RESPONDblogs: Maybe Stephen Fry Is Closer To Faith In God Than He Realises?

 

 

fry

I’m a big fan of Stephen Fry. Love him in the Hobbit…24…QI…and on and on it goes. Anyone who knows me realises that I’m a bit of a Star Wars devotee. And Stephen is best buds with Carrie Fisher, of all people. How great is that?

 

I’m also pleased that the RTE show, “The Meaning of Life”, has interviewed him and allowed him to talk about what he might say to God if he were to meet him.

“How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean minded stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain? That’s what I would say.”

 

Ok. Correct me if I’m wrong…but I’m hearing a bit of moral outrage in has response here! Amazing as it may seem – Stephen Fry’s reaction to the suffering of innocent children – is the very thing that sometimes leads people to a discovery of the real God. As Krish Kandiah ponders about Stephen…”I wonder if he is closer to faith in God than he realises?”

 

How does THAT work? I’m kidding…right?

 

No – I’m not. Calm the emotion…and let’s consider this from another perspective for a moment.

 

There is a Universal Moral Law

Yes – we all agree with him – the suffering of innocent children is wrong. But …why? Where did we get the idea of good and evil from in the first place? What makes something right? If we are simply chemicals swirling thru a randomly generated Universe, why would morality exist at all? As C S Lewis once said…

“A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

 

But morality DOES exist. People intuitively sense injustice. Lying is wrong. Bravery is a human virtue. It is good to care for our loved ones and not hurt them, etc, etc. My kids were black belts at this when they were little. We measure our experiences and other people against this straight line and we quickly notice crooked when we see it. (Usually leading to the cry, “It’s Not Fair!!”) Ironically, we also hope that other people DON’T measure US against the straight moral line (cos we are all too aware of our own inner crookedness and we do our best to hide it!).

 

So the question is…who first drew the straight moral line that we compare everything and everyone against? An ultimate moral standard must exist for evil to exist. Stephen is appealing to something and someone greater than himself, when he says “It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil.”

 

 

Is Morality A Natural Phenomenon?

Some would say that Moral Law is simply an artefact of the Universe. Morality is evolved social convention. But I reject this notion. Why? Because I think it misunderstands what morality is all about. You see – if morality is a result of evolution…then we have no right to judge anyone else. We have no right to appeal to any single straight Moral Absolute when judging anyone in the past, present and future. Because maybe the people involved aren’t as evolved as we are right now. Or maybe they are more evolved than we currently are!

Think of it this way – imagine that everyone has a moral meter inside of them…and everyone’s meter is set to a different number. If Morality was a result of cultural evolution, then that’s what we would have. If that’s what was going on, then we’d better just keep our personal judgements to ourselves cos we are all at different moral stages. Our meters are all set differently inside.

But we don’t have that.

Instead – we all appeal to a single Moral Absolute, a single moral meter that we are compared against. One straight Moral Line! The Moral Law. Our sense of justice disproves the notion that Morality is subjective. We all appeal to a single shared Moral Law…we share a general sense of right and wrong across all times and cultures…and judging from this clip…so does Stephen.

 

Here’s another reason I don’t think Morality is a result of nature. If the Moral Law was just naturally caused by the inner workings of our Universe or our biology, then we could use science to study it. But we can’t use scientific inquiry to study Morality. Rather – scientific inquiry is GUIDED BY the Moral Law (or not, as the case may be). Matter and Energy and Morality are separate and complementary domains in our Universe. Science allows us to explore Matter and Energy. Morality guides Science. The Moral Law sits just behind our matter and energy filled Universe…it underpins it. It is a separate truth from atoms and molecules, cells and DNA. But Morality is also as true as all of these things.

Morality is not naturally occurring – it sits just behind our Universe, it is imposed on us from the outside.

 

So Where Does Morality Come From?

Google’s corporate mission statement urges us…”Don’t be evil.” It is therefore better to be good. It makes sense. Or in other words…let’s use our matter and our energy to act like the Moral Law Giver…the one who first drew that straight line we all appeal to.

It must be a mind, a person. Because abstract truths like “goodness” and “beauty” don’t draw lines. What is his name? God.

 

God is the one that Stephen is appealing to with his talk of good and evil! In fact whenever we sit in judgement on God…we are ironically using our God given inner Moral workings…and appealing to our sense of God’s Moral justice as we judge God!

 

Do you see the contradiction in that? Well – either way…all roads are leading to God at this point.

 

 

Our Morality Points Us To God

This eventual realization led C. S. Lewis to abandon his atheism…and turn to the only historically underpinned and reasonable alternative. The God of the Bible.

“I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England”  (C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy)

 

“The Gospel is Good News. Not because it gives us a set of laws to live by, or religious rites to perform, but because it deals with the biggest problem in the world – the problem of the human heart.” (David Robertson, The Dawkins Letters)

 

I wonder if Stephen is closer to faith in God than he realises?

 

Advertisements

RESPONDblogs: Stephen Fry and the God that Christians Don’t Recognize

Stephen Fry’s response to the question, “What would you say to God if you met him at the pearly gates?” has gone viral in the last few weeks. Almost 6 million views to date.

In a previous blog post, I applauded the fact that in the UK we are free to express our faith position without fear of persecution or imprisonment. I’m glad that the much loved, and usually softly spoken Stephen Fry has raised this topic in public consciousness right now.

 

 

But having listened to his response, the question that must be asked is this – which God is Stephen railing against? Because it sure isn’t the God of the Bible!

 

I don’t know any Christians who believe in a God who has decided to create children with bone cancer, or a God who inflicts torture and suffering on those least equipped to deal with it. I don’t know of any Christian who would feel that this world is just as God intended it to be. Rather…creation is CONFUSED (as Romans 8:20, CEV puts it)…our world is messed up right now. Further – it is also suffering from DECAY (as Romans 8:21 puts it). But the hope is that creation would be set FREE from that decay. This is the hope of the Christian; a new creation which is free from the tragedies and the sufferings of life that so incense Stephen.

 

I agree with Stephen that the suffering should end. But I disagree with him that God is the source of the human suffering. This insane, capricious God of Stephen’s who inflicts suffering on children is not the God we meet in the pages of the Bible. The God of the Bible is working out his plans to positively recreate both us, and the reality that we inhabit in our lives.

 

Having gone to some lengths to point out the pain of human suffering, I’ve got to ask Stephen this. If there is no God, if we are all just chemicals floating in a randomly generated Universe, why is human suffering so important to you anyway?

 

Well – the tyranny of atheism says – if life has been hard, if you’ve been unlucky with your genes or your birthplace or just the breaks you’ve had in life…then tough! You just need to get on with it. There is no grand plan, there is no purpose. There is no point in placing any importance on one human being who suffers because in the end…whether that person is me or anyone else. I will die and the Universe will also eventually experience heat death…and it’s all done.

Dawkins is an expert at articulating a life without God.

“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” — Richard Dawkins

 

Yet as an atheist like Dawkins, Stephen cares about suffering children, even though without a God this seems like a strange philosophy.

So being a caring person like he is, what positive contribution does he make towards the problem of human suffering?

 

Nothing I can see (though I am absolutely sure he is privately generous to charities with his time and his money). And I do have a lot of empathy for him here…what positive response CAN Stephen give to suffering? None – because to the atheist, there is none. It just is. All Stephen seems to do is to blame God (if he’s there) and curse him for our predicament (if he’s to blame). As David Robertson says, the cry of atheism today is so often “God does not exist, and I HATE HIM!”.

 

And here lies the contradiction within Stephen’s position. If there is no overall purpose behind the universe, why does he speak as if there is? Why does he bother standing up for suffering children who are being robbed of their future? Here’s why – because he intuitively know it is ABSOLUTELY the RIGHT thing to do. His gut tells him its right even though his atheistic argument suggests it shouldn’t matter.

Why waste your time cursing the God you don’t believe in? If God doesn’t exist…why do so many people talk as if they hate him? Because our gut sense contradicts our irrational atheistic argument. We have a sense that he’s there, and we do all we can to drown it out in our lives.

 

Stephen is railing against a God that no Christian believes in. He is also incensed by the suffering that God doesn’t cause, and he has no answer to it. But the Bible clearly does.

“God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.” John 3:16, CEV

 

God holds the answer for people who are suffering. The answer is – LIFE!

Kingfisher Church Network, where I serve, is supporting our suffering family in Malawi, Africa right now. Floods have washed away lives, crops and homes. And like Stephen, we know in our guts that we MUST do something to help. So help is exactly what we are doing. But unlike Stephen, we have a good reason to do so. Namely that we view people as more than just a sum of their randomly generated parts.

  • People are individually crafted by Jesus.
  • As the church, we are Jesus’ hands and his feet. We are actively serving suffering, valuable people who each have a great, God crafted plan for their future.
  • People will never really die…and so their lives matter right now.

 

The irony in all of this – is that like them, Stephen also really matters. Stephen is also valued by Jesus. All it would take is for him to receive it! I do wonder whether Stephen would give God the opportunity to get a word in, though.

 

I rather hope that, were Stephen Fry ever to meet God, he would wait for a reply from God.” – Rowan Williams

RESPONDblogs: Stephen Fry, Oscar Wilde and the Wounds of Love

Oscar

I live in a country where people are allowed to express their views and opinions about God. And I love it. We aren’t risking life and limb by putting forward a case for belief in Christianity. Further – we aren’t risking persecution or murder if we put forward a case against God, as Stephen Fry has done in a very public way recently. Blasphemy laws are chilling. Freedom of speech is so important, particularly on the subject of God. Why? Because every person’s spiritual journey is a gradual one, where the decisions we make are never completely final. It is a journey of discovery. And discussion about our doubts, fears and objections is an important feature of this journey.

 

Stephen Fry’s response to the question, “What would you say to God if he met you at the pearly gates?” has received almost 6 million hits on youtube. And in one sense – I am not surprised, because he is a much loved British Celebrity who appears in everything from blockbuster movies like the Hobbit all the way to TV Quiz shows like QI. He’s a smart, well studied and talented guy; an honest guy, one of the good ‘uns. He has not hidden his personal struggles with depression. He has taken it upon himself to be a voice for those struggling with emotional and mental disorders. And this just takes him further towards people’s hearts. Rightly so.

 

I guess what is so surprising to me about his response to the “what would you say to God” question, is just how emotional it is!

 

I notice two themes in his response. But both themes centre on Stephen’s feelings of moral outrage towards God.

First – moral outrage against a God who would create the world we live in today, with all its suffering and difficulties.

Second – moral outrage against God for failing to intervene in the affairs of the world and reverse the suffering of countless people.

 

As a Christian myself, I think there might be a few different ways to respond to Stephen…and I’m going to try to explore these over the next few days. But to begin with – I love what Justin Brierley has said in response.

Justin his appealed to the shared love they both have of Oscar Wilde. Stephen portrayed Oscar Wilde back in 1997 in a movie. Justin points Stephen to one of Oscar Wilde’s short stories – The Selfish Giant – and you can see the response here.

 

 

Children played in the Giant’s beautiful garden, until one day he selfishly threw them out and barred them from playing there. As a result of his selfishness, a permanent winter descended on the garden. The Giant suffered through his winter until – one day – a little child appeared. Suddenly the Giant had a change of heart; he lifted the child into one of his beautiful trees to play, and as a result the curse of the permanent winter was finally broken.

 

Many years later, the Giant is very old. And that special little child who lifted the curse returns to the Garden. The Giant runs to meet him and suddenly stops. Anger erupts in him as he sees the wounds on that precious child’s feet and hands.

“Who dared to wound you! Tell me, so that I can take my sword and kill him.” But the child responds, “No, you cannot. Because these are the wounds of love.”

 

Justin eloquently explains why this view of God is both relevant to where Stephen Fry is coming from, and also where the Bible is coming from.

“Wilde recognized that God is not a tyrant who makes the world an evil place. In a world that has been bent out of shape because of us, where winter reigns and the blossoms are few and far between, we have a God who has entered the darkness and borne it himself. A cross and nail prints – the wounds of love – define this God.”

 

Oscar Wilde’s story concludes. A strange awe falls on the Giant. “Who are you?” he asks. The child smiles at him.

“You let me play once in your garden, today you shall come with me to my garden, which is paradise.”

And when the children return to play that afternoon, they find their friend the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with blossoms.

 

Stephen Fry rages against an evil, mad tyrannical God who seems morally corrupt. Yet the true God presented to us in the pages of the Bible is one who enters our own personal winter, he joins us in our suffering, because his goal is to lead us out of it into a permanent spring. For those who let him play in our own personally gardens (our lives), a wonderful future awaits us. And as Justin says, “that is a God worth believing in.”

 

“’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11, NIV