It Is Our Fault

"Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”

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.

 

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).

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