You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.
I knew that Job’s unhelpful friends had misrepresented God in their discussions with Job. God came right out and said so, and surely he is the ultimate authority on himself.
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. Job 42:7
I also knew from previous study of this book that Job’s friends made one glaring logical fallacy the cornerstone of their criticism of Job. They reasoned that since God judges and disciplines sinful people, then because Job was suffering he must be a sinful person. This false argument is called affirming the consequent.
If (God) comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him? Surely he recognizes deceivers; and when he sees evil, does he not take note? Job 11:10-11
But the more I read the criticisms of Job the more false arguments I found. You could say the book is a primer on logical fallacies. Here are a few of the ones I saw.
Straw Man Argument. Instead of refuting Job’s statements directly, his friends changed his statements into a form that was more easily rebutted.
You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.’ Job 11:4
Job had certainly stated his righteousness, as God himself had declared Job to be righteous, but Job never claimed to be completely pure, nor had he said that all his statements were without error. He said he was blameless, not sinless. But by changing Job’s statements his friends made it easier to attack them.
Appeal to authority. Job’s friend Eliphaz claimed that age was on his side, and because wisdom comes with age his statements were wiser and more accurate.
What do you know that we do not know? What insights do you have that we do not have? The gray-haired and the aged are on our side, men even older than your father. Job 15:9-10
Advertising relies heavily on the appeal to authority, as popular stars speak on behalf of a product. This tactic may be convincing but that does not make its statements correct.
Ad hominem argument. This literally means “against the man.” Instead of refuting the opponent’s statement, the opponent himself is attacked and belittled. Unfortunately, this action is all too common in today’s society.
Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless? You demanded security from your relatives for no reason; you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked. You gave no water to the weary and you withheld food from the hungry… Job 22:5-7
Appeal from Anecdotes, and Cherry Picking (plus affirming the consequent). Job’s friends repeatedly emphasized that the wicked always suffer. In fact much of the Bible says just the opposite. But they were taking an example from their own experience, an anecdote, and stating that it was always true. As Job pointed out, one only had to look around to see many examples of the opposite, that the wicked often live long and prosperous lives. This harvesting of examples that are favorable to your argument while ignoring those that weaken your argument is also called cherry picking. Job’s friends took their anecdotes or cherry pickings and used them to affirm the consequent: Job is suffering because Job is wicked.
Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief… Job 20:4
Personal incredulity. Just because something is, in your mind, completely unbelievable, does not make it logically false. Elihu could not believe Job’s argument that God was making him suffer without cause, and Elihu then used that disbelief as a basis for his rebuttal of Job’s statement.
It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice. Job 34:10
God was up to something very different than Job or Elihu knew, but there was no logic in Elihu using his own disbelief as a weapon against Job.
Circular reasoning. Also called begging the question, this false argument states as its conclusion something that is assumed from the beginning. Job’s friend Eliphaz concludes that Job’s words are sinful and worthless because they come from a sinful mouth, or that because Job is sinful he speaks sinful words. There is also some of the ad hominem argument at work here.
Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not mine; your own lips testify against you. Job 15:5-6
These are the false arguments I was able to uncover in a brief study this week. I believe there are others. Can you find them?
Eliphaz not only heard Job’s words, but he saw where those words led… ￼If everybody believed as Job believed – that God does not always punish the wicked and reward the godly – then what motive would people have for obeying God? Religion would not be worth it! But this is the devil’s theology, the very thing that God was using Job to refute! If people serve God only for what they get out of it, then they are not serving God at all; they are only serving themselves by making God their servant. Their religion is only a pious system for promoting selfishness and not for glorifying God.￼ – Warren Wiersbe
About this blog
During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Job 11 – 34. Next week I will write about Job 35 – Psalm 25. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Job 11 – 34.
Would you speak for God? Job 13
The hidden treasure – Wisdom: Job 28