Joan Acocella on the Book of Job

The story is bewildering, from beginning to end. How could God, being God, allow Satan to seduce him into destroying a good man? More important is the moral: that we have no right to question him for doing such things. (God, for all that he says from the whirlwind, never answers Job’s questions.) Furthermore, the Book of Job seems to claim that all wrongs can be righted by property. If everything was taken away from Job, the problem is settled by God’s giving it all back, mostly twofold—fourteen thousand sheep for his seven thousand, etc. As for the ten dead children, in this case Job gets only ten back, but the new daughters are more beautiful than any other women in the land.

For people who take the Bible seriously as an explanation of life and as a guide to right conduct, all this is mysterious. It is certainly not the first instance in which God inflicts appalling misery on his people. In Genesis, he killed everyone on Earth except those on Noah’s ark. But Job is highly individualized—a person like us. He is probably the character in the Old Testament we sympathize with most closely. 

Jonathan Chait on the "Heritage Uncertainty Principle":

One of the more amusing developments in the Obamacare debate has been watching conservatives turn from denouncing the health-care law for its lack of high-deductible insurance to denouncing the health-care law for its high-deductible insurance.... Insurance plans with low premiums and high deductibles were a major centerpiece of conservative health-care thinking. Until quite recently, conservatives seemed to believe that Obamacare prevented such plans from existing, which was totally false. As they’ve come into existence, conservatives have transitioned seamlessly into denouncing these plans for their horrible, high deductibles.

Episodes like this one have grown so familiar that they’ve lost all capacity to surprise. Conservative health-care-policy ideas reside in an uncertain state of quasi-existence. You can describe the policies in the abstract, sometimes even in detail, but any attempt to reproduce them in physical form will cause such proposals to disappear instantly.

Terry Eagleton on Denys Turner's Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait (subscription required):

From a Thomist standpoint, all being is benign. It is good in principle that there are hairdryers and tarantulas around the place. Evil is a kind of non-being. In men and women, it is the defective form of existence of those who have never really got the hang of being human. Human beings are sorely in need of redemption, as anyone who takes the trouble to read the newspapers can testify; but that redemption is not rudely foisted on them against the grain of their desires. On the contrary, their natures are hospitable to such deep-seated transformation, and yearn eagerly for it even when they are not entirely aware that they do. The moral life involves cutting through one dense swathe of false consciousness and pious self-deception after another in order to discover what it is we really, fundamentally desire.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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