I’ve been thinking, very dangerous I know. The term “devil’s advocate” always caused something in me to cringe.
Typically, we mean it to be a person who decides to argue for an unpopular or unreasonable cause simply to hold debate or have the cause investigated more thoroughly.
Historically, it was a term tied to the Latin Rite Catholic church. During the canonization process (way to name someone a saint), the sole job of the person who filled this role was to tear the canonization candidate to shreds.
Pretty much, the Latin Rite wanted to be very sure candidates for sainthood were very worthy, and the devil’s advocate’s (whoa, wonder if that’s turned possessive properly) sole role was to bring up all points of unworthiness.
Either way, if I really love my Deity, why would I want to take the name of my Deity’s enemy even in jest? (Although C. S. Lewis, Paul Harvey, and Frank Peretti all did excellent jobs of trying to think like the enemy, but that’s best left for another blog post, and I digress.)
What if, just for the sake of fun, we tried promoting a new term for this role of arguing for an unpopular or unreasonable cause? What if we coined the term, “Job’s advocate”?
In the Bible, for his day, Job was very good at following God’s rules, loving everyone, and managing everything thing well. So good, that the devil went into heaven to challenge God, claiming he (the devil) could knock Job on his butt and Job would stop all the God nonsense. God permitted the devil to try to take everything from Job in terms of property and livestock.
The devil goes to earth. By the end of the day, Job had no livestock (all stolen), no children (all killed due to a freaky desert windstorm), and not much property left. But that Job was still faithful, and he chose not to sin.
The next day, the devil again manages to get into heaven and challenge God about knocking Job down. So God permits the devil to take Job’s health but his life had to be spared. So the devil goes to earth and arranges for Job to break out in sores; not only would this be painful, but eventually it could result in Job being labelled unclean and getting kicked out of the community.
Job’s wife starts to nag and get shrewish. His friends can offer no clues. However, as time passes and chapters close, Job gets frustrated and pours out his heart, while his friends start to argue that he (Job) must have sinned somewhere or all this calamity would not have befallen him.
Chapter after chapter, Job maintains confusion and innocence and expresses frustration, while his friends insist on his sinfulness. After 35ish chapters, God has mercy and intervenes. He begins asking Job question upon question; each question reveals something of God’s nature as Creator.
When after two chapter of questions Job has no answer other than “I’m not worthy; I’ll shut up (Job 40:4-5),” God continues asking more nature-revealing questions and then spends a whole chapter in discussing His design decisions for leviathan, some kind of very large and scary creature.
Job admitted he had no answers to God’s questions and he was going to go repent. God then turned on the three friends and accused them of lying about His nature; He also gave them some instructions about “I’m sorry” sacrifices.
In the end of the last chapter, Job prays and his friends follow through. For his faithfulness, Job gets a celebratory party from his remaining family, as well as gold and silver tokens to begin to rebuild. By the end of Job’s life, God has blessed him with 10 children who are more fair and attractive than all the neighborhood kids; his livestock menagerie was far greater than what he lost, and he got to see his kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and maybe even great-great-grandkids (if I have the whole fourth generation thing right).
So that’s why I’d propose using Job’s advocate… things turned out unreasonably, illogically, hopelessly well despite all his problems (and you’d probably propose that this just wasn’t worth the read)! 🙂