The Book of Job
From the September 1922 issue of The Christian Science Journal by Samuel Frederick Swantees
Throughout the ages, one of the most important as well as one of the most difficult lessons to impart to mankind has been the distinction between true and false theology, or the right and the wrong concept of God. The book of Job brings out forcibly this distinction between the true and the false sense of God. Its unique place in the Bible fulfills a very definite purpose, and is not, as so many seem to think, simply that of a beautiful poem or drama, from which we may quote at random. The book of Job clearly presents the utter unreliability of any form of false theology which teaches an undemonstrable knowledge of God, or which offers a concept of God based wholly or partially upon the evidence of the physical senses. Incidentally, the book of Job is also one of the earliest records of the power of spiritual understanding to overcome fear and all error. Coleridge says: “The Book of Job is an Arab poem antecedent to the Mosaic dispensation. It represents the mind of a good man not enlightened by an actual revelation, but seeking about for one.”
The understanding of God always has come and always will come in the form of spiritual revelation; which is only another way of saying that it cannot come through the physical senses. Spirit never being in matter, and never controlled by material belief, imparts its own spiritual revelations to hearts hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and teaches mankind the truth about reality. Coleridge, therefore, stated the case correctly when he said that Job was not enlightened by a revelation, but was earnestly seeking for one. Herein lies the great appeal of the book of Job to humanity; for may it not be said of all of us that before the revelation of Truth in Christian Science has found us, we are like Job when he still had no revelation? Nevertheless, blessed are we if we also are seeking for such.
Let us point out some of the strong characteristics of Job, which may help others in finding the true God. In all of his terrific mental struggles there is not a tinge of doubt in Job as to the great fact that God is. One could never have made an atheist out of Job, for the patriarch’s cry is always summed up by these words: “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” Moreover, there is not the slightest hint that Job is looking for any form of material relief,—which to-day we would possibly call medical help. He is perfectly convinced—and this should be a great help to every one who is seeking Christian Science healing—that if he can only get a right concept of God, his physical ailments will vanish. Job saw, at least dimly, that right understanding of God was his health. This, however, he had not learned from arguments like those advanced by his three friends, but he had evidently reasoned it out for himself; and to this fact he held with commendable tenacity, even though his three friends condemned him for doing so. It is this constructive reasoning that makes the book of Job so full of meaning and dramatic interest,—reasoning constructive to a new and higher concept of God, but destructive to the false beliefs of the physical senses.
What we have just referred to,— namely, Job’s attempt to reason himself, as it were, out of the meshes of false theology,—is the very thing that gives this book its great dramatic place in the world’s literature. When thus understood, it is seen to outrank any other dramatic poem in any language. This book or drama naturally divides itself into five parts: the prologue; the speeches of Job and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar; the speech of Elihu; the speech of the Lord; and the epilogue.
In the prologue we have the story or legend about Job. In this story it is clearly set forth that Job was a very pious man, but that Satan— the adversary—persuaded God to allow evil (Satan) to destroy all of Job’s possessions, including his children, and to smite Job himself with a dread disease. It is easy to see from this that the prologue is nothing else than a description or picture of Job’s state of mind; or, shall we say, his misunderstanding of God.
The prologue of the book contains an exact description of the kind of concept of God held by the great majority of mankind to-day. Here Satan, or evil, is considered as real, and as having power to oppose God. Worse than this, Satan is supposed to work with the permission of God; so that it seems as if God made use of the most diabolical schemes in order to find out the integrity of His children. The book of Job, therefore, points out most clearly that a false theology is largely responsible for mankind’s belief in sickness, sin, and death as realities and as agents of God working with the direct permission of God. It also points out the necessity that this kind of theology must be seen in all of its falsity, and mentally destroyed. Job, desiring to account for the things that seemed to happen all around him, on the basis that matter was real and the creation of God, had to admit, as a consequence, that God was a god of wrath. The false logic of this material conclusion thoroughly awakened him to the necessity of a higher or more spiritual understanding of God; and this caused the seeming struggle which the book of Job sets before us.
We now come to the speeches between Job and his three friends. Here it is easy to see that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are the spokesmen of a false or material theology. In all of their speeches there is not a hint of healing, nor even a desire expressed that there might be relief from suffering; but, contrariwise, there is a superfluity of condemnation. These friends have, from beginning to end, only an imperfect man in view; therefore, their concept of God is also erroneous, for to see man as fallen and imperfect is also to see God as imperfect. On page 467 of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” Mrs. Eddy says, “Reasoning from cause to effect in the Science of Mind, we begin with Mind, which must be understood through the idea which expresses it and cannot be learned from its opposite, matter.” Seeing little else than unrighteousness, God, who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” seems to be so busy punishing the wicked that one really wonders if it is possible for Him to consider the righteous. But Job desired to be taught the truth about the Almighty; he desired to gain a demonstrable understanding of God. The friends of Job did not have this desire, since they believed that they understood God, and therefore had no need for a higher concept of Him. That is the nature of false theology; it is so blind to its own ignorance that it does not feel the need of demonstration or of a more spiritual understanding of God. No wonder, therefore, that Job sees no value in the counsel of his friends!
Now, the words of Job in answer to his three friends may seem to sound harsh, as though he were finding fault with God; but what Job was really doing was arraigning, not God, but an unrighteous concept of God, which false theology had taught him, and which his three friends so strenuously upheld. They all agreed to the belief, which always accompanies false theology, that evil may be used by God to accomplish a good purpose. In his impatience—not patience— with suffering Job showed sound reasoning, for it drove him nearer and nearer to the truth, both about God and about suffering also; because he had to see suffering, not as an agency of God, but as the effect of a false, carnal belief in a power apart from God. The whole theory of God, as a false theology presented it to view, was obnoxious to Job; and he condemned it unsparingly. Nevertheless, what Job actually did was just to deny a material concept of God and creation; and this was no more in substance than what every Christian Science student is doing when he declares that “there is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter,” as Mrs. Eddy tells us on page 468 of Science and Health.
Here let us also remember the radical difference between the theology of Christ Jesus and the ecclesiasticism promulgated by the three friends of Job and their large following’ throughout the world to-day. Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” He condemned evil unsparingly, but not persons, reasoning much with his adversaries to show them the error of their thinking, but always forgiving them, even on the cross.
In the speech of Elihu, beginning with chapter thirty-three, we have a true concept of God coming into view. He insists upon the infinite rightness and justice and wisdom of God, not, however, as an excuse for anything material or evil that may seem to happen according to the senses. In the thought of Elihu it is utterly impossible for God even to be associated with the belief in evil. “Far be it from God,” he says, “that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.” Elihu also insists that we cannot find God through matter, or understand Him through the physical senses. Elihu, therefore, holds plainly before Job the concept of an infinitely perfect God, a God who is “perfect in knowledge.” Mrs. Eddy says (Unity of Good, p. 7), “An acknowledgment of the perfection of the infinite Unseen confers a power nothing else can.” This is exactly what Elihu implies in every statement he makes about God. Elihu, therefore, presents God as infinite in righteousness, justice, mercy, and knowledge or wisdom, and man as governed by the spiritual understanding of God. Thus Job is made to see an adorable God, a perfect God, and man in His image and likeness.
In the chapters following Elihu’s speech we have in the speech of the Lord an account of God’s wisdom and His infinite care for His creation. Destruction has vanished; and in its place there is pictured such a grandeur of creation that Job is overwhelmed by the wisdom, as well as the love, which it all displays. Thus, the new-old idea of Love is imparted to Job. Awakened to the sense of the infinite and unimpeachable perfection of God, he now has a new view of creation, in which is manifested the wonderful care of God for His universe: and the whole earth is bathed in the light of divine Love. Is not this what Truth and Love always do when spiritual perception reveals the truth, and the new heaven and earth appear to us in Science?
Finally, in the epilogue we have the healing of Job fully established, showing that Job’s understanding had been enlightened and his thought purified,—changed from the contemplation of the imperfect and unreal to the recognition of the perfect and real, from the fearful and destructive to the loving and sustaining. Then there came the demand of God that Job’s three friends were to make sacrifices for themselves, and that Job was to pray for them. His prayer, now the prayer of understanding, was acceptable to God, while theirs was not, for they “have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” What else can this mean than that the false theology which his three friends had so earnestly defended was unqualifiedly condemned by God?
The book of Job presents, in logical sequence, the change of the concept of God in human consciousness from the mortal, imperfect, and scholastic to the immortal, perfect, and scientific. It brings out the impossibility of worshiping or adoring God, good, until our concept of God is perfect,—that is, logically and scientifically correct. Ritualism and creed may fill humanity with fear, but they can never make any one adore God, much less love Him. To adore God, He must be understood and esteemed as perfect, divine Being, the infinitude of Love. This is the lesson Job had to learn in order to be healed; and this is the lesson the book of Job is teaching humanity to-day.
Whate’er the senses take or may refuse,—
The Mind’s internal heaven shall shed her dews
Of inspiration on the humblest lay.