Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review: Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job

Introduction
Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job: How The Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today's Scientific Questions by Hugh Ross is a book that this reviewer has been looking forward to for quite some time. This is a review copy provided by Reasons to Believe.

Prologue & Chapter 1: Answers For Today's Issues
Dr. Ross begins the book telling of his experiences throughout the writing process of this book. He explains that his friends warned him that suffering in his life might increase and the current suffering would be highlighted by the study of Job. He shows how their warnings proved true, and how such a study helped him through those times. He states that even though his study started out as a study of strictly the scientific aspects of Job, he was forced to focus also on the questions of suffering.
Because of all this, Dr. Ross decided to combine the two in this book. His focus is on exploring the many other aspects of Job in the context of modern scientific discoveries. He states:
At no other time in history have such spectacular and widespread increases in affluence, technology, education, and communication occurred. These advances have yielded a wealth of new knowledge. All this knowledge, however, has done little to satisfy people's deepest longings and to answer their most pressing questions...God's wisdom embedded in Job seems to have anticipated not only knowledge advances but also the anxiety and insecurity future generations would face as their knowledge and technology progressed. (p. 16)
He lays out the different topics he wishes to cover in the book and challenges the reader to see the book of Job as speaking on more than just man's dealings with suffering, but that those dealings with suffering highlight the awesomeness of God's creation, God's power, God's love, God's justice, God's mercy, and God's sovereignty.

Chapter 2: Gathering the Greatest Minds
Chapter 2 sets the historical context for the book of Job. Dr. Ross identifies the location of the happenings, the people involved, and the culture of the time. He establishes that he believes the discussion/debate among Job and his friends to be an historical event. He shows the dating of the writing to be prior to the accounts in the Pentateuch, and states that the content in Job was likely on Moses' mind as he wrote both Genesis and Deuteronomy. Dr. Ross contends that Genesis should be interpreted in light of the fact that the book of Job provides fillers for holes in the Genesis narrative and the discussion in Deuteronomy of God's plan to redeem humanity.

Chapter 3: Answers to Timeless Questions
Chapter 3 is a transition chapter. Dr. Ross covers many questions that have plagued mankind for millennia.  He looks at the paradox of God being transcendent yet immanent. He explains how Job answers the questions of why both good and bad people experience good and bad events; why some of God's actions seem "evil" to us; why man complains about short or long life spans (and the reasons for both), which all lead to a discussion of death and its purpose. Each of the answers provided cover philosophical and theological grounds. He covers natural grounds by showing that God created the universe in certain ways to accomplish His purposes related to each of those ultimate questions.

Chapter 4: Answers to New Questions
In Chapter 4, Dr. Ross begins looking at questions that the book of Job seemed to anticipate of later generations. He investigates some of the latest questions that have only recently arisen by the latest in scientific research: global warming, "bad" designs in nature, the Big Bang, and finding a "theory of everything". At the end of the chapter, Dr. Ross emphasizes the importance of predictability of scientific models for testing (he covers this in depth in his book More Than a Theory), and how the book of Job provides answers to questions that were not even being asked at the time the debate between Job and his friends was being recorded. Dr. Ross does not consider these answers to future generations' questions to be a coincidence. He claims each of these answers to be a powerful indicator of the divine inspiration of the book of Job.

Chapter 5: Answers to Creation-Day Controversies
Chapter 5 focuses on the debate about the age of the universe and the proper interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Dr. Ross shows how looking at the creation passages in the book of Job can settle the controversies. He looks at several of the reasons that people ridicule the Genesis account of creation, then he explains how appealing to the book of Job allows for the proper interpretation of Genesis that just happens to be in line with the latest scientific findings. He also answers a few of the questions raised against the old-universe perspective by the young-universe crowd. Dr. Ross explains that it is important that all creation passages be taken into account when interpreting what claims the Bible makes regarding creation and how God accomplished it.

Chapter 6: Answers to More Genesis Controversies
In Chapter 6 Dr. Ross picks up in Genesis where he left off in Chapter 5. In this chapter he looks at controversies regarding God's day of rest from creation, the extent of Noah's Flood, rain prior to Noah's Flood, the eternality of the universe into the future, and animal death before the Fall of Adam. He shows how the book of Job can be used to help determine the correct interpretation of other passages of Scripture that allow for multiple interpretations. The positions that he defends via Job are that God's day of rest was not analogous to physical rest; that the extent of Noah's Flood was universal to all humanity but not global in physical extent; that rain did take place prior to Noah's Flood; that the universe is not future-eternal; and that animal death before the Fall of Adam did take place. He demonstrates how these positions not only take into account all of Scripture that speaks about the issues, but that none of his positions undermine any essential doctrine of orthodox Christianity.

Chapter 7: Unique Attributes of Humans
In Chapter 7 Dr. Ross moves from the more controversial topics to discussing what the book of Job can tell us about what it means to be human (vs. just an animal). He focuses on the fact that Scripture states that man is made in the Image of God, which make them distinct from the other living creatures. Dr. Ross looks at studies that demonstrate that some social behaviors, the awareness of God, the compulsion to worship something, and the concern with ultimate judgment separates human beings from animals. He shows how these discoveries confirm what Scripture states. He also places special emphasis on the distinctions that are described in Job.

Chapter 8: Origin of Soulish and Spiritual Qualities
In Chapter 8 Dr. Ross looks at the differences between just the "soulish" animals and humans, although he does begin the chapter with a quick look at the issue with the origin of physical life. In this chapter, Dr. Ross discusses several studies that indicate a great difference between soulish animals and humanity. He looks at the intelligence of many of the soulish animals and shows how predictions based on common decent fail by these tests. He covers studies that attempt to figure out if soulish animals can actually plan for the future (not being based on past experience) and if they are capable of symbolic thought. Dr. Ross shows that the differences discovered between the soulish animals and man are not expected from a naturalistic worldview, but make perfect sense in light of the content of the book of Job and the rest of Scripture.

Chapter 9: To Serve and Please
In Chapter 9 Dr. Ross moves to investigating the soulish animals specifically. He contends that these animals were endowed with abilities and physical attributes that are specifically designed for the launch of human civilization, the enjoyment of humanity, help with past problems we have faced, and assist with future issues the human race will discover. He looks at the soulish animals in general and their seeming desires to please their caretakers. He has a section on Snowball the dancing cockatoo, that he shows is powerful evidence for soulish animals being designed with the future in mind. Then he shifts to discussing the three different kinds of soulish animals and their specific contributions to the human race through history and into the future. He ends the chapter by proposing that Adam's time spent with the animals (naming them) had not only the purpose of realizing that none of them were suitable for him as a mate, but that they would still be useful and enjoyable to him and his offspring in their life on earth.

Chapter 10: Top Ten Nephesh
In Chapter 10 Dr. Ross looks at specific species of animals that were designed to "serve and please" humanity. He goes down the list in Job 38 and 39. He shows how each have been designed for serving humanity, developing relationships with humanity, or for other ways of pleasing humanity. Dr. Ross offers a powerful challenge to any naturalistic explanation for the creation of life on earth: since all these animals came prior to humanity, he asks how these animals seem so perfectly created for humanity if they were put on this earth without any "end goal" or idea of the future species in mind. He contends that the likelihood of any animals being suited perfectly for so many different aspects of a species that had not yet arrived on the scene, is so small that it had to have come from a Designer who, knowing what He would later create, created these animals with the later-to-come humanity in mind.

Chapter 11: Lessons from the Animals
In Chapter 11 Dr. Ross switches back to looking at the animals in general. He shows how the book of Job tells us to examine the animals for lessons about how we are to interact with each other (and the animals), how we need to be more humble in character, how we are to interaction with God, and what character man has presently (pride). He uses this as a spring board into the next chapter.

Chapter 12: Answers to Dinosaur Questions
In Chapter 12 Dr. Ross tackles the idea that Job speaks of dinosaurs existing with humanity. This is commonly used as evidence that Scripture supports only a young universe interpretation. Dr. Ross begins by showing that the context of the passages that mention the "leviathan" and "behemoth" are talking about the nephesh (or "soulish") creatures. Dr. Ross explains that the choice of the "leviathan" and the "behemoth", specifically, was to show just how difficult it is for human pride to be tamed. He then looks at the claims for each animal in detail. He goes back to the original Hebrew to see what are the ranges of interpretations of the words. He provides a compelling case for the idea that "leviathan" refers to a crocodile or alligator, and the "behemoth" refers to the hippopotamus. He address the claim that neither the crocodile nor alligator have been traditionally considered "soulish". He ends the chapter by explaining a few facts about dinosaurs that help show how they fit into his creation model.

Chapter 13: Answers to the Problem of Suffering
After spending the majority of the book demonstrating all that the book of Job tells us about creation and its Creator, In Chapter 13 Dr. Ross addresses the problem of suffering. He begins by providing the objection to the existence of an all-knowing, all-loving, and all-power God. Dr. Ross shows how Job recognized the reality of pain and suffering, but acknowledged God's sovereignty regarding it. He points out that Job believed that there would be a day that he would see God and that God was preparing him for that day through Job's sufferings. Dr. Ross explains that God's purposes for creating the universe the way that He did is to prepare the character of every person who will spend eternity with Him.

Chapter 14: Answer to Our Greatest Need
With all the evidence that Dr. Ross has shown for the reliability and divine inspiration of the book of Job, one would ask, "so what?" In Chapter 14, Dr. Ross shows how God revealed His plan of salvation through Job. Dr. Ross addresses the claim of Job's friends that his suffering was due to some sin in his life. Job rejected that idea (discussed in Chapter 13). Job explained to his friends God's plan for providing salvation. Dr. Ross shows how every aspect of God's plan was laid out, not only by Job, but by Elihu in the book of Job. Dr. Ross concludes that the book of Job is evidence that God's plan for salvation can be seen through God's creation.

Chapter 15: Help with the Hard Part
In the final chapter Dr. Ross explains to his readers that we must emulate Job. In our search for answers we must never give up on God or malign His character, and we must be patient. Having all the answers at our fingertips would likely cause us boredom and a lack of concern with theological matters. God has hidden just enough about His character for us to truly appreciate and value it when we discover it. Dr. Ross urges people to continue to search for truth about God in the revelations He has given us. For the one who is truly seeking the truth, he will find it.

Conclusion
Hidden Treasures In The Book of Job was quite the enjoyable and exciting book to read. It provides many challenges to the reader: both Believer and unbeliever. He provides much powerful, scriptural evidence for his specific position on how God created the universe, and much evidence from nature to demonstrate the symmetry between Scripture and what man has discovered in nature. Dr. Ross offers compelling reasons to take the book of Job and its content seriously in one's life. He shows how Job spoke to questions that people have asked for millennia and ones that people have only recently began to ask. He shows how Job recognized his own fallenness and need for a Savior. He offers how Job can be a great example for those who suffer, are searching for truth, or both.

This book is highly recommended for everyone to read. It is written on a lay level, yet the concepts will challenge even the most educated mind. For both supporters and skeptics (regardless of which kind) of his creation model, it provides much scientific and scriptural evidence for his position. This book is a great addition to any scientific, theological, or philosophical collection.


Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Luke Nix is a Computer Systems Administrator in Oklahoma, USA. He has a beautiful and supportive wife, but no kids yet. In his spare time he enjoys studying theology, philosophy, biology, astronomy, psychology and apologetics. If you liked this review, more of his writing can be enjoyed at lukenixblog.blogspot.com.

14 comments :

Freezingpictures said...

My impression was that Hugh Ross reads a lot into the biblical text sometimes which makes me occasionally skeptical about his conclusions. I am actually not opposed to his general position, but I think he should be more careful. I might be wrong. Can you comment on that?

Ex N1hilo said...

Freezingpictures,

Galileo famously stated that the Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

By contrast, the attitude of many Christians today is “If the Bible does not tell us how the heavens go, what good is it?” If some passages of Scripture appear to be inconsistent with current thinking in the physical sciences, then no one will take the Bible, and its message of redemption, seriously. So, they have come up with a new hermeneutical principle, asserting that it is legitimate to import current theories--Big Bang, Evolution, etc. (It varies from one group to another which theories are used to rescue Christianity)--into Scripture. We cannot rightly understand certain passages; it is reasoned, without interpreting them through the lens of this theory or that.

Whether this is a legitimate hermeneutical principle is a vital question whose importance cannot be overstated; for, if we do not rightly divide the Word of Truth, we cannot understand what God is saying.

Luke Nix said...

Freezingpictures,
That is a pretty common criticism of Dr. Ross. All who interpret scripture need to exercise caution that they are not reading into the text. We also need to be careful that we understand when a person is saying that they are getting something from the text and when they are getting something from another source (such as scientific or historical research). Throughout "Hidden Treasures in The Book of Job", Dr. Ross does both. He looks at the text, then provides more of what we have learned regarding the subject matter through further research. He is not saying that this information is necessarily in the text, but explaining why it is significant that particular subject matter is in the oldest book of the Bible. Considering the fact that Dr. Ross holds to Divine Inspiration, it is not a faulty hermeneutic to interpret text with the understanding that the Author was aware of future discoveries of His creation, but was revealing it to them early on. If this information is directly tested to be accurate, it is powerful evidence of Divine Inspiration of scripture.

It also needs to be noted that popularity does not equal true. Dr. Ross, specifically, is not fond of taking popular theories and forcing them on scripture. If he was, then he would be forcing macro-evolution and the non-historicity of Adam and Eve on it. He also would not hold to the interpretation of Big Bang cosmology that is compatible with the biblical doctrine of creation Ex Nihilo (pun intended), nor hold that the resurrection of Jesus was an historical event. Dr. Ross does look at recent research and tests it against scripture. If the two are not compatible, then he predicts that the research will be overturned by further research (see his book More Than A Theory- My Review of that one is here). We do not allow the rejection of a doctrine in scripture simply because it does not agree with popular secular ideas. Likewise, we cannot necessarily reject a popular secular idea because it disagrees with a popular interpretation of scripture.

We have to remember that if Scripture is revelation from the Creator, then the two will be completely compatible. Both came from the Creator; where one is unclear, the other can be used to clarify. Most Christians don't have a problem allowing scripture to interpret science, but the other direction is also required. We also need to make sure that we take the entirety of Scripture into account and the entirety of scientific research into account. We are looking for consistency among everything.

I'll go ahead and stop here (since the comment is getting quite long) and refer you to a few posts on my blog:

Can Religion Be Tested for Truth?
Nature vs. Scripture
Consistency Among Disciplines

If I'm unclear here, those should help. Feel free to ask for further clarification if you need it.

Ex N1hilo said...

Luke wrote:

Most Christians don't have a problem allowing scripture to interpret science, but the other direction is also required.

Thank you for stating the problem so succinctly, Luke.

Bernie said...

ExN1hilo, are you saying it is not proper to use science to help interpret Scripture?

BubbaCoop said...

For some balance:

http://www.amazon.com/Remarkable-Record-Job-Henry-Morris/dp/0890512922

Luke Nix said...

BubbaCoop,
I am not familiar the views of Morris in that book. What exactly would it be providing a balance for?

Ex N1hilo said...

Bernie,

I am saying that reading the conclusions of Science into the Scripture is improper. Reading anything in to the Scripture is improper. We ought to seek not to do it. We ought to seek to draw out the meaning the author was seeking to convey. It is difficult but this is the goal we must strive to reach.

If the goal of exegesis of any text is to ascertain the author's intended meaning, can we hold that it is a sound hermeneutical principle to employ theories he never conceived of as an interpretive grid through which to determine his intended meaning?

As an example of this type of thinking consider the old leftist Literature professors at many universities with their (often unspoken) thesis that one cannot rightly understand any text, ancient or modern, without filtering it through the lens of Marxist economic theory.

They make the mistake of intentionally reading their own ideas and experiences into the text. If we do so we will inevitably come to erroneous interpretations of the text.

Bernie said...

Ex N1hilo;

I agree with most of what you are saying. We must not read our biases into Scripture but seek to understand its original meaning.

The Universe and all that are in it was created by the same God who inspired Scripture. So, if there is a truth in the natural world, then it is God's truth also. What if there is a scientific fact discovered in the natural world that disagrees with an interpretation of Scripture? Is it possible that the interpretation of Scripture is incorrect? How would you resolve such a disagreement? Not that the Word is incorrect, but rather that particular interpretation has been incorrect?

Ex N1hilo said...

Bernie,

There is no one that I am aware of who is saying that the findings of Science or History or Archeology should not motivate us to go back to the Scriptures and reconsider our understanding of them. But, when we do so, we must still employ sound hermeneutical principles. One of the battles fought by the reformers (Happy Reformation Day!) was over the interpretation of Scripture. They insisted that the Scriptures be treated as literature, and that they be subjected to grammatical/historical analysis, as any piece of literature should be. They rejected mystical or subjective interpretation, which was common among medieval commentators.

And we must remember that, as creatures, our knowledge is necessarily incomplete and reductionistic. If we cannot, after returning to the Scriptures, and doing a thorough and sound exegesis of the relevant passages, show that they are properly understood as being consistent with “Scientific Theory X”; then we ought to consider that, no matter how plausible Theory X may appear to be, it could very well be on the wrong track. Perhaps we ought to reconsider some of the presuppositions we hold to that have lead us to the conclusions of Theory X. Or perhaps Theory X is on the right track, and we just do not know enough to reconcile it in our thinking with the teachings of Scripture. Whatever we (tentatively) conclude, we must not try to cram Theory X into our interpretation of Scripture. That would almost certainly guarantee our interpretation of Scripture will be wrong.

Unfortunately, in some circles today, cramming marches on, while the grammatical-historical method is tossed aside. It seems to me that there is an attitude that people will not take Christianity seriously if its Theology does not line up with “settled Science.”

But I am planning to order “Hidden Treasures.” I hope that I do find more respect for and care in handling the text of Scripture than what I frankly expect to find.

Bernie said...

Ex N1hilo,

Check out the book review of Seven Days That Divide the World by John Lennox on this site. I haven't read the book but came across the review last night. Sounds like his position agrees with mine very well. :)

I agree that we can't cram a scientific theory into the Scriptures when its not there, but on the other hand we can't try to force our interpretation of Scripture trump proven science facts. There is a difference of course between fact and theory in science. Christians can too easily be brushed off as silly or irrational when dogmatically defending an interpretation of Scripture that clearly contradicts proven fact. This kind of thinking does nothing but drive people away from the truth of Christianity. Too many Christians I know tend to stick with their interpretation in the face of clear inconsistencies with the world around them. From your posts, it appears you don't fit into that category. And as Lennox says (at least the review of what Lennox says) some of these controversies don't really matter. They do not affect primary doctrine.

Robin said...

God bless Dr. Ross but he has got so much wrong with his theories I don't even know where to begin. He has animal death before sin... Romans 5 clearly says that death is a result of sin and it is commonly accepted that God had Adam and Eve sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. This is a VERY slippery slope. I think he is compromising God's word to fit into his scientific models when he should be compromising his scientific models to fit into God's word...

The heavens declare said...

Robin,

Romans 5:12 reads,

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all have sinned."

Death came to ALL PEOPLE. There is no mention of plants or animals here. Old Earth Creationists believe that there was no human death before the fall, however, there was plant and animal death. Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden, there was death before the fall.

God is the author of Scripture and the record of nature. Just as our interpretation of science can be wrong, our interpretation of Scripture can be wrong. Psalm 19 tells us that 'the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of his hand.' We do not need to, as you say, compromise God's Word or our scientific methods for they both proclaim truth. God is not deceiving us or tricking us through his creation.

Multiple lines of evidence in science indicate that the Universe and the Earth is old. There is no positive evidence to indicate a young age of the Earth. This is not a slippery slope, this is God's revealed truth. It is a joy and a blessing to read God's truth in Scriptures and nature.

Nathan74 said...

I think the reason why some people get hung up on the idea that the Bible says that there was no death before the fall is that we assume that all death is bad and therefore a result of evil. A good and loving God would not allow death to be part of His very good creation.

It is beneficial to recognise that God's very good creation refers to an ideal place for humans to live. Milions of years of animal death makes Earth an ideal place for humans and animals for a number of reasons:

Herbivore populations that do not have predators quickly grow to a size where their ecosystem collapses. Exploding populations consume their food sources quicker than it can be replenished.

Disease is also more prominent in populations that go unchecked. This is one of the reasons that there is an annual deer hunt in some states/provinces each fall. An annual cull minimises disease while still minimising overall death in a population. Carnivores act in this way as well. Carnivores that can kill off the sick and diseased can save a population from greater risk and harm.

We certainly do not understand all of the 'Why's' behind God's act of creation but we might have a glimpse into why God would allow millions of years of animal death when we recognise the benefits to humans. The death of bacteria to dinosaurs have laid down rich deposits of limestone, sand, marble, coal, natural gas, oil and topsoil- building blocks of civilization. Recognising that the Universe and the Earth was created for humans, we can start to understand how animal death plays an important part in God's plan for humanity.

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