I don’t believe in Stephen Fry’s god either!

Recently a video clip of Stephen Fry being interviewed by Gay Byrne on Irish National TV[i] has gone viral on the internet. Byrne asked Fry to set aside his disbelief for a moment and tell us what he would say were he to find himself face to face with God. For two and half minutes Fry berated God with a blistering attack, at one point comparing him unfavourably with the pantheon of Greek gods.

I was surprised by the emotional intensity of Fry’s antipathy towards a god that he does not believe in. Why does he get so angry about something that he believes is fantasy?

Leaving that aside, I concluded that the god he describes is not the God that I recognise and believe in. Stephen Fry’s key argument is that he cannot believe in a god who has created a world where there is suffering and pain. He cites things like bone cancer in children, and insects who burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind and then declares that it is not acceptable for god to create a world in which these things exist.

There is no denying that in the world there are innumerable things that cause pain and suffering. The question is where do these come from? The authors of the Bible, most notably in the opening chapters of Genesis, but also in other places such as the Psalms and the book of Job, declare that the world God created was good. Indeed at the end of creation God looked at all he had made as said that it was very good. If the world was so good at the dawn of time, where then did all the evil come from? Again the Bible gives us an answer to that. It is the work of a created, sentient being called Satan who drove a wedge between God and man and brought sickness, death and disease into the world.

The book of Job is particularly interesting because it deals exclusively with real suffering in one individual’s life. Satan is identified as the source of Job’s torment. God is shown as restraining Satan from unleashing the full venom of his destructive nature upon Job. Ultimately Job’s suffering drives him towards God rather than away from him; it intensifies Job’s resolute faith in God.

The god that Stephen Fry rails at is at best only a caricature of the God of the Bible; a caricature I am only too willing to reject. Perhaps like Fry you consider yourself an atheist. If so I would urge you to at least investigate what the Bible claims about God for yourself, rather than dismissing him based on what others say about him.

[i] http://youtu.be/-suvkwNYSQo

This blog post featured in the March 2015 edition of Hook Focus

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I am making everything new

Millions of people across the world will be celebrating the start of 2015 at parties and firework displays. The day itself is arbitrary and derives from the Gregorian calendar which was devised in 1582 but wasn’t adopted in the UK until 1752, 170 years later. The Gregorian calendar is the one most used worldwide, however there are different New Year’s days in the Hindu, Chinese, Coptic, Jewish and Islamic calendars.

For most of us, apart from the date, not much is new in January. Yet the significance of each New Year is something that is embedded deep within our culture. For the first few weeks of the year you may struggle to write 2015 at the end of dates but it quickly becomes second nature. In fact that is true of everything new! We quickly become accustomed to a new job, a new phone, a new car, a new house. In time the novelty wears off, and we become aware of other opportunities for something newer

Often we associate this hankering after something new with materialism, and sadly it can all too easily be a manifestation of that disease. However, I wonder if even deeper down in our beings there may be an innate expectation of one of Jesus’ final promises in the book of Revelation. John has just been given a vision of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ when Jesus says ‘I am making everything new’. Consider the most wonderful sights you have seen on this present earth – they can be breathtakingly beautiful. Yet a day is coming when even these places will be transformed and renewed beyond our imagination. This new creation will never fade or wear out, and we will never become jaded with what we see through familiarity. Our desire for something new will finally be satisfied.

Why?

Because in this new creation God’s original intention to dwell among us will finally be realised. Paradise is not defined by beautiful surroundings, rather it is defined by the presence of God. The opening chapters of Genesis describe how Paradise was lost in the Garden of Eden. The closing chapters of Revelation show how Paradise will be restored on the New Earth.

As you reflect upon this glorious vision, allow it to give you hope. Hope that will lift your eyes above the brokenness of this present world in a way that trinkets like smartphones, flat screen TVs and new cars never will. Live each moment of today in the light of our glorious eternity.

This blog post featured in the January 2015 edition of Lifelines