On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent

On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent

On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent

On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent


Theology is talk about God. According to the Bible, however, God is a mystery, and at the beginning of his Summa TheologiaeThomas Aquinas states as a basic principle governing all theological reflection that "we cannot know what God is but only what God is not:" Must we not think, then, that theology sets itself an impossible task?

No, the task is not impossible. But it is important to keep in mind from the very outset that theological thought about God is thought about a mystery. I mention this here because it influences an attitude to be adopted in the effort to talk about God. I mean an attitude of respect that is incompatible with the kind of God-talk that is sure, at times arrogantly sure, that it knows everything there is to know about God. José María Arguedas poses the question: "Is not what we know far less than the great hope we feel?" This question will bring an unhesitating, humble yes from those who believe in the God of Jesus Christ.

Let me make it clear, however, that when we talk of "mystery" with the Bible in mind, we do not mean something that is hidden and must remain hidden. The "mystery" in this case must rather be expressed, not concealed; communicated, not kept to itself. E. Jüngel puts it well: in the Christian perspective, "the fact of having to be revealed belongs to the essence of mystery" According to Paul, revelation in this case is "the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:25-26). The revelation of the mystery of God leads to its proclamation to every human being: this is the special characteristic of the biblical message regarding mystery. Reflection on the mystery of God must therefore begin with God's resolve of self- communication to "all nations" (Matt. 28:19). The setting and requirements of the proclamation are fundamental presuppositions of any theologizing.


The point I have just made leads me to discuss two connections as I begin these pages on talk about God.

1. The first is the relationship between revelation and gratuitousness. Christ reveals that the Father who sent him on a universal mission is a God of love. This revelation assigns a privileged place to the simple and the despised, as Jesus made clear: "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou . . .

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