Book Review – The Passion of Job

There are many companies today that allow anyone with a few thousand dollars (sometimes less) to publish a book. There are few requirements other than a manuscript and money. This is a mixed blessing. On one hand it allows people to publish books who arouse little interest in the handful of major publishers. On the other hand, it allows books to be printed that are sloppily-written, or at times, clearly not deserving of being printed.

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The Passion of Job by Dr. Richard Spillman is published by Xulon Press, just such a company that caters to the Christian market. In fact, Xulon publicizes the claim (without substantiation) that it is the world’s largest Christian publisher. This book is not the type that would gain interest from a major publisher, yet is well-worth reading. Unfortunately, it succumbs to the stylistic sloppiness self-publishing is known for.

Dr. Spillman is a professor of computer science and engineering at Pacific Lutheran University – hardly the average job description of the kind of author published by a major publishing company. Through his twenty years of teaching Sunday school at his local church, he gained a deep appreciation for the book of Job. He came to see that his initial impression of the book was wrong. It is not a book, as many think, about God’s arbitrary nature in allowing suffering or the story of a God who cannot turn down a bet, but “a story about a man who had lost his sense of wonder about God and the lengths that God went to in order to restore Job’s awe” (page 12). The book is an examination of the theme of God’s awesomeness throughout the book of Job, and encouragement to Christians to recover a sense of awe before their Creator.

As I read the book I was struck with the parallels between my research and writing and that of Dr. Spillman. It seems to me to be no coincidence that this book arrived as I was writing a series about our tendency to put God in a box and our need to recover a sense of awe before Him.

I did, however, have a few concerns with the book. First, I am not entirely convinced of the author’s premise that the book centers on Job’s need to recover a sense of awe. It seems to me that such a premise may almost undermine the author’s intent. However, such a teaching is only very narrowly removed from a more traditional understanding. For example, John MacArthur, in The Bible Handbook, writes that a theme of Job is “Job simply commits his ordeal with a devout heart of worship and humility to a sovereign and perfectly wise Creator – and that was what God wanted him to learn in this conflict with Satan” (page 145). We could paraphrase MacArthur’s statement by saying “Job recovered a sense of awe before God – and that was what God wanted him to learn in this conflict with Satan.” So perhaps there is not a great difference between the two.

Second, as I mentioned earlier, there were some significant issues with sloppiness. There were plenty of spelling and grammatical errors, many of which could have been corrected by a program with only basic spell-checker capabilities (such as Microsoft Word), and all of which could have been caught by an editor.

And third, there were a few references to God speaking to the author. Some of this was beautiful, as when he described how the Lord gave him a passage to speak about at His Father’s funeral, for this is completely consistent with how the Spirit works. Other references were a little more confusing.

In the end, I found the book a tad difficult to analyze. I truly enjoyed it from beginning ton end, and I learned a lot. I suppose the primary problem is my own ignorance when it comes to the deepest meanings of the book of Job. I simply do not know enough about the book to know if Dr. Spillman is right or wrong in his analysis of the text, for I have never done a thorough study of it. However, I still learned much about the importance of having and maintaining an awe of God that is very valuable and precious to me. I recommend this book and hope I can read reviews by others who know more about Job than I do.

My ignorance of the subject matter prohibits a detailed analysis. But on the whole I found it strong.
Written in a conversational tone, but filled with errors in grammar and spelling.
I don’t know of any titles quite like it.
The importance lies in recovering a sense of awe before God.
A book I thoroughly enjoyed and can recommend.
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