(Note: If you haven’t read Job before, or its been a while, going back and reading or re-reading it again is a good idea prior to reading this post.)
“Oh, that I knew where I might find Him; that I might come to His seat! I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which He would answer me, and understand what He would say to me. Would He contend with me in His great power? No! But He would take note of me. There the upright could reason with Him, and I would be delivered forever from my Judge.” – Job
Before I move on to the predestination/free-will contradiction, which I intend to unravel shortly, I would like to give a biblical illustration of the use of reason (the “reference ability”, as I term it, or soul) in understanding the Creator and how He relates to man. I say illustration, not proof, for two reasons. The first is that it is not the intention of this blog to be a Bible study. On the contrary, I intend to prove my theological premises via my innate sense of reason, rooted in logical metaphysics. I will use the Bible to iterate or reiterate, or to provide an example of the metaphysical premise I am defining and defending for the purposes of enlightening myself and readers to how this premise may look when practically applied via our religion and our faith (which is based, again, on reason, as I have explained somewhat (but will do so more later) in a previous post). But I do not desire use the Bible as proof of my philosophy; for to do this would constitute an obviously circular argument and, further, would move me into the direction of my Calvinist friends, and others, where the assumption is that the Bible doesn’t have to be particularly logical, or metaphysically consistent, or non-contradictory, because it’s either too lofty (ironically) to be judged as needing to conform to the logic of reality, or because it is too spiritual, and thus, stands in stark contrast by definition to logic or reality…thus, it is granted something akin to massive artistic license under the guise of “inerrancy”. Note that the logical conclusion of both of these arguments leads to the same place: the bible doesn’t NEED anyone to illustrate or to organize a logical metaphysical premise for its truths because it is the Bible; the Bible can be used to prove itself. Even attempting such a feat is, in some circles, is an exercise in rank heresy. Obviously, I completely disagree. This is the kind of “logic” that drives people from the religion, no to it. But that never seems to deter the more fundamentalist members of our religion from from appealing to “infallibility” in defense of their own particular interpretations, and when responding to metaphysical (or logical, or theological) disagreements. “The Bible said it; I believe it; that’s the end of it”, is the sum of many people”s philosophical concern in regards to their Christian beliefs. While I can respect that this is a comfortable and uncomplicated view to hold, it is decidedly not the point of this blog.
Now, to reiterate, I define reason essentially as you will find it explained in Wikipedia. In summary, it is that faculty of man by which abstract, conceptual truth can be known, and the outcomes of its contextual applications can be apprehended by the senses, that the mind may (also by the r-ability) grasp this truth (or, one might call it, in metaphysical terms: law, e.g. natural laws, mathematical laws, consistent cause and effect interactions laws, etc.) so that it may be understood to indeed be true (though, not necessarily permanent…for a “law” as apprehended by man’s reason does not need to conform to the idea of perpetuity; man’s reason allows him to continually see relationship between cause and effect outcome, and declare that cause and effect rational, even if it isn’t constant, meaning, perpetual. (For example, you dislike the Red Sox, but you are at a game in Fenway Park and so decide to root for them anyway just this once, because your very best friend, with you, is a fan). The fundamental aspect of man’s reason is its ability to see the relationship as being a truth, or law, regardless of how permanent that relationship may be.) Thus you could argue that reason itself is the utter TRUTH (and I do argue it) that is the reference for all the other truths, no matter how small, large, short or long term, temporal or eternal. And these truths of course, are stacked, and parsed by the same reason, so that rooting for a team you dislike is a reasonable exception to another axiom, which is referenced by another, rooted in another, and so on and so forth.
In this post what I will submit is this: that Job’s appeal to God’s mercy and his friends’ understanding and sympathy is an appeal to reason. Job is a book about a man struggling with the metaphysics and rationale of what he is enduring, according to the truths he fully knows and comprehends. Note how in his soliloquies there is never a hint of the idea that he could be misunderstanding that which he knows must be true about himself and God. He is fully convinced in his own mind that he has full grasp and awareness of the rational, cause and effect metaphysics of the truths of his relationship with God; and of God. This, of course, flies in the very face of Calvinist theology, where man can never presume upon his understanding of anything about God. No, Job never questions his own epistemology. He knows what he knows and fully believes that he does, indeed, know it.
Understanding of how he knows what he knows and the truth of what he knows is never something he calls into question (take note, his friends DO…which, in light of my fifteen years as a devoted Calvinist fully immersed in the doctrines of total depravity and inability of man, I find extremely enlightening and interesting). His knowledge of God and his metaphysical and rational understanding of God and His goodness–according to his well-understood concepts of right and wrong, just and unjust, etc.–is something Job simply presumes. Now, though I would argue that his friends do not consistently presume this (at least once Job is forced to explain that he knows exactly what they know, and believes what they believe about God and that they are not “better than [him]”), it does seem as though, in the course of the discussions, all the parties involved at least have a general understanding that they are proceeding from agreed upon standards of truth, and that the focus of the debates is the interpretation of the unfortunate events which have constituted Job’s demise, and not on defining exactly how they know who and what God is.
Thus, as far as Job, the man, is concerned, the book is purely about an individual who is judging God and what he sees by appealing to the truth of metaphysical rationality. So, what I am saying is that man’s reason forms the singular basis for his fundamental understanding of how he relates to his Creator. It is why man can even know Him in the first place. It is reason that allows man to even grasp the concept of a Creator in the first place. Reason itself, in the form of the the soul, precedes even God in man’s consciousness. I’m not making a quantitative statement on degree of importance, I am simply pointing out the fact that reason is itself the very beginning of man and everything he understands. This being the case, we begin to understand just why and how Job was so utterly tortured in his mind; why he writhed in as much exasperation as he did in pain. Why he longed that the day he was born had never been. Because, I submit, if God no longer fits into man’s reason…if the Creator of all and all truth removes himself from the framework and structure of man’s reference ability, then all men are by definition functionally insane. There can be no point to their existence because there can be no point to ANYTHING at all, including God, because, without reason, or rather, in the case of irrelevant reason (meaning God functions outside of rational metaphysics/understanding) life, by definition, as a function of the divine work of the Creator, becomes not only irrelevant, but in a way, a literal living hell. And I believe that this formed a significant part of Job’s torment. He could not psychologically cope with the idea that God could decide to remove Himself from rational understanding according to logical metaphysics and the ability to recognize truth/laws in the form of abstract, conceptual truths; could remove Himself from His own laws which Job could, by virtue of reason, know and depend on consistently. With that gone, Job realized that his life could mean nothing; and he lamented his birth.
In the book, Job fully acknowledges two things:
1. That God is always supreme; what He wills comes to pass, regardless of what may be a moral or rational truth; what may be metaphysically or pragmatically reasonable. As the Creator, Job recognizes and concedes that this is entirely God’s prerogative; and He is just and good for doing whatever He does because He is God. Job recognizes that the supreme truth of God being the Creator of everything means that God is always good, even outside man’s understanding, reason, or moral assumptions. (I hesitate to say “truths” here, and prefer assumptions, even though this word may not be completely appropriate…one must be careful; the point is that God can do anything He wants, and He is still just and good, because God’s justice and goodness is a function of Himself, not on laws or ethics that are applicable for man’s created context. I trust we can leave it there and say safely that the point has been made.)
2. God is not acting towards Job in a way that is consistent with God’s metaphysical truth; and by this I mean that God is acting in a way that could not possibly be true, because, by God acting contrary to metaphysical reason which Job understands must be true for God to be God, then God cannot BE God. That is BE all powerful and all supreme and all perfect. For the nature and truth of God demands that He act according to the metaphysical truths that make His existence possible. Being perfect means that perfection must be a truth that man can acknowledge, and it must have meaning, and thus, God cannot defy that meaning and still be God.
You may see a contradiction between these two points, and you see correctly. They are both true, but on the other hand, this is of course impossible. It is truly a contradiction that no logic or understanding of man can rectify. And if you see this, you are astute, and you begin to understand Job’s psychological torment. Both ARE true, and yet, this cannot make any sense but that man is born to be functionally insane; to exist in a world where reality is a dream, and the surreality of dreams passes for reality. Where there can be no distinction between up and down because even though they may be “true”, they are meaningless, and cannot, then, be trusted.
This is the heart of Job’s misery, I believe. Worse than even the physical torment and the loss of his family. When we have reason by which we can grasp the eternal truth of God, everything has a perspective. We understand that the anchor of the universe is comprehended, and thus, even in the midst of great tragedy, we can find order and sense and comfort. When God removes Himself from our ability to reason, our reference ability, then the physical gives way to the addition of emotional torment, followed inevitably by madness. All life is twisted, and in Job’s case, an enigma of a nightmare with no code to break into the light of the understanding of it. A maze of horror with only one dead end after another. Put this way, we can understand better his long, and sometimes scarcely coherent, anguished monologues.
Job is constantly making pleas for God to be who He is. That is, to judge Job according to what He Himself is rationally culpable; to the abstract truths to which He, by virtue of being God, must obligate Himself in order to be, in fact, God. In order for God to be God, He MUST respect the rational truths which man has grasped by his innate and God-given reason. Without God adhering to this reason, man’s existence is pointless, and God becomes the Creator of the redundant. And as such, He makes Himself a hypocrite. Job cannot suffer this thought, and so cries of anguish and pleas to God for justice are all that is left for him to do. Job begs to be treated in a manner in keeping with the GOOD he understands, by his reason, which he doggedly adheres to, and insists that he has done, in accordance with God’s commands and God’s rational and metaphysical truth.
We see ultimately that, at the end, Job does not forsake God. But I think the reason isn’t what one may at first suppose. Upon first glance, and superficial introspection, we assume that Job’s trust in God is merely a conceding of the supremacy of God to do whatever He wants to do because, of course, it is a prerogative of His omnipotent “office”. But I do not think it is this at all. Instead, I believe that Job makes a conscious decision that he will trust God according to, not in spite of, what he (Job) understands to be metaphysically reasonable in regards to God. He will trust that in order for God to actually be God, and to be all the omni-plus things that are inherent to God, God MUST act according to Job’s rational and real metaphysical understanding of God’s truth, and that, this being the case, there MUST be an explanation for his predicament that fits this proper understanding of God, even though it seems as though God is not keeping to His own metaphysical obligations. That is, again, those things which MUST be true in order for God to be who He is.
Job recognizes that the only solution to his misery–the only shred of rational understanding to bring comfort–is to trust that God is not, in fact, a hypocrite. That what is happening must somehow be a function of God’s rational truth, not in spit of it or in opposition to it. Job will not forsake God based on THIS, and not on anything else. And this premise has two aspects to it.
The first is that God cannot be God if He is not metaphysically consistent, thus, forsaking God would be a moot and irrelevant move on his part. God can have no power or bearing upon Job’s temporal or eternal future, and so forsaking him is a less viable option than attempting to reason with Him. It is nonsense on top of misery. And the second is that forsaking God would be, for Job, an act of acquiescing to the very thing he is refusing to accept: that God can act unjustly, contrary to what he knows to be reasonably true based on his correct understanding of who God is, in light of the righteousness he (Job) has done.
The moral (or, perhaps, one of the morals, I should say…though, it may indeed possibly be THE moral) of the story of Job is that when faith in God means directly rejecting what we know to be real, based on the the inherent reason we have been given, innately, by God–that is, on what we understand of reality–then what we really are doing is rejecting that very same faith. Outside of reason, then, there can be no faith. Without reason, there is nothing by which we can ever trust God. God’s very existence becomes irrelevant to man; and therefore, God cannot, in fact, be God.
Faith no longer has any foundation by which it can be reasonable. And if it isn’t reasonable, then there can be no expectation of consequences of that faith whatsoever. There can be no trust that anything is true at all, including God. If the Creator removes Himself from how man conceptually organizes his world and his ideas so that constant, knowable outcomes can be integrated, then man’s very existence, and ALL the laws which man grasps by his reason become utterly pointless. And if they are pointless, then they are laws without meaning. And laws without meaning are ultimately truths that do not serve. And a truth that does not serve is not a truth at all. A truth that cannot be trusted to effect any outcome of any significance is not really “true”. This is because a truth or law is designed to help man organize his world. If his Creator has pulled Himself away from the truth that organizes creation, how are the truths any longer true? The original intent of any law or truth is eliminated at its source: the Creator. The purpose for creation itself is gone, thus, all truths cease to be true, because creation cannot functionally exist.
So faith itself, absent an anchor of reason, which to me IS the soul, becomes a capricious, purposeless idea. The Creator has removed Himself from being a rational object of faith. Thus, faith is dead. And this is what Job refuses to concede. And the irony is that when we trust in God’s metaphysical TRUTH and refuse to surrender it to appeals for irrational “faith” based on our submission to blindness and inherent ignorance or madness (such as proffered by Job’s “friends”), we are able to exhibit real, effective, and rational faith. Faith in God truly becomes faith that God is who He is, and does what He does for the benefit of Himself and man, based on conceptual truths that are factual and real and that man can grasp because in order for God to be God and Creation to be what it is–which is, essentially, to exist–these abstract rational truths/laws MUST be true and man MUST have innate ability to access them. In this way, we can trust that He will never stop being perfect. In other words, we can trust that He will never stop being God. And because He is God, He will never violate man’s reason. For a violation of man’s reason is a violation of Himself.
And this is why Job would not reject God.