Tuesday, May 13, 2003

I had fun in English class today. We were going over the Book of Job, that eternal mystery. The professor put on the board, a couple of proofs:

Job's Friends:

1. Suffering comes from God.
2. God is just.
3. Job is suffering.
Therefore: Job is guilty of some sin that God is punishing.


1. Suffering comes from God.
2. God is just.
3: Job is suffering.
4. Job is innocent of any sin.
Therefore: WTF?

I said that implicit in both proofs is the belief that suffering is evil; as in 1a: Suffering is evil. What if we switch it up, and assume that suffering doesn't necessarily equate to evil? Then we're out of the loop. We have detached statements which cannot form such a negative conclusion. He countered with: "It's good to inflict suffering on an innocent?" I said, it depends on the context. For instance, for me to say, burn a newborn child with cigarette butts, that would be evil. But for God to dispose of what belongs to Him, which has no meaning outside of His own love, perhaps not. He laughed and said, "Well, maybe. I do think that's what the author of Job is trying to get at."

I have to skip school tomorrow to take my sister to the Cleveland Clinic. I'm sort of annoyed because I really want to revisit Job. They're still on him tomorrow. I want to elaborate my point. For instance, while we would all agree that it's evil to torture a newborn human infant, no one sheds a tear for the newborn baby ants we very likely stomp each day on our way into the building. We don't care about stomping on ants. We don't care about the bee we stepped on in English class one day, and unmercifully destroyed. And why? Because ants and bees aren't really important to human beings. Human beings are important to humans.

I like to think that human beings have an implicit worth. But I can't detatch that worth from God. Why does life matter? Because we have a purpose: To love God. Why do humans matter? Because they are made in the image and likeness of God, and they have a unique purpose in His universe. If there were no God, there would be no purpose, and there would be no wrong nor right, and so it wouldn't matter if we tortured to death newborn infants. Does God have to love human beings? It's a difficult question. To say that God has to do anything smacks of limiting his freedom, which we know is absolute. But if we say that He doesn't, in my opinion, is to question His infinite goodness.

There are, of course, a difference between real limitations and logical ones. It's different to not be able to make a square-circle, than it is to not be able to, say, steal a car. God can do anything; but that doesn't mean that He will do anything. God is the God of Love, but I don't think that that necessarily mean that logically, all extensions of Him must be love. Just as it might be accurate to describe someone as a "tall person" and yet, to note that they have "short fingers." But, if God is infinitely everything good, and I do believe that love is greater than hate, then God must be infinitely lovely and loving. Therefore, to be God, He must, definitionally, love every single human being. I do not love the ants, which is why I don't give two figs if they suffer or die. But God does and must love humanity, so He must be distrought when people suffer. Especially someone who is as perfect and upright as Job.

The only solution is to say that somehow, suffering is not evil. It certainly seems evil when you're the one suffering. But there must be a greater good to it. God could not logically just inflict someone, or rather, allow the inflicting of suffering on someone, for no reason at all. That would make God evil, and we know that God is good. So what is the greater good in the story of Job? It seems weak to kill seven people and countless animals to say, teach Job's friends a lesson about judging people. It seems weak to afflict someone with boils to remind them, and by proxy everyone else around, of where their bounty stems. But what other explanation is there? God creates the light and the darkness; the peace and the calamity; God gives life and God can take it away. But it's small consolation to those who suffer and die. I'm not satsfied by God's answer to Job that Job wasn't around when God created the heavens and the earth, and the rain and the dew, and the rivers and the mountains. But oddly enough, Job is. He repents in dust and ashes. Job is satisfied. And, who knows what Job has seen and experienced, while talking with God?

I believe that answers are out there. And that we won't have to be little children forever. When you're three years old, if your mother tells you to go to bed "just because," you're not satisfied with the answer. Why should you suffer, you ask. But your mother knows better. When you're sixty years old, you're allowed to make your own bedtime. And generally, it's quite a bit like what your mother made you do when you were little. When you're children, you don't know. You don't see the big picture. But when you're grown, you see. Perhaps that's the way our universe works. "For now we see through a mirror darkly..." and all that.

I have that strange, fundie, morbid obsession with the end. I want to know everything there is to know. I want to spend eternity figuring out this silly little planet. And, I do believe that I can do some of that here. I can find some of the answers; I can find reflections of the answers. And that is the purpose of my life. To seek to knowledge. To know. That's what I'll do.