, as I recall, there is also a shift from calling God Elohim to Yahweh as Job gets further into His suffering. So relationality is forged between God and Job in the furnace of suffering. Movement from a generic to a revealed conception of God is made through the desperation of death and suffering.

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  4. harrisonkm says:

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