A response to ‘Stephen Fry on God’

You may have seen a recent video clip that went viral in which Stephen Fry makes some very stark criticisms of God.  I have embedded the clip below this article in case you haven’t seen it.  In the clip Fry is answering the question of what he would say to God if he came face to face to with Him after death.

Fry responds by referencing the “theodicy” question, which simply put means “why would an all-powerful God permit (or create) suffering and evil?”  Fry proceeds to give a couple of examples of terrible evils, before describing God as “utterly, utterly evil” and as “a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God, who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain.”

I can sympathise with Stephen’s views, and the theodicy question is one that I have spent a lot of time pondering.  It certainly seems as though there is horrendous suffering in the world, and if God is all-powerful, which I firmly believe He is, why does He create such suffering?

My response to Fry’s comments takes a bit of explaining, but bare with me and please consider seriously what I have to say.  I believe that in order to answer the theodicy question we need to look to God’s own nature, and the way in which God may Himself suffer.

God and angelsI believe there are two important ways in which God could be said to suffer.  Firstly, I believe God is omnipresent.  This means God is all that exists.  We can expand on this and say, in ultimate terms, God is totally alone.  I realise the world contains apparently separate beings, but if God is alone and omnipresent, then we are all expressions of God, controlled and guided by God.  Life is like a puppet show, with God in control.  I would argue that God creates such a diversity of creatures, including human beings with all our various beliefs and ways of life, because being supremely alone is a kind of suffering and created beings are as close as God can get to experiencing relationship.  Might it be true that God experiences a hellish loneliness?

There is another way in which God could be said to suffer.  An aspect of God’s nature is existence.  This is an existence which is eternal; without beginning or end.  God is necessarily alive.  For God, there is never an ending.  There is no option of suicide.  There is no chance to ’switch off’.  God must live endlessly even if He doesn’t want to.  Why must that be like?  Isn’t that a kind of hell?

So we can see that there are several ways in which God might experience hellish suffering or agony.  In light of this, we might better understand why God creates such suffering in His creatures.  Perhaps God wants to give us a taste of “the real thing”; of what ultimate reality is like for Him.  If God experiences both good and evil as aspects of His own being, then why shouldn’t He give us a taste of all this as part of our own lives and deaths?

I’m aware that this view is one that is not compatible with the core beliefs of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), because, unlike those religions, I believe God is in control and therefore we don’t have free will.  I have written various articles on this blog about this (e.g. this one).

If you’re interested in my line of thought, I go into more depth about the nature of God and the nature of suffering in my latest book, entitled Ultimate Truth: God Beyond Religion.  More info about the book can be found here.

 

10 comments

  1. I find a lot of what you wrote enlightening, Steven. One point I will elucidate on is your point about why did God create this physical universe and the the postulation that He may have felt loneliness. Firstly as the God I believe in is the trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and so there has always been a relationship. As well as this there were the heavenly hosts/ Angels, a third of whom fell when God created mankind! Of Course I dont believe that God felt alone until on the cross and also perhaps in the garden of Gethsemani. but this was His own doing in order to experience what His created children – us – can feel! I think that maybe on the cross, when He cried out the words, Abba (Father) why has thou forsaken me? It was more a rhetorical question for us to answer. He was temporaliry cut off from the Father and Holy Spirit, to pay the price for my sins and others who accept His sacrifice.
    He was to experience this tortuous death as we would, but in our place!
    I am always open to other interpretations, as the path to enlightenment is never ending whilst we have these temporary forms. We are imortal spiritual beings having an human experience.
    Blessings be upon you my brother, Steven.
    Your brother in Christ, Peter.

    1. Hello Peter! I’ve always been fascinated about God’s nature and how other people perceive it. My view is that He is certainly very logical: the intensity of sound and light, two very different types of phenomena, vary according to the inverse square law. If an observer doubles his distance from the source, the intensity is a quarter of what it was before he moved. I can’t believe that this is just a chance coincidence.

      My own view of God is similar to Steven’s: I believe that He is Panentheistic, that everything that exists does so within Him. To believe that He was in some separate place when He created or brought into existence the universe and everything in it somehow puts boundaries on God. How can there be two spaces: one in which God resided and another which He created (the universe), which He then fully occupied? It is more logical to imagine that the universe was created within Him. Acts 17, parts of verses 27 and 28 read, “……He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…….”

      Also, although I’ve quoted from a Christian Bible, I wouldn’t like to treat it as a reference book as this belittles the alternative views of God: those of the Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims to name only three. We don’t have the full picture; God does. We believe what we prefer to believe because of everything that happens to us: our upbringing and our life experience. God cannot be impartial to our suffering or joy because it occurs within Him. And if Adam and Eve sinned then why did God tempt them in the full knowledge that they would?

      In God,
      Dinos

    2. Hi Peter,

      I agree with some of what you say. Thank you for your insight.

      For myself, I find it wholly unacceptable for persons to judge God ; or even comment on Him adversely without firstly reading the Bible; His Word, PROPERLY. Therefore, I am always amazed by anyone accusing God of cruelty and of causing/ allowing human suffering.

      God, the Father of Jesus Christ (There are many gods!) is a God of love, peace, simplicity and life. Satan is a god of chaos, confusion, destruction and death.

      Stephen Fry tells us what he would say to God face to face. What, I might ask, would he say to Satan face to face … the true creator of evil, suffering and death??? I like Stephen Fry but he is a prime example of ‘one who is deceived’.

      One only needs to witness the evil corruption in the legal system now which punishes the innocent and rewards the criminals which causes despicable and untold suffering; even death! Is God responsible for that?
      Absolutely not!

      In part of your answer, Peter you mention the heavenly hosts/ Angels and that some ‘fell’ when God created mankind.
      The Bible clearly tells us that Lucifer; now Satan the chief angel was THROWN OUT of heaven when he rebelled against God along with his mischeif making followers. It further says that Satan is the ruler of this Earth.

      There is more devil worship going on now than at any other time in the history of man

      How is it so difficult for ‘some’ in taking on board that which is so clearly written and actually in evidence today? Satan; ‘the deciever of all mankind’ created lies and deceipt. His days are numbered and he’ll take as many decieved beings with him as he possibly can.

      The more horror and suffering he can conjure up ie: Child cancer (Stephen Fry specifically mentions that) weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, politics, war, famine and any kind of evil and suffering, the more his plan of evil deceit will triumph due to the unread and illinformed blaming God for all the worlds ills instead of Satan.

      Sadly, Satan has long since infiltrated the main religious bodies/ churches (I use that word purposely because it is now little more than apostate christianity ; the word religion isn’t even in the Bible) so the true message in the Bible is no longer being taught within those religious institutions.

      The thing to remember in searching for the truth is that, God does not change. His written laws are there to keep us safe if we obey them without compromise. Granted, it’s an exceptionally tough path.

      Churches take on the ‘fashionable’ or rather, politically correct doctrines of men; instead of God taking from the Bible the bits they want parishoners to believe … and eventually adhere to, or wish to hear… ‘they tickle their ears’.
      The Bible actually warns that, that will happen, and it has!

      To teach populist doctrine… so far removed from God’s original written word … is to have secumbed to satan’s wiles because those preachers are actually leading unsuspecting people away from God. He warns us in the Bible to ‘be vigilant’ to specifically safeguard us from it.

      Healthy debate is a good thing depending on the topic but, God is not impressed by or interested in those who complicate His message by theorising on His personality and His purpose for mankind without listening to Him first.

      His Word is there in beauty and simplicity for everyone to read and understand perfectly… but then one must ask God for the understanding before studying His Word. It is the beginning of our wisdom and our ongoing personal relationship with God the Father of Jesus Christ.

      He tells us quite clearly: ‘My ways are higher than yours’ so without His help; even intellectuals will fail to grasp the true message… more especially intellectuals in actual fact who have the potential to muddy the waters unnecessarily!.

      So, to all those genuinely and honestly searching for the truth: why don’t you humble yourselves by going to God, the Father of Jesus Christ who gave you life, on your own and in perfect silence … not through any politically correct church teaching false doctrine … in deep prayer and just ask Him? And He will answer.

      1. Hi Mrs Thomas,

        Many thanks for your comment. I used to be a Christian and at times I have believed much of what you believe about God and Satan. But I came to realise the idea of Satan is nonsensical. Part of God’s nature is omnipresence (God is everywhere) so there is no part of the cosmos that is separate from God. There is therefore no room for any being who is in competition with God. Even if we did have free will and Satan did exist, God is surely all-powerful and would put an end to his reign rather than allow the kind of suffering we find on Earth (that is, assuming the Christian position that God is all-loving).

        When Christians pray to God they are acknowledging God is in control of their lives and has the power to change their lives. So to then say Satan has any power seems to me to be a strange contradiction.

        This post explains why I don’t believe in free will: https://perfectchaos.org/2013/09/11/truth-beyond-christianity-there-is-no-free-will/

        I have asked God about all these matters in prayer, and the answers I have are not Christian answers, though I love Christians very much and many of my friends are Christian. It’s good to keep an open mind.

        Best wishes, Steven

      2. Hi Mrs Thomas!

        It’s always good to hear from people with views different from my own. I believe in the inclusive nature of Christ who mingled with all. It is unfortunate, in my view, that much of the Holy Bible is devisive and exclusive; some will be saved and others will not. But Christ died for the sins of mankind, not for a selection of mankind. That would suggest that Christ’s salvific power is less than Adam’s power to cause the mortality of mankind!

        I’m not trying to be intellectual about it. We have something else: critical faculty. If we meet some one who tells us something we doubt, where does that doubt arise? It is a God-given gift that we can doubt. How do we deal with what we think is misinformation? We check other sources. Contradictions help us to learn and to improve our critical faculties.

        It seems that many of us put all this aside when it comes to the Bible. It is a compilation of many texts, most of which were written in Greek some time after the events they describe. We have the problem of translation and the meanings of words which change according to historical and cultural context. We assume that any apparent contradictions between biblical texts are due to our own failings and ask God’s help to understand His word. Where do we learn that the Bible is the word of God? We learn it from the Bible itself – a created work of man about our uncreated God!

        I’m not defending Stephen Fry, but the right of all human beings not to be judged by others, and the expectation that we will all be united with God, eventually.

        Dinos Constantinou

  2. Hi Peter, good to hear from you and thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree with what you said about us being immortal spiritual beings having a human experience. Peace and many blessings to you too!

  3. In my limited understanding, informed by Scripture, Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) is the one who divides – he said it himself (father against son etc, sheep from the goats). This happens as a result of our choice. If we choose to reject him, after he has given his very life to save us, then logically, we cannot enter his rest as God is just. When he sends us away to everlasting life or punishment, he is simply verbalising our decision to reject his helping hand.

  4. Hi!

    There are scriptural passages that suggest that all humans will be saved; the link below quotes some:

    http://frimmin.com/faith/godislove.php

    We are not obliged to dwell on scriptural passages that suggest if we reject Christ we shall be consigned to everlasting punishment. This dwelling is a ‘choice’ in itself and assumes that we have a choice; some scriptural passages suggest that it is God who decides and that we have no choice! Below is a useful link that discusses this issue:

    http://www.roomfordoubt.com/examine/2/Questions-of-Faith/74/Does-God-choose-who-will-be-saved-and-who-will-be-lost

    Peace and love to all,

    Dinos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s