Deus ex machina

Even though I managed to offend a number of people with my last post on Job, I’ll take another stab at it.

In chapter 8, Fr Pat notes how Job’s second friend Bildad has a very mechanistic view of God. He has a very fixed view of cause and effect, or to use a biblical term, sowing and reaping. Bildad’s views is more like believing in karma.

Bildad reminds me of when I lived on the edge of the Word of Faith movement, conversant in Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, John Osteen (that’s Joel’s late father), and the like. Giving to God (or anybody working for him, especially Faith ministries) was money in the bank, so to speak. All you had to do was claim your 100-fold return. Even though the proof-text for this was the parable of the sower, no one ever claimed a thirty-fold or sixty-fold return.

But it was as simple as that. Put money in, get a 10,000% return on your investment in God’s. No wonder it was popular. I suppose it is still popular, I don’t know. Joel apparently has a church many times the size of his father’s (same church, different location) but I don’t know if it is built on God’s Ponzi scheme. But then Charles Ponzi wasn’t also a best-selling author.

But God doesn’t work like that. Hence, there has always been a huge turnover in Faith churches. Some move on to more stable theology, others just fade away. Stony ground and all that, apparently.

On the other side are people who think God is out to get them. If they mess up, they know trouble is around the corner.

Fortunately, God is a personal God. Just like with Job, He has a plan for every life. He does bless giving and He does chastise those whom He loves. But just like Job’s friends, we are not privy to His counsel. When we judge the temporal circumstances of others based on our outside observations, we have as much chance of being correct as Bildad. Our job is to pray and encourage – two things Bildad doesn’t do.

I have to say that the interpretation that takes the 30, 60, and 100-fold return in the parable of the sower, substitutes money for the Gospel, then turning it into a spiritual formula, is ridiculous. There, I’ve offended somebody. But I honestly have to wonder how I ever though this was hermaneutically reasonable.


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