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The Coen Brothers and the Voice from the Whirlwind

Serious Man

In the course of my ministry as a teacher, lecturer, and retreat master, I hear, perhaps more than any other question, the following: “how do I know what God wants?” Put in more formal theological language, this is the question concerning the discernment of God’s will. Many people who pose it tell me that they envy the Biblical heroes—Moses, Jeremiah, Jacob, David, etc.—who seem to have received direct and unambiguous communication from God. I usually remind them that even those great Scriptural figures wrestled mightily with the same issue. And then typically I draw their attention to Job, the person in the biblical tradition who anguished most painfully over the matter of discerning what in the world God is doing.

The Coen brothers, among the most gifted and thought-provoking filmmakers on the scene today, have made a movie called “A Serious Man”, which amounts to a contemporary re-telling of the story of Job. The hero of their film is Lawrence Gopnik, a mild-mannered Jewish physics professor at a small college in 1960’s era Minnesota. There is nothing particularly impressive about Larry; in fact, he corresponds pretty closely to the stereotype of the schlemiel. More to it, he’s surrounded by a fairly dispiriting cast of characters, including a hen-pecking wife, a pair of self-absorbed teenage children, and an unemployed brother who spends his days (and nights) draining a boil on the back of his neck. As the story unfolds, we witness a steady accumulation of woes befalling Larry. First, his wife announces that she is in love with another man and that she wants a divorce; next, the dean of the math department informs our hero that his tenure application is in doubt; then, Larry’s brother is arrested for illegal gambling and suspicion of sodomy; finally, the father of one of his students threatens him with a lawsuit. All at once, everything is collapsing around Larry Gopnik, twentieth-century Job.

At this point, he turns to his Jewish faith for answers. It’s interesting to note that none of the major characters in this film seems to disbelieve in God. As in the book of Job, the question is not whether God exists, but what God is up to. Larry speaks first to a very young rabbi, who seems to be fresh from the Yeshiva and is filled with fairly trite recommendations about changing one’s attitude in order to see God in all things. He opens the blinds to reveal the drab parking lot and effervescently comments that God can be found even there. Unsatisfied, Larry moves on to a more mature rabbi, who tells him a strange story. It seems that there was a Jewish dentist who discovered a series of Hebrew letters on the backside of a patient’s teeth. They spelled out “help me; save me.” This miracle vividly reminded the dentist of God’s presence, and sent him on a spiritual quest. Still wondering, still uneasy, Larry comes in desperation to the office of the most respected rabbi in the area, but he is rebuffed by the great man’s secretary: “he’s busy,” she blandly tells him. The three rabbis are meant to represent, it seems clear, the three friends who attempt, unsuccessfully, to comfort Job in the wake of his enormous sufferings.

The answer that Larry seeks comes most unexpectedly. Throughout the film, we see his son Danny preparing, in a fairly desultory way, for Bar Mitzvah. In the midst of one of his Hebrew classes, the boy is listening on his transistor radio to the Jefferson Airplane song “Somebody to Love.” His annoyed instructor confiscates the device and it eventually finds its way to the aged rabbi whom Danny’s father had unsuccessfully tried to see. After the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, Danny is ushered into this great man’s presence to receive a word of wisdom. To the boy’s infinite surprise, the ancient rabbi begins to quote from the Jefferson Airplane song: “When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies…wouldn’t you love somebody to love; you better find somebody to love.” At the very end of the film, a great tornado is bearing down on the town, and we hear on the soundtrack the powerful voice of Grace Slick intoning those words: “you better find somebody to love.” Of course, the book of Job comes to its climax when, in response to Job’s questioning, God finally speaks out of a desert whirlwind. “You better find somebody to love” is therefore the Coen brothers’ version of this divine word out of the storm, the ultimate answer to the question of what God is up to.

If we look back at the three “answers” given in the film, we find a coherence with the great biblical tradition. The simple word of the young rabbi is, in fact, spiritually rich. God is indeed found in all things, even the most ordinary, and we do need to shift our awareness in order to appreciate his presence. And the story of the mysterious letters is also biblical: sometimes, on rare occasions, God speaks through miraculous and extraordinary means. But the word of the old rabbi—and the voice that sings out of the whirlwind—is indeed the ultimate communication from the Holy One. If you want to discover God’s presence and intention, especially during times of great struggle, “you better find somebody to love.” Not bad advice from the rabbis Coen.
 
 
Originally posted at Word on Fire. Used with permission.
(Image credit: The Ax)

Fr. Robert Barron

Written by

Fr. Robert Barron is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing emerging technologies to draw people into or back to the Faith. Fr. Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • 42Oolon

    I would love to know what Catholics think the message of the OT story of Job is. Father Barron skips over God's response to Job to his question of why allow me to suffer like this? Of course God dodges the question and tells Job how powerful he is. The truth is apparent from the text, God was having a wager with the devil.

    Commence rationalizations...

    • Nobackhand

      The Catholics response is the New Testament, the culmination of the meaning you seek is the Passion Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Suffering and Death was transformed into life with God in that series of events. You'll never know unless you try.

      • 42Oolon

        So we discard the book of Job? Why is this priest referencing it?

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        You should be glad you didn't try cocaine.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Why do you write, "Commence rationalizations"?

      A rationalization is a justification after the fact of something one has already decided. Are you assuming that every Catholic response will be phony?

      I would invite you to explain what you think the message of Job is first.

      • 42Oolon

        My understanding from Job is that the devil bet God that Job would renounce him if he was suffering. God agreed to let the devil persecute Job to test his commitment to Yaweh. Job never wavered but at the end of this torture asked God why this series of misfortune occurred.

        Instead of just telling Job what the author of this book of the Bible states, that it was a test of his faith to demonstrate to the devil, Job's commitment to Yaweh, God chastises Job for even asking such a question telling him how powerful he is.

        The message I get from this is that our suffering on earth may be because of no other reason than the God, who knows our minds and hearts, is willing to allow you to experience terrible suffering for no other reason than to prove what he already knows to the devil.

        To me this shows Yaweh as being of a deplorable immoral character. I really think there is no other rational interpretation. If this really happened it is cruel and unjustified treatment of Job. If it is a metaphor it suggests it is OK to let someone torture your loved one's to show that they will always love them and explain the reason by boasting about your power.

        Any other interpretation is to me like a rationalization. An unjustified stretch of reason to justify something you know is wrong.

        I think that if you cannot be atheists, Catholics should at least recognize that stories like this are immoral and should be marginalized and removed from the canon of texts you consider to be divine revelation of a good God.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Here is the conclusion to one reading of the Book of Job by Fr. William Most, S.J.:

          The essential message of the book . . . is . . . suffering is not always due to sin. In Job his suffering was not due to sin. It was for some other purpose the idea, that it is for instruction, "discipline' is present there, as it is also in Proverbs. But . . . the full purpose of suffering was still to be revealed in Jesus,even though the premises from which they might have reached a point at least close to that conclusion were already present.

          • David Nickol

            But . . . the full purpose of suffering was still to be revealed in Jesus,even though the premises from which they might have reached a point at least close to that conclusion were already present.

            I am afraid this makes no sense to me. What is "the full purpose of suffering"? Does the suffering of, say, an innocent child seem to have any more purpose now than it did before the torture and death of Jesus? If anything, the idea that Jesus was required by "the Father" to suffer terrible agony and die certainly compounds the puzzle rather than solves it. The idea of Jesus being the "perfect sacrifice" to appease God is by no means comforting. If God the Father require the suffering and death of his Son, what might be required of lesser persons?

            Whatever it may have accomplished, the torture and crucifixion of Jesus did not end human suffering, nor do I see how it makes the suffering of Job any less of a mystery.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think Most means that Christ reveals the salvific meaning of suffering. Christ associates all human suffering with the suffering he endured, making it redemptive. Therefore, the suffering of the innocent in all times and places is part of the Redemption.

          • Sean Alderman

            There is definitely more theological mystery in suffering than can be understood from a paragraph of theological treatment, but Kevin's pointing us in the right direction.

            The bottom line is that suffering has purpose when united to Christ's suffering for the redemption of all. Colossians 1:24 brings an interesting addition to this discussion. If we could connect Paul with Job (which may be difficult since AFAIK, we're not sure if Job presents historical truth along with it's theological truth), we'd notice that Job can't understand the purpose of his suffering, while Paul completely and specifically understands his suffering to be united with Christ (the mystical head) for the salvation of all people (the mystical body).

          • David Nickol

            for the salvation of all people

            See my message to Kevin. Also, it is my understanding of Catholicism that it does not teach that all people are saved. And what is meant by "salvation" or "redemption"? That God would have sent everyone to hell, but the suffering of Jesus combined with all other suffering somehow buys tickets to heaven for some people?

            And what about the suffering of animals? Is it not real? Does it get weighed into the total suffering God requires?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Everyone can be saved. Some people will chose not to be.

          • ziad

            This is just my understating (not sure if it's 100% accurate with what the church teaches). God does not require suffering. When humans committed sin, the natural consequence is death and suffering. In order to save humans from death and suffering,which they inflicted upon themselves,he offers a plan for salvation. Humans can never get it or earn it, but God gave it freely. In order to redeem the world, a sacrifice was needed since death and suffering still is the consequence of sin. So Gid sends His son Jesus in order to be the sacrifice that would take death and suffering in place of humanity. The innocent Jesus had to be sacrificed to save the guilty. Now death and suffering have been defeated and no longer can sting us. All we have to do is receive the free gift that the Lord has given us.

          • 42Oolon

            We were talking about Job not Jesus. Why tell or keep this story?

          • ziad

            He was asking about salvation in Catholicism and the suffering of Jesus. Read his comment ;)

          • floydo

            Because suffering does not always make sense in this life. Often suffering is just a trial and seems to have no redemptive value from our perspective. God says to Job "Where were you when I made the foundations of the earth?" In other words, your life and its trials are always in some sense a mystery to you, and meaning and purpose may be always hidden from you.
            Christ, however, gives us another answer for Job: "I Am the door." and "In your weakness I find strength". Here another aspect of God is revealed in that He is willing to take on the mystery of human life and use it as a redemptive redo of the created world. We, as members of His body, enter into and participate in this redemption "completing the suffering of Christ in our own bodies". Christ not only redeems but perfects and fills the mysterious nature of our lives with Himself.
            I hope this makes some sense as I believe you've asked an excellent question!

          • Phil Steinacker

            Everything in the old testament in some way is tied to Jesus, or else the early Church in assembling all the books of the Bible from the OT and NT would have no reason to include them.
            So it is quite correct to tie Job's suffering with that of Jesus, Whose suffering, in turn, is tied to the suffering of all - if we are willing to see it.

          • David Nickol

            When humans committed sin, the natural consequence is death and suffering.

            What do you mean by "natural consequence"? If God created the universe, then in his creating he determined what natural consequences would be. You make it sound like God is not responsible for natural consequences.

            In order to save humans from death and suffering,which they inflicted upon themselves,he offers a plan for salvation.

            Humans still suffer and die.

            So Gid sends His son Jesus in order to be the sacrifice that would take death and suffering in place of humanity.

            Again, humans still suffer and die.

            The innocent Jesus had to be sacrificed to save the guilty.

            Why? Why did God require anyone to suffer, let alone a perfectly innocent person. When Jesus was tortured and crucified, did God the Father say, "Okay, now I am satisfied"? What kind of plan is it that requires an innocent person to suffer agony and death to placate God for the often offenses of the guilty?

            Now death and suffering have been defeated and no longer can sting us.

            So it is okay with you now if you and the people you care about suffer and die? If suffering is good, why should we try to alleviate it?

          • ziad

            What I mean by natural consequences is that God gave us free will. And we have the choice between picking him, who is the source of love and happiness, or the alternative (when we sin) which is the lack of love and happiness. Humans free chose not to love God, and by losing God, they lose the source of life.

            As for human suffering, I agree that they still do. The reason why they do is that we still sin, and the effect of sin still inflict us. But the good news now is that death and suffering will not last forever, since we can be saved now and have eternal life.

            you asked why would God let an innocent guy die. In Catholicism we day that God is merciful and he is just as well. One of the stories I've heard that can show the dynamic goes like this: a king was at war against vicious enemies. His secret service had Intel that there is a spy among them. So the king declared that if a spy was caught, he will be sentenced to death. The Intel then found out that it was his own daughter That was spying. Since he was a just King, he cannot retrieve his commandment. But he couldn't let them Kill his daughter either. So he decided to take her spot and was sentenced to death instead.

          • David Nickol

            So the king let himself be executed while at war with vicious enemies? What happened to his kingdom? Didn't he have a responsibility to his subjects?

          • Sean Alderman

            David, thanks for the reply. Perhaps this statement will be a semantic quibble, but the Church doesn't teach that God sends anyone to hell. Confer with CCC 1033 defines Hell as the...

            'state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."'

            It's our free will and choice to, as Frank Sinatra sang, "do it my way..."

            Regarding the animal suffering, it is my understanding that the Church teaches that animals don't have immortal souls and they are not created in the image and likeness of God. That leads me (which means it's questionable that I am correct) to think that Christ's suffering isn't for animals. Likewise, since animals don't have immortal souls they do not possess free will, and cannot choose to or not to love God.

            I don't at all mean to sound uncaring about animal sufferings. I do think its interesting that some other creatures feel pain, but also that it would seem that others do not. I suppose that's not only off topic, but also out of my depth.

          • David Nickol

            How can people choose something when they have never heard of it or don't believe in it's existence? I suppose it might be compared to saying that anyone who goes to prison chooses to do so, which I would not say is accurate. They may be there at least to some degree because of choices they made, but they didn't choose prison. Ask the people in prison if they are their by choice.

            It does sound from the following biblical quotes that people are "sentenced" or sent to hell.

            Matthew 23:33
            You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to
            escape being sentenced to hell?

            Matthew 25:41-46
            Then he will say to those at his left hand, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and
            you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then they also will answer, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did
            not minister to thee?" Then he will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me." And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

            Luke 12:5
            But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after
            he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!

            2 Peter 2:4
            For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment . . . .

          • David Nickol

            Therefore, the suffering of the innocent in all times and places is part of the Redemption.

            But what does that mean? What are we redeemed from? Why does God require suffering for redemption instead of, say, remorse or sorrow or love? And does this make all suffering a good thing? Is the suffering of nearly 16,000 children a day who die from starvation or hunger-related causes necessary for the redemption of humanity? Is there some quota to be met? Why wasn't the Suffering of Jesus enough? Are you saying that when other innocent children suffer, it is for your and my benefit? And what about the people who live relatively free of suffering compared with people who suffer terribly? Are the latter paying the price for the former?

            "The suffering of the innocent in all times and places is part of the Redemption," is very abstract and easy to say. Do you think it would be comforting to you if you were watching children starving, dying of cholera, or being in the crossfire in Syria?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Is your complaint that life is real and that is a bad thing?

            I could not give you a better reason than Job as to "why" suffering is necessary for salvation; God's answer seems to be "Ask me later."

            I would say that ultimately the good that comes from suffering will infinitely outweigh the evil that comes from it. This does not mean we would inflict it on anyone and not do everything we can to ameliorate it. Even so, many followers of Christ have found joy in suffering since they see it as uniting them to Christ.

          • David Nickol

            Is your complaint that life is real and that is a bad thing?

            My complaint is that you gave a canned answer to an extraordinarily difficult question that admits of no satisfactory explanation. Catholic explanations of why there is so much suffering in the world may seem reasonable as long as you are far removed from places where children are starving or wars are going on and don't dwell on it too much. And as long as you don't ask the question why does God need to be paid in suffering to "reopen the gates of heaven" (as the old Baltimore Catechism put it).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What would an uncanned answer sound like? If I went to bed hungry as a child, and lived in a dangerous place as a child, and felt unloved as a child would that give my "canned answer" more authority?

          • David Nickol

            What would an uncanned answer sound like?

            It would sound "uncanned," not like something from Father John A. Hardon, S.J., or the Baltimore Catechism. It would not sound rote, and it would be an answer that you could give directly to a person who was suffering terribly (which thankfully I am not, never really have been, and with luck won't be).

            If I went to bed hungry as a child, and lived in a dangerous place as a child, and felt unloved as a child would that give my "canned answer" more authority?

            I'll answer by saying that I think the most compelling book by C. S. Lewis is A Grief Observed, which I presume you are familiar with. I hope you have been as fortunate as I have when it comes to suffering, but I think a good answer to the question of suffering should hold up for people visiting the pediatric ward of a cancer hospital, working among children in a war-torn part of the world such as Syria, or examining the immediate aftermath of a school shooting or suicide bombing. An "uncanned" answer should hold up in the face of real suffering."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, that was a part of my experience as a child.

            I disagree that an "uncanned" answer should be able to do those things. In my view, the only adequate answer to a suffering person's suffering is compassionate assistance, nothing intellectual.

          • Phil Steinacker

            No answer, whether "canned" or not (in flawed, failed human terms), will do those things for you or anyone, not should it.
            When we insist on viewing His plan through OUR lens, we remain blind to what is.
            The core of this struggle is our refusal to submit in humility to what we do not understand. Arguments like the one you pose (which is a very common one) are based on the myopic view I describe above, and perpetuate the error by insisting the answer must come ONLY in the form demanded by the questioner. This position fails to grasp the premises upon which the questions and the demands are made are fundamentally the WRONG ones to begin with, and therefore even the best, most accurate answers seem incorrect or incomplete.
            Yeah, I know. I just say that because I got nothing better, but I respond that Satan (in whom you likely do not believe) has been working this one on humans for centuries. It is our PRIDE which leads us to insist that our challenges which wear blinders we cannot see MUST be answered within the parameters we require. Without this illusion, our secular godless beliefs fall apart and we are forced to endure uncertainty, and without faith or at least humble pleas to God to help, we flail helplessly in fear and anxiety.

          • David Nickol

            No answer, whether "canned" or not (in flawed, failed human terms), will do those things for you or anyone, not should it.

            If I understand you correctly, then we are in agreement. There is no fully satisfactory answer to why God allows innocent people to suffer or—if I understand the Catholic idea of redemption correctly—God required Jesus to undergo torture and one of the most horrific methods of execution ever invented. I am willing to acknowledge that some people find meaning in their own suffering and resign themselves to it or accept it. But I simply do not believe there is any mother or father who can look upon severe pain and suffering undergone by their own children—or anyone at all who can look at the suffering of any children—and say, "I am sanguine about their suffering, because I understand how God is using suffering for our ultimate good. I rejoice in the suffering of children, because I understand, and I can explain."

            Jesus in Gethsemane says, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." He says, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He doesn't say, "I understand suffering and it's purpose, and I am eager to suffer." This incident is, as you know, referred to as "The Agony in the Garden." Even those who claim that Jesus was God incarnate and was omniscient would, I think, have to acknowledge that Jesus looks at extreme suffering much the same way we all do—with great anguish. I don't think he can be accused of pride for begging to be spared suffering if at all possible.

          • David Nickol

            Please don't take this as an accusation, but can't it be a matter of pride to believe yourself to have humbly found and accepted the Truth and to think people who question the things you believe are too proud to see and accept what you see and accept?

            There is a passage from C. S. Lewis a quote occasionally to the effect that the greatest saints have called themselves vile sinner, and we should not look upon this as "a pious illusion upon which God smiles." This frequently pops into mind when people say to me, in essence, "Why can't you be more like me? Why can't you give up your pride and be humble, like me?"

          • Phil Steinacker

            David, those who insist that if God exists and he is good and moral (as seen through their own myopic standards), then He would not allow suffering on the order of what you describe are only demonstrating a dogged determination to impose their failed ability to properly read and understand Scripture.

            When you are so far removed from properly seeing with "the eyes to see" and "the ears to hear" that you can only receive from Him, then you will be continually hamstrung by your proclivity to interpret everything you read in Scripture according to your flawed understanding of this world, and the purpose of life within it.

            That purpose will NEVER be what humans imagine it to be according to our human desires, and so that myopia will cause us frustration to properly understand suffering on a cosmic, mystical level which defies attempts to quantify or measure it.

          • 42Oolon

            No, god gives no answer to Job. He quite clearly says, who are you to even ask me that, and then goes on about how he created the world.

            This is so insulting because there was a simple answer, it is given in the text, the suffering was allowed to prove a point to the devil. Now, why is everyone who reads the bible allowed to hear about the reason for his suffering except Job?

          • picklefactory

            Problem of evil? *jazz hands*

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This means what?

          • Hegesippus

            Maybe a non-fundamentalist reading of Job would suggest that he and God communicated outside of the limits of that which has been handed down to us...

          • Phil Steinacker

            You obviously treat God with the expectation that He owes Job (and you, by extension, a direct answer and in that answer an explanation.)
            A believer with some history of walking - however imperfectly, which is all of us - on a path to personal holiness knows that often...actually, most times...God's answers to our questions seems to be silence.
            I don't expect an unbeliever to be able to grasp this, but in belief we eventually begin to have the eyes that see and the ears that hear how He responds to us.
            No disrespect intended - and I empathize in recalling my own difficulties in this at one time - but you are quite handicapped so long as you insist that He somehow is required to answer ONLY they way you demand.
            You like to examine Scripture and point up its "flaws" to contradict our thinking. Go back and look. Does Job complain that God doesn't answer his question, or does he accept God's response? You fail to consider that Job gets exactly what God is saying and humbly accepts it without any further challenge.
            Like most unbelievers, heretics, and schismatics, you're not considering the full picture when examining your cited Scripture. You're hung up on God not giving Job (and you) what you wanted Him to give, and so you miss that God's response to Job IS His answer, and that the rest of His answer is in His silence. In that answer the believer opens his heart to receive the fullness of God's response which comes in many, many different forms, and even much, much later.
            Yet, for all that, God is NEVER late. HE is ALWAYS on time. We just have to learn humility and let go of our prideful demands that He be the God we require Him to be.
            Open our hearts to receive Him as the God He IS, and then we also begin to receive what He is saying to us. Sorry, that's how it is, always has been, and always will be. His Way, not yours.
            You can count on it, though, so all it takes is for you to figure out how to open yourself to getting it. Doing this is simple but still hard to do. The best part is, you only need to open the door a tiny bit, and He'll kick down the door to enter your heart the rest of the way.

          • http://www.thewinedarksea.com/ Melanie B

            I always took God's answer to Job not as an evasion but as a direct answer: there is a reason for this suffering, but it's too big for you to understand. You are too little to be able to comprehend the big picture as I can. If my two year old asks why he has to get a shot that hurts, I'm not sure I can do a much better job that that sort of non-answer. Given the limits of his ability for abstract thought, all I can tell him is that the shot will help keep him from getting sick. But I'm not sure any answer I can give will make sense to him, limited as he is. This is why we keep the book of Job, because it still reminds us that the problem of suffering is bigger than we can understand. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it's also comforting in the same way my son is comforted when I tell him to trust me because I'm his mother.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's a *story*!

            It is not unusual for the people in a story to not understand everything. It is left for the readers to interpret what the story means.

            That is why anyone who reads the Book of Job can try to understand what the Book of Job means, even though Job many not.

          • 42Oolon

            Find me one person whose whole family is killed abruptly who finds joy in that.

            Joy and suffering are contradictory emotions. We cannot find joy in suffering. This is reeking of self flagellation and starting to be a bit sick. Remember we are talking about God allowing the devil to intervene to kill a virtuous man's family.

            One of the things that drove me to be more engaged in atheism was seeing the image of a saint in a Cathedral in Peru. this woman would tie barbed wire across her breasts at night so she could suffer.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I said that many followers of Christ have found joy in suffering and you said find me one person who finds joy in a particular kind of suffering. You point does not refute my point.

            If you declare no one can experience joy and suffering at the same time you simply don't know what you are talking about.

            Then you say those who say they do are "sick."

          • David Nickol

            If you declare no one can experience joy and suffering at the same time you simply don't know what you are talking about.

            Perhaps one can find some kind of purpose or joy in one's own suffering. We were always told to "offer it up for the poor souls in purgatory." But can we find purpose and joy in the suffering of others, particularly if they see no purpose or joy in it themselves? If suffering somehow helps redeem the world, shouldn't we find not merely consolation but joy in other people's suffering?

            There is something odd, in my opinion, about the belief of some Christians that suffering is good. I remember reading advice to Catholics somewhere that if they are dying in pain, they may want to attempt to do without painkillers if they can bear it, at least part of the time or to some extent so they can suffer more. It was stressed that this was purely voluntary, not mandatory. I had always thought the alleviation of suffering was a good thing. Now, I can see how someone convinced that by taking more suffering upon themselves somehow lessens the suffering of others would be doing a good and noble thing to allow themselves suffering that could be alleviated. But I don't think it is a rational belief.

            Certainly enduring suffering when that suffering cannot be avoided in achieving something worthwhile is a positive thing. But I don't think there is anything good about the suffering itself. Suppose I exercise rigorously to keep myself health, and the exercise involves discomfort or suffering. I may be pleased with myself that I persist, but I persist in spite of the suffering.

            Why, I wonder, is it considered by many to be holy to "mortify the flesh" by wearing a cilice, but would probably be considered bizarre to hold one's hand in ice water as long as possible once a day (very painful), or self-administering painful shocks with an electric cattle prod?

            I certainly do not see suffering as a good thing in and of itself. I can see sense in trying to find meaning in enduring suffering, but I see no sense in inflicting or self-inflicting suffering for its own sake, and that does strike me as "sick."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There ought to be a limit to the number of points allowed in a combox!

            > Human being can experience joy in suffering because we are composites: The body can suffers while the soul rejoices.

            > People have a perfect right to forgo pain killers if they want to. They can also take as much as they want and need.
            > I don't think anyone is saying that suffering is good in itself. If it was it would not be suffering.

            > It is not good in itself to wear a cilice or to mortify oneself in any other way. It is just a means to an end of growing in temperance and fortitude so as to act with greater justice.

            > What is considered a legitimate form of mortification and what is bizarre is probably a produce of the age you lived in. The desert fathers and Irish monks did all kinds of extreme mortifications. But unless the individual was off his rocker, these were never done for their own sake but for the sake of something else.

          • 42Oolon

            Sorry I thought the context of suffering we were discussing was that on the level of Job's suffering. There is no indication that Job found joy in suffering and I don't see how anyone can. Suffering is the opposite of joy, any joy you feel is not caused by suffering unless you are a massochist.

            Yes, I think it is sick, when talking a bout a man whose family was killed for the express reason of just testing his faith you note than some people find joy in suffering because it unites them with Christ.

            I honestly do find sentiments like this abhorrent. You might find abhorrent a pagan ritual in which naked youths bathe in the blood of an ox slaughtered on a metal grate. But they did not and they did this for centuries. I find a religion that finds joy in uniting with the torture of its god ugly and sick.

            It reminds me of the self torture Christian saints endured. This practice of valuing suffering as some kind of virtue is wrong.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is possible to experience joy and suffering at the same time because we are made up of bodies and souls.

            The body can be suffering but the mind can be happy because of what the suffering is accomplishing. This can be confirmed by any successful dieter or exerciser.

            Mother Teresa tells the story of finding a woman with children who had not eaten for days. Mother Teresa went to another person and begged for money, bought a small sack of rice, and brought it to the woman. The woman, instead of immediately cooking the rice to feed herself and her children, divided the rice in half, brought that half to another woman who was in as bad shape as her, and only then cooked the remaining rice for herself and children. Can you not imagine the joy that woman felt in her generosity, even though she suffered physical want?

            In regard to mortification, it is never an end in itself but only a means to an end. No one ever said that suffering is itself a virtue. Fortitude is the virtue in which one pursues some end despite discomfort or even pain.

          • David Nickol

            It is possible to experience joy and suffering at the same time because we are made up of bodies and souls.

            I believe you have said this before. I find it a little strange, because a great deal of suffering is mental. And there is in many ways a mental component to all physical suffering. I once had a medical procedure (a cortisone shot directly into a joint) that was intensely painful, but was intended to restore the joint to health. It would have been quite a different experience of if someone had done the very same thing to me solely with the intention of causing pain.

            Fortitude is the virtue in which one pursues some end despite discomfort or even pain.

            But the suffering of children and many others is imposed, not willingly endured, and those stricken with suffering are not pursuing an end. I think we all understand "no pain, no gain," but that surely doesn't apply when soldiers are systematically raping women or parents are beating their children.

            What I don't understand here is the apparent belief that just because we can explain some suffering, the issue has been dealt with. I remember reading The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis many years ago and thinking it had some important insights. But no book or no religion, even Catholicism, has a satisfactory answer to why humans suffer so much. Every once in a while one reads in the news about parents who have horrendously mistreated a child, keeping locked in the basement, feeding him barely enough to keep him alive, beating him, and all kinds of horrors. Anyone who tries to explain that away as really having been all for the best is going to fail. The best a Christian can do when confronted with such situations (in my opinion) is say, "Why God would permit something like that to happen is a question we ultimately can't answer, but we must trust such things do not mean God is not good, but rather our problem is that we lack the means to explain why God intervenes sometimes and not others."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with you and think there is a lot of wisdom in it! I was not explaining all suffering. I was just showing how suffering and joy are not incomparable.

            And you are right that mental suffering goes along with physical suffering. I suppose it's even possible to experience mental suffering while enjoying physical pleasure, like realizing what a rat one is while committing adultery with one's best friend's wife.

            I recommend you read two posts at the New Apologetics website I mentioned above. One is called "A Line in the Sand" and the other is the first post on "Divine Chastity." I think they are amazing and open new horizons on the question of God and evil.

          • 42Oolon

            I agree, being generous and actually eating after starving would be what is joyful. But it is not the suffering and starvation did not cause the joy, obviously. And this isn't the story we are discussing.

            What possible joy was available to Job? We cannot even say that at the end of the day he was better off. He was put in the same place he was before the torment and was never told of why he had to go through it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Job's a character in a story. Characters in stories don't need to understand the meaning of their story; usually they don't get to. That is for us, those who hear the story to try to figure out.

            I think this is true whether the story is imagined or real. We are all living in our own story. How can we fully understand it while we are still living it?

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Please see my mention of the Eternal Moment. Linear cause and effect thinking will not clarify the concept of redemptive suffering. It is not the fault of the innocents that they die, but the fault lies in the choices of their killers to kill. Finding fault and laying blame are contingent on linear cause and effect thinking. Redemptive Suffering exists outside of linear cause and effect thought and extends beyond the individual.

          • David Nickol

            Linear cause and effect thinking will not clarify the concept of redemptive suffering.

            Assuming you are Catholic, can you point to anything at all in Catholic thought that makes this point. Or if you are not Catholic, can you point to any writer or other source that deals with this issue in the way you do? Or is this a purely personal insight?

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            Primarily, a personal insight culled from working with a dozen or so psychologists as colleagues over the years; a keen interest in science, including physics; 30 years of working with children and observing their development; lots of prayer; informal studies of traditional cosmologies and medicines from other cultures; a habit of reading a variety of Bibles to compare interpretations, translations and resources have all lead to my acceptance of the concept of the Eternal Moment.

            Hints of this do occur in the Old and New Testaments, primarily in Exodus 3: 14, Matthew 11: 27, Luke 10: 18, 22. And it makes sense to me from what I can understand as a lay person of the Big Bang theory which has been proposed, in part, by a Belgian priest named Georges Lemaître. I blend this with what I have learned of learning theories, learning disabilities, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

            I am willing to explain this in more detail, if you wish.

          • Hegesippus

            And maybe those suffering ones you so freely cite in order to disprove a theological point would not choose to have their suffering used in such a way.

            By carelessly speaking for them, you obviously have not ensured none of them have offered their sufferings to God and received consolation.

            You could show them more respect.

          • David Nickol

            By carelessly speaking for them, you obviously have not ensured none of them have offered their sufferings to God and received consolation.

            I am not sure I understand what you are saying. My point was not about those who suffer as Christians and find meaning and solace in "offering up" their sufferings. It was about those who don't understand the concept (children, or those who know nothing about "offering up" suffering).

            You could show them more respect.

            Basically, I am discussing hypothetical people, not people I know or people who are reading these messages. Perhaps you should show respect to real people using their real names by not lecturing them hiding behind a pseudonym, Hegesippus. Rule 1 is to use your own name.

          • Phil Steinacker

            David, have you not witnessed how easily and therefore how insincerely people express remorse, sorrow, or love tone another? Surely you have observed how many people elevate such manipulation to an art form.
            Suffering cannot be faked. And it IS a natural consequence because, as you will learn or at least observe (we pray it's the latter) on Judgment Day, the first consequence of using the gift of free will to separate yourself from God through sin is to separate yourself from God.
            In this life that separation can end if you open your heart to Him at least a little, and He'll take it from there. A side point here necessary to make because it is no small thing is to understand that you cannot open your heart or make a decision on your heart as an act of self-initiated will. It's not akin to throwing a light switch; I know, I've tried. Instead, we pray for Him to help us, and in time He will present you with that choice on the level of you heart and not so much on the level of your mind. It is at this point you may choose to receive the gift which may take so many different forms.
            However, if you do not choose to end your separation from Him in this life, then your failure to do so will result in something which should send chills down your spine; when He says to YOU, "Thy will be done."
            Ultimate suffering is the eternal separation from God resulting from stubbornly living out our will. The intense experience of this condemnation is heightened by the short-term contact we have with Him at Judgment, and now for the first time we know what we will be missing and can never have - at this point.
            The gates to hell lock from the inside. All those there will have decided to be there, consciously or not. Suffering in this life is many things in Catholic theology; in this particular view we make the connection between suffering on this earth, uniting that suffering with that of Jesus who endured it for our redemption from the natural consequence of our sin (eternal separation from Him), and the magnification of all this suffering beyond our comprehension if we say to Him, "My will be done," to which He will agree because He will NOT force us to choose Him.
            In contrast, those who use the suffering of this world (which we cannot escape, God or not) to unite themselves with Jesus will grow closer to Him and serve Him, and they will eventually be freed from all suffering in Eternal life where everything to which we have attached ourselves is no longer important.
            I've noticed that atheists and agnostics seem to struggle with how God can be a good and moral God when He allows such suffering. I understand the difficulty, because without God life has no meaning and purpose except how much we can get out of it (pleasure in all its forms, including self-value) and how much we can succeed in avoiding or minimizing pain and suffering. Such a closed-end view of suffering can't help but see that experience in an end unto itself, and this is quite naturally reflected in all the queries I read on this thread.
            Sorry, I don't have time to stick around to defend/refute any responses, but if my contribution adds any value to this discussion then perhaps fellow believers may be able to incorporate some of my thoughts into their subsequent posts.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            It didn't make sense to me, either, until I started to contemplate the broad concepts (not the mathematics or the details of the theories!) of time, space and the speed of light. As long as we perceive time as linear and space as finite, it won't make sense. But introduce the concept of the Eternal Moment, and the linear temporal idea of cause/effect changes to infinity.

            This makes sense to me, because I have been considering it for quite a few years now. But I am not sure that I can explain it more clearly than that, without a very long entry.

          • 42Oolon

            I am afraid that while I tend to agree that tenseless time or Eternal Moment would seem to be the case, I cannot actually envision it in any way. My mind works in terms of sequential narrative only. So mentioning this concept does not help me understand this narrative.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            42Oolon, you do have a beginning of the concept of Eternal Moment when you are able to reply to me in one box, and reply to Kevin in another box. While some may see this as a simple line of events, there is, in using your memory, a loop back to the earlier thought which allows you to create a new line of thought without ending the line of thought which began before Kevin's reply.

            To continue the visual image, you may imagine your life spread along a traditional time-line, such as may be used in history classes to chart changes across years. Add to this a loop from your present moment back to the point on the line which represents a memory. Reading the word "and" represents many memory loops connected to the alphabet, learning to read, print, write, type, accommodate different fonts, connotations, denotations, etc. until that loop becomes pretty fuzzy looking.

            Sometimes these memory loops are severed, and the memory is lost. Sometimes, these memory loops carry the full and complete event to the 'present', which we may refer to as 'deja vu' or 'flashback'.

            Jump from learning theory to physics. Thought = energy = (matter x speed of light) squared, which can neither be created nor destroyed, only altered. At this point, all those memory loops take on the delicate traceries of sub-atomic particles in fractals, curves, spirals and arcs.

            It all exists, all the time, but we can only perceive small portions at a time. Japan exists, although I have never been there. I don't need to see it to believe that it is real elsewhere on a curve of the spheroid called Earth.

            Does this make sense yet? I could continue the explanation, but this box is filling up pretty quickly. To connect the loop, suffering now may be relevant to another time and place which we can't measure, or even perceive, at this time. In a strictly linear model, suffering can only be perceived as a consequence. But we suffer in the present, in anticipation of something better (childbirth, tattoos, exercise programs...). Hope doesn't fit in a linear model of cause and effect. Neither does sacrifice.

          • 42Oolon

            Nonsense. There is no indication that Job lacked discipline, or how killing his family would be instructive. He was already the apple of the Lords eye.

            If the full purpose of suffering was revealed 2000 years ago I must have missed it.

          • Hegesippus

            If you missed it the first time round, plenty of reading and catching up for you to do!

          • BillLG5

            Ah, the mystery of the Cross. Only infinite love via the incarnate Word of God, historically and mystically, can conquer the consequences of the prideful misuse of free will - the painful experience of finitude. I have often wondered why we have bn so affected by the workings of a fallen angel. Who allowed that serpent to enter the Garden anyway, and why?
            A test? For the sake of merit found in the perfection of charity? Nevertheless, it was a reality. Before the Fall, love would have prevented suffering. Now love often leads to suffering. The antidote (i.e. redemption from an eternal lack of love) is Divine Love.

        • ziad

          There are many lessons that you can get from the story of Job. One of the main ones is: Suffering is not always because the person has sinned. In that time (and actually even during Jesus' time), people that when someone had misfortune, it was because he had done something wrong (look into the blind man's story, when they ask Jesus who has sinned to be born blind. Is it him or his parents).
          The image of suffering in the story of Job is pointing to Jesus. He also suffers for no fault of his own. God refuses to hear Job's friends' prayers for their injustice, but through Job's intercession God does listen. Same with Jesus, through his suffering on the cross and redeeming us, now the Lord will listen to our prayers, even though we are sinners because he is interceding for us.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          To me this shows Yaweh as being of a deplorable immoral character.

          I don't see what is immoral about this. What is immoral about God permitting a human being to be tested? Life is a big testing ground.

          It suggests it is OK to let someone torture your loved one's to show that they will always love them and explain the reason by boasting about your power.

          Has anyone in the last 2500 years has ever interpreted Job this way? I don't think so. Has anyone ever tested another person in this way using Job as a justification? I don't think so.

          • 42Oolon

            I have interpreted it that way and I've heard nothing here that suggests I was wrong. People here are reading in things about Jesus that are just not in the text.

            Testing someone should never involve seeing how they react to the death of their whole family. Surely you agree with that? Are you really suggesting that telling people in AIDS ridden Africa to use condoms is wrong, but killing someone's family wrecking their crops and covering them with boils, to prove to the devil how strong their faith is, is good?

          • Hegesippus

            AIDS-ridden Africa?!
            Check the stats or the arguments for this being effective. Consider Uganda! Catholic, very little AIDS.
            Using polemical claims that are unsubstantiated is not effective.

        • David Nickol

          My understanding from Job is that the devil bet God that Job would renounce him if he was suffering.

          The devil does not appear in the Book of Job. "The satan" or "the Adversary" is part of the heavenly court, mentioned a number of times in other parts of the Old Testament. The Jewish Study Bible says:

          Typically, these divine beings, although they have great power, may not act independently of God. The Adversary or "The Accuser," Heb "ha-satan," is one of the divine beings. He functions as a kind of prosecuting attorney, and he should not be confused with the character of Satan as it developed in the late biblical (see 1 Chron. 21.1) and especially the post biblical period, that is, the source of evil and rebellion against God. (Heb "ha-" is the definite article, which cannot precede a proper noun, "Satan.") Later, the idea of Satan developed into the devil, but these associations were not present at the time of our story.

          The Jewish Study Bible says Job makes three main points:

          • Human suffering is not necessarily deserved.
          • "The claim that all suffering is deserved will inevitably persuade those who hold that view to falsify either the character of the sufferer or the character of the Lord."
          • "The third point, however, is the most theologically difficult and gives the book its sense of profundity and at the same time its inconclusive conclusion: There is no way of understanding the meaning of suffering. That is, the Lord's argument, the reasons for suffering—if there are any—are simply beyond human comprehension."

          The Jewish Study bible goes on to say:

          Job is the most difficult book of the Bible to interpret, not only because of its elaborate arguments, especially the Lord's speeches in the final chapters, but also because of its highly poetic language, which is particularly ambiguous and contains a large number of unusual or unique words (hapax legomena, "things said once," that is, words not appearing elsewhere in the Bible). This, any translation of the book must be tentative, as translators or commentators have often understood the same verse or phrase in diametrically opposite ways . . . .

          I suppose some will argue that the Book of Job is divinely inspired, and it has a "message" God intended, and if different people interpret the text differently, the Catholic Church can settle things by telling us what it "really" means—what God intended to convey when he inspired it. It seems to me, though, that we should look on the Book of Job as ancient religious literature that is in many respects impossible to glean a clear "moral" from, which in no way implies it is not a great work.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi 42Oolon,
          if you don't mind me taking a shot at answering your question i think i might be able to shed light on it. First of all if i can remember correctly the story is a parable meant to reveal divine truths. In biblical times there were two wisdom movements. the first wisdom movement went like this; if you adhere to the law, if your are generous with the poor, if you are faithful to God you will be blessed. suffering then comes when someone is not adhering to the Law or is not faithful to God. the three "friends" in the story represent the original wisdom movement. they cannot understand why Job is suffering and attempt to keep finding a cause that Job has sinned. the second wisdom movement went like this; you can do the obey the Law, you can be faithful to God but still sometimes you will still suffer unjust suffering. when you go through it, try to trust in God and even though you may not have immediate answers eventually you will. we cannot always know why bad things happen to good people, but God is still present and will see you through it. Naturally if the promise of eternal life is true than any suffering we may have to face is only momentary. the "satan" or tester in the story is meant to show God is not the direct cause of suffering. in reality unjust suffering is the result of the original fall because our world in a sense if flawed. but satan, or evil can cause suffering. one of the interesting aspects to suffering is how we approach it. if we face it with some amount of trust, even though it may be difficult, God will see us through it. if we fail in our trust (even though we may waver if we do trust) than God appears to be absent and uncaring. in reality any time we face some kind of suffering it's the constant self reflection, or self focus that is causes more suffering. we may ask ourselves, "how long is this going to last, or is this going to get any worse" which causes agony and makes whatever difficulty far worse. if we trust God we know he's with us an it alleviates the suffering. the incarnation is God's final word on suffering. it's as if God says; "i know you have to face this phenomenon called suffering. in order to show you that i am not above or indifferent to suffering, i'm going to become one of you and suffer anything you may have to suffer, so that you will know that i am with you when you are suffering. Thus God as a man faced physical suffering, rejection, misunderstanding, abandonment. and yes, the "satan" was a constant source of Jesus's suffering.

          finally, remember that we grow the most when we do go through difficulity. when everything's going well, or it's easy, we don't ask ourselves important questions. but going through suffering causes one to ponder the meaning of life, who they are and what life's really about. suffering can cause our character to grow, if we do have trust.

          • 42Oolon

            I would say that if there was a deity who had some kind of virtuous plan and ability to control the world, the idea that good works would reduce your suffering would make great sense.

            The fact that we see quite clearly this is not the case, is a problem that demands an explanation. I am sure ancient Hebrews needed some kind of explanation too, after all they believed God was intervening in the world all the time to win them wars and kill Egyptian babies.

            My problem is I see no explanation in Job or anywhere in the Bible of why God does not reward good works on Earth and in fact we see no connection between keeping the law and the level of suffering we get.

            This is highlighted in the passage where Job, asks God why. It is key here what God says and more importantly does NOT say.

            He does not say that there is a larger plan or other world in which all of this will be answered.

            He does not say that there is a good reason beyond his comprehension that will make your suffering worthwhile.

            He most certainly does NOT say : "I'm going to become one of you and suffer anything you may have to suffer, so that you will know that i am with you when you are suffering." which is what we would expect on the Christian view.

            Instead, what he does say is "Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou, unto me." and goes on to explain how powerful he is.

            He says "might makes right, you thought obeying all those rules would reduce your suffering? No, I am more powerful than you, you will worship me and hold to my law and if you will still suffer even if it is just so I can test your will. And you will thank me for it. "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as
            menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God"

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi 42Oolon,

            I think i should have expounded perhaps a little more.

            "I would say that if there was a deity who had some kind of virtuous plan and ability to control the world, the idea that good works would reduce your suffering would make great sense.
            The fact that we see quite clearly this is not the case, is a problem that demands an explanation."

            When speaking of the two wisdom movements, aka. (1.Obey the law, try to be faithful to God and generous with the poor and you will be blessed" 2. sometimes the good will suffer even if they are faithful to God etc.") I should have pointed out that BOTH are true. you will be blessed (not necessarily in a material way) if you try to be faithful to God etc. but that will not exempt you from suffering.

            "He does not say that there is a larger plan or other world in which all of this will be answered."

            Job is blessed at the end of the book more so than at the beginning, but remember the story is a parable.

            "He does not say that there is a good reason beyond his comprehension that will make your suffering worthwhile."

            God does imply to Job that he has good intentions, but Job will not have the ability to understand, just as he does not have the ability to understand the sun, moon. etc. In other words, God will bring good out of a bad situation in the end, but when bad things happen Job will not have the ability to understand during the event. God does not permit bad things to happen so he can bring good out of it but he will bring good out of unfortunate events.

            "He most certainly does NOT say : "I'm going to become one of you and suffer anything you may have to suffer, so that you will know that i am with you when you are suffering." which is what we would expect on the Christian view."

            The bible as a whole reveals revelation. Job takes the notion of suffering one step further. Jesus takes it a step further after that so all revelation about suffering is not summarized in the story of Job.

            "Instead, what he does say is "Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou, unto me." and goes on to explain how powerful he is."

            In other words, when you face suffering, face it with courage, faith and trust, and accept the fact that you cannot understand everything right now.

            "He says "might makes right, you thought obeying all those rules would reduce your suffering? etc."

            God does reward Job for his faithfulness in the end. There's also the implied meaning of the authenticity Job had in his interactions with God. Sometimes when we go to prayer we may think God wants us to be inauthentic as if he doesn't want us to share with him how we feel. God wants us to be transparent. if we're upset with God it's good to let him no how we feel and not pretend that those feelings don't exist. being authentic and transparent in our relationship with God helps our relationship to grow.

          • 42Oolon

            The point is that yes, you can try to re-interpret this story in the context of Jesus in any way you want, by saying it implies this or that or, when you read the Bible as a whole... But there is no reason these basic obvious sentiments like "good deeds will be rewarded on Earth" can't be made explicitly.

          • jasonbmiller

            You're asking people to use comment boxes to explain the complexity of God, scripture, and the spiritual life. There are many books written about this subject. If you want detail, you are going to have to go those texts. Your questions cannot be addressed without talking about the entirety of salvation history. You seem to be asking why does good not earn good from God? Why does suffering happen even when good is done? This reality we live in is completely disordered, probably at the most atomic level. Why? Because of the fall. This world belongs to Lucifer. He doesn't play by the rules you are talking about. Why does God allow him to run amok? Because good comes out of suffering. Many of the comments here suggest people are not satisfied with that response. I would say that in a very practical sense we all are - it is when we talk abstractly about these matters, it is not sufficient. Everyone seems comfortable with the notion of "no pain, no gain." If you want to be a great athlete, there is pain involved. A great student or professional - lots of personal sacrifice and loss of sleep. A great parent - you have to sacrifice some of your personal aspirations. Achieving anything good and worthwhile involves hard work and sacrifice. Some will say - but you are proving my point that good work should result in rewards or good consequences. Anyone that really gets into the Zen (if you will) of hard work and suffering, begins to understand that the goal is not necessarily ever achievable or even in the end, desirable. But one that gets into the Zen of hard work and suffering begins to see that something greater comes from this - strength, character, perseverance, wisdom, etc. Any great athlete, martial artist, painter, writer, servant of the poor, etc. will tell you that. The spiritual life is no different - if all you think about is how to get to get to heaven, like satisfying the checklist, you will completely miss the point. It becomes, "what will I get if I do this." Keeping score is a spiritually dead proposition and then you miss the point of loving God and loving your neighbor. But if we simply get caught up in the act for the sake of God and the person in front of us, then something bigger happens. Even if we fail to achieve our goals (which we all ultimately will without the Grace of God and because we are flawed creatures), we become intimately aware of His presence. THEN, you can endure all sorts of trials. The life of probably every saint is a testimony of this. Now, I am not remotely suggesting that I am some saint or holy person, but I do indeed find that I can endure much more pain and suffering than I could 10 years ago. Working for the Lord allows me to endure loss of sleep, fear of death, illness, less time for myself, and injury to pride. The day in and day out travails of life, which have increased since I became a Deacon, seem less burdensome because of the Lord. Now, here I am trying to explain all this in a darn comment box. I told you to go out and read a more detailed book at the beginning of this comment. Maybe that is the wrong advise. Maybe you just need to go out and do it - take that leap of faith. Then you may understand more deeply. Then you might come back to the book of Job later, with God given insight, and say "OH! That's what it means!!" Lord knows that this happens to all of us. Sometimes you just can't force the understanding. The spiritual life is not like wrapping your head around a math problem. I will add one final thing from the field of psychology (since I am a psychologist). Research has solidly demonstrated that if you take an existing behavior and start rewarding it, the person's motivation to engage in that behavior disappears when you take away the reward. In other words, you begin doing it, just for the reward. Behavior that is motivated internally, in spite of the circumstances, is more enduring. This is called intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. So there you go - this spiritual stuff is also supported by science and reason.

        • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

          Trust. Trust is something that the devil simply cannot understand. God trusts that Job's faith in Him is unshakable in the face of the pain that the devil plans. Job trusts that his God will be faithful in understanding and protecting him. If God were to answer Job's, "Why me?" by saying, "Jus' playin' wit' ya, man" , Job would begin to doubt not only his God, but also himself. God's response bolsters Job's faith and removes the lingering doubts about His Love and Fidelity for His People. To leave Job in doubt would be to concede the win to the devil.

          • 42Oolon

            Marie,

            The truth is that, according to the text, God was indeed "just playin'" with Job. Job trusts that God would not give permission to someone to kill Job's children just as a test of Job's faith. Wouldn't you agree that Job already knows that God is all knowing and is perfectly aware of actual true extent and true nature of Job's faith and commitment to God? Job trusts that if someone, especially Satan, were to challenge God on Job's faith, God would simply say, "Be gone with you foul spawn of sin, I have no need or interest to prove anything to you!" And that would be the end of it.

            You are right, in this story, Job would lose his commitment to God if God told him the truth. And because God just outlawed lying a few books ago, he does not answer at all. Instead he beats his chest for dozens of verses about how vastly powerful he is. After pages and pages of his telling Job about his wondrous power, Job does not praise God for his goodness or grace" Rather he confirms God's power and authority and says "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

            This is about power and authority being derived from power.

          • Hegesippus

            By using such emotive descriptions as "God...beats his chest for dozens of verses about how vastly powerful he is" suggests that you are reading this text in the fundamental manner of considering this to be historically true.

            Is this the case or can we agree that Job is a parable to explain suffering in an ancient Semitic culture, thus one that does not match our literary/academic norms?

          • Paulo

            I suggest you to read the Apostolic Letter "Salvifici Doloris". There you will find a theological explanation, but a "starting" one, for "beginners" in this long study about the meaning of suffering:

            http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris_en.html

    • Howard

      If you *really* want to know what Catholics think about the book of Job, there are better places to turn than the comment section of a blog. For starters you can Google "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary", which has been posted online, and read the section under Job. You might also check out Peter Kreeft's book Three Philosophies of Life: Ecclesiastes, Life As Vanity; Job, Life As Suffering; Song of Songs, Life As Love.

      • David Nickol

        If you *really* want to know what Catholics think about the book of Job, there are better places to turn than the comment section of a blog.

        First, I could be wrong, but I rather doubt that there is a specifically Catholic interpretation of the Book of Job. I don't think anything from Job is particularly key to Christianity, and I doubt that there is any official Church teaching about the book as a whole or any passages in it.

        There's scarcely an issue that comes up on Strange Notions that can't be explored in depth by reading countless good books. While I always appreciate getting book recommendations, it seems to me it is perfectly appropriate for 42Oolon to raise his questions here without people implying he should read books instead. I sometimes kick myself for spending too much time writing on blogs and too little time reading, but they are two very different activities, and reading and writing on blogs has its place.

        On another blot where I sometimes participate, I suggested making up a list of perhaps ten books for the "poorly catechized" Catholics people are constantly bemoaning on Catholic sites (or for the curios non-Catholic). A lot of people found it an excellent idea, although it never got done. But that is a different project than trying to answer questions on a Catholic blog.

        • Howard

          "I rather doubt that there is a specifically Catholic interpretation of the Book of Job." I never said there was. There are, however, some interpretations that are both deeper and and more in consonance with Holy Tradition, and others that are less so. The Haydock commentary is a good place to start because it gives an immediate hint of the breadth of thinking by the Church Fathers and Doctors on individual verses in parallel with the Scriptural text itself.

          The question 42Oolon asked was a difficult one that does not admit a short answer. If he seriously wanted an answer, he must be prepared for a long one -- not a soundbite, a bumper sticker, or even a paragraph written by you or me.

    • Gail Finke

      Job is not a historical book. It is an allegorical book. The point of Job is not that God and the Devil had a wager (they didn't) but that Job (as a representative of mankind) is more faithful to God in insisting that he didn't do anything wrong than his "pious" friends were by insisting that he must have done something wrong because bad things are punishments for bad behavior. When God speaks to Job He doesn't justify Himself by revealing some sort of cosmic plan (which would ultimately mean Job's friends were right, and somehow Job deserved what happened to him). Instead, He shows Job that mankind is not owed an explanation. God, on the other hand, is owed worship no matter what happens to you. The "happy ending" is just a reinforcement of that.

      We Catholics of course read this in light of the New Testament, in which God reveals through Jesus that there IS a plan and that all inequities are reconciled in Christ. As Jews do not believe this, I assume (never having discussed it in detail with any rabbis) that for the most part they believe the same thing that the early Jews did -- that God's plan is a mystery that God does not owe them an explanation for. The Old Testament is a very sad collection of books, one that offers a hope that is never explained and can only be accepted on faith and anticipated. But it seems to have been enough to keep the Jews going it for millennia.

      There are many, many works written on Job. Reading it once or twice and deciding for yourself what it means seems more of a way to go about taunting other people than it does to go about understanding them. And yes, I'm aware that some Christians and Jews take the Book of Job literally. But that's not the way that most of them have read it throughout history.

      • David Nickol

        The Old Testament is a very sad collection of books, one that offers a hope that is never explained and can only be accepted on faith and anticipated.

        That is rather condescending to Torah-observant Jews. The idea that the Hebrew Scriptures are really only understood by Christians is offensive. Contemporary New Testament scholars (including Catholic ones) do not see the Hebrew Scriptures as a collection of texts that can only be properly understood by Christians, filled with "prophecies" about the coming of Jesus. The following is from The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, pp. 1314-1315, in the essay Aspects of Old Testament Thought, by John L. McKenzie.

        The unity and continuity of the plan and the history of salvation do not imply that the OT is meaningless without Jesus Christ. It was the theory of Origen and many of his followers that the true meaning of the OT was not intelligible unless one interpreted every word of the OT as referring to Christ in some way. Such an interpretation is possibly only by a kind of allegorizing that goes far beyond the meaning of the text. Moreover, such a view fails to recognize the intrinsic value of the OT. Even from a Christian viewpoint, if there never had been a NT the Hebr Scriptures would retain value because they were a vehicle through which God revealed himself. The literature of the OT was meaningful to those who produced it and to those for whom it was prouced; it had a contemporary significance and force that could be grasped by those who were unaware of the precise form that the historical development of salvation would take. In modern interpretation the first (but not the only) task of the interpreter is considered to be the apprehension of that contemporary Israelite meaning. . . .

        The novelty of the Christian revolution is not well perceived in a scheme of interpretation that sees the relation of the OT and NT as prediction and fulfillment. Without denying the unity of history and of themes, we maintain that the concrete historical reality of Jesus Christ is literally predicted nowhere in the OT. Jesus exceeds the limits of the OT knowledge of God; for, in his own words, one cannot put new wine into old wineskins. The radical novelty of his person and mission can be seen in the very designation Messiah/Christ. The early church proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, well aware that no figure like him can be found in the OT. He is the Messiah and is recognized as such not because he can be identified with any particular prediction or with a number of predictions taken together, but because he unifies in his person all the ideas that are called messianic. The unification transforms some of these ideas profoundly.

        Now, since "revolutionary leaders' of the "Christian revolution" were Jews, thoroughly steeped in Old Testament concepts and themes, and since they found radical new ways of interpreting those themes and applying them to Jesus, the Old Testament is going to have special meanings for Christians that it does not have for Jews or non-Christians. Since the early Church interpreted Jesus in the light of the Hebrew Scriptures, Christians who know Christianity well are going to see in Hebrew Scriptures the roots of Christianity. But of course any believing Jew who studies Christianity will see the same "continuity" between the Old Testament and the New. The believing Jew will simply think that Christians developed an offshoot of Judaism, but developed it in such a way that Jews don't recognize it as a true continuation of Judaism, as Christians claim.

        If Jesus was who he is claimed to be (which the author of the above excerpt of course believes), and if he was crucified and raised from the dead, then obviously the "Christian revolution" took Judaism in the right direction. It reformulated, expanded, and reinterpreted some Old Testament themes and ignored others. So of course there is a strong relationship between the Old and New Testaments. But it is not because the Old Testament was really about Jesus and was filled with predictions about him.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    The message of Job seems to be, in part, that one cannot know the nature or purpose of the Divine Mind. And since, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." (Wittgenstein), why should we bother talking about God at all?

    Why don't we worry about easier questions first, like the questions God poses to Job about the foundations of the Earth? Maybe we should get good answers to these questions before worrying about questions of God's plan, God's disposition to us, or the question of faith.

    • 42Oolon

      What is staggering is that clearly by its inclusion in the OT, God and the church think that everyone except Job is entitled to the real explanation of his suffering.

      • ziad

        I do not get how you get to the conclusion that "everyone except Job is entitled to the real explanation of his suffering" from adding the book of Job to the canon

        • 42Oolon

          Ziad,

          The reason the story gives for Job`s misfortune is a kind of wager between God and some devil or angel.

          We all get to know about this because we read it in the Bible. But when Job asks for the reason, he is not told about the wager, (or the coming Jesus or any reason) he is told gird his loins, and is then given a series of rhetorical questions about how powerful Yaweh is.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Plus, whatever message is in that story, it is no consolation to Jobs wife, seven sons and three daughters...although all is made right for Job at the end of the day as he gets a new family and his possessions returned at the stories conclusion. Presumably God seen Job as alexithymic.

    • ziad

      You are right in saying that no one knows what's on God's mind, but that does not mean we do not know some of it. As Christians, we claim that God has revealed certain truths to us (like His plan of salvation). So we know some of what is on His mind, but not everything. I think we should bother because what He has revealed to us is very meaningful (if we believe that it is His revelation), since He revealed these Truths for a reason (our salvation).

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The Book of Job is one of 72 books of the Bible. It needs to be read and interpreted in some kind of context.

      It does not make sense to interpret Job as saying you can't understand anything about the mind of God. One question the books asks is, Is all suffering due to sin? The answer the book gives is No.

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        I didn't claim that God cannot be understood at all (although I admit that I don't know anything about him, even whether he exists). I'm wondering (in the edited part) whether it is possible to love someone without understanding anything about them.

        My main point is that, instead of trying to come up with "solutions" to the problem of evil or explanations for the trinity or essays on divine providence or God's will for us or Christ's hope for the world, which it seems to me cannot really be understood by human beings, why not worry about the questions we can hope to answer?

        Maybe a more definitive answer can be found to the question of whether God exists. So that question's still interesting.

    • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

      Hey Paul - I don't think the heart of Job (or "A Serious Man" for that matter - one of my favorite Coen films) is that we can't understand anything about the Divine (fideism), but that we can't understand everything. There's a great exchange between Gopnik and the Rabbi Nachter about the story of the goy's teeth. "We can't know everything," the Rabbi insists. "It sounds like you don't know anything!" Gopnik says. But Augustine famously said, if you understand it, it is not God. Aquinas also argued that we can't know the Divine nature. But both men gave us a lifetime of well-reasoned theological writing - because mystery is not total obscurity. Even the light of faith, Francis wrote, does not scatter all our darkness, but provides a lamp to guide our steps in the night.

      That said, the problem of evil and suffering is one area where I feel great sympathy with atheists - it's where the darkness of God looms largest. Those who deal with the problem abstractly and academically don't really understand it. One of my articles here at SN looks at other films that wrestle with the problem, and a few that give an adumbration of great hope. I think "A Serious Man" does too, with the reminder that great suffering calls for greater love.

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        I appreciate your answer, and the real way you struggle with some of these issues. Ratzinger in his Intro to Christianity said that believers and non-believers have the shared human experience of uncertainty.

        The problem I was trying, somewhat unsuccesfully, to articulate is this.

        I can imagine this conversation with Aquinas.

        Aquinas: And that's why God exists.

        Me: But what about evil?

        Aquinas: This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

        Me: What good would justify the evil of the holocaust?

        God (out of a whirlwind): Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?

        Me (wondering to myself): If I can't get an answer to this sort of straightforward question, why bother with the whole enterprise at all? Is it possible to love someone when I can't understand the things he does?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          > What good would justify the evil of the holocaust?

          If I am grasping the answer being advocated by the New Apologetics (http://newapologetics.com/a-line-in-the-sand), there are two goods that “permit” the holocaust.

          First is before the fact. God's goodness, love, wisdom, and power call for giving creatures real power and dominion over their lives and the world. This means God gives us freedom to do good which he applauds, as well as evil which he abhors.

          Second, God would not permit this state of affairs at all unless he could bring about a great good. This "permission" of evil is not that God uses evil as a means to an end (which would be immoral), but that he can produce a greater good despite the evil. God always abhors the evil but has given up his power over it in the short term out of regard for us. These two goods do not justify the holocaust, because it can never be justified; it is wholly evil.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Second, God would not permit this state of affairs at all unless he could bring about a great good.

            What is the specific great good that would not have been obtained without allowing for the holocaust?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In regard to the second point, it is not cause and effect. The evil is not necessary for the good.

            We don't know what the great good is. Perhaps it is the eternal life and happiness of every one of those innocent victims.

            It might be that your question really pertains to the first point. Allowing the state of affairs in which the innocent can suffer is the great good of angels and men who have true freedom to act in the world.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            We don't know what the great good is.

            That's it. We don't know. God's got his reasons but we don't know what those reasons are. So I wonder:

            1. If I can't get an answer to this sort of straightforward question, why bother with the whole enterprise at all?

            2. Is it possible to love someone when I can't understand the things he does?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think you are asking unwarranted questions, that is, questions which do not actually arise from the facts.

            I gave you two straightforward answers to why the innocent suffer. I'll even go beyond what I wrote above to say that the great good that God will do in response to innocent suffering is redemption, sanctification, and eternal happiness *and* a bunch of things we can't imagine now.

            Second, it is not warranted to claim you can't understand *anything* God does. We can understand all kinds of things he does. (Can anyone claim not to understand Jn 3:16?)

            On the other hand, it is possible to love someone when you can't understand the things he does. Children love their parents and while they are children can understand very little of what they do.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            You aren't answering my questions about the holocaust. You can say they're unwarranted, but you still haven't answered them.

            I'm not asking about why God allows suffering in general. I already know that people believe that there could be sufficient reasons for God to allow all kinds of suffering. But I'm not asking about all sorts of suffering and the possibility of sufficient reasons. I'm asking about the holocaust.

            For what specific good reason did God allow the holocaust? If you don't know, then that's something very simple to ask about God's motivations that you don't know.

            Can anyone claim not to understand Jn 3:16?

            Why would God kill his own son so that we can believe upon him and have life eternal?

            it is possible to love someone when you can't understand the things he does. Children love their parents and while they are children can understand very little of what they do.

            I think that's a good example. It may be that we can't understand even some of the the basic things that God has done, like his allowing the holocaust. And God can still love us and we can still love God.

            But then why bother worrying much about him until we grow up?

            So far, I'm at the level of the 1 day old baby with respect to God. I'm not sure if there's a Father out there. Why not wait until I recognize his face, and then find out more about him and love him the more fully for what I learn?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > "For what specific good reason did God allow the holocaust?"

            I'm not following you because I've given two reasons twice now. (1) God permitted the Nazi's to do all kinds of evil because he respected the real power he gave to creatures. (2) God permits people to abuse freedom because of his ability to bring about a greater good.

            So, for a Jewish non-Holocaust example, God permitted Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery because he respected the freedom and power he gave them, even to do evil. The good that God was able to bring from it was their salvation from famine due what Joseph became.

            God didn't "do" the Holocaust. The Nazis did. The good of the innocent suffering will have to come in life after death.

            > "Why would God kill his own son?" He didn't. Men did. God permitted it because of the respect he has given to their human freedom and power to act. The greatest good he brought about was the salvation of the world. God "gave" his son, he didn't kill him.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Never mind.

          • David Nickol

            (1) God permitted the Nazi's to do all kinds of evil because he respected the real power he gave to creatures. (2) God permits people to abuse freedom because of his ability to bring about a greater good.

            For those who accept this kind of reasoning, it at best gives a reason why, in general, God allows suffering that is the consequence of people acting freely. It would be a strange world in which people acted freely but all the negative consequences of their actions were prevented or undone.

            However, for anyone who believes that God sometimes intervenes in history, it seems to me impossible to explain why he intervenes some times and not others. If God miraculously intervened to make Constantine the victor in the battle near Milvian Bridge, or if God miraculously intervenes to save the houses of all the people who claim on the evening news that they were the benefactors of God's protection from the fire, hurricane, tornado, etc., then the question you really have to answer is why did God decide to respect the free will of the Nazis but not respect the free will of Maxentius and his soldiers?

            It really is a question that can't be answered, in my opinion, unless you give up the idea that God intervenes at all. As long as you maintain he intervenes sometimes (and as long as you maintain it is reasonable to pray to God asking him to intervene), you are left with the task of explaining why he doesn't intervene in horrific cases like the Holocaust and why he does intervene to make a tornado swerve and hit your neighbor's house instead of yours.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think there are three excellent questions there:

            (1) Does God intervene?
            (2) If he does, on what basis?
            (3) If he does not, what is the reason we are enjoined to make petitionary prayer?

          • David Nickol

            Well, certainly the Catholic Church (and almost every Christian denomination) believes that God intervenes. Just to take one minor example, there could be no requirement for a miracle for beatification and a miracle for canonization if the Church did not believe that God intervenes. (The miracles are not attributed to the saints but to God due to the intercession of the saints.)

            The Church "certifies" miraculous cures at Lourdes. And of course the Christian practice of prayers of petition goes back to Jesus himself (the Lord's prayer, and his own prayer in Gethsemane).

            I am listening to an audiobook at the moment that quotes at great length from the Gospels (I am not sure why the complete text of all four were not included), and hearing it this way I am struck by how much healing of the sick (and casting out of demons) Jesus does, how he grants the authority to do the same to his disciples, and how absent the healing of the sick is from the Church today. We have Mark 16:14-20 (the so-called Great Commission):

            14 (But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.
            15 (He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
            16 (Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.
            17 (These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.
            18 (They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
            19 (So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.
            20 (But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.)

            As direct successors to the apostles, bishops do not drive out demons (thought there may be a few bishops who practice exorcism), speak in tongues, handle serpents, drink poison to no ill effect, and cure the sick. I think we would be startled (and perhaps appalled) if a bishop spoke in tongues. It is not the kind of thing Catholic bishops do. I think it would be fascinating if bishops started practicing faith healings in which people actually got well, but I don't expect it to happen. But the question is why all of the "powers" bishops possess today must be taken on faith, whereas the powers listed in the Great Commission could be empirically verified.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Bishops and priests (who share in the ministry of the bishop) do perform the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick all the time and it does sometimes result in physical healing. Christ could not have been talking about guaranteed healings, since then nobody would ever die! Bishops and priests do exorcisms.

            The gift of tongues the Apostles enjoyed at Pentecost seems to have been a one-time thing. Now they have to learn the languages the hard way.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "What is the specific great good that would not have been obtained without allowing for the holocaust?"

            This is a good question. Perhaps I can ask a clarifying question, though. Do you think it is *impossible* that God would have morally sufficient reasons for allowing the Holocaust or that such reasons are simply difficult to ascertain.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I cannot imagine morally sufficient reasons (meaning, I cannot imagine a great good that could not have come about in a less terrible way). That doesn't mean morally sufficient reasons cannot exist.

  • Boris G

    Any explanation that would have God compromising with evil by using it as a means for some good end is as the Athiests rightly say immoral and therefore absolutely repugnant. For the best explanation of what the Catholic Church really teaches regarding evil,suffering and Gods response go to NewApologetics.com

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The comment to understand X, go read website Y is not helpful.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Even though I semi-chastised you below, after reading some of the OP's I have to agree that this group is doing some amazing work. A whole different take on the problem of God and evil is outlined here:

      http://newapologetics.com/a-line-in-the-sand

  • Tess

    Thanks Fr. Barron! I hadn't heard of the film. It's definitely on my "must see" list.

  • schmenz

    I was afraid that the cultural level among average Catholics today was approaching zero level, and now Father Barron confirms it. That two such non-talents as the Coen boys should be considered by him as great movie makers proves once again, as if any more proof were necessary, that when it comes to cultural matters the Catholic Church (at least its outspoken "representatives") have completely lost touch with the concepts of art, beauty and, in this case, cinematic skill.

    I look at the dreary landscape of the cinema, which has been degrading palpably since the 1960s, and I am devastated that so much rubbish is not only being made, but is now, apparently being endorsed by those who once were considered the guardians of the culture.

    Darryl F Zanuck saw the problem clearly just before his enforced retirement from 20th Century Fox in the late 1960s: "I know the public feeds on crap but I cannot believe we are so lacking in the skills we once had that we cannot at least serve it to them in a creative way."

    You may wish to feed on such crap as the Coen boys ladle out, Father Barron. As for me I will refresh myself with films made by artists, such as THE BICYCLE THIEF, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, THE COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR and Lean's OLIVER TWIST.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      And what are some of your contributions to authentic culture? And do you have a name?

      • schmenz

        I have already given in my comment a few examples of cinematic culture. Alas, they are not mine.

    • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

      Hey Schmenz - Have you seen "No County For Old Men (4 Oscar wins, including Best Picture)? A modern classic. "True Grit," "Miller's Crossing," and "O Brother Where Art Thou" are masterpieces too, and "Fargo," hailed by Roger Ebert, is listed by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 greatest films of all time, ahead of John Ford's "The Searchers" and the first "talkie," "The Jazz Singer." Yes, lots of people are turned off by the Coens' brutal concoction of humor, violence, and anxiety - and besides, they have "Intolerable Cruelty" to answer for - but maybe the instinct to call it "crap" betrays the dread intuition that they're reflecting postmodern man all too well. The canon of classical beauty is as necessary to film as to music and painting - "The Bicycle Thief," Billy Wilder's charm, Capra-esque sentimentality, all of it - but we run the risk of closing our eyes to our own experience in our own age if we fail to heed the meaning and beauty of art created here and now. Deeming any and all departures from tradition (or "the classics") wrongheaded is wrongheaded. Barron is a shining example of the need to dialogue with the living, breathing culture, and to understand the eternal truths about man and the world being expressed there.

      (I have to add that you've charged Catholics for being too "with it" and not traditional enough in this department. This might strike atheists here as ironic, who are used to launching or hearing launched the opposite attack, but in fact the Church has always been charged with both, with equal vigor. A "teachable moment," as they say.)

  • Howard

    I'm not impressed. Any number of random songs would fit just as well, since this fit is so poor to begin with. "I Can't Get No Satisfaction", "Ol' Man River", "You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party". None of these fit with the biblical message, but then neither does the answer from "the rabbis Coen".

  • Cassandra

    Fr. Barron jumps the shark.

  • Tobin Nieto

    Life is pain, anyone who tells you different is selling something.

  • GregB

    In the wager between God and Satan there were actually three parties involved in the wager. In his presentation to God Satan was actually involved in what was a two-fer. He basically accused God of being so lacking that His followers loyalty had to be bought and paid for, and that Job was nothing better than a fair weather gold digger. One accusation throwing into question the characters of both God and Job. How could God fail to respond to this vile slander?

    Because Job is an Old Testament book, it is very likely that God's answer to Job was the one that the people of the Old Testament era could understand.