Answering Stephen Fry

Recently, Stephen Fry, a well-known atheist, made some very viral comments about God.  His comments are not surprising to anyone who follows the atheist movement and its beliefs.  His comments are what I would expect from a renowned atheist, and especially a European atheist.  For those of you who have not seen the video, you can watch it at this address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-suvkwNYSQo.

It is extremely easy to attack a worldview and make it look very bad with some well placed pithy quotes.  This is what Fry does in the interview.  However, like most people who attack the Theistic position, Fry is either woefully ignorant of Christian doctrine, or he purposefully ignores the strong points of defense against his statements so that he can sound intelligent to the uninformed who listen to him.  As Fry admitted in a later interview, his comments are not original, unique, or even modern.  That means there has been replies to his denunciations for millennia.  So, admittedly, my reply to Fry is nothing original, unique, or even modern.  However, since Theology is not taught in public institutions, and since most of the world is poorly educated in Christian apologetics (apologetics is the defense of a position, not the apology for a position), I thought I would try to reach at least one more person who is not aware of the strong answers to Fry’s accusations.

Bone cancer in children

Fry was asked what he would say to God if it turned out that God is real and he had to meet God face to face.  Fry stated that he would say, “Bone cancer in babies?  What’s that about? … How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. … Why would I respect such a … god who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?”

It is here, immediately, that he reveals how illiterate he is when it comes to Christian doctrine.  This objection brought up by Fry is answered within the first couple pages of Scripture.  I want to remind everyone that Fry is mostly arguing against the Judeo-Christian God.  If he would like to argue against this God, then he must argue against the God as described in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.  If he ignores these Scriptures, or incorrectly interprets these Scriptures, then he is no longer arguing against the Judeo-Christian God, but rather his projection of who the Judeo-Christian God is, and that is an informal fallacy when debating.

So, looking at Scripture to clearly describe God, we see that God did not create a world where bone cancer in children was an occurrence.  Instead, we see that God created the world perfectly.  God created the world where there was no death or disease.  My goodness, the world was so innocent and perfect, that Adam and Eve were naked, and did not even realize it.  God created a utopia.

However, in creating a perfect world, God also created the power of choice.  He gave mankind the ability to choose his own path.  Without this ability, the world certainly would not be perfect.  An Adam and Eve SimCity where there is no free choice, only complete direction from some unseen force, is not even close to perfection.  Most people will readily admit that they would rather choose to go to church than be forced to go.  Well, that is what God afforded people, the ability to choose.

The ability to choose had, and still has today, consequences.  Adam and Eve decided to choose not to obey God.  By doing this, the world was cursed with all kinds of maladies, and we are seeing the consequences of these decisions today.  So God did not create a world where bone cancer existed.  Mankind did.  God allowed these maladies to pervade the earth to remind mankind that we need a Savior.  Most sane people understand their own mortality and come to grips with the fact that on our own we are helpless creatures who only exist for a relatively short time due to the corruption we see occurring in and around us everyday.  This understanding should drive us to seek someone who can help us.  God is that help.

To continue this thought, not only did God create a perfect world, but He also created a way for all evils to be redeemed for something good.  God, knowing that mankind would eventually freely choose to turn away from Him, thereby wreaking havoc on His creation, planned beforehand a way of redeeming creation.  He did this through Christ’s death and resurrection.  Without getting too detailed, Christ’s death – an evil – was redeemed for something good – His resurrection.  Christ’s resurrection showed the world that this is not the only world for which we live.  There is something much greater still.  There is a realm where death cannot conquer and holds no sway.  Christ’s resurrection revealed that no matter how much you suffer (like a life of rejection, pain, and eventually having that life unjustly ended through a brutal crucifixion), there is still a redemption of that evil into something good.

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, injustice, evil, and pain are only temporary events.  Ultimately, all injustice, evil, and pain will be judged and redeemed by an omnipotent and omniscient God.  The results of this judgment will be what is eternal.  If we focus on this life only, as most atheists are guilty of, then of course things look hopelessly bleak.  However, this life is not the only life there is.  This life is only one part of life, a life that is endless, and has many unforeseen events yet to come.

From the Judeo-Christian perspective, Fry’s denunciations do not hold any weight.  If Fry would rather that God created a world where there was no evil, then God would have had to create a world where there is no choice.  That is not a better world.  Without choice, there is no true conscious.  Without conscious, there is no true being.  There may be existence, but there is no being.  Being is living with awareness, and awareness is provided through conscious.

Evil defined

I would agree with Fry that if God created a world where injustice reigned and it was the act of God that directly created the injustice, then God would be mean-minded.  However, that is not what God did.  God created a world where evil was possible.  But to better understand the implications of that statement, we have to be able to define evil.

Evil is the departure from what is good.  Without a standard, there can be no evil.  A standard can exist without a comparison, but evil cannot exist without a standard of goodness.  For example, we know that miscarriages are bad (not necessarily evil in the sense of morals, but bad in that they are not desired) because we see the standard of a live birth.  Live births are of themselves good, and we do not need a comparison to tell us that they are good.  We just know that they are good.  So the standard does not need a comparison to exist, but evil (the departure from the standard) does need a comparison to exist.

Choice is not of itself evil.  Choice can be used to result in only good.  So it is not necessarily evil.  However, choice can bring evil.  This does not make choice evil.  For example, the command, “Do not touch the stove”, is not evil; in fact, the command is very good.  However, when a child hears that command, he/she may have the curiosity to touch the stove.  The command, which is not evil, did however create a curiosity to do something that could be evil.  So just because choice could be used to produce evil, choice is not of itself evil.

God gave us the power of choice.  One choice, the one made by Adam and Eve, has indirectly caused all the natural disasters and misery that is not directly our fault.  However, our continued choices create a multitude of other sufferings that are indeed our fault.

Incompletely concluding

So you may ask, “What good can possibly come from bone cancer in children?”  My reply to that is, “Almost nothing.”  One reason I say almost, is because bone cancer in children should teach us to number our days correctly.  It should remind us that we are fragile and in need of help.  It should force our eyes to God, the only One who can give eternal and truthful comfort to the child.  With the knowledge of God, we know that pain will be temporary and God can resurrect us to a life without any pain or suffering.  Another reason is that bone cancer in children should cause us to have compassion for those who are hurting and it should teach us to try to help those in pain.  Just as God saw His creation suffering and sent His Son to suffer for us and take our suffering away, so we should see others suffering and try to be a remedy.

I realize the above words are not adequate to solve all the questions that you readers might have.  If that is so, please feel free to comment.  I would love to have further discussions with any and all.

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4 comments

  1. Keep in mind this is not me trying to speak for Stephen Fry. This is just me playing Devil’s advocate from my own head. But it seems to me (please correct me if I’m misinterpreting) that what you’re saying is that God gave man a choice between two things: good & evil. And he knew ahead of time that we would choose evil.

    If that’s the case then why didn’t god give us multiple choices? Good, evil, half good/half evil, none of the above, etc.? Or why didn’t he give us a double check? Like when you press delete on something and MS Word says, “Are you sure you want to delete this?” Or, why did the evil choice have to be so bad? Don’t get me wrong, this world could be a lot worse, but if you’re saying there was nothing evil before Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, then the world really turned on a dime. Asteroids, earthquakes, wars, viruses, flesh eating bacteria, birth defects, auto-immune diseases, hurricanes, etc. apparently didn’t exist in the pre-fruit eating world if I’m hearing you correctly.

    To me the comparison is akin to me setting aside a bowl of food for my dog and letting her know that she can’t eat it. I’ll have other food out for her and toys and everything she could need, but I’m also putting out this particular bowl of food that if she eats it, her life will turn into something way worse than her current life. Assuming that I have to put that food out to give her the choice (I’m still not 100% sold on the idea that we need choice, but that’s an entirely different topic) it seems the least I could do would be to put it up high so it would be more difficult for her to get it. Or I could surround it with a barrier or an electric fence or something. It just sounds cruel for me to make the food so accessible to her if I know ahead of time that her weak will toward food will likely lead to her disobeying me. Especially, knowing how bad her life will be if/when she caves into her desire and eats it.

    What’s more, if I’m all powerful and all knowing couldn’t I hire someone to stand guard of the food? Not to prevent her from eating it (which would remove the choice that seems to be so important), but at least to give her reminders if she comes close to it what will happen if she eats it.

    Thanks!
    Rich

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    • Rich,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The first thing is that a half good choice is still partly bad. Remember, in Judeo-Christian teaching, half bad is not good, and God is fully God, and cannot tolerate even half bad. We have to be able to understand the standard of God. God’s standards are so high, we cannot say, “Well, that is not that bad”, and expect God to think the same thing. An NBA coach has much higher standards than you do about what a good basketball player is. You cannot go to the coach and tell him he ought to lower his standards. His standards are better than yours. This should also answer your double check comment. If you miss a free throw, you do not get a do-over. Only amateur golfers get mulligans. No one on the PGA does. Why? Because the standards are higher.

      Yes, I definitely believe the Universe turned on a dime, however, some cataclysmic effects we see now could have taken thousands of years before they became as bad as we see them. For instance, viruses could have been carrying productive information when originally created. However, since the world was subject to decay, now the information it carries is destructive. This could have taken thousands of years. I doubt earthquakes happened before the Flood, but that is debatable. The gravity of the Universe was probably effected by sin, so that means asteroids flying out of line.

      As for your dog, I do not think you are giving Adam and Eve enough credit. Do you really think they had the reasoning capacity of a dog? Do you not think they were just as intelligent as you and me? Remember, they walked and talked with God. God did not just create them and ignore them. He taught them and provided everything they needed and more.

      Here is an important distinction: God knew they COULD sin. (Sorry about the caps; apparently I cannot italicize in this space.) Of course God also knew they would sin, but he also knew that they COULD NOT HAVE sinned. In other words, their sinning was not fatalistic. Remember, God does not only know the future; God knows the possible future. I believe we talked about this in previous conversations. God knows the almost infinite possible outcomes. That means that Adam and Eve did not have to sin. So God was not setting them up for failure. God provided a world where they did not have to sin. They could have if they wanted to, but they did not have to.

      Remember, God, knowing that mankind would eventually sin, also provided a remedy for the ruined utopia. Christ. God did not say, “Sorry. Your life is going to stink. I am done with you.” He gave us a way to have hope while living out the consequences of sin. This hope is way longer than the temporal suffering we go through now.

      Since you did not bring up choice, then I will not. Thanks again, buddy. Always fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Curtis,

    I see your point about PGA players having higher standards than amateur golfers. I’m not sure why human beings were held to such high standards, but I get your point.

    Please don’t confuse me. I’m not saying Adam and Eve are as dumb as my dog. I used my dog as an example, because I am way smarter than her. She’s not a dumb dog, but as a human being I’m way smarter than even the smartest dog. And I don’t think I’m particularly smart.

    I used my dog as an example, because the difference between my intelligence and hers is overwhelming. I doubt it’s anywhere close to what an infinite, omnipotent God’s intelligence is in comparison to a humans, but the analogy still works I think. My point is that God is theoretically way more intelligent than Adam or Eve or you or me. So, why wouldn’t he treat us with a similar methodology that I would treat my dog. I love her, but I know she’s going to eat the cat’s food if I leave the cat’s food out and then I leave the apartment. It happens 100% of the time. Since I know this, I make ever effort to remember to shut the bedroom door when I leave so she can’t access the cat’s food. I don’t blame her for eating it, but I still make it impossible for her to get to it because I know she can’t help it.

    So, if you’re saying that God believed we could handle that responsibility and still have the possibility to not eat the fruit then that’s fine. But he still knew it was a very difficult decision for us at the very least. Why not make it harder for us to access it?

    An NBA basketball coach has high standards for his players because he’s got millions of fans who want that team to win. His job is on the line if his players fail to execute his game plan. He’s got to trust them literally with his career. But basketball coaches aren’t infinitely smarter than their players. Arguably, most coaches are a little bit smarter than most players. At most they can only be smarter than they players in the way that some humans are smarter than others. Even the smartest person on the planet is way less smarter than the dumbest person on the planet when compared to how much dumber they are than the creator of the universe.

    If you believe this – and I’m assuming you do, but could be wrong – then why would God demand so much from creatures who are so much smaller and so much more fallible than him?

    Thanks, bud!
    Rich

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  3. Rich,

    You are correct in that God is infinitely more intelligent than humans. Scripture and I have many times described humans as beasts when compared to God. However, while your dog may 100% take the food, that is not true for human intellects. On the strength of will, I can walk past food that I really want, and even need. Animals rarely, if ever do that. So the human will cannot be compared to the animal instinct unless when comparing it to God. I do not believe that it was 100% certain that Adam and Eve were going to eat from the tree. We can help it, unlike your dog.

    God gave Adam and Eve every reason to not take from the tree. He gave them everything they could possibly need and even desire. He taught them the dangers of taking from the tree. He communed with them.

    Why did He not make it harder for them to access it? First off, it is not detailed how hard or easy it was to access. Secondly, God already provided them with every reason not to eat from it. If they wanted to choose it, then God was not going to stand in their way. I find it perplexing how people can use choice as an ultimate, and yet still want God to remove all bad choices. When God’s Word says, “Do not (enter any sin here)”, people get mad at God for being so demanding. Yet when it comes to the Tree, people demand that God make the possibility to choose harder.

    How much did God demand? He commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from one tree among thousands or millions. That is not that hard. Remember, Adam and Eve were not like we are now. We are now in a sin-state. They were created in such a way that they did not need to sin. They did. So we have the consequences.

    Why the dire consequences? Of course they were dire, but what are they to God? God can overcome death and anything else. So, to God, they were not so dire that they could not be undone in the right time. We are still waiting for the completion of that time, but God made a gigantic movement toward that time when He sent Christ to suffer the consequences of Adam, Eve, and everybody else’s sin. (I still have yet to write my post on the totality and sufficiency of God’s judgment, but that would help in our conversation here.)

    Thank you for commenting. I honestly get a little sad that more people do not.

    Liked by 1 person

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