When psychiatrist and cultural pathfinder Carl Gustav Jung, was asked whether of not he believed in God, he famously said, ‘I do not need to believe, I know’.
Did the entity we call and know as “God” change over time? In his Answer to Job , Carl Gustav Jung, examines the “divine drama” of the Christ Child. In his 1952 Answer to Job essay, so controversial that Jung himself called it “pure poison”, Jung criticizes the early sadistic nature of God (found so completely in the Old Testament’s Book of Job) and maintains that God became an entity that demonstrated to humankind grace (unwarranted favor). In his argument, Jung dispels the long-viewed tradition of God as “immutable” to a God demonstrating unconditional love, who, indeed, is affected by love.
Yale graduate and former President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology, Dr. Murray Stein, sums up the essence of Jung’s complicated work in Stein’s own book, Jung on Christianity:
In Jung’s interpretation, Job is completely innocent. He is a scrupulously pious man who follows all the religious conventions, and for most of his life he is blessed with good fortune. This is the expected outcome for a just man in a rationally ordered universe. But then God goes to work on him, tests him with misfortune, reduces him to misery, and finally overwhelms him with questions and images of divine majesty and power. Job is silenced, and he realizes his inferior position vis-a-vis the Almighty. But he also retains his personal integrity, and this so impresses God that He is forced to take stock of Himself. Perhaps He is not so righteous after all! God’s omniscience precludes self-awareness. Being omniscient, God has no concentrated self to speak of. Being a part of everything, God has no opportunity to distinguish self from non-self. However, as God knows the thoughts of humans, through the thoughts of his creation he can experience what self-awareness is. And out of this astonishing self-reflection, induced in God by Job’s stubborn righteousness, He, the Almighty, is pushed into a process of transformation that leads eventually to His incarnation as Jesus. God develops empathy and love through his confrontation with Job, and out of it a new relationship between God and humankind is born.
Whether one looks at the essay as “poison” or revelation, there is no question that Carl Jung took careful and learned thought in preparation for his essay. In recent weeks, I have come in contact with so many people who have major concerns about the God featured in the Book of Job. Perhaps, Jung’s approach might be an answer or them.