Theologians commonly read the Book of Job as the first attempt to grapple with the problem of evil. This is humbug, of course, but theology depends on the absence of a proper historical framework. What we can say is that Job’s friends articulate the classic (and, ultimately, only possible) response to the problem of evil, which in essence is also the one offered by Leibniz: human beings fail to see the big picture. Job agrees, but draws a different conclusion: God does what he wants, and it doesn’t concern us. Only, God’s actions can cause us suffering, and because we suffer, we cry out, yet God ignores our cries. The story of Christ can be read as a failed attempt to give the Book of Job its moral salvation.
Jan Philipp Reemtsma is director of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. Reemtsma studied German Literature and Philosophy in Hamburg and also received his doctorate there. From 1996 until 2007 he was Professor for Contemporary German Literature at the University of Hamburg. In 2008 he was the Johannes Gutenberg-Professor at the University of Mainz; in 2009, he was Schiller-Professor at the University of Jena. In 1981 Reemtsma created the Arno Schmidt Foundation to preserve, disseminate, and study the work of writer Arno Schmidt and has been on its board of directors since then. In 1984 he also launched the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture. In the same year, he established the Hamburg Institute for Social Research [Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung]. Among the honors awarded to Reemtsma are the Wieland Medal (1984); the Copernicus Medal of the University of Kraków (1987); the Lessing Prize of the City of Hamburg (1997); the Fine Arts Prize for Literature of Lower Saxony (2001); the Leibniz Medal of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (2002); the Heinz Galinski Prize for fostering German-Jewish understanding (2003) and an honorary doctorate of the University of Magdeburg (2007). Recent publications include: Wie hätte ich mich verhalten? und andere nicht nur deutsche Fragen (2001); Das unaufhebbare Nichtbescheidwissen der Mehrheit (2005); Folter im Rechtstaat? (2005); Das Scheinproblem “Willensfreiheit”. Ein Plädoyer für das Ende einer überflüssigen Debatte (2008) und Vertrauen und Gewalt. Versuch über eine besondere Konstellation der Moderne (2008, engl. Trust and Violence: An Essay on a Modern Relationship, 2012).