Sunday, July 3, 2011

Testing faith: an alternative reading of Job

What is real faith? Do I believe just because of the benefits to me [peace, comfort, hope, better relationships, sense of purpose, potential prosperity from following Biblical wisdom]? Or will I still believe even if I suffer materially and relationally?

Indeed, critics of religion such as Feuerbach, Freud, and Marx considered Christianity was not true and explained away the persistence of belief by claiming that there were hidden reasons people believed.

These were some of the questions addressed by Walter Moberly in a nice talk he gave at the conference on the Academy and the Church this week.
[Aside: all his talks were given while sitting and without Powerpoint. I found it intriguing and challenging that this uncommon delivery did not diminish the effectiveness or clarity of his talks.]

Moberly suggested the "Modern hermeneutics of suspicion are anticipated in the Biblical text; and so should be taken seriously."
Some would portray the narrative of Job 1-2:10 as describing a cosmic battle between God and Satan for the soul of Job. However, Moberly pointed out that the word "Satan" which appears in our English translations of this passage are misleading. The Hebrew (ha-satan) is a term with a definite article, not a name. "the satan" is a term akin to a prosecuting lawyer.
[It seems the devil is in the details!]

The text presents a stark contrast between self seeking and serving God regardless of the consequences (good or bad). Faith should not be motivated by self interest.
Job holds to God "for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health".
The "life of faith is a life of purification of motive and desire as well as of conduct."
The Patient Job, by Gerard Segners. Notice his wife on the right, urging him to abandon his integrity and curse God.

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