Playing with Knives: God the Dangerous

This essay by Douglas Jones is one of the few essays I re-read on a regular basis. It consistently challenges me in my view of God.

The most recent time around, I realized that it is one of the most profound answers to the problem of evil I have ever read.

Abraham vs. Job

For all the legitimate praise Job deserves (James 5:11), he was a pietist. His counselors were even worse pietists, the mechanistic variety. Doubly obnoxious. His wife was worse. She was a sentimentalist: “curse God and die.” She resented the life given to them. Job stood at the center of a huge play, just like Abraham did. The Lord could have been straight with Job, but instead He took the crooked, dangerous path again. He didn’t tell Job he was an actor in a play within a play. Job should have realized on his own. Death began to rain down on Job. The Lord took Job down into the wine cellar, chained him in, and started piling block upon block. To his credit, Job didn’t respond like his wife, but he also didn’t respond like Abraham. Job was righteous, but not mature. He “feared God and shunned evil,” but that’s not enough. He didn’t know the God who plays with knives.

We often read the closing chapters of Job as a massive intellectual power play. We think of it as God pulling rank on Job. You, Job, are nothing, and I am huge and sovereign and Egyptian. Do not raise any questions against me. But that doesn’t fit with Yahweh’s actual answers. Why would God argue that storks are kind and ostriches stupid to prove His sovereignty? We’re actually told that Job had mastered his catechism on sovereignty; he “feared God.” Job did lack understanding, but he didn’t have to be convinced that the Lord knew more and was intellectually superior. That was a given.

But pietists like Job resist the dangerousness of God. They don’t love His style. They merely “shun evil.” That’s the lazy trait of pietists everywhere. It’s a good trait, but only a first step. You have to love the lion kill, too. You have to love eagles feasting on blood and horses running for war. That’s God’s style also. Job could never have passed Abraham’s test.

Read the whole thing. I guarantee it will force you to think.