*** DEBUG END ***

We Find Ourselves Put to the Test: A reading of the Book of Job, by James Crooks

05 October 2018

Anthony Phillips reads a fresh approach

JAMES CROOKS offers a philosophical reading of the Book of Job which he regards as a work of dramatic irony, “because it is the irony of life itself”. So, for instance, when the three friends set out by means of human reason to restore Job, instead their arguments become “the vessel of despair, of unforgiving condemnation, of rage”. Human reason does not reduce suffering.

In contrast, ironically, Job’s bitter discourses move from nihilistic despair, through faith, to a genuine intimacy with God. Nothing will make him abandon his integrity. But the question remains: can suffering be reconciled with a world that is welcoming and loving?

Crooks sees the friends at their best in their silence at their discovery of Job’s plight, which incident, he holds, bears the weight of the entire text. Indeed, silence frames the narrative, which concludes with Job’s recognition that, in the face of God’s whirlwind, there is nothing left to say. He recognises that a moral explanation for his situation cannot be given, thereby discovering “the truth of nature, of existence itself”.

At the core of the author’s thesis lies Spinoza’s concept of conatus, the endurance of living beings to make every effort to go on living without any belief in a better future. In this sense, the enduring sufferer is the model of humanity. It is the power simply to endure which Job exhibits by his patience: his journey affirms the primacy of conatus.

After examining each section of the Book, Crooks argues that what Job comes to in the end in terms of “things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” is the love of God — “the highest possible contentment of mind”. But the question remains: “Where do we see God’s love?” Turning again to Spinoza, Crooks concludes that the love of God flows out of human individuals, out of “the human mind”.

This author’s work results in an innovative understanding of this much-written-about text that still challenges the fundamentals of human existence. As Crooks puts it, “the Book of Job is best read as a careful description of how we find ourselves put to the test.”

Canon Anthony Phillips is a former headmaster of The King’s School, Canterbury.


We Find Ourselves Put to the Test: A reading of the Book of Job
James Crooks
MQUP £22.99
Church Times Bookshop £20.70

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)