There was another article in the paper on Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists over the weekend, which was rather more favourable. But, anyway, back to The Romantic Movement and interpersonal relationships, I thought this passage was also interesting (this chap seems to spend a lot of time studying the Bible for someone who doesn’t buy it):
The unfortunate Biblical anti-hero Job, who no doubt had a far sweeter nature than Alice, was sent the most unbelievable succession of troubles. The Bible tells us he was ‘blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil’. And yet what torments descended on him! He lost his oxen, his sheep, his servants, his camels, his house, his sons and daughters, was covered in painful sores and suffered every imaginable pain – and yet the point of the story was that the man [albeit but for a few despairing moments] stayed faithful in his love of God. He didn’t get angry, bang his fist and scowl, ‘I asked for my escalope with the goddam sauce on the side,’ or exclaim viciously, ‘I didn’t shell out for the synagogue extension to be paid back like this.’
What allowed Job to survive trouble without complaint was his undying faith that God was right, and he was wrong – or rather that whatever troubles God afflicted on him, He knew best, and there was therefore no excuse for a little old man like him to raise his hand and question Him [compare Job to his atheistic counterpart in modern literature, Joseph K, who experiences suffering as equally unquestionable, but simply absurd].
In daily life, we rarely have the patience of Job, because we lack his respect for those who do us wrong …
Apart from the fact that he has the story slightly wrong – I think it was after God’s appearance that Job really learnt that God was right, God knew best and therefore that he had no right to question him, not before, and the point of the story is rather more about God than it is about Job – he makes an interesting point (perhaps more commonly held/understood among those of us who do believe in God than otherwise) about how you can endure all sorts of inexplicable behaviour, both from God and from others, if you have a fundamental trust in their character.
When it comes to God, those of us who believe, and have worked to know God, trust that He is good and He is working all things for good, no matter what it looks like to us right now. And when it comes to other people, they can sometimes be behaving in ways that seem impossibly difficult, but if you have some faith/trust in, or understanding of, who they are, and that there is an explanation that is not immediately obvious, you accept it. (Sometimes the trust is misplaced, but you find that out soon enough.)
Simple but true.