Thursday, March 27, 2008

On Being Eliphaz

In our guys Bible study we are going through the Book of Job. I hope the guys are having as much fun with it as I am. It is teaching me a ton about the way that I counsel people. Especially people that are hurting.

Yesterday we looked at Eliphaz's first speech. It's amazing when you look at his theology. As I told the guys, if we were grading his speech for theology he would probably get about an 85 or 90%. He believed that God is just. He believes that God is self-sufficient. He seems to understand that God is transcendent but He is also loving and sends blessings. He understands that God disciplines. He also seems to know that God saves and that God redeems (although that could be debatable).

His advice to Job is pretty simple. 1) Live what you teach 2) The innocent do not perish, the guilty do. Trouble does not simply spring up from the ground. It has to be planted. You reap what you sow. 3) Repent (make sacrifice) and God will remove His hand of discipline and you'll be blessed again.

Other than a possible hint of the prosperity gospel in the end, Eliphaz's advice seems to be pretty sound. Only problem is that God rebukes him in the end (42:7-9). Why? His theology was good, yet God says that what he spoke about God was "not right". It is this:
Right theology, wrong applied, sucks. (Sorry, if you are offended by the word "sucks". I can not think of a better word that is clear and concise. I mean no offense.)

As I think about Eliphaz I see myself. Spiritually arrogant at times. He has all the answers. He has read all the right books. He has even had a "word from God" (or so it seemed). Eliphaz knows what he is talking about. He knows truth. Can you hear the hubris in 5:27? "Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good". Oh, the arrogance of Eliphaz. He knows Job's problem. Job is going through a hard time. Trouble does not come upon the innocent. No man is innocent. Job is not innocent. Job's trouble is coming because of his guilt.

But that's not the case. Even though Eliphaz's theology is pretty accurate it is wrongly applied. Job is not guilty. Job has done nothing wrong. This is not coming upon Job because of his guilt. Therefore, Eliphaz may have the correct theology but he applies it to the wrong situation. Do I do this? Do I look upon people as if "I know your problem"? Do I automatically assume that someelse's experience is similar to my experience, "I know what you are going through"?

Right theology, wrongly applied, sucks.

1 comment:

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

    Robert Sutherland



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