Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

God’s Satanic Sanction of Injustice

Posted by NT Wrong on May 26, 2008

In the book of Job, God teamed up with Satan to deliberately bring evil to Job, his family and possessions.

The partnership worked surprisingly well. One might even say that it was a raging success. The defence of divine justice was taken to a whole new level. Does God do evil? No — we just can’t understand his mysterious ways. The more satanic the actions of God, the greater the mystery of His Transcendence. Brilliant.

And the God-Satan Accord provided a blueprint for God’s future involvement with the world (at least according to the Enochic and Christian accounts). After the success of the wager over Job, God and Satan entered into a long-term partnership. God has never looked back. And Satan’s importance in the cosmos was elevated to such an extent, that it was only right that he be given an upper-case ‘S’. So ‘the satan’ became Satan, Lord of Evil, Prince of Darkness. All this might seem like a slightly difficult move for a non-dualistic God to effect. Yet, despite the risk of some angel or mokiach protesting ‘what a facade!’, God has been inseparably (and somewhat unequally) yoked to Satan from this time forth.

Now, the Divine-Satanic Accord was originally only intended to last for a few generations. But, sure enough, 70 years soon becomes 490 years; a ‘generation’ soon becomes an aeon… I don’t blame God. Being able to blame evil on Satan is a great idea, even if it necessitates that we conveniently ‘forget’ about the obvious weakness (er … the whole shallow facade thing).

But God may have overplayed his hand with the Holocaust.

Yehuda Bauer thinks so:

“For me, the existence of God after the Holocaust is impossible from a moral point of view. It makes belief in God a vast problem, quantitatively and qualitatively. One and a half million children – of the Chosen People – under the age of thirteen were murdered! This is not a question of free choice because the children didn’t have any free choice. It is the Nazis who had the free choice, not the children. So if there is a God that in one way or another controls the destiny of the world – even if that God retires and does not wish to do it, he can and he knows; otherwise he’s not a God. He’s responsible for the murder – no way out. No answer, human or divine, is satisfactory for the murder of one and a half million children – and if there is an answer from high above, then it is the answer of Satan, and rather than believe in Satan, I will not believe.”
Being a Secular/Humanistic Jew in Israel

Rebecca Lesses doesn’t think belief in God is “impossible”, but she agrees that God (if he really was in partnership with Satan over the Holocaust) has become a Satanic God.

“I don’t come to the same conclusion that Bauer does – that it is impossible to believe in God after the Holocaust – but I agree with him that if one believes that God permitted the Holocaust to occur, that one believes in a Satanic God.”
McCain repudiates Hagee – when will Jewish leaders follow?

I think it’s time to call “facade!!” on God.

17 Responses to “God’s Satanic Sanction of Injustice”

  1. Hagee is saying that God’s hand was behind unspeakable evil because it pushed history along according to some long range Divine plan (in this case, the creation of a Jewish state.) Morally, I’m not sure how this
    is any different than N.T. Wright’s answer to the problem of theodicy, in which he claims that God has some sort of long term plan for human salvation, and never mind the the sort of suffering that individuals undergo along the way.

    I never understood how the book of Job was supposed to offer any answers to the problem of evil. For one thing, Job was the pawn in a cosmic bet between Job and Satan (see the movie “Trading Places” with Eddie Murphy for a modern take on this)–which hardly makes God seem very good. Second, what happened to him was not the result of random chance or anyone else’s free will, but rather a deliberate action on the part of God (with Satan’s complicity), which makes God seem even more insidious. And third, the answer out of the whirlwind was basically, “You aren’t me, I can do whatever I want, so shut up already and just take your lumps.” Not exactly a great solution to the problem of evil, if you ask me.

  2. ntwrong said

    That’s the problem in a nutshell with the book of Job’s ’solution’, Mystical Seeker.

    The problem with Hagee’s theology is not that it’s unorthodox, its that it is orthodoxy pushed to its most odious example (the Holocaust). Behind the meticulous train-timetabling of over 3 million Jews who died in the death-camps was the even more meticulous (actually, ‘perfect’ ) plan of God.


  3. Tim B. said

    You’re blog has seemed to focus primarily on the deconstructive end of theology. Do you have any constructive theological insights, perhaps that would give people some guidance as to how to conduct their lives with some hope and purpose in an obviously imperfect world? I don’t see where haranguing against the God of the Bible accomplishes very much–it’s as if you’ve set out with no more purpose than to create a vacuum. What do you propose to fill it with?

  4. ntwrong said

    You[r] blog has seemed to focus primarily on the deconstructive end of theology.

    N T Wrong:
    I can’t recall doing any “deconstruction” on this blog at all. Maybe you used the wrong term(?) And I try to refrain from doing theology, just biblical studies. (and of course, the bible has its own theologies, which I do comment on, explicate, criticise, question, enthuse about, etc.)

    Do you have any constructive theological insights … ?

    N T Wrong:
    I don’t do much theology (talk about who God is), whether constructive or non-constructive. There’s plenty of folk about who will offer their opinions about God elsewhere on the internet. Try one of them.

    I don’t think that criticism of the various conceptions of God in the Bible will “create a vaccum”. Fortunately, there are more options for hope in life than (1) believing in one theological construction of ‘the God of the Bible’ and (2) a vacuum. For instance, I like chatting with people.

    So my advice is this: For ‘hope’ in life, look forward with hopeful anticipation to your next conversation with somebody. Look for somebody whose opinions you find unfathomable. In chatting with them, be open to their difference.

    Bless you, Tim.

  5. steph said

    oh but you’ve filled a vacuum in blogdom and the world oh holy Bishop. Your blogging is insightful and constructive…

    Poor Tim.

  6. Tim said

    Yes, deconstruction was not precise. I suppose the word “destruction” would have been more accurate. And, I question how “God’s Satanic Sanction of Injustice” and “The God of the Flood Story and Natural Disasters” don’t make a theological claims. As to the vacuum, I was not stating my opinion as to whether the God of the Bible was the only thing that could fill it, but was rather pointing out that your blog does not explicitly suggest what ought to be put in place of what you demolish.

    Thanks for the blessing.

  7. ntwrong said

    Bless you, Steph.

  8. ntwrong said

    Tim – the theology I explore is the God-talk in the Bible and ancient Judaism (and Christianity), concerning the view of various historical texts. I don’t do theology per se, which is talk about what God is (if he is anything).

    The comments about Job and the Flood were comments about the tradition. It’s impossible to prescribe anything about a historical tradition, to replace it. It is also impossible to declare it a vacuum. It is just there to be examined, not to be ‘replaced’. I also think that the Iliad and its conception of the gods of Greece are false and ethically problematic. But I don’t suggest throwing it out on those grounds. I read it, think about it, enjoy it, as ancient legend.

  9. Tim B. said

    I suppose the question really hinges on whether you stick to the task of merely describing the tradition. If you are doing any interpreting at all–and you’d be hard-pressed to prove that you aren’t–then you are, in fact, doing theology; for that is precisely what theology is–interpretion of “revelation” (or whatever you may wish to call Scripture).

  10. ntwrong said

    I don’t think so, Tim.

    In addition to mere description of the tradition, as I said, I explicate, criticise, question, enthuse about the tradition, and examine the text’s own theology or theologies. I certainly “interpret”, also. All of this is relevant to biblical studies, while not constituting theology per se.

    Theology is not “interpretation of revelation”. That definition is too loaded. Theology is talk about God, whatever its basis.

  11. steph said

    Poor Tim! This is the boy who thinks that “Scripture” is historially reliable because as he says “I don’t see how Scripture can be nearly as effective changing lives if Jesus was not really raised from the dead, and believers were not really endued with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the apostles (and dare I say, ordinary believers) were not really capable of performing miracles.”

    Not only must all religions be “true” but the holy undead must still be wandering the lands:-)

  12. Antonio Jerez said

    One of your best posts so far, blessed bishop! Yes, isn´t it depressing to see all those Christians blindly (can´t find a better word for it) worshipping a god whose methods are nothing less than satanic. How dare they point fingers at agnostics and atheists and talk about morals and righteousness when their god appears to have far less morals than most descent people on this planet. What doesn´t enter the brains of the believers is that a god who permits Auschwitz and even plans and executes the destruction of whole cities like Jerusalem in AD 70 (doesn´t matter if guilty or innocent are caught up in the mayhem) isn´t worth worship or respect, no matter how strong he might be. You could just as well worship Satan.

  13. Antonio Jerez said

    And I don´t understand how it can be so difficult for folks like Tim to grasp that studying and criticizing the theological conceptions of religious groups isn´t the same thing as doing theology yourself. I also think the blessed bishop is doing us humans a great service by exposing all the wretched thinking that bible is filled with. That Tim can´t find a way of living a life in kindness without clinging to a monster like the biblical god says a lot about the constant disorientation that many Christians live with.

  14. You might be interested in this online commentary “Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job” (http://www.bookofjob.org) as supplementary or background material for your study of the Book of Job. It is written by a Canadian criminal defense lawyer, now a Crown prosecutor, and it explores the legal and moral dynamics of the Book of Job with particular emphasis on the distinction between causal responsibility and moral blameworthiness embedded in Job’s Oath of Innocence. It is highly praised by Job scholars (Clines, Janzen, Habel) and the Review of Biblical Literature, all of whose reviews are on the website. The author is an evangelical Christian, denominationally Anglican. He is also the Canadian Director for the Mortimer J. Adler Centre for the Study of the Great Ideas, a Chicago-based think tank.

    Robert Sutherland

  15. Doug said

    I’ve taken the book of Job to not be about theodicy, really, but much more of a ‘destruction’ of the popular concept persisting throughout history that if people who are good only experience good and people who are evil are punished for that evil. What it is, to me at least, is a powerful critique of a bad response to theodicy – the belief that if bad things happen to you, you must deserve them. The book seems to go to great lengths to demonstrate how this is not at all the case. Job’s ‘comforters’ present, in multiple ways, the argument that Job must deserve calamity, but it is clear that he does not.

    When the whirlwind shows up at the end, if anything, It seems to be saying “You cannot possibly work out a solution for the problem of suffering.”

    I think what is described, God and ‘the satan’ working together to mess with Job – it obviously flies in the face of our modern sensibilities, but I think it is a vestige of a prior view of Satan as sort of the ‘prosecuting attorney’ of the divine council (in the words of one of my profs). I don’t really think you can take it and extrapolate a claim about God participating in the Holocaust, for example – that just doesn’t seem to be what the book of Job is about. For me, what the book of Job says most loudly is that suffering on any scale should never be assumed to be deserved.

  16. Antonio Jerez said

    the book of Job actually has a solution to the problem of suffering at the end. The answer seems to be that “God knows best”. It’s not an answer I am happy with but it is there anyway in Job.

  17. ntwrong said

    Doug, thanks for your comments.

    I don’t think that it’s possible to restrict the effect of Job to a critique of divine retribution, however. There is a partial critique of retribution, to be sure, but it serves a much more comprehensive reconceptualisation of divine justice. By effect, or perhaps purpose, the book of Job goes much further.

    The book of Job shuts down any attempt of humans to speak on the same level as God, to ‘take God to court’, to even engage in a controversy or debate with God. The only person able to judge what is just and unjust, according to the book of Job, is God. This can fly in the face of what appears–to mere humans–to be God’s deliberate injustice against one man in particular, Job. The effect of such a wide divide between humanity and divinity is that it is no longer possible for a human prophet (a mokiach, an ‘umpire’ to protest against God. The position has been made redundant. There simply is no such position possible, no possibility of an Abraham of Gen 18, no possibility of a Moses of Num 14. The book of Job reaches its solution by an appeal to the absolute transcendence of a God who only reveals himself in a theophany so as to overpower humans and reveal his unrevealability. The event in which God acts unjustly against Job is simply unable to be heard in the divine court.

    As this is the result of the book of Job, there is now nothing that God cannot do that is unjust. If God did permit the Holocaust, then the book of Job teaches us that there will always be some unknowable, transcendent, apophatic reason that makes his actions still ‘just’.

    But to do justice, we must question such a totalising discourse.

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