Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Enlightened Sunday School: Teaching Job Part 1: Satan in Heaven

A lot of Sunday school material is written with the goal of teaching kids theology through stories.  Because of this curriculum writers are prone to reshape a story from the Bible to conform to the doctrine they want to get across.  This comes across several ways in how we teach Job.  This post is concerned with how Sunday School curriculum (SSC) goes about identifying Job's tormentor.  Usually it is assumed that the Satan mentioned in Job is the same one who got Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  We can all add "tormenting Job" to the list of awful things this guy has done throughout history.

Bible scholars understand that the word ha-satan (the word that is usually translated Satan) means "accuser" and that it is not written like a name.  The intent behind the text of Job is not that The Evil One is tormenting Job to win a bet with God but that Job has a divine accuser who, in looking out for the interests of God, believes that Job's faith is not real.  Because this leads to a lot of misfortune for Job I'm sure many Christians would like to argue that Satan is behind it.  This way God can be one step removed from all the catastrophe in Job's life and the ultimate culprit is Satan who has always had it in for us anyway.  While it may trouble us that one of God's servants would, in looking out for God's interest, cause all of Job's woes it is actually less disturbing than the alternative.

According to the traditional Sunday school view God is Satan's dupe.  If Satan wants harm to come to one of us, even the most faithful of us, all he has to do is accuse us of being fairweather believers.  Once he does that he can take away our stuff, infect us and kill our family.  I can accept Job's troubles being part of God's perfect will, what is troubling is Satan's evil will being able to subvert God's.  If the Bible is supposed to tell the story of God's supremacy and victory then I do not see how the book of Job fits in with the Satan-as-the-Evil-One interpretation.


  1. the simple different perspective of looking at this story that you described makes so much sense to me and definitely contributed to my own thinking through of suffering, which has been going on for awhile now, and job more specifically in the past few months. in some ways it would be easier to accept suffering if God was not involved in it, but actually accepting suffering from God who we know loves us with unchanging love makes so much more sense.
    i read c.s. lewis's book "the problem of pain" several months ago and one part that i remember said something about how we wish that God had planned a less glorious and less arduous destiny for us, but then we are wishing not for more love, but for less.

  2. It is interesting that the illustration at the top of your page only features dead white males, the bodies of which were long ago eaten by WORMS.

    Why no women?

    But what is the nature of Real God and where does evil come from because the world is now saturated with radical evil.

  3. Hello Anonymous!

    Did you get the pun about worms?

    I'm afraid it's true that most of the popular theologians from throughout time are white men (and dead, hey it's a 2,000 year old industry so most of the famous ones are dead). Because the focus of my blog is theology (though I've considered focusing more on biblical studies since that's been more interesting to me lately) I thought I would put up some of the most famous theologians throughout history.

    Also, though Jesus and Agustine are usually depicted as white (seeing as they had tremendous influence in Europe where people are likely to depict their heroes as looking like them) Jesus was from Palestine and Augustine was from North Africa. Also, I think Jesus rose from the dead and is still alive (though you may disagree with me on that one) so not all of the men at the top of the screen are white nor dead.

  4. Although there is a small amount of sub-Saharan admixture, genetically, North Africans and Middle Easterners fall on the white branch of the human race. Their swarthiness, which is common all around the Mediterranean is an adaptation to the rather high UV levels in the region.

    People in the Aryan/White Nationalist movement think that only the germanic nations are white, or, for that matter, human. I trust we don't want to go there.