This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2006 vol. 163 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Calvin’s Teaching on Job: Proclaiming the Incomprehensible GodChristian Focus Publications, Ross-shire, Scotland March 1, 2004
In a two-year span (1554–1555) John Calvin preached 159 sermons on the Book of Job in Geneva. Those sermons were first published in French in 1563. Thomas demonstrates that Calvin repeatedly focused in these sermons on God’s incomprehensibility. Like Job, believers today cannot fully comprehend God and His ways because of their creatureliness (humans are finite) and their sinfulness (humans are sinful).
From the Book of Job believers can learn of God’s providence, that is, His “all-embracing involvement” in creation and humankind (p. 46), and of God’s justice. According to Calvin God is just, though His followers cannot always sense His justice. Therefore believers are to persevere in trials, to be teachable and submissive (pp. 175–76), to be subject to His sovereignty, and to be meek, patient, joyful, and prayerful.
“While Calvin is consistently critical of the advice of Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar, he is generally supportive of the contributions of Elihu” (p. 226). Elihu shows that suffering can be pedagogical.
Calvin does not see any Christological focus in passages where others do (e.g., Job 9:33; 16:9; 19:25; 33:23–24).
As a reproduction of his doctoral dissertation, Thomas’s work includes copious endnotes, more than a thousand altogether. In fact the notes take more than half the body of the book itself.
Calvin correctly emphasizes that the Book of Job shows that though God’s ways are inscrutable, believers can trust Him.
—Roy B. Zuck