Wednesday, March 4, 2015

the trouble with theological zeal

Behold, God is mighty, and does not despise any;
he is mighty in strength of understanding.
He does not keep the wicked alive,
but gives the afflicted their right.
Job 36:5-6

Once again Elihu's theology is consistent with Who God is and generally how the justice of God operates in the world. Elihu magnifies God. The problem is that Elihu is theologizing from a limited perspective. He dares to explain why Job was afflicted using his theology to answer the questions. But Elihu has assumed too much about Job that only God can know. He can say that God punishes the wicked and never is capricious with people. But then to infer in his statements that Job's suffering is God's punishment assumes that the only other option is that God is being vindictive in a random or cruel way. Elihu is too black and white in his conclusions concerning suffering.

If anything can be learned from Job's young friend Elihu it is that although zeal and faith are both good, they do not always have the answers, no matter how worshipful and respectful we are of God in our theology. Elihu reminds me of a young and restless calvinist. His strong theology comes out of deep respect and love for God. It is manly and robust. But it is used forcefully and ultimately unwisely. Only God knows why Job is being tested. And Elihu's theology doesn't allow for the real underlying reason for Job's pain. He thus lets good theology lead him to the wrong conclusions.

Thirty years ago I obtained my first theological degree. I thought I was something. I figured I'd set the church on fire with the way I would teach what I knew! And now, with three sets of letters behind my name, I am realistically more humble. I don't know all that God knows and I never will. I am in awe of God and I think I only have a blurry moving photo of the fringes of His ways with which to frame my beliefs. It is enough. It is amazing. It is powerful, but God's ways are deeper than what I think I know about Him. It keeps me digging through scripture and worshiping my great God!

No comments:

Post a Comment