Job 27: Until I Die I Will Not Renounce My Integrity

Job did confront God. It might read shocking to some who imagine him composing songs of praise to God on his bed of nails. In the end, though, all was forgiven and he was cut considerable slack due to the agonizing stress he was under. His three interrogators, on the other hand, were cut less slack, since they used their good health to pound their fellow into the ground with their ‘holiness’ and assumed ‘theology’ which held that if you suffer, it serves you right. You must have done something wrong.

The scripture from Job that makes our day as Jehovah’s Witnesses—you can almost hear the cymbals crash at Kingdom Hall when it is cited—is “Until I die, I will not renounce my integrity.” Right it is that it should be highlighted, for it demonstrates that man can, under the worst of circumstances, maintain integrity to God.

But it is part of a package: The full verse reads: “It is unthinkable for me to declare you men righteous! Until I die, I will not renounce my integrity!

Part of keeping his integrity lies in not letting these three bullies gaslight him, not ‘declaring them righteous.’ He knows who he is. He knows he is not what they say, a hypocrite who fully deserves his own downfall. “I will maintain my righteousness and never let it go; My heart will not condemn me as long as I live.” (vs 6) Defending himself before these three louts is part of ‘not renouncing his integrity.’

Apparently, not renouncing his integrity even involves challenging God. Job begins his speech with a preamble just 3 verses earlier: “As surely as God lives, who has deprived me of justice, As the Almighty lives, who has made me bitter.

Of course he  confronts his Creator!’ Unless there really is a hellfire, he couldn’t possibly suffer more than he is doing at present! What’s he got to lose? What’s God going to do—kill him? That’s exactly what he wants. Although we go on and on about Job’s faith in the resurrection, even writing a song about it (and it’s a good song, too), the context of his remark appears to show he doesn’t have any faith in a resurrection at all:

He says: “For there is hope even for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again, And its twigs will continue to grow. . . . At the scent of water it will sprout; And it will produce branches like a new plant. But a man dies and lies powerless; When a human expires, where is he? Waters disappear from the sea, And a river drains away and dries up. Man also lies down and does not get up. Until heaven is no more, they will not wake up, Nor will they be aroused from their sleep.” (Job 14: 7-12)

so that the verses we like, the verses that follow, read as though something he would like to see, but fat chance that they will! Wishful thinking they appear to be, no more: 

O that in the Grave you would conceal me, That you would hide me until your anger passes by, That you would set a time limit for me and remember me! If a man dies, can he live again? I will wait all the days of my compulsory service Until my relief comes. You will call, and I will answer you. You will long for the work of your hands.”

It’s a little hard to tell for sure, but those first verses hardly seem a preamble to lauding God for the resurrection hope.

Nonetheless, God makes it all good at the end. Job makes no accusation to God beyond what can easily be explained by the suffering he undergoes. His companions, under no stress at all, go well beyond anything Job says. ‘What does God care if you do what’s right? It’s impossible to please him. Even the angels can’t do it!’ — they revisit the point several times. ‘The very heavens are not clean in his eyes,’ say they.

While one might come online and chew out an Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar, one does not do it with a Job, condemnatory though some of his reasonings were. That role must be reserved for God. Even Elihu, who has words of correction for Job, makes clear his motive: “If you have something to say, reply to me. Speak, for I want to prove you right,”  he says to Job. (33: 32) In the meantime, he’s not going to take advantage of his health to bully a sick man, as the other three fellows do: “Look! I am just like you before the true God; From the clay I too was shaped. So no fear of me should terrify you, And no pressure from me should overwhelm you.” (33: 6-7)

No one wants to be a Zophar, who to put it in modern terms, visits a patient on a respirator with COVID-19, who has lost his entire family to that plague, has lost everything else as well, who says something rash in his agony, so Zophar responds: “I have heard a reproof that insults me—my understanding impels me to reply.” (!) You almost expect him to challenge Job to a duel! It’s his mission to defend God from any ill talk, regardless of circumstances, but there are times to give it a rest.

You can’t tell a person that their experience is not theirs. No one should try. Everyone will have their say until God debuts with 70 questions to make you say, as did Job, ‘maybe I was a little rash.

 

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Job 29-30: Taking Delight in Another’s Downfall

Why do I think of that Billie Halliday song”

‘And when you’ve got money, you’ve got lots of friends, crowding round your door. When the money’s gone, and all your spending ends, they won’t be round anymore.’

It’s a lot worse than that for Job. They do come around—to spit on him. What is it with people who take delight in another’s downfall?

“They mock me even in their songs; I have become an object of scorn to them.  They detest me and keep their distance from me; They do not hesitate to spit in my face.  Because God has disarmed me and humbled me, They throw off all restraint in my presence. On my right they rise up like a mob; They put me to flight And put up barriers of destruction in my path. They tear up my roadways And make my calamity worse, Without anyone to stop them.  (Job 30:10-13)

Not like in the old days at all when Job “used to go out to the city gate And take my seat in the public square, The young men would see me and step aside, And even the old men would rise and remain standing. Princes refrained from speaking; They would put their hand over their mouth. The voices of the prominent men were silenced; Their tongue was stuck to the roof of their mouth. Whoever heard me would speak well of me, And those who saw me would testify for me. For I would rescue the poor who cried for help, (29:7-12)

It was a big deal to be at the city gate. Here the JW Library footnote links to Insight Book coverage:

“Because of the important usages of the city’s gateway, it was a high honor to sit down with the older men of the land in the gates.” The point is then illustrated with several references to scripture:

The capable wife’s husband “is well-known in the city gates, Where he sits among the elders of the land,” (Proverbs 31:23) which is no place for a fool: “True wisdom is unattainable for a fool [who] has nothing to say in the city gate.” (Proverbs 24:7)

David, when he is on the run, frets over being the “talk of those sitting in the city gate.” (Psalm 69:12)

To ‘crush the afflicted one in the gate’ meant judicial corruption: legal cases were handled there: “Do not rob the poor man because he is poor, And do not crush the lowly man in the city gate,” (Proverbs 22:22) something Job never did (see above). “For I know how many your revolts are And how great your sins are,” said Amos to a later people: “You harass the righteous, You take bribes, And you deny the rights of the poor in the city gate.”

and several others.

Cheering over a respected one’s downfall. What’s with that? I think of Davey the Kid’s talk, many years ago, on how love does not rejoice over unrighteous (1 Corinthians 13:6) No, it does not. But, he asked, might we even take a secret delight in the troubles of another? Then he illustrated, with ‘So and so was reproved,’ (hooking his thumb in his belt and thrusting himself forward—it was a memorable gesture) ‘But I wasn’t!’

 

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Beards Get the Green Light

My first thought upon hearing the Update was that my on-again, off-again Bible study with Santa Claus might once more be on-again. He was doing so well until he saw that magazine equating a shortening beard to spiritual progress. Now, maybe, just maybe, he will resume his study. Of course, I’ll still have to help him with the holiday thing, but at least the beard thing is no more.

 

If an entire Update dedicated to beards now being okay seems like overkill, one might recall that the Governing Body tried underkill and it didn’t work. From the September 2016 Watchtower: “Does Your Style of Dress Glorify God?”

What about the propriety of brothers wearing a beard? The Mosaic Law required men to wear a beard. However, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, nor are they obliged to observe it. (Lev. 19:27; 21:5; Gal. 3:24, 25) In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible.—Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7.

This paragraph was a big deal at the time, at least in my area. Brothers were talking about it seemingly the day after it was written. When that Watchtower Study finally came, that paragraph was like the elephant in the room that everyone was awaiting, and then Yessss! paragraph 17 finally arrived and you could talk about it. Some congregations spent extra time to ‘explain’ it.

I thought that would be the end of it. I thought at long last the issue had been laid to rest. I thought beards would soon be showing up—at first in publishers and then in MS and elders. Instead, it seemed like congregations doubled-down, as if with the attitude: ‘Well, okay, 'weak' publishers can wear beards if they insist, but no way will they ever be appointed.’ A few publishers grew beards, but beyond that--nothing.

’Look, we don’t have an issue with it,’ is what the GB finally said in this latest Update. It’s not new. It’s what they said 7 years ago only it didn’t take. This time, to make sure it wasn’t another misfire that didn’t take, they made it a big production, brought in bells and whistles, the chariot, and disclaimers for guys who say, ‘It’s about time!’ and for the more rigid guys who drew a line in the sand and are now aghast to see it erased. Old habits die hard. This one certainly did.

For me, it is like when the man who invented autocorrect died. ‘Restaurant in peace’ the obits read, though there were a few harsher ones that said, ‘May he rot in hello.’

 

On the one hand, it all seems pretty silly. The greater world solved this beard issue decades ago:

And the sign said, "Long-haired freaky people, need not apply" So I tucked my hair up under my hat, and I went in to ask him why. He said, "You look like a fine upstandin' young man, I think you'll do" So I took off my hat and said, "Imagine that, Huh, me workin' for you."

There. Done. Settled. Back in 1990. Whereas, we don’t settle it till 2023. But, in fairness, it ought be remembered that the overall world is going down the toilet and Jehovah’s organization is not.

More than once the Bible says that those drawn to the Lord must become like young children. And indeed, they have proved to be that way, not just in the good ways but also the not-so-good. Paul said: “Brothers, do not become young children in your understanding, but be young children as to badness.” (1 Cor 14:20) Why did he say this—because they never became young children in their understanding?

So it has proved today, with issues taking longer to resolve than you might think would be the case. Those the Lord can work with are like ‘young children.’ Those whom he cannot are ones too insistent upon their rights to be molded. They are left to the reward of whatever their discord can produce. In short, “they are having their reward in full.”

 

It was not in the Bible. It never appeared in Watchtower print. (other than many examples of ‘shaving one’s beard’ listed in the changes made on the road to baptism) The reasons for it, association with beatniks and hippies, disappeared decades ago. We’ve had articles to the effect that we don’t do rules, but primarily principles. And yet, no rule was more firmly enforced than the unwritten no-beard rule.

If you want to blame someone, blame God. He’s the one who created the paradigm of ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels.’ (2 Corinthians 4:7) The treasure is the ministry and the earthen vessels is us, with all of our petty flaws, mild hypocrisies, stubbornnesses, obtusenesses, insensitivities, and idiosyncrasies. Blame Jehovah for arranging it that way and not handing the whole assignment over to angels.

Believe me, I am sensitive to this issue. Years ago, I went to bat for a youngster being drummed out solely for not shaving a beard. I learned later he had a very atypical reason, unknown to me at the time, but all the brothers could see was obstinacy and standing upon ‘his rights.’ ‘Before this is all done, I’m going to grow a beard!’ I told certain elders. ‘It’s one thing to shove around a youngster. Try doing it with an adult.’ Trouble is, I didn’t want one. It’s too easy to get food caught there.

It is fixed now. It’s about time, but it is done. If Jehovah is going to permit earthen vessels to have the treasure, you cannot be shocked if they behave earthenly. It’s his doing. Earthen is as earthen does.

Are the brothers conservative? Things don’t have to conform to my taste. It is absolutely shocking to look around the world and see how people misuse their ‘freedom.’ I’m not a fan of authoritarian countries, but I can see how they might look at what happens in the West when all restraints are removed and say, ‘Whoa! We don’t want any part of that!”

 

The reason for the change came out in the update itself:

A number of branch offices around the world have written to us, indicating that there continues to be question about whether or not it is proper for a brother in an appointed position to wear a beard. . . . The Governing Body has concluded that there is a need for clarification.”

Translation: “There continues to be a question.” There should not be by now. We keep getting letters. We’re tired of it. “There is a need for clarification. Nothing new, here. Just restatement of the old.

“The Governing Body does not have an issue with brothers wearing beards.” Got it? We don’t. To prove it, we’re now pulling out all the stops, employing all the bells and whistles, even hauling out the chariot, because when we first indicated it was a non-issue, no one took us up on it. So now, let us repeat…..(drum roll, please)….. We. Don’t. Care.

“We thought sending a message 7 years ago was enough:

“What about the propriety of brothers wearing a beard? The Mosaic Law required men to wear a beard. However, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, nor are they obliged to observe it. (Lev. 19:27; 21:5; Gal. 3:24, 25) In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible. —Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7.” (Watchtower, Sept 2016)

“We thought that would do the trick. “In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable,” we said. “Near as we can tell, we live in one of those cultures,” we figured elder bodies would say. They didn’t. So now we’re saying it so emphatically that nobody could possibly misunderstand it.”

It may well be that Witnesses back in the day disliked beards but so did everyone else of their time and well after. Look at television shows of that time. Count up the beards. Maynard G Krebs the beatnik had one. Beyond that, nearly zilch. I barely recall seeing any beards at all during by non-Witness youth, certainly not among my parents’ generation.

Witnesses were just the last (by far) to notice the world had moved on from no-beards. They missed it because they were ‘insular,’ a problem more difficult to remedy than one might think because it is the flipside of the ‘no part of the world’ coin. If you are no part of the world, you are almost by definition ‘insular’ to a certain extent. That’s what insulation is—something that keeps two things that should not mix separate.

After that 2016 Watchtower, bodies of elders considered its local applicability. Some began to not fuss over beards for appointed servants, but most continued to. Some of those that did fretted that beards among servants would stumble congregation members, completely missing the point that Paul’s counsel about stumbling (over eating meat) was out of concern for new ones or nonbelievers. In the case of beards, these ones had no issue with it, but only some ‘veterans’ who had made it a virtue in itself to be beardless and who you’d think would have moved on by now. Old habits die hard, especially when you are insular.

At long last, the mess is resolved. It looks a little silly the way it happens, but it is resolved. It comes close on the heels of another irritant being resolved—the matter of ‘counting time’—applicable at one time, but less so with passing years, as it introduces curious and crippling notions of being ‘on duty’ and ‘off duty.’ It was a relic of guys raised from the factory era in which, even when there was nothing to do, you’d better look busy to avoid the boss’s displeasure. Times change. God is not like that. It has been discarded. Two nettlesome things resolved in fairly short order.

It makes for unity to do things like #8. It also looks a little silly to those who have acquiesced to a disunited world, who consider that normal, and who grumble when anyone actually seeks unity not done their way, unity not achieved by waiting for all “the brokenhearted people living in the world [to] agree”—the way that history has demonstrated they never have or will.

JWs in the United States are almost exactly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 Hispanic, says Pew Research, also with about 5% Asian. Meaning? They have solved racism, an issue that tears the greater world apart. Though, at first glance, it seems not the same thing, if you want unity, you have to oil the cogs every once it a while, maybe even give it a good whack with a hammer. and Update 8 is an example of that on a lesser issue that unexpectedly became large.

Any criticism or ridicule of such ‘oiling’ is only valid if it comes from ones who themselves enjoy unity. Otherwise, it is little more than sour grapes. Some have simply acquiesced to a world without unity as ‘normal.’ Their criticisms don’t count. If you have long ago become part of the world, you can’t criticize the travails of those who haven’t.

 

***Xero is “not privy to the GB's private thoughts, but “I can imagine them being frustrated at) some who have the desire to worship the organization,” he says.

He cites a scripture: "...But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they ripped their outer garments and leaped out into the crowd, crying out and saying: 'Men, why are you doing these things? We too are humans having the same infirmities as you have. " Acts 14:8-18

He cites another: "On hearing this, they began to glorify God, but they said to him: 'You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the Law.'" (Acts 21:20)

Those referred to are Jewish converts to Christianity, yet still devoted to observing the Jewish law (the Mosaic Law). “Even then the customs were including a lot of things which weren't written in the Mosaic Law. Yet they kept doing them. This is why it doesn't surprise me that there are some who see changes in certain areas to be faith shaking because these have equated certain practices of the past to have been unequivocally scriptural, and if the Governing Body ever suggested we should adopt pattern A, rather than pattern B, then that was as good as scripture to these.”

Yes. It is hard to direct a large group of people. One says, ‘Thanks for the new rule!’ whereas his neighbor says, ‘Huh? Did you say something?’

 

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Job 25-26: Bildad’s Last Stand and the Fringes of God’s Ways

It is last batter of the last inning (there are only three) of speeches meanmouthing Job. Bildad’s up. After that, Elihu enters as sort of a self-appointed ref. Then—gasp!—an unexpected appearance from the Great Ref follows.

What’s with Bildad? Cat got his tongue? His speech is by far the shortest. Let us analyze:

Rulership and fearsome might are [God’s]; He establishes peace in heaven. Can his troops be numbered? Upon whom does his light not rise?” (Job 25:2-3)

Synopsis: Lofty praise of God—his power and place! What pious fellow would not swell to have uttered such remarks himself? Now—what comes next?

So how can mortal man be righteous before God, Or how can one born of a woman be innocent?  Even the moon is not bright And the stars are not pure in his eyes, How much less so mortal man, who is a maggot, And a son of man, who is a worm!” (3-5)

Translation: He treats us like dirt but we’re used to it.

 

Sheesh! Who is this character, spouting his mangy ‘theology’ as though it were good news gospel? It is so lacking that Job all but says, ‘Where did you get this crap?’ “Who inspired you to say such things?” is what he does say. (26:4)

‘You’re going to teach me about God? I’ll teach you about God!’ Job retorts, (27:11) and then, even half-dead as he is, he bests Bildad’s praise of God, such as it is, by a factor of ten. It is like one brother I knew who, if you said to him something witty, he instantly came back with something ten times as witty. I was almost afraid of him, though he gave no reason to be other than breathtaking proficiency—instantly mastering anything he set his mind on.

Some of Job’s remarks blow one away, being far ahead of their time. If you want to back your claim that you think the Bible is inspired, you head directly to 26:7-10:

He stretches out the northern sky over empty space, Suspending the earth upon nothing; . . . He marks out the horizon on the surface of the waters; He makes a boundary between light and darkness.

He suspends it on nothing? It’s not exactly ‘turtles all the way down,’ is it? Similarly, it is hardly to reconcile a boundary between light and darkness as revealing anything other than knowing how the spinning planet works. We are not speaking of Columbus’s men here, ever fearful that they might sail off the edge of the earth.

Look! These are just the fringes of his ways,” he says, to round out the chapter. (vs 14) Little did he know then that there would emerge future wise men who would explore the fringes and find them so weird as to break from the pattern of Galileo, of Newton, of Kepler, and others. These ones took for granted that to discern laws of physics was to understand and thereby give praise to God for his handiwork, but they would give way to a later generation of science who would bizzarely concoct the view that the fringes are so hard for them to understand—and their goal is to understand everything—that there must not be a God.

 

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One Fine December Day in the Ministry

The man answered the door and wasn’t thrilled to see us. I understand the feeling. I take cover myself when I spot unknown persons heading up the driveway. But often you can defuse any anxiety if you are not too weird.

My companion said something about the Bible and the man replied that he was not much of a Bible reader. ‘Have you always felt that way?’ the companion said. It is sort of the latest pick-up line, uttered in the belief that it may spur on conversation which, depending upon the person, it often does. No dice with this fellow, though. He told us a big problem in his eyes was Christians who carried a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. A jab directed at us, I thought, as I played with his two large poodles which had bounded from the house to jump all over me. “Did I ever tell you how much I like dogs?’ I said to one of them.

“Here’s something you may not know about Jehovah’s Witnesses—which we are,” I interjected. “They are absolutely apolitical and none of them carry guns. Their weapons are words only. Tell them no and they go away. And they don’t afterward go to some congressperson to urge passage of a law to make others do what they say. “At first glance, they are the most intrusive people on earth. At second glance, they are the least. They say what they have to say, but otherwise they are completely live and let live.”

When you interrupt your companion, you don’t do it permanently. You inject a thought and then hand it right back to her. You usually don’t do it at all, so as not to derail her train of thought. But I have thirty years on my companion, so I can do it a little. Not much, usually not all, but a little if the situation calls for it.

She went back to reading and commenting on a certain verse. It engaged her, and the man, if not warming up to the message, was warming up to us. The call concluded as most of them do—he had had no use for religion and still didn’t—but just as we were leaving, I thought to extend to this fellow a contact card featuring the Bible study program. “Most church teachings are not found in the Bible,” I told him. “It is the attempt to read them in that makes people pull out their hair and say, ‘Nobody can make sense of this book!’”

Look at it if you like, I told him. I’ll never know if you do or not. You may still not agree with it; most likely you won’t, but there is a big difference between a book that makes sense and one that doesn’t.

I always write a number to text on these cards and even observe how it has “one of these computer things that you can scan”—overplaying the tech-inept hand, but I still didn’t want to do with them as I had done with ‘crosstags.’ “They’re hashtags, Dad, not crosstags,” my daughter had told me about this other digital innovation, which had occurred recently by human standards but ice-ages ago by digital standards.

The home was on top of a hill. Descending the long winding driveway opened up a magnificent vista. We had already commented on how smart someone must have been to build up there. “Don’t worry about the dogs!” the man said, now quite friendly, as we were taking our leave. “They’ll chase you down the drive and bark like mad but once they reach the invisible fence they’ll stop.” And that is exactly what happened.

 

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Job 22-24: No Wonder People Say the God of the Old Testament is Mean

These brothers who say how prayer is communication with God and you never get a busy signal, to modest chuckling from the audience?

Job keeps getting a busy signal!! That’s what he can’t understand. He’s heard those talks, most likely, and even joined in applause at the end. But now he keeps getting a busy signal!

He does express confidence in God—if only he could get through to him:

“Would [God] contend with me using his great power? No, surely he would give me a hearing,” he says. (Job 22:6) If only he could get through. Why does he want to get through? Because his life has devolved into a pile of you-know-what, that’s why, and he wants to fill God’s ear about it!

And then Eliphaz comes around—man, these guys are obnoxious! to say:

“Get to know Him, and you will be at peace; Then good things will come your way. . . If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored.”

‘Why why why doesn’t God hear me? Job cries. ‘I cry out to him day and night, but all I get is a busy signal!’

‘Well, if you weren’t so wicked, it wouldn’t happen,’ is Eliphaz’s answer, and that of the two other companions.

It is only Eliphaz and crew who feel this way? There was a flood of preachers post-Katrina in New Orleans to say the cities ruination was its own fault. God destroyed New Orleans, Pat Robertson declared, because of abortion and homosexuality. But the mayor, Ray Nagin, disagreed. Sharply. At his own news conference, he set the record straight. God did not destroy his town because of abortion and homosexuality.

He destroyed it because of war in Iraq and disunity among black residents!

The reasons differed, according to individual and political peeves. But the common ground was that God did it!

And here are these three frauds advancing that ‘theology’ with Job—God did it! For what reason? Listen to Eliphaz carry on: (22:6-9)

“You strip people of their garments, leaving them naked. You do not give the tired one a drink of water, And you hold back food from the hungry. The land belongs to the powerful man, And the favored one dwells in it. But you sent away widows empty-handed, And you crushed the arms of fatherless children!”

He’s made the point before, more gently, but been rebuffed. He does not like to be contradicted, and so juices up his charge of what Job ‘must have’ done to be suffering so!

Furthermore, to distill his remarks, ‘God could care less if you’re good—what’s that to him? But he sure does care if you’re bad, ever eager to dish out the punishment in that event. No wonder people say the God of the Old Testament is mean! If we are to listen to Pat Robertson and Ray Nagin, the God of the New Testament is, too! And don’t get me going on how when a tiny child dies, it’s because God needed another flower in his perfect heavenly garden; these preachers make a god-awful mess when they try to extract themselves from the corners their wrong doctrines unfailingly paint them into! (in this case, not only the doctrine that the soul can never die, but that all good souls go straight to heaven upon doing so):

Eliphaz the Temanite said in reply: “Can a man be of use to God? Can anyone with insight be of benefit to him? Does the Almighty care that you are righteous, Or does he gain anything because you follow the course of integrity?” (22:1-3) He could care less, is the charge, whereas Santa Claus at least doesn’t give you coal when you’re ’been nice!’

Job is not going to let these guys gaslight him; that’s why he wants his hearing before God—but he keeps getting a busy signal! If he could only argue out his case, he knows God would listen.

“If only I knew where to find God! I would go to his place of dwelling. I would present my case before him And fill my mouth with arguments; I would learn how he would answer me And take note of what he says to me. Would he contend with me using his great power? No, surely he would give me a hearing. There the upright one could set matters straight with him, And I would be acquitted once and for all by my Judge.” (23:3-7)

“But if I go east, he is not there; And I return and I cannot find him. When he is working on the left, I cannot look upon him; Then he turns to the right, but I still do not see him.” (8-9) A busy signal!

Whereupon Job expands on, not just his own suffering, but all the rotten things God puts up with:

“People move boundary markers; They carry off flocks for their own pasture. They drive away the donkey of fatherless children And seize the widow’s bull as security for a loan. They force the poor off the road; The helpless of the earth must hide from them. The poor forage for food like wild donkeys in the wilderness; They seek food in the desert for their children. They must harvest in another’s field And glean from the vineyard of the wicked. They spend the night naked, without clothing; They have no covering for the cold. They are drenched by the mountain rains; They cling to the rocks for lack of shelter. The fatherless child is snatched away from the breast; And the garments of the poor are taken as security for a loan, Forcing them to go about naked, without clothing, And hungry, as they carry the sheaves of grain. They toil among the terrace walls in the heat of the day; They tread the winepresses, yet they go thirsty. The dying keep groaning in the city; The fatally wounded cry for help, But God does not regard this as improper. (24:2-12)

God will fix it; Job does not doubt he will—but it would sure be nice if He would step on it a little. He will fix it in the long run, but as John Kenneth Galbraith said, ‘In the long run we’re all dead,’ and Job’s faith in a resurrection for himself is not so ironclad as some suppose.

“God will use his strength to do away with the powerful; Though they may rise up, they have no assurance of life. God lets them become confident and secure, But his eyes are on everything they do. They are exalted for a little while, then they are no more. They are brought low and gathered like everyone else; They are cut off like heads of grain.” (24: 22-24)

 

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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You With Nothin!’ The Atheist Search for the Origen of Life, Part 6

For best results, see Part 1:

If you venture beyond the purely material realm to peer into the spiritual, if you venture there WITHOUT EVIDENCE, and so the scientism/atheist/philosopher/cheerleaders will forbid that course, but if you tell them to kiss off and do it anyway, you will discover a prime reason for worshipping God.

You are worthy, Jehovah our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they came into existence and were created,” says Revelation 4:11.

What if you could demonstrate that God did not create all things? What if you could demonstrate that he actually caused nothing at all to come into existence, that it all happened by itself? Wouldn’t the prime reason for giving God the glory and the honor and the power vanish? Can we think of anyone in the supernatural realm who would love for that to happen? (Hint: he has horns.)

No, he doesn’t have horns. It’s an image from medieval times, if not before; no where does the Bible depict him with horns. But as an opponent of God? Oh, yeah. Satan is a word that literally means ‘resister.’ Its Greek derivative ‘devil’ literally means ‘slanderer.’ He, the one who noted the glory and honor and power going to God, said, ‘Hey, I’d like me some of that,’ and maneuvered events in the garden to lay his claim. James 1:14 tells the power of each one being drawn out and enticed by their own desire.

Granted that the origin-of-life scientists are good and honorable people, or at least they have the same mix of traits that typify the general population. They are not evil incarnate. Don’t go taking any nasty shots at them. But that does not mean they might not be pawns in a game much greater than they consciously play—the game that the Great Unhorned One cheers from his easy chair every bit as much as you cheer for the area sports team.

Who are these origin-of-life scientists? Are they easy to track? Are there a lot of them? Surprisingly, no. In a move that is reassuring for the reputation of science as a reasonable endeavor, the Great Courses lecturer says they number only about 500. Why reassuring? Because it suggests that the vast majority of scientists are not comfortable holding Cool Hand Luke’s 4, 10, and deuce of clubs, jack of hearts, and 9 of diamonds, let alone try to bluff themselves and others that they really hold something. They stick to areas more amenable to the scientific method.

“It's actually pretty easy to keep track of the origins of life community because there's one principle scientific society: the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life. Or ISSOL.” Of that tiny number of scientists belonging to the society, worrisomely, by far the largest contingent is the United States, contributing over half the membership. Why worrisomely? It is in the same vein as what was said early on about Jesus: “Can anything good come out of Nazarus?” Of course, iPads come out of the United States, as well as Teslas—they’re certainly good—but this is applied science. When we get into pipe-dream science, watch out! as the ‘land of the free’ is also the land of the free thinkers, even the unhinged free thinkers who are the ones quickest to overturn the traces, convinced something better will emerge on the other side.

“Most scientific societies have open memberships. but not ISSOL,” Dr. Hazen tells us. “Early on, when the society was small, there was a real concern that the membership could be taken over by crackpots and fringe scientists with their own agendas,” (as though the mainline itself has none) “The origins of life field has from time to time attracted people with ideas that are, to say the least, a bit odd.” (as though the mainstream one isn’t). “There's one contingent, for example, that's convinced that life on earth was planted by aliens and that we’re all just one big experiment.” Well, yeah, that is a little odd, but no odder than cutting-edge notions that currently permeate atheist society. For example, maybe we and all that we think we experience are merely bits on the hard drive of a superior intelligence! Hmm, yes, indeed plausible, nod the atheists—it comes from outer space—whereas if you mentioned anything about God to them, they’d hurl. The Matrix movies inspire them just as much as Star Trek did their forebears.

Every year and a half for these 500 luminaries, there is the Gordon Research Conference to look forward to, apparently as Hollywood looks forward to the Emmys. Yet, says the professor, “these week-long meetings are restricted to about 120 scientists and they're quite unusual in that everything said is strictly off the record. You actually have to sign a statement that you won't reveal what was discussed.” Not even all 500 get in, only the elite 120! And once in, their doings are as hush-hush as a meeting of top Masons. (one of whom once confided to me what the G in the central figure stands for. It stands for—gasp!—God)

“Our understanding of life's origins and evolution probably has a better chance of getting into these journals [Nature and Science] than almost any other topic,” says Dr. Hazen in Lecture 1. Imagine! There’s only 500 of them at the time of the lecture series. Only 500! I have to refrain from calling them a cult. Yet they beat out all the rest of the world’s two million scientists when it comes to prestigious publication!

They’ve just got a good gig going, they know it, and they’re plugging away at what they love to do—experiments and test tubes. No agenda beyond that, most likely. But a person could be forgiven for supposing they are tools of a Greater One, evil indeed, who does have an Agenda: prove God unnecessary and thereby his own claim to invisible godship is enhanced. I would never go there, of course, because I need EVIDENCE. But I could understand if you did.

To be continued: here

 

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Job Rebukes the Prosperity Gospel Preacher: Chapters 20-21

It’s Zophar’s turn to package a nastigram. He rises to the occasion. He is the guy who visits a fellow dying in the hospital, under excruciating pain and so says something rash, who responds: “I have heard a reproof that insults me.” (Job 20:3) What next, challenge him to a duel?

Almost as bad: “My understanding impels me to reply,” he follows up. Job, you lost your money and everything else because of your wickedness, he charges:

“The joyful cry of the wicked is brief And the rejoicing of the godless one is for a moment. . . . He will perish forever like his own dung; Those who used to see him will say, ‘Where is he?’  (20:5-7)

“He has swallowed down wealth, but he will vomit it up; God will empty it out of his belly. . . . He will give back his goods without consuming them; He will not enjoy the wealth from his trade. For he has crushed and abandoned the poor; He has seized a house that he did not build.  . . . His wealth will not help him escape. There is nothing left for him to devour; That is why his prosperity will not last. (15-20)

“When his wealth reaches its peak, anxiety will overtake him; The full force of misfortune will come against him. . . . God will send his burning anger upon him, Raining it down upon him into his bowels. . . . A flood will sweep his house away; It will be a heavy torrent on the day of God’s anger. This is the wicked man’s share from God, The inheritance that God has decreed for him.” (22-29)

Tell me about it! There’s no connection! is Job’s response, as though rebuking a prosperity preacher. The wicked do just fine these days. Is it just me that imagines he hurls this reply with some heat and sarcasm?

Their houses are secure, they are free from fear, And God does not punish them with his rod. Their bulls breed without failure; Their cows give birth and do not miscarry. Their boys run outside just like a flock, And their children skip about. They sing accompanied by tambourine and harp And rejoice at the sound of the flute. They spend their days in contentment And go down peacefully to the Grave. But they say to the true God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. . . . How often is the lamp of the wicked extinguished? How often does disaster come upon them? (9-17)

Job is on to these shallow theologians with their sham holiness, these ones who equate money to God’s favor:

“Look! I know exactly what you are thinking,” he says. “And the schemes you devise to wrong me. For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prominent man [himself], And where is the tent in which the wicked one lived?’” (27-28)

All they have to do, he says, is expand their narrow horizons a little, and they’ll see it is not that way. “Have you not questioned travelers? Do you not carefully study their observations, . . . an evil person is spared on the day of disaster . . . And rescued on the day of fury?  . . . Who will repay him for what he has done? . . . When he is carried to the graveyard, A vigil will be kept over his tomb. The clods of earth of the valley will be sweet to him, And all mankind follows after him. . . . So why offer me meaningless comfort? There is nothing but deceit in your answers!” (29-34)

The sanctimonious blowhards, descending with their gospel of prosperity! How much dough did Jesus have? You don’t think God could have arranged for his son to be born at the Jerusalem Hyatt instead of the Bethlehem Manger? He knows a lot of people. He would have chosen the former were he one to slobber over wealth.

 

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“Show Me Mercy, My Companions, Show Me Mercy!” but They Show Him None: Job 19

Nobody has ever had a wish granted to them like Job:

“If only my words were written down, If only they could be inscribed in a book!” (Job 19:23)

Folded into the world’s all-time best seller, they now are, where they stand as the supreme example of a ‘theodicy,’ an exploration of the the problem of evil—or, define it as the question, ‘Why do the righteous suffer?’

The university-educated promptly shoot themselves in the foot by dividing the Book of Job into two books. The first, in their opinion, is a Jewish fable comprising what is now the first two and the last chapters of Job. The second consists of all the rest, the unending dialogue of Job, his three tormentors, Elihu, and God. You almost suspect that their goal is to flatter the intellect, and it matters not to them that they throw away the key to understanding—as they do with the early Genesis chapters that frame the overall theodicy of which the Book of Job is a subset.

Is it that those first two chapters read too ‘fundamentalist’ for them, they who are educated in critical thinking? They should waste their time on a silly little story of God and the Devil making a wager? As though, once they finish and the outcome with Job has been determined, they say, ‘Whoa! That was loads of fun! Let’s do it again with someone else!’ The notion (which every Jehovah’s Witness understands, even the children) that Job represents a test case of whether humans can keep integrity under trial, is lost upon them.

The other ‘benefit’ of divorcing Job’s trials from the opening chapters which frame it is that you get to spin the poetic dialogue any way you wish without regard to ever settling anything. A windy debate of philosophy—‘Yeah! That’s what I’m talkin about!’ Never mind if it doesn’t lead anywhere. It becomes one of those, ‘they are having their reward in full’ scenarios of which Jesus spoke at Matthew chapter 6.

But if you don’t cleave the book into two, you come away with some understanding. You come away with the knowledge that humans can maintain integrity to God under the most trying circumstances. They may give vent to plenty of ‘wild talk’ along the way, not being privy to the big picture, but eventually the dust settles, all is forgiven, and the louts that leaned into the righteous with their own smug theories of superiority get rebuked.

Those three interrogators do lean into Job, and Job says, ‘Why aren’t you ashamed?’ “These ten times you have rebuked me; You are not ashamed to deal harshly with me.“ (Job 19:3) They should be ashamed—using their robust health to pound an unfortunate into the ground. 

“Show me mercy, my companions, show me mercy, For God’s own hand has touched me,” Job pleads, but they show him none. Aggravated that their initial gentle accusations were rejected, they double down and turn vengeful. “It gets personal,” Kushner says. Gentle insinuations become harsh accusations. The three appoint themselves interrogators for God, though God has asked for no such interrogators, terrorists who will brook no ‘wild talk,’ who will regard it all as apostasy to be put down with machine gun fire. 

What they should do is ‘weep with those who weep.’ What they should do is quote Ecclesiastes 5:2: “Do not be quick with your mouth, nor let your heart speak rashly before the true God, for the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth. That is why your words should be few.” Job’s three visitors do not use few words; they use many, although they can’t possibly know what they are talking about, since “the true God is in the heavens but you are on the earth.”

Horrific suffering happens today. Some months ago a young woman in a nearby circuit suffered vicious physical assault. Even Job was not physically assaulted. Nor did he suffer the complete betrayal of the human justice system when the perpetrator was brought to court. Her life irrevocably changed with scars that are not visible, she decided to go public, as a first step towards healing. She’s very brave. She also hopes, no doubt, to forestall any speculation from those who see her altered behavior but have not the facts to put it in context. It’s good congregations are in the Book of Job lately, from which we may draw the conclusion that we don’t need them.

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Cool Hand Luke: ‘He Beat You with Nothin!’ The Atheist Search for the Origin of Life, Part 5

For best results, see Part 1

This post is an aside. ‘Origin of Life’ science, as discussed in the lecture series, might easily strike a non-enthusiast as so speculative as to challenge the all-time king of speculation in the guise of science: evolutionary psychology. So it is that I diverge into that other cutting-edge field.

***

The circuit overseer was visiting. It was a week of special activity. We reconvened to plan our afternoon. Nosmo Jones had unexpectedly cancelled his study to bail one of his kids out of jail, so I was open. “Does anyone have any calls?” the circuit overseer asked. “I have - Mr. Strawman out on Pretensia Pond Road,” I said. “You remember him from your last visit.”

“Does anyone else have any calls?” Silence. I knew Bill Ding had several, and also Sally Shinspits, but they would likely not be home at this time of day. “Are you sure nobody else has any calls?” the circuit overseer repeated. I reminded him again about Bernard Strawman. “He’s told me since our last call that he could believe in God!” I said. “We could build on that foundation.” He’d also said something about climate change in hell, but I hadn’t understood what he had meant by that.

“Check carefully. Nobody has any return visits?” the circuit overseer asked again, looking desperate. “Maybe we can do street work,” he pleaded. But Brother Bruno’s wife, Brunette, had done street work all morning and her feet were sore. She wanted to ride around for a while.

Twenty minutes later we pulled into Mr. Strawman’s driveway. A Mercedes was already there, in addition to the Jaguar that Mr. Strawman drove. I rang the doorbell with the circuit overseer in tow. Mr. Strawman answered. He invited us in, told us to take off our shoes, and introduced us to his visitor, Dr. Adhominem. I’d never met Dr. Adhominem, but I’d heard Mr. Strawman speak of him glowingly.

Mr. Strawman asked us to be seated. He asked us if we would like some orange juice. When we said yes, he explained that he didn’t have any. I settled in my chair for a stimulating discussion that was sure to come! The circuit overseer mentally reviewed his notes for the talk he would give that evening: “Are You Following the Lead of the Angel in Your Ministry?’

Mr. Strawman and his visitor explained to me the research paper they were preparing to submit to Wonderful Scientist Magazine. It was to be their contribution to the exciting field of evolutionary psychology. “Much of the cutting-edge work in science is in this field,” Mr. Strawman told me. The paper he was co-authoring with Dr. Adhominem, he explained, was on the evolutionary origin of boisterous flatulence. “Back in the stone-age eat-or-be-eaten days,” Mr. Strawman explained, putting the concept in a nutshell, “you wanted to evolve everything you possibly could to scare off predators. And nothing would do the job like boisterous flatulence. It quickly cleared the area, the same as it does in modern times.”

I was very impressed with this crock of insight. But the circuit overseer said: “Got any evidence of that?” He had heard of something called the Scientific Method. I was so embarrassed. Dr. Adhominem smiled and explained that to become obsessed with such matters was to chase a red herring. The very reason such rapid progress was being made in evolutionary psychology, he continued, was that researchers could work without that sort of distraction. He asserted the time for his breakthrough had come because similar research had been accepted by the scientific community. To tell the truth, I was becoming more than a little mortified by that circuit overseer. Clearly, the man doesn’t know much about science.

For example, Dr. Adhominem told us about the evolutionary origin of faulty reasoning, something which had long puzzled scientists because it seemed to fly in the face of survival of the fittest. But the April 5, 2010 issue of Newsweek summarized the latest scientific thinking. “Faulty reasoning is really our friend! It enabled our ancestors to learn argumentation!” If there was no cockeyed reasoning, Dr. Adhominem explained, nobody would have anything to argue about. Throw any issue before the masses, and they’d all instantly agree! How could survival of the fittest take place? Smart people can only evolve if they have blockheads to stomp into submission with their clever argumentation. So stupidity has proven to be essential to our evolutionary advancement!

The circuit overseer said: “That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.” Dr. Adhominem gently suggested the reason: evolution had selected people like the two of us to enable people like himself and Mr Strawman to become brilliant. I felt privileged to have such a role in science! The circuit overseer asked to use the bathroom. “Eighth door on the left,” Mr. Strawman said.

The three of us remaining strolled out into the back yard. Next door, Mr. Strawman’s neighbor was drooling over his curvaceous girlfriend prancing about in a micro-bikini. I instantly turned away. “Interesting how evolutionary psychology accounts for this phenomenon,” Mr. Strawman remarked. “Indeed,” Dr. Adhominem said. I drew a blank, so he patiently enlightened me. “You’re not going to get far in the struggle for survival if your wife keeps dropping your babies and killing them, are you? Decidedly not!” Pleased with himself, he continued: “But that knockout bombshell of a competitive wife has convenient shelves upon which she can balance as many babies as you can give her. Thus, over the eons, our ancestors began to prefer curvy women and to think them beautiful.” How could I have been so stupid for so long?

We seated ourselves again inside and the circuit overseer said something about God. Mortified, I slid down into my chair! Mr. Strawman had already explained to me the evolutionary origin of God: “See, any group of individuals will have some riffraff who must be kept in check so as not to disrupt the clan. The trouble is, the riffraff doesn’t like being kept in check. They fight back, and this spills the primordial soup of even the most peaceful clan, spewing evolutionary ripples everywhere. What you need is a superhuman cop, one with whom you can’t fight back! Then those ne’er-do-wells will behave. That’s how the concept of God evolved, with all its quaint notions of right and wrong.”

“Homosexuality? Surely that has to be a fly in the ointment of your race to procreate,” the scientifically ignorant circuit overseer said, much to my dismay. “Not at all,” Bernard Strawman replied with a smile. “Homosexual men tend to be nurturing, and so they nurture everyone in the tribe, including themselves, giving the entire tribe a competitive advantage,” he said.

We discussed other interesting things as well. Seeing that he was getting underneath the circuit overseer’s skin, Mr. Strawman asked us as we were leaving how we knew that we were there? “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, how do we know that it makes a noise?” What a fascinating question! “Because the squirrels go crazy!” the circuit overseer said. “I’ll be in the car, Tom.” He’s a fine brother but he really doesn’t know anything about science.

“What a wonderful experience in the field ministry!” I exclaimed to all as we entered the Kingdom Hall after field service was over. I suggested that the circuit overseer might use it for his upcoming part in the circuit assembly, but he said he already had participants.

[The boisterous flatulence hypothesis is (for now) made-up nonsense, but all the other ideas have found acceptance among evolutionary psychologists. I predict boisterous flatulence will also be embraced one day soon, since it is only slightly more ridiculous than what has already been accepted by these characters.]

The circuit overseer said he would never ever EVER go back with me on this call and changed the title of his talk that evening from ‘Are You Following the Lead of the Angel in Your Ministry?’ to ‘Look, Sometimes You Have to Learn How to Take a Hint.’

However, three years have just about elapsed. He is soon to depart for a new assignment; a new circuit overseer will soon arrive, hopefully one with better appreciation for science. He will thus be the ninth one to aid me in assisting Mr. Strawman in his progress.]

“The first effect of not believing in God, is that you lose your common sense.” G K Chesterton

To be continued:

 

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'