Friday, January 17, 2020

The problem of pain …

… [Memoir] The Cancer Chair, by Christian Wiman | Harper's Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I have right here on my cancer chair an essay that praises Job as a work of profound theology adorned with poetry, which is so spectacularly wrong I have not yet been able to finish it. As if the poetry were beside the point. The poetry is the point. When Job needs to scream his being to God, it’s poetry he turns to. When God finally answers, his voice is verse so overwhelming that Job is said to “see” it. The speech is a reprimand, yes, but God also allows that Job has spoken “the thing that is right.” It’s not obvious what God is referring to here. Job has said a lot of things. But the one thing that he’s truly hammered home is that cry of dereliction, destruction, and profane (yet not faithless) rage. Whether Job has torn a rift in the relation of man and God, or simply pointed out one that was always there, it now can never be altogether repaired or ignored. The destruction, though, is also a resurrection. God’s being, which extends from the center of the atom to the burning edge of the universe and beyond beyond, is what Job must accept. But Job’s being, and the rage that now ramifies through the centuries (“I will wreak that hate upon him”), is part of that creation and thus a part of what God must accept. Jack Miles points out that in the Hebrew Bible this speech of God’s is the last word God utters. God hasn’t silenced Job. Job has silenced God.

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