This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series: ‘The Sin of Certainty’ (Enns)
The book of Ecclesiastes goes even further than the psalms in representing this point of view. Life – the life that God has given us – is a sick joke (Eccle 1:13-15). We run around in circles, and have nothing to show for it, for it all ends in the absurdity of death (Eccle 3:19-21). After twelve chapters of more-or-less unrelieved despair, the take-home message is this: trust God and keep his commandments anyway (Eccle 12:12f).
Then there’s Job. He was a godly man, richly blessed, who lost everything. His three friends try to convince him that he must have done something to deserve all this misfortune, whereas Job responds by pleading his innocence. Job’s suffering seems to be in flat contradiction to the general teaching of the OT, which is that God blesses the righteous and punishes the ungodly (see, for example, Deut 28; Prov 3:33-35). Job’s friends remind him of the theory, but in Job’s case the theory simply isn’t working. Even when God finally replies, his answer seems less than satisfactory. Rather than explaining why all these bad things happened to Job, he asserts that since he is the Creator, and Job isn’t, he (Job) has no right to interrogate him. Nevertheless, the Lord defends Job against his friends (Job 42:7) precisely because Job stood up to him and questioned him. Job trusted God even though he did not understand him.
I have no real argument with Enns’ exposition of these three parts of the Old Testament. It may well be that the ‘countertestimony’ (Breugemann) that they represent is neglected in some conservative Christian circles. Surely, anyone who embraces a ‘health and wealth’ gospel is going to have to ignore them. And there are others of us who need to face up to the doubts and uncertainties that sometimes beset us, and find them reflected in Scripture itself. So far, so good. But, Enns, rather of saying that Scripture recognises the reality on doubt and uncertainty in the lives of believers, evidently to want to raise these these things to the level of virtues; to privilege ‘countertestimony’ above testimony; to value doubt above assurance. And that is biblically unbalanced, theologically skewed, and pastorally unhelpful. To put it simply: if three books of the Bible convey a message of doubt, what are we going to do with the other sixty-three?