Of apes & angels:

Bildad in Job 26 likens humans to maggots and worms. The wretched extent of the depravity of the human soul is one of the primary themes in Job, and I’ve encountered it elsewhere recently, too. It strikes a wrong chord with me.

Despite the Fall, the consequences of which are original sin and a universe in entropy, human beings are made in the image of God. Only in a spirit of repentance and contrition would I consider using terms like maggot or worm—figuratively. But in reality, the body is a gift, in divine image. The soul is a gift, eternal. The mind and heart are gifts, the ability to reason and think and feel beyond the capabilities of animals.

No, we are not perfect. No, we are not righteous by our own means. But we are human. We are not maggots or worms in God’s sight. There are those who by their choices have let their souls rot in their selfishness and pride. There are those who do vile and evil things. Does this mean that every human being has a heart as black as theirs? No. We are varying shades of gray, each with the potential to do good and evil.

I recognize that the Book of Job is pre-Abrahamic and definitely pre-Christ. I also recognize that I am a humanist influenced by the 18th century Enlightenment. What concerns me is that this line of thought is still very extant in Christian circles. Yes, humans are imperfect, but I am unwilling to agree with the belief that we are wretched, totally depraved, less than dirt maggots, especially as a believing Christian who has been and continues to be made righteous in the sight of God. Christian or not, such a debased view of the human condition shows ingratitude to God for the body, soul, mind, life, and world he has given us. Moreover, as a Christian, such a view is ungrateful for the salvation we have received and the life we now have.

6 thoughts on “Of apes & angels:

  1. Katherine says:

    I agree almost entirely with this post. Except, you seem to be saying that the book of Job is flawed in some way. I disagree. I think further study on the book reveals that the friends are _not_ people who are speaking for God or someone to be emulated. They all give very bad advice and are not helpful at all. Bildad is an example of someone who is _not_speaking truth.

    Otherwise, “wormology” can not be found in the scripture, except as you said in a metaphoric or contrite type of speaking. It seems that many Christians who insist on taking this view often verge on not only having the wrong view of themselves, but also the wrong view of God.

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  2. Chera says:

    I wasn’t in any way saying that Job’s friends are beacons of truth and light. I believe quite the contrary, and in my Lenten study of Job (which is not, I should add, the first time I have read this book) my daily prayer most often becomes, “Lord, please help me to be a better friend than these guys.” Nor is the book of Job flawed: it seems like it, until you’ve read the book as a whole. When doing a chapter-a-day study, it takes a while for God to enter the conversation.

    The problem even with figurative use is that if you say it often enough, soon you start to believe it. Better, I think, to reinforce that we are children of God, and then try to act like one.

    So what would you say in regard to T in Calvinism’s TULIP?

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  3. Katherine says:

    I suppose I assumed that when you were referring to the age and your own mindset when approaching the book.

    I pretty much agree with that T, but reservedly. However, that should probably be saved for a face-to-face conversation. 🙂

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  4. Casey says:

    The belief that we as humans are “wretched, totally depraved, less than dirt maggots”, not only impacts our view of ourselves and God, but how we view those around us. When one holds to that view, you can no longer see others as children of God who are worthy of grace and love. Did Christ view us as worms?

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  5. Chera says:

    Exactly. I was thinking that if anyone challenged the view that we are SO unworthy that we are AS worms in God’s sight, that I would ask for an example of such thinking from Christ. In all his interactions with people in the Gospels and Acts, he treats people with mercy, pity (though not patronizing), and love. The only people he really criticizes, calling them vipers, are the Pharisees…

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