Answer to Job, by Carl Jung
Carl Jung wrote this book towards the end of his life, and he considered it to be one of his greatest works. It is also one of his most controversial. Although Jung generally accepted the Bible as true and professed faith in God, he also had some problems with God’s Word and God’s being. “Answer to Job” is Carl Jung’s way of wrestling with his ideas and questions about God; it is not a book strictly about the Book of Job. Throughout “Answer to Job,” Carl Jung provides some insightful views as well as many unconventional and unpopular views. Job’s primary problem with the Bible is the many contradictions and dualities that Christ embodies. Jung has difficulty explaining and accepting God’s paradoxical nature. Because of God’s duality, we as humans have a difficult time visualizing God, and I think that this makes people feel uncomfortable about Christianity. I think that every person should struggle with the paradoxical nature of God, whether that person is religious or not. How do you reconcile a totally good, all-loving God with the God of Revelation? This is Jung’s big question, and it is also the ageless, timeless question that many people pose to the Bible.
To begin with some statements that I agree with, Jung says that Job is a prefiguration of Christ, because they both experienced unjust suffering. I think this is accurate. I also agree with Jung that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We should both fear God and love God.
Carl Jung argues that God is amoral and unconscious. God does not have the ability to self-reflect because He is perfect in all things. Since God cannot reflect on Himself, He acts unconsciously and amorally. This does not mean that God is not moral, but rather that He is beyond morality. God is amoral because morality requires conscious thought, and since God acts unconsciously, He cannot reflect on His actions and thus cannot distinguish between moral and immoral. God is not evil; He is the opposite. He is the embodiment of good. However, since man is mortal, conscious, and subject to morals, it follows then that men have something that God does not. God does not experience or know consciousness. Is Yahweh jealous for this reason? Is God jealous that mortal men have consciousness, mortality, and ethics? Is God somehow intimidated by Job? Job lives a blameless life, and yet God feels compelled to demonstrate his power over Job. God questions Job in a way that proves without a doubt that Job is subordinate and nothing more than a half-baked human worm (that’s a great term: “half-baked human worm”). God clearly demonstrates his divine authority, and Job responds appropriately with complete submissiveness. So why does God continue with His speech? Why does God feel compelled to further demonstrate His divine omnipotence? Jung argues that because of Job’s ability to self-reflect, Job is elevated to a position of semi-god that is challenging to Yahweh. Job, because of his mortality, is aware of his existence and able to think consciously. God, who is immortal and totally complete and perfect, is jealous of Job. Because of God’s jealousy, Yahweh is willing to allow Satan to wreak complete destruction on Job. God accepts Satan’s request to tyrannize Job, because God harbors jealousy against the blameless human.
Job is morally superior to God. Job, due to his consciousness, ascends to a morally superior position above God. God is therefore lacking something. To gain what Job has, God has to make himself human. Therefore, the reason for Jesus’s birth is so that God can gain consciousness and regain his divine position above Job. Can men teach God? Does God have things that He can learn from men? Is that why men can question God and affect God’s actions? Is that why God seeks consciousness? Is He in someway not the embodiment of perfection and completeness?
Concisely, the Book of Job does 2 things: (1) elevates man above God and (2) disturbs Yahweh’s unconsciousness.
I like Jung’s description of the unconscious and conscious minds. He describes the unconscious as light that is trying to shine through the darkness. Man, who is conscious, is darkness, whereas God, who is unconscious, is light. In men, the unconscious shines through the conscious in things such as dreams and visions, and the light is manifested as symbols. Therefore, the images that we see in our dreams and visions have deeper meanings than what we see on the surface. The images that we see in our dreams and visions are speckles of light and represent the deepest truths hidden within our unconscious brains. I think that there is some truth in these statements and worth thinking about further.
Carl Jung points out that God is omniscient, yet He needs humans to praise Him. God is fully self-sustainable, yet He needs men to worship and praise Him. In this way, God is linked to mankind. How can God be both all-self-sustaining but also require man’s praise? Yahweh acts jealously and angrily when men, such as Job’s friends, speak incorrectly about Him. Speak wrongly against God, and He will punish you. This is an example of God’s duality. God needs mankind, yet at the same time, He does not need mankind. Does it demonstrate that Yahweh has a weakness or is in some way imperfect?
The traditional view of Christ’s Incarnation is that Christ came to earth, He suffered, and He died in order to save all mankind from sin and God’s wrath. However, Jung argues that Christ’s death is more accurately a payment to atone for a wrong that God committed against humanity. How else do you justify the Father slaughtering his Son? Why does God regularly use the tactic of sacrificing the first-born son? He uses this savage form of murder against the Egyptians and against His own son. Why? Murder clearly goes against God’s commands. Carl Jung asserts that God wants to become a man. Yahweh realizes that men have something that He does not. Therefore, God wants to re-incarnate Himself through the Son.
Jung talks a lot about the Book of Revelation and the Apocalypse. In the end times, there is severe destruction, murder, and torture. God’s destruction described in the Book of Revelation directly opposes the loving, forgiving, completely good God that we commonly acknowledge. Our enlightened view of Yahweh comes from the description of the new earth that is described at the end of Revelation. The image of beauty is the image that we typically cling to when we speak about God’s goodness. However, this fails to address the wrathful and ireful side of Yahweh. The devastation that God wreaks during the end times is analogous to the actions of a man who is seeking perfection but has repressed anger because of his failures. Yahweh’s outburst of death and destruction towards humanity is analogous to the pent-up anger of a fallible man seeking perfection. Thus, I think that Jung is trying to imply that God is not just contradictory, but He is also imperfect. Murder and torture seem to go against the moral laws that He gave humanity. Therefore, it seems that God does not obey His own laws. However, it is clear to Jung that John’s vision in the Book of Revelation originated from God. Jung says that such a vision could not possibly have been a manifestation of John’s unconsciousness.
The virtues of patience, selfless love, and denial of all worldly desires (food, drink, sex) will inevitably lead to outbursts of passion, irritability, and bad moods, Even the most righteous cannot avoid this fact, hence John was nicknamed the “Son of Thunder” in Mark 3:17. Therefore, it is possible that John’s vision in Revelation is nothing more than an outburst of irritation from that resulted from his constant self-denial. However, John’s vision in Revelation is coherent and not one of these types of outbursts. Undoubtedly, the Book of Revelation is a vision from the supernatural. Therefore, Jung believed that there is truth and value in the Book of Revelation. Regardless if Carl Jung’s conclusions are theologically correct, it is evident that Jung placed immense value in the Bible and viewed the Bible as an important foundational text, if not the most important text in the world.
The Book of Revelation also serves as a way to introduce John to fear. We must love God, but we must also fear God. John loved God tremendously, and perhaps this extraordinarily close relationship with God compelled God to remind John that the Lord must also be feared, not just loved. By giving John a vision of death, destruction, brutality, and darkness, God reminded John that He is a God to be feared. Similarly, Job was extraordinarily close to Yahweh and loved God immensely. By allowing Satan to terrorize Job, God reminded Job to fear Him. Perhaps this is another reason for God to permit Job’s suffering?
Jung also talks a lot about marriage, which is a particularly interesting topic to me right now. The marriage union of a man and woman merges perfection with completeness, in which men embody perfection and women embody completeness. Consequently, marriage produces something that more closely resembles God, who is totally perfect and complete. I agree, and I think that the larger Christian community also agrees, that marriage brings us closer to knowing Christ. However, it also seems that marriage combines sin with more sin. Hence, Mary was not infected by the soils of a man, so she was able to bear the divine child, Jesus. She maintained a level of divinity, because she never merged her body with that of a man. Similarly, John and other virgin men have never been soiled by the touch of a woman, so they have a more god-like being. Virgin men deserve places of honor because they were never defiled or infected by a woman’s sinful nature. These seem like contradictory ideas. On one hand, marriage brings us closer to knowing God, but on the other hand remaining chaste elevates a person to a higher level of godliness. I don’t understand how this works. Similarly, I don’t understand where Jung’s assertion that Wisdom, aka Sophia, was God’s first bride and that Israel was God’s second bride, originates from. In the end, Christ will marry Jerusalem, and God will marry Wisdom. The Father and the Son will govern the divine realm, whereas Jerusalem and Wisdom will rule the earthly realm. Jung uses the contradictory views of marriage to argue for the contradictory nature of God.
Another question raised by “Answer to Job” is, what is the “correct” religion? Is it Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, or Muslim? I would love to learn more about other religions. I would also love to read more about the city of Jerusalem, which is the key city for all of these religions.
After reading this book, I realized where many of Jordan Peterson’s arguments originate from. Peterson pulls heavily from Jung, especially when he answers the question, “Do you believe in God?” Religion is not a description of the natural sciences. Rather, religion can be seen as a way to describe what we do not know, that is, the physical impossibilities. Jung and Peterson assert that believing in God is believing in the truth of the psyche. God is real, and the evidence for God’s existence that is found in our psyches is indisputable. Therefore, God is a psychic fact, not a physical fact. I think that the absolute truth of the psyche is also what Peterson refers to when he references “God’ and “belief in God.” I think it is interesting to see how the experts find God. It seems to me that the experts in any given field arrive at the same conclusion: God exists. The paths to this conclusion are all different, and some of the theologies and arguments differ, but the conclusion is still the same. Jung’s path to believe in Christ is unconventional, but it resonates with other people in the psychology field. Therefore, although Jung’s arguments may seem strange to some, they resonate well with a particular group of people. God’s word is not restricted to a specific subset of people, so it is important to make the Word resonate with all individuals and all communities. I find it exciting that across all fields of study, the most knowledgeable are certain of the truths of God and His Word.
demiurge: one that is an autonomous creative power; a gnostic subordinate deity who is the creator of the material world
gnostic: gnosis; esoteric knowledge of a spiritual truth held by the ancient Gnostics to be essential to salvation
panegyric: formal or elaborate praise
ad infinitum: without end or limit
omniscient: having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight
peripeteia: a sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstances or situation, especially in a literary work
pleromatic: pleroma; full of divine excellence and power
antinomy: a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles
insouciance: lighthearted unconcern