Where to file “God-in-a-box” theology


One dies in full prosperity being wholly at ease and secure,
his body full of fat and the marrow of his bones moist.
Another dies in bitterness of soul,
never having tasted of good.
They lie down alike in the dust,
and the worms cover them.”
(Job 21:22-26)

Ray Stedman, in a sermon, “Why Doesn’t God Intervene?”:

Life seems to be unfair. There is a basic unfairness at the root of things, and this is what causes many people to be troubled by the claims of Christians about a loving, faithful, just, and holy God. You often hear the question raised, “If there is a good God why does he let this kind of thing happen?” Job is raising the same question. He says to these pious, respectable friends, “Your arguments do not square with the facts. You say God always visits wrath upon the wicked. What about these wicked people who live without a touch? God never does a thing to them. What about the fact that he seems to treat people very unfairly? Folks who seem to deserve nothing but the grace of God, who are loving, gentle, kind people, have endless problems, and die forsaken. And some who are selfish and cruel and self centered are the ones who seem to be able to live without struggle. What about this?”

Then he turns to examine his friends themselves, and points out the falseness of their friendship, Verses 27-28:

“Behold, I know your thoughts,
and your schemes to wrong me.
For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prince?
Where is the tent in which the wicked dwelt?'”
(Job 21:27-28 RSV)

They were referring, of course, to Job. He says, “I know you’re thinking that I am a good example of the truth of your argument because God has taken away my wealth, my family. my possessions, and you’re saying to yourself, ‘Ah! Where is all the wealth of this man? Here is proof right here that what we say is true.'” And, though they were not saying it quite as baldly, Job says, “I know what you are thinking, your hidden surmisings. I know also your unsupported convictions here.” Verses 29-33:

“Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
and do you not accept their testimony
that the wicked man is spared in the day of calamity,
that he is rescued in the day of wrath?
Who declares his way to his face,
and who requites him for what he has done?
When he is borne to the grave,
watch is kept over his tomb.
The clods of the valley are sweet to him;
all men follow after him,
and those who go before him are innumerable.” (Job 21:29-33 RSV)

He tells his friends, “If you’ll just inquire around among the traveling salesmen, the people who get around and see life, you’ll find that they support what I’m saying. The wicked often escape the day of calamity. It’s not just true around here, this is true everywhere. The wicked live above the law, and nobody says to them that they’re doing wrong. They get by with it. They die highly honored in their death and their graves are adorned and guarded and God does nothing about that.” So he says at last, Verse 34:

“How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.” (Job 21:34 RSV)

If you intend to argue with Job you had better get your arguments well in hand. This man is able to see through the error of logic in these people’s position. They have a theology that does not square with experience, and that is where the problem lies.

These friends represent people — and there are many around today — who have God in a box. They have what they think is a clear understanding of all the ways of God and they can predict how he is going to act, but when he acts in a way that they do not understand and do not expect, they have no way of handling it because it is their creed they have faith in and not in God himself.

This is what Job is learning. His creed has been demolished by his experiences. He has had to file his theology in the wastebasket because it did not fit what he w as going through.Someone has well said that a man with a true experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. These men are unable to answer Job because his experience rings true. That concludes the second round of addresses, and in Chapter 22 we begin the third and final round where only two of these friends speak.

Copyright © 2010 by Ray Stedman Ministries — This material is the sole property of Ray Stedman Ministries. It may be copied for personal non-commercial use only in its entirety free of charge. All copies must contain this copyright notice and a hyperlink to www.RayStedman.org if the copy is posted on the Internet. Please direct any questions you may have to webmaster@RayStedman.org.
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