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Old 04-01-2011, 04:16 PM   #421
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Old 04-01-2011, 07:52 PM   #422
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As sort of related clip from a film called God on Trial. Really good. I gotta look into seeing more of this:

YouTube - God on Trial: The Verdict
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Old 04-01-2011, 09:02 PM   #423
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YouTube - The Devil's Advocate - The Devil's Speech Scene

Also related to the broader subject, though it's always wise to consider the source.
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Old 04-01-2011, 09:13 PM   #424
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As sort of related clip from a film called God on Trial. Really good. I gotta look into seeing more of this:

YouTube - God on Trial: The Verdict
From the writer, Frank Cottrell (a Catholic):

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...God On Trial stopped being about theological arguments, and became about the fact that people might be capable of having a theological argument on the way to the gas chamber. In Vasily Grossman's novel Life and Fate, there is the story of a doctor who is giving someone long-term treatment for cataracts, even though she knows that both she and her patient have only days to live. Is this idiot optimism, self-deception, or a heroic refusal to submit to the dehumanising process? And where does that heroism come from? It's a fact that, although many people lost their faith in the camps, just as many had it renewed. As French philosopher La Rochefoucauld says: "A great storm puts out a little fire, but it feeds a strong one." Reading the Bible in the light of the Holocaust was a bit of a storm for me. It came close to putting out my fire, but in the end it blew stronger.

I didn't tell you the end of the story. After they find God guilty, one of the rabbis says: "So what do we do now?" The reply is: "Let us pray." Is this a wry story about Jewish stoicism? Is it about a failure of moral courage? Or what? For me, it's about faith. Faith has had a bad press of late. It's been used by politicians as a rationale for going to war without reason, because it "feels right". That is not faith - that's a hunch, plus vanity. The Final Solution was conceived as a public health project; its perpetrators thought it was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. No matter how extreme it was, we should remember that the rationale was completely in line with the then "best practice" in eugenics. People who are now humanist heroes - Marie Stopes, for instance - were of the opinion that the gene pool needed cleaning (she stopped talking to her son when he married someone with glasses).

The camps tried to reduce individuals to components in a project. In the end, they did that literally. What good stories do is the opposite. They say the human is irreducible. Tobias Wolff has described the story of the Prodigal Son as "surely the most beautiful thing ever written". No one hears it without feeling the conflict between the need to do right by the eldest son, and the need to express the overwhelming love you feel for the lost one, now returned. The father is nothing without the son. That contradiction is crucial. I'm hoping that God On Trial is a mirror image of that story. Only this time it was God who seemed to go away, and people who - inexplicably perhaps - were prepared to rush out to welcome him back.
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Old 04-02-2011, 07:23 AM   #425
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"You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us have been
"A place that has to be believed to be seen"
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Well if Bono says that then that changes my mind and is proof enough!
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Old 04-02-2011, 08:36 AM   #426
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God on Trial is a very good film, I've always been personally bothered by why is there is a requirement of 'worship'. It seems odd to me that he needs us, when he is this all powerful being. It is also rather petty, when he has given us a perfectly serviceable brain and reasoning skills as tools to work things out in our world, that we may conclude due to lack of evidence perceptible or understandable to us that he does not exist, his reaction is to condemn to hell, even when we may have lived perfectly good lives.

I know this is not the opinion of all branches of Christianity and their interpretation of what happens to all non-believers, but there is quite a large number of them that do.

Anyway the idea of Heaven has always bothered me more than Hell...Heaven has always sounded like a stoned out bliss state, which I don't fancy much as you don't seem to get to do much, like read a good book. Floating in the presence of God is not my cup of tea.

Sorry if this has been brought up before, haven't had time to read the whole thread.
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Old 04-02-2011, 08:56 AM   #427
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Keep in mind that, apart from the Gospels and the Book of Acts, the New Testament is Paul's attempts to lay out a theology -- codifying man's relationship to God in the Old Testament and unpacking a theology of grace in the New. As a result, the OT is story-driven, while the NT is theology-driven. While I agree that the story of David and Goliath may be more narratively compelling than Paul's discussion of an old life and a new life in Romans 7, I find value in both.

And as far as the equanimity in the relationship between God and man, I find this pretty powerful from Jesus on the night he was betrayed: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." ~ John 15:15

And I know of no other more haunting moment in either Scripture than Jesus wrestling with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, begging if there is any way for the cup of wrath to be passed from Him...
I understand that the NT is the laying out of a new theology. But I approach the Bible as a work of literature these days so still find the OT much more interesting, with the exception of the Gospels up to the Crucifixion. (We are definitely approaching this from separate purposes) And yes, Gethsemane is very haunting.

Perhaps that is the reason why I lose interest at that point. There really is no interaction between man and god at that point. There is a lot of blah-blah from Paul (I hereby disclose my distaste of Paul other than an admiration for his prolificacy and his nice poetic turn of phrase). God disappears and theology takes over.

While Jesus says "friend" and I am sure the human in him was grateful for the social interaction (as was perhaps the god in him), I do not get much of a sense of the equality of friendship. He is affected by the people around him, but he does not change as god does in the OT.

The ultimate sense I am left with in the NT is that the death of Christ allowed God to abdicate from any personal accountability that he had in the OT (my perception) to a promise of life after death. "Here's my son. Here is my blood sacrifice to you." A brief life on earth, a horrific (but also brief) suffering, a god experiencing human doubt and fear. And then god, like Pilate, can wipe his hands clean of messy humanity and personal responsibility. I'll repeat the quote from a review I posted earlier because it is more articulate than I am.

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The most salient irony of all is one that Miles misses the chance to point out: by replacing the old political covenant with a new spiritual covenant, God gets himself permanently and conveniently off the hook. No one can tell, this side of the valley of the shadow, whether his promise of eternal life will hold up. From his refusal to intervene in John the Baptist's death to his lack of enthusiasm for restoring sovereignty to Israel, he defers victory to the afterlife, where no one can hold him accountable. Lo ha-metim y'hallelu Yah, says Psalm 115: the dead don't praise God, and they may not accuse him either. The life of Christ knits up the raveled ends of God's promises with marvelous ingenuity and skill, but he is still giving aesthetic answers: the promise of eternal life solves his problem, not ours. To a mind looking at the question with profane detachment, it seems likely that he can't keep this promise either.
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Old 04-02-2011, 10:18 AM   #428
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While Jesus says "friend" and I am sure the human in him was grateful for the social interaction (as was perhaps the god in him), I do not get much of a sense of the equality of friendship. He is affected by the people around him, but he does not change as god does in the OT.
I would actually challenge the notion that God changes much in the OT. Some of the moments frequently cited as God changing -- deciding not to wipe out the Israelites when they complain again and again to Moses -- I would say are moments where God actually stays the same. He is tempted to change His plan, He is tempted to do something out of character with Himself, and Moses is the one who reminds God of who He is, and begs Him to stay the course.

I don't think however that the NT negates the kind of relationship we have with God in the OT -- rather, I would say that the NT rounds it out. The OT is much more focused on God's relationship with us (there is very little that changes in the dynamic of the OT -- God rescues His people, they rebel, they receive the cost of walking away and usually wind up enslaved, God rescues His people, they rebel...etc.). The NT is more focused on our relationship to God -- the notions of grace, the doctrine of reconciliation, etc -- and our relationship to each other. Laying out a different way to live.

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The ultimate sense I am left with in the NT is that the death of Christ allowed God to abdicate from any personal accountability that he had in the OT (my perception) to a promise of life after death. "Here's my son. Here is my blood sacrifice to you." A brief life on earth, a horrific (but also brief) suffering, a god experiencing human doubt and fear. And then god, like Pilate, can wipe his hands clean of messy humanity and personal responsibility.
I don't know. Where you see abdication from any personal responsibility, I see the ultimate acceptance of responsibility. If one believes, as I do, that Jesus is God's son and also part of God, then Jesus' death on the cross was a suicide mission chosen by God Himself, who took on Himself the cost and the penalty for all our mistakes and brokenness -- mistakes and brokenness we chose. The idea that God would kill Himself for our sin is almost heretical. Plenty of religions of the time (and of today) stress the notion of personal responsibility, sacrifice, accountability. The whole point of the NT is that the Creator of the Universe, the Author of All Things, took responsibility for every murder, every theft, every rape, every abuse, every act of hatred we ever committed. And He didn't have to.

This, for me, is the power and scandal of the cross. It's God stepping in the way. And, to answer another question earlier, if that's the case, I can't not worship that person. Human beings are built to praise things -- and nothing is more praise-worthy than this act of love.
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Old 04-02-2011, 11:11 AM   #429
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Not to diminish the sacrifice, but he physically suffered (horrendously) but briefly and he KNEW this was not the end for him. So suicide might be too strong a word for a three-day interlude of death--which he knew--as opposed, perhaps, to a person who suffers death to save another with no assurance of that raising or no belief in it. So the blood sacrifice may have been symbolic of a new kind of covenant, I'll grant you that.

Based on your response that God is not changed, but only reminded of his true nature, let me do a little reading and thinking of that. Although off the top of my head, he has to be negotiated with a lot (Moses, Abraham) to be reminded of his nature. So his nature might not be as just as you imply. But it has been a while since I've read this, so I want to clarify things for myself before I respond.
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Old 04-02-2011, 02:22 PM   #430
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I've been lurking in this thread since I last posted. I'm just finding that what the rest of you have to say is more than sufficient and better said than I could say it. I've been content to just read and be edified by the thoughtful comments from all sides in here.

Best thread going in FYM right now.
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Old 04-02-2011, 03:39 PM   #431
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Elie Wiesel wrote a play back in the 1970s, The Trial of God, based on the same Holocaust legend as that movie (in fact I think he may have been the original source for the legend). Wiesel doesn't attempt to set the scene in Auschwitz; rather he chooses the setting of a fictional Ukrainian town during the 17th century Cossack pogroms. Three traveling Jewish minstrels arrive to stage Purim plays for the local Jews, who it turns out have all been killed in a recent pogrom, save for the innkeeper Berish and his now-insane daughter. Berish tells them, Forget Purim, there’s nothing to celebrate--what I want is for you to help me put God on trial for what He's done to our community; you do that, I'll give you your food and shelter. They reluctantly agree, but unsurprisingly, no one feels quite up to serving as God's attorney. In the end a mysterious guest at the inn, Sam, volunteers for the job. Sam proves to be a formidably eloquent, rational, sharp-minded advocate whose calm, confident faith and command of theodicy soon start to make Berish's single-minded outrage look less and less compelling.

Then the local Catholic priest, doctrinally anti-Semitic but a good man, shows up with some bad news: another pogrom is imminent. Let me help you, he pleads; bring your Purim masks, I'll convert you, and once the danger passes, you can remove the masks and I could nullify the conversions. I’ll do no such thing, Berish angrily replies; my family were all murdered as Jews, and I am ready to join them. Ever-vigilant, Sam pounces: Now you stand by your faith, even as you find God unworthy of it for permitting the same fate last time--is this case then dismissed? I absolve God of nothing, Berish replies; I've always lived as a Jew, and I'll spend my last breath protesting as a Jew to God. Sam stoically concludes, Our task is to glorify God, to praise Him, and to love Him--we must endure, accept, and we say, Amen. With the mob approaching the inn, the minstrel-judge is forced to dissolve the trial, vowing it shall reconvene even though they won't, that it will be for others from "a later stage" to pass a verdict. As the assembled prepare to die, Sam begins to back away, and his true identity is revealed as Satan (Samael, the angel of death in Jewish folklore).

Wiesel wrote the play as a "tragic farce" to be performed at Purim pageants; unsurprisingly, that hardly ever happens.

I admire a response like Berish's. I admire a very particular kind of anguish I sometimes hear in BonosSaint's voice, in Irvine's voice, in Dread's voice. I wish I could feel that; to me that is being truly awake, the spiritual quality I would most wish to have more of.
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Old 04-02-2011, 03:41 PM   #432
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Not to diminish the sacrifice, but he physically suffered (horrendously) but briefly and he KNEW this was not the end for him. So suicide might be too strong a word for a three-day interlude of death--which he knew--as opposed, perhaps, to a person who suffers death to save another with no assurance of that raising or no belief in it. So the blood sacrifice may have been symbolic of a new kind of covenant, I'll grant you that.
I was just at a lecture Friday that discussed the Garden of Gethsemane moment in great detail. In terms of suffering, what Jesus endured physically on the cross -- while painful in a way that few have experienced -- was not the worst suffering possible. Other martyrs have endured far worse. What theologians have postulated is that Jesus was agonizing not about the physical pain He was about to endure, but rather that He was about to become the spiritual object of God's anger, wrath, and fury at mankind's inhumanity, injustice and sin. Jesus, in that moment, was not God's one and only beloved son, but instead an object of wrath. As a result, the physical cost of the cross, while extreme, may have been nothing compared to the spiritual cost...
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Old 04-02-2011, 03:44 PM   #433
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I don't know any more about Ghandi than the typical casually informed American. Impressions mostly. The impression was certainly one of admiration with some frustration, but it is quite vague for me. Can you recommend a good book on him for me?
Gandhi had probably one of the most exhaustively documented lives in history; he not only wrote prolifically himself, but also lived essentially without privacy for the last four decades of his life. Which actually makes the ambitious researcher's job harder, since (in his biographers’ invariable cliché) "he was a complicated man" to begin with, plus his status as an international icon always gets in the way. There are hundreds of biographies in English alone, most of them either tiresome hagiography or even more tiresome anti-hagiography. I am not a Gandhi expert.

I've always liked Ved Mehta's somewhat quirky Gandhi and His Apostles, which combines a concise but incisive overview of Gandhi's life, work and thought with sketches of Gandhism's legacy in India "today" (1977, when it was published) and interviews with a few of Gandhi's followers (Mehta was criticized, not altogether unfairly, for managing to select only the loonier ones from the handful still surviving). Mehta was the first biographer to take on the subject of Gandhi's eyebrow-raising 'chastity tests,' which caused a furor at the time; I think this was the first of several books about Gandhi to be banned in India.

I've only had time to skim it thus far, but Joseph Lelyveld's just-published Great Soul looks excellent to me too, though I dislike the way the author has handled the childish brouhaha over certain passages in it (see my post in the same-sex marriage thread). Though it keeps being billed as a biography, it isn't really; rather it's a quite focused comparison of the development of Gandhi's social thought in South Africa and India and how they came to inform each other. But Lelyveld has done his homework in drawing on all the various available layers of source material, and as a result it does provide much insight into Gandhi's personality in the process.

Most scholarly specialists consider Judith Brown's Gandhi the best overall biography in English, and I tend to agree, however I'd have to add that whenever I use it in class, half the students complain it was "boring."

And definitely don't overlook the obvious--Gandhi's own ‘autobiography,’ The Story of My Experiments with Truth. It only covers his life through 1920, naturally emphasizes what he most wants readers to understand (his spiritual philosophy), and the (sole) English translation is florid and not at all faithful to Gandhi's economical Gujarati; still, there really is nothing better for an easy-access plunge into his characteristic and utterly unique style of thinking. It was written in topical installments for a newspaper, and is therefore easy to skim through selectively as you like.
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I always found the Old Testament much more interesting than the New Testament. Better stories, better characters. I mean, really, pit David against St. Paul. No contest. Once you get past the Crucifixion and maybe some nice pieces in Corinthians, it's pretty tedious. I thought the dynamics between man and god were much more compelling in the Old Testament. Man pushed against god, challenged him. It was a much more intimate relationship. A much more "equal" (if you will) relationship. Man could affect god. Man could shame god.

That changed in the New Testament. In a book review of a Jack Miles book, the reviewer summed up what I was thinking nicely.
I think that probably reflects cultural and intellectual change in Israel/Judah over the last half of the first millennium BC, more than anything else. Centuries of direct influence from first Persia and then Greece radically altered Jewish ideas about the nature of the world and God's relationship to it, which in turn created major problems for the Jewish preoccupation with divine justice. Judaism by Jesus' day would’ve been almost unrecognizable to a Jew from a millennium before, with its polarized mess of competing theories about "souls," "afterlife," and "messiahs," and its unfamiliar "synagogues" and "rabbis" vying with temples and priests for religious authority. While some New Testament ideas--the need for a savior in whom faith alone saves, the authority of God to forgive one man's sins against another--might be called specifically Christian innovations, the problem of what exactly man's relationship to God in a 'scientifically' understood world might consist of haunted both religions. In Judaism the main response gradually became the doctrine of tikkun olam, 'repairing (or redeeming) the world,' the partnership between God and man to realize creation's potential through recognition (and thus restoration) of God's unity. It's not a totally new idea--there was always some sort of assumption that collectively upholding the law brings about its fulfillment--and the speculations about the afterlife and the messianic era did continue right alongside it, despite never becoming central preoccupations (or, consequently, coherent doctrines) in Judaism. Nonetheless, the human mission of earthly justice came to be understood as an integral arena of the divine mission itself, rather than human welfare rising or falling depending on how ‘pleased’ God is with our justness, which is more how the Torah frames it. In many ways, IMO, this is actually a ‘more interesting’ calling--humans become active agents in the redemptive process, not passive objects of it who occasionally take umbrage and rebel--but it's undeniably true that the folkloric intimacy of the patron god has largely disappeared, or perhaps more correctly, been reabsorbed into the sense of Jewish peoplehood, which was always the voice telling the story anyhow.

Since I’ve got Wiesel on the brain now…recalling in one essay his childhood studies at yeshiva, he recites from memory his rabbi’s words, “Only the Jew knows that he may oppose God as long as he does so in defense of His creation…God gave the Law, but it is up to man to interpret it—and his interpretation is binding on God and commits Him.” I don’t know about that ‘only’ part--seems to me some Christians will also challenge the plain meaning of their own Laws, whether it gets called that or not--but at any rate, this isn’t some long-dead Romanian rabbi’s idiosyncratic view; it’s basic Talmud, basic tikkun olam, just very concisely put. Wonderment and trust can be as deeply present in outrage and confrontation as they are in reverence and acceptance; both are hallmarks of what Martin Buber called the I-Thou relationship, the mutual need for an other to make one's awareness complete.
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Old 04-02-2011, 04:00 PM   #434
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Elie Wiesel wrote a play back in the 1970s, The Trial of God, based on the same Holocaust legend as that movie (in fact I think he may have been the original source for the legend). Wiesel doesn't attempt to set the scene in Auschwitz; rather he chooses the setting of a fictional Ukrainian town during the 17th century Cossack pogroms. Three traveling Jewish minstrels arrive to stage Purim plays for the local Jews, who it turns out have all been killed in a recent pogrom, save for the innkeeper Berish and his now-insane daughter. Berish tells them, Forget Purim, there’s nothing to celebrate--what I want is for you to help me put God on trial for what He's done to our community; you do that, I'll give you your food and shelter. They reluctantly agree, but unsurprisingly, no one feels quite up to serving as God's attorney. In the end a mysterious guest at the inn, Sam, volunteers for the job. Sam proves to be a formidably eloquent, rational, sharp-minded advocate whose calm, confident faith and command of theodicy soon start to make Berish's single-minded outrage look less and less compelling.

Then the local Catholic priest, doctrinally anti-Semitic but a good man, shows up with some bad news: another pogrom is imminent. Let me help you, he pleads; bring your Purim masks, I'll convert you, and once the danger passes, you can remove the masks and I could nullify the conversions. I’ll do no such thing, Berish angrily replies; my family were all murdered as Jews, and I am ready to join them. Ever-vigilant, Sam pounces: Now you stand by your faith, even as you find God unworthy of it for permitting the same fate last time--is this case then dismissed? I absolve God of nothing, Berish replies; I've always lived as a Jew, and I'll spend my last breath protesting as a Jew to God. Sam stoically concludes, Our task is to glorify God, to praise Him, and to love Him--we must endure, accept, and we say, Amen. With the mob approaching the inn, the minstrel-judge is forced to dissolve the trial, vowing it shall reconvene even though they won't, that it will be for others from "a later stage" to pass a verdict. As the assembled prepare to die, Sam begins to back away, and his true identity is revealed as Satan (Samael, the angel of death in Jewish folklore).

Wiesel wrote the play as a "tragic farce" to be performed at Purim pageants; unsurprisingly, that hardly ever happens.

I admire a response like Berish's. I admire a very particular kind of anguish I sometimes hear in BonosSaint's voice, in Irvine's voice, in Dread's voice. I wish I could feel that; to me that is being truly awake, the spiritual quality I would most wish to have more of.
I've not read the play, but it sounds very similar thematically to the story of Job -- a man who sincerely worships God, follows Him and tries to do rightly is put to the test by Satan, who contends that Job only believes in God because he has been blessed by God. His contention is that, if Job were to lose everything he had, his faith would crumble. God allows Satan to take away everything but spare Job's life, and in short order Job's wealth disappears and his children die in a tornado. Left in the silence of this pain, Job is told by his wife to curse God and die, but he refuses. His three religious friends come and lecture Job about how he must have done something wrong to deserve this suffering and to confess, but Job refuses. He is in anger and anguish and pain, but he refuses to give in to their small-minded religious thinking, in the same way that he refuses to give in to his wife's desire to walk away from the faith. He will sit in the pain and the anguish until God answers him. When God arrives, He does not answer the questions Job has asked in the previous chapters, nor does he rebuke Job for asking them. (If anything, God condemns Job's three friends.) But He does draw near, and point out that, from the beginning of time, He has always been here. And maybe that's the point. Beyond the theological arguments and the rationalizations and the attempts to be God's spin doctors, perhaps the most spiritually profound thing we can do in moments of suffering is sit and be with those who mourn, and quietly recognize the God who is there with us.
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Old 04-02-2011, 06:59 PM   #435
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I recently read Carl Jung's perspective on the Book of Job. In it he is highly critical of God's decisions and handling of the situation, but he also sketches out an interesting view of Job's relationship with God. That being Job's ability to see God's capacity for both good and evil, and God's inability to reflect on himself. In a sense, Job is elevated to a higher level of knowing and consciousness than God himself, who - even as Job is left with nothing - continues to blow hard about his authority and power. During the whole affair God is vulgar and crass, while Job is enlightened and understanding.

I only read a portion of a larger work called "Answer to Job". I'd really like to read it all.
Perhaps someone who has read it in its entirety would be better able to describe Jung's analysis of the God/Job relationship
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