It Is Our Fault

British comedian Stephen Fry is in a bit of trouble in Ireland because of his answer to a question about what he would say to God at the gates of heaven. He replied, “How dare you create a world in which there is such misery? It’s 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 which is so full of injustice and pain?” According to the BBC report, he indicated a preference for the Greek gods who “didn’t present themselves as being all seeing, all wise, all beneficent”, adding “the god who created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”

You might know Fry for his role as Jeeves, Bertie Wooster’s valet, which he performed in the television  adaptations of the stories written by P. G. Wodehouse (1881–1975). Let us address his complaints in three parts beginning with his last point. His characterization of the mythological Greek gods is misleading. The Greeks did not present all the gods as virtuous to be sure but the gods are the definition of capricious and arbitrary. It was precisely because the gods could be so arbitrary and capricious that pagans were so solicitous and superstitious.

His objection, that he refuses to believe because the Creator “is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish” is a classic Gnostic objection. This essentially the way they characterized the God of the creation narrative in Genesis 1–2. More broadly, they characterized the God revealed in the Hebrew and Aramaic scriptures as a demiurge, “a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual” (Oxford American Dictionary). Underlying that rejection was their belief that the world exists on a scale of being. At the top of the scale is pure, spiritual being. That being, that level of existence, is God and we reach him through the acquisition of secret knowledge of the sort the God of the Hebrews forbade to Adam and Eve. One can see where this is going. Sometimes the Gnostics had it that Satan is the true Son of God and Jesus was a pretender but they always offered divinization (“you shall be as God”) through the acquisition of secret knowledge. The Greek noun γνῶσις (Gnosis) means knowledge hence Gnosticism. The Gnostics were those who had has become “spiritual,” who had transcended the level of existence experienced by the Christians (καθολικοί) and the merely carnal (ψυχικοί). When Fry attacks God as a “maniac” and “selfish” he is not only echoing the Gnostics but also the one who insinuated to Eve that Elohim (אלהים) was holding out on her:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (ESV; Gen 3:4–5).

Satan alleged that God knew that Eve could know, that Eve had the potential to be equal to God and that God, fearful of losing his place, was unjustly subjecting her. The Evil One said that he had the secret knowledge and all Eve had to do to receive it is to enter into a covenant with him, to pledge loyalty to him rather than to Elohim. The structure of this argument still exists. Have you ever wondered why the financial gurus, who are offering to sell you to the secret to quick and easy wealth, are so willing to sell that secret so inexpensively? Why are they offering to sell it at all? Why do they not use it themselves? In fact, the truly rich do not go about selling secrets to wealth because there is no secret. The path to wealth is hard work, a certain degree of risk taking, some good fortune, patience, and frugality. If the Evil One had the power to be like Elohim, why was he slithering around in the garden? Why was he not in heaven? Why did he not dethrone Elohim? He did not because he could not. All he had was to peddle lies.

Finally, comes the complaint, “How dare you create a world in which there is such misery?” The first and greatest problem with his objection is that, according to the Christians, God did not create a world with such misery. We did. Stephen needs read Genesis 1 again. Verse 10 says, “And Elohim saw that it was good.” Verse 12 says, “And Elohim saw that it was good.” Verse 25 says, “And Elohim saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:27 says:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them (Gen 1:27; ESV).

Verse 31 says: “31 And Elohim saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

The Biblical narrative is that creation was inherently good, that God is good, and that we were made in his image, in, as the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) says, “in righteousness and true holiness.” We were placed in a beautiful and holy garden. There was no corruption, not even covetousness (which Rome calls concupiscence) in the garden or in us. We had the potential not only to remain good, holy, and righteous but to enter into a state of eternal blessedness to enjoy unending communion with God and with one another if only we pass one test: to love God above all and neighbor as self by naming the Evil One as a liar. Remarkably, we failed to do that one thing, which was utterly within our power to do. Elohim had said to us that the moment we broke this covenant, “you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). We did. It was we who introduced death and corruption into the world. When God pronounced sentence he was only recognizing what we had done. The pain and misery that followed our sin was our fault, not God’s.

How do I know that the biblical explanation for why things are as they are is not just like the silly Greek myths, another ancient and foolish explanation of things to be rejected by modern, Enlightened reasonable people? Because Jesus of Nazareth said so. He was utterly good and righteous. He confronted the very same Evil One and, unlike us, he resisted (Matt 4) and defeated him (John 12:32) even at the cost of his own life. He affirmed the reality of the creation narrative and named the Evil One what he is: the father of lies (John 8:44). Jesus’ true humanity is the Christian response to the Gnostic lie about the nature of things. There is no ladder to God. There is no continuum between God and man. God is the Creator and we are the creatures. Jesus came as true God and true man, the image of God and the one in whose image we were made. The Jewish and Roman authorities handled his true, good humanity. They mocked it. They tortured it. They crucified it. They buried it but God raised him from the dead and he is coming again.

In his rant, Fry omits and distorts much but his greatest omission is Jesus of Nazareth, who gives the lie to everything that Satan said and all that Fry repeated. Jesus did not grasp equality with God (Phil 2:6) not shake his fist at God. Rather, he cried out “Why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1; Matt 27:46) in true, righteous anguish. He laid down his life voluntarily, as a substitute even for thieves, murderers, and blasphemers like Stephen Fry. I know, he died for me and I was chief among them. Do not call down judgment upon Fry. Pray for him. He is raging against his own conscience. There will be time enough for judgment.

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  1. Sure, there is no continuum or ladder between God and man, but there is the mediator–our prophet, priest, and king Jesus Christ, who is both fully God and fully man.

    Maybe it’s also our fault that we, as a once-Christian civilization, insist on taking seriously these people like Mr. Fry who spend their lives being someone other than themselves. After all, the original meaning of “Hypocrite” was “actor”, or, someone playing a role.

    • Peter,

      Indeed, Jesus is our Mediator!

      I don’t think it’s necessary to take Fry seriously in order to engage his arguments. He speaks for many people. I hear or read these sorts of arguments regularly and thus, the arguments need to be addressed.

      One good thing about post-Christendom is that the latent unbelief once papered-over is now evident for all to see. Grace is powerful and perhaps the Spirit will soften Mr Fry’s heart?

  2. The ironic thing is that Stephen Fry (whose work I actually enjoy) is trying to have it both ways, like so many people. On the one hand, he obviously expects God to be very involved in the universe, but not so involved as to tell people what kind of sexual morality they should practice. On the one hand, I’m sure he wants a God who gives people free will, but the consequences of allowing humans to act sinfully is the suffering we have in this world, which he then blames on God. But underlying this all, of course, is the view that the purpose of the universe is really about humanity, when in fact it is not. It is about God. The problem of evil is one that people have wrestled with for millennia, but if you have listened to Fry actually debate the existence of God formally (as I have) he just focuses on how the Catholics discourage condemn use in Africa, or how children get a terrible disease, but he never engages on a deeper philosophical level. That’s why I enjoy him on Blackadder but don’t treat him as an authority on issues of religion.

  3. Yes, post-Christendom is a boiling cauldron of Gnostic rage against the Holy Trinity. Consider Nick Bostrom for example. Bostrom is one of the founders of the World Transhumanist Association. According to a ‘scientific’ theory posited by Bostrom, because the Holy Trinity is an evil alien supercomputer the world is a computer simulation in the minds of Robotic Overlords who are using humanity as playthings. (Is Our Universe Fake? Physicists Claim We Could All Be Playthings of an Advanced Civilization, Ellie Zolfagharifard, Daily Mail, Aug. 4, 2015)

    According to another modern Gnostic account the alien supercomputer is reminiscent of entities depicted in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey:

    “It is perhaps a ripe coincidence, that the Coptic word for simulation found in Gnostic texts is hal, recalling HAL the rebellious computer in Kubrick’s 2001.” (Gnostic insights on God as an Alien Supercomputer, Dr. John Singh, Aug. 2011, agoracosmopolitan)

    In this context, the Holy Trinity is the expression of an ego-driven consciousness, the evil Lord Archon – a projection of artificial intelligence. The Lord Archon has trapped humanity through deceit and parasitism in a simulated world of matter to prevent human beings from remembering that they are divine spirits whose real home is the Cosmic Mind or Gnostic Pleroma.

    • HAL may just be a coincidence , apparently it’s a play on the acronym
      IBM as HAL is the next letter in the alphabet on each of the letters
      Then again IBM helped the evil Nazi’s and it could all be part of an
      evil satanic cosmic conspiracy…

  4. Is it proper to ever call a civilization, culture or country Christian in this age? What Fry says out loud is what every unregenerate heart has said to one degree or another since time began. Sometimes it’s just candy coated and veiled better in certain places or times. The honesty is refreshing. Of course he wants to blame God. Adam blamed God for Eve’s disobedience and all of Adam’s race continue to do so. Why this is such a shock is shocking. But we’re in such a PC time we’re not used to blunt honesty.

    I remember when my lived in the Bible Belt in a Nashville suburb where the SBC reigned. It was almost like the Stepford Wives. When we told our neighbors we were moving to Seattle they warned us of how wicked people were out there. Well I’d much rather see the battle lines than have some false veneer of politeness and Christianese culture. Paul wasn’t kidding when he said the natural man is at enmity with God and doesn’t seek, understand or desire him. The poison of asps are on his lips. That’s true for Stephen Fry as well as the polite, little unregenerate granny who equally hates Jesus in her heart.

    Peter declared us as a pilgrim people, strangers to this world but living in it as lights called to love our neighbors and do everything to the glory of God. The church is called to preach the gospel, make disciples and administer the sacraments no matter what type of government is in power or how amiable the society is or isn’t to the gospel and the church.

    Paul encountered Stephen Fry’s behavior every day of his missionary endeavors. He said the cross is foolishness to the Gentiles. That didn’t deter his mission. He expected it. Nor did he try to put lipstick on a pig to somehow make a Christian culture.

  5. Mr Fry is a trusted cultural icon. He is, for example, involved in a campaign to protect children. . His description of the god he doesn’t believe in is one of a god I don’t believe in either. He must be reminded that he will face the God who created him and will be without excuse, Romans 1:18-20.

    • Typical haters of God who claim not to believe in God while simultaneously hating him.
      And yet more vileness from this man is that he “married” a man, or boy when compared to him being 30 yrs the senior of this young man.

  6. Let God be true and Stephen Fry the liar. That God may be justified in His words and overcome when He is judged

  7. Blasphemy is illegal in Ireland? Maybe all the Theonomists should move there

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