The Catholic at the Door
Drinking in Derision Like Water—Job 34

Job’s Anecdotal Evidence: A Court Summons to God

Job supplies his ‘anecdotal evidence’ in Chapter 31, his testimony. “Let God weigh me with accurate scales; Then he will recognize my integrity,” he says. (Job 31:6)

His life course is one of integrity toward God. If it was not, downfall would be justified, he believes, but it has been.

If my footsteps deviate from the way Or my heart has followed after my eyes Or my hands have been defiled, … If my heart has been enticed by a woman And I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door, … If I denied justice to my male or female servants When they had a complaint against me, … If I refused to give the poor what they desired Or saddened the eyes of the widow; If I ate my portion of food alone Without sharing it with the orphans;… If I saw anyone perishing for lack of clothing Or a poor man with nothing to cover himself; … If I shook my fist against the orphan When he needed my assistance in the city gate; … If I put my confidence in gold Or said to fine gold, ‘You are my security!’ If I found my joy in my great wealth Because of the many possessions I acquired;” (31: 7-25)

All those things would be bad, meriting God’s disfavor, he believes, but he never did any of them!

Have I ever rejoiced over the destruction of my enemy Or gloated because evil befell him?  I never allowed my mouth to sin. . . Have the men of my tent not said, ‘Who can find anyone who has not been satisfied with his food?’ No stranger had to spend the night outside; I opened my doors to the traveler. Have I ever tried to cover over my transgressions, like other men, By hiding my error in the pocket of my garment?” Have I been in fear of the reaction of the multitude, Or have I been terrified by the contempt of other families, Making me silent and afraid to go outside?”  (29-34) No, his life is not characterized by any of those things.

It is his testimony. He has always been upright. He’s ready to sign it: “I would sign my name to what I have said. Let the Almighty answer me!” (31:35) It is like a court summons to God! And God shows up! Let no one say God is not humble. If gerbils sent you a court summons, would you show up?

Before God does, however, Job’s testimony is all peremptorily denied by his three interrogators: 

Eliphaz: Is [your suffering] not because your own wickedness is so great And there is no end to your errors? For you seize a pledge from your brothers for no reason, And you strip people of their garments, leaving them naked. You do not give the tired one a drink of water, And you hold back food from the hungry. The land belongs to the powerful man, And the favored one dwells in it. But you sent away widows empty-handed, And you crushed the arms of fatherless children. That is why you are surrounded by traps, And sudden terrors frighten you;  (Job 22:5-10)

Why does he reject Job’s testimony, instead charging just the opposite? Because it conflicts with his own ‘theology:’ “What I have seen,” Eliphaz says previously, “is that those who plow what is harmful And those who sow trouble will reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, And through a blast of his anger they come to an end. . . . Even the teeth of strong lions are broken.”  (Job 4:8-10)

His pre-formed—faulty, as it turns out—theology tells him Job must have been ‘plowing what is harmful’ for him to be suffering now. Job, who otherwise might have agreed with that theology, undergoes the worst of spiritual crises to accompany his crisis on all other fronts, because he knows he has not been ‘plowing what is harmful’—quite the contrary. So he works out his angst by blaming God for being both cruel and unfair. This further inflames Eliphaz and crew, already riled that Job is resisting their ‘correction.’ Now they read  false positive for apostasy and figure they must attack Job for that reason, too. Presently they are all but hurling epithets at the poor fellow.

Before chalking up the above to the oddities of religious people, reflect that all of society is that way. If you have benefited from acupuncture, say, and want to tell the world about it, you will find yourself derided among the materialist crowd for advocating ‘pseudoscience.’ What about your own beneficial experience, you will ask. ‘It will be attributed to ‘anecdotal evidence,’ inherently unreliable. It doesn’t matter how many like testimonies you can gather; it will all be attributed to ‘anecdotal evidence’ by those whose scientific ‘theology’ admits to no other view—they can’t replicate your experience in their test tubes, so they assume you are either deluded or lying. Mechanisms may differ, but the overall pattern is no different than Job’s ‘anecdotal evidence’ rejected by those of a different theology.

You can go along with the airy dismissal of ‘anecdotal evidence.’ Then one day you find it is your evidence they are trying to dismiss and you wonder how people can be so high-handed and stubborn.


******  The bookstore

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