"I'm back, Job. I'm back because I still need to ask you about the issue that bugs me--whether you really ever were restored or could be restored after your great loss. And, I am almost in a position to get to that question, Job, but I think I am onto something with respect to God, don't you? That is, I think that God was mightily angered that he had to answer you in 38-41 and that his words in those chapters are to be interpreted in that light.
Why would God be so angry in responding to you in 38? You would think that he would be happy to respond. You have raised some good issues, and have been quite insistent in your complaint. You know, Job, some scholars have framed the issue in the following way. They say that ch.31, which was your last big speech, actually compelled God to answer you. I don't know if I really understand that concept, but some scholars argue that it was like some kind of magical ritual of antiquity, maybe something like the curses that those who "rouse up Leviathan" were skilled in uttering (3:8). The idea would be that when you got into this cursing mode, maybe by your ritualistic language or gestures, you would be compelling the God (or Leviathan) to answer.
You know, Job, this kind of thinking occupies the same mental space as that weird story in I Sam 28 where a medium whom Saul visited seemed to compel the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel to appear. Listen to Samuel's first words to Saul when he was brought up from the dead: "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up" (I Sam 28:15)? So maybe that is what was going on in 38-41, Job. You had, as it were "called God up" by your heart-rending curses in 31 and God had no choice but to appear. That is probably what pissed him off.
That notion will be objected to, Job, by religous conservatives in our day. You know, Job, there are so many religious conservatives in America in 2005 that a visitor from outer space, upon first setting foot in America would think that conservative religion must be true, so prevalent it is. From Presidents to peons, everyone speaks these days of having "personal relationships" with God and knowing exactly what the Bible means and being very sure of themselves on lots of social issues out there. Wow. The confidence of these people is really quite amazing and even stunning, Job. But I think it is these people who would probably object to the idea that a "mere" human (as they would say) can "call you up" and "make you respond," because God is the biggest baddest God in the world and God can do whatever the heck God wants to do. That is their approach, Job, and I do believe that many conservative religious people are so sure that they live in righteousness that they do not have much tolerance for anyone who suggests a new idea. I really think what is going on, however, Job, is that many of these religious conservatives are simply uncreative people and they are using their uncreative dullness as a sort of club to try to snuff out the creative ones.
Well, isn't that what you found to be the case in your own life, Job? Your pain drove you to such creative and new insights, didn't it? After your pain you began saying all kinds of nasty things about God, but it led you to statements about hope and the human condition that simply were so far ahead of your time that a thinking person has to marvel at you, Job. But what was the friends' response? 'You are going to hell, Job.' Or, the ancient equivalent of it. 'You are going to receive the fate of the wicked, Job.' So, maybe the Book of Job, your book, Job, is really the story of how uncreative people are always trying to bury the creative religious ones by threatening them with the ultimate punishment: death and hell and exclusion from God's kingdom or whatever. Conservative people are always sending people to hell, Job. My if all people were going to hell who they thought were going there, it would be quite a great party in hell.
You know, Job, I used to be one of those conservative Christians. I used to have all the answers. That is why I spent all my time memorizing the Bible--to get the answers which I knew it presented for every question that could be posed. I used to believe that, but pain drove me, like it drove you, Job, to question the foundations on which the inherited tradition was based. And, like you, Job, I came up with lots of strange statements about God which I think are creative and ahead of my time. I kind of withdrew from the religious world, however, Job because I don't think that I wanted to receive the venom of the conservatives who are right on everything. But maybe I will wade back into that world. Who knows? In any case, Job, you show me that the major fault of conservatives is not that they keep to the tradition or even that they ask you searching questions about your life, but that ultimately they are uncreative and don't know they are dull people. And, because of that, they ask all kinds of irrelevant questions and make dumb statements. Maybe they know it, but usually they don't. And, your book says that the only one who can really straighten them out is God--if they still have ears to hear.
Well, forgive me, Job, but I got sidetracked once again. It is almost as if your mere presence with me so encourages me to let you see my heart, Job, that often I can't keep to the "agenda" of things I had planned. But the great thing about you, Job, and about life is that there is, barring disaster, tomorrow to continue our chat. I so look forward to it.