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

Advertisements

Indescribable

I wonder which is your favourite season of the year? I have been enjoying the warm sunny days this September as we have enjoyed an extended summer.  However winter is on the way and as I write I can see that the trees are just beginning to lose their green lustre as their leaves turn to yellow, orange and red. There are few sights as splendid as an English hillside covered in russet trees glowing in the fading warmth of the autumn sun.

Whenever I see a sight like this the words of the song “Indescribable,” composed by Chris Tomlin, come to mind which has a line that mentions the ’colours of fall’. The rest of the song attempts to capture other breathtakingly beautiful features of the natural world: massive mountain peaks, vast ocean seas, white glistening snow, distant burning stars, and the diversity of the animal kingdom. The climax of the song comes in the refrain where, having absorbed the magnificent splendour of the universe, we are drawn to worship God as creator. Having struggled to use poetry to express the beauty of creation, how much more difficult it is to accurately convey the majesty of God – hence the line ‘indescribable, uncontainable’.

In the book of Job we read how this powerful and wealthy man systematically loses everything, his children, his flocks, even his health until he is left destitute and alone. Even his friends prove fickle as they accuse him of sinning against God. Naturally Job wants answers, and he wants vindication and he cries out to God in his anguish.

God’s answer? To ask Job where he was when the world was being made.

In his response, God catalogues the wonders of creation. Gradually Job begins to comprehend the awesome, indescribable majesty of creator God and his own insignificance. Job recognises the futility of seeking explanation and instead responds in worship.

Living in the 21st century we know more about the mystery of the universe, and the natural world than at any earlier time in history. Yet if anything the wonders of creation seem more magnificent than ever. When you next look out and see breathtaking beauty in the natural world, allow yourself to gasp in wonder at the indescribable, uncontainable, awesome creator God who made it.

This blog post featured in the October 2014 edition of Hook Focus