Saturday, 31 January 2015

On Stephen Fry’s comments…

The Bible says that God shows himself tortuous (froward or contrary) to those who are crooked. Its worth remembering that Stephen Fry is a man who has engaged in homosexual activity for many years, recently publicly declaring to the world that he wishes to live until death with another man. It therefore neither surprises me nor shocks me to find him making such comments. Obviously his lifestyle is contrary to the will of God, and he has to justify his sin somehow. He tries to do this by saying that the God and father of Jesus Christ is a wicked god. His outburst reminds me of Adam’s attempt to blame God for his sins, by saying it was the fault of his wife ‘whom you gave me.’ (Genesis 3:12)

Fry’s objection to God is simply a form of the old question ‘why is there death and suffering?’ 

The Bible declares that God made the world very good, but because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin and death has entered the world as a result. Just as we cannot know what a pear tastes like unless we eat it, so we cannot know what evil is like unless we experience it. Which is what now happens on earth. The simple truth is that God is not responsible for the deaths of babies with cancer, mankind is responsible.

Because God cannot lie, and because he had told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die - they had to die. We are told the wages of sin is death, and so we all must die. All illness, even thorns in the garden, are there to remind us that our days are numbered, that the world is not as it should be, and that we need someone to redeem the world and make it (and us) new. We find this person - the saviour of the world, in Jesus Christ.

What Fry forgets to consider is this. Suppose God removed all illness and disease from the world, would we then live in a perfect world? Would the removal of disease have stopped World War II from happening? Would the removal of disease and ‘natural’ death mean that men loved each other truly, and that the world would be a happy place, that men would no longer cheat on their wives or abandon their children?

We all know the answer to that question is no. The sin of mankind is responsible for the overwhelming evils that take place in this world, and the Bible reveals that this all stems back to the garden of Eden. It also demonstrates why we need to be born again into God’s family, and start anew.

Fry’s final comments illustrate the problem we have until we come to know God as Jesus reveals him (i.e. as a loving father). Fry refuses to enter God’s kingdom on God’s terms. This is the ultimate reason there is pain and suffering in the world - we insist on disobeying God and rebelling against him. God is not responsible for messing the world up, our ancestors were (and we have also had our hand in making the world unpleasant, every time we have sinned).

Jesus says that any death is to remind us that unless we repent, we too will perish (Luke 13). If a child dies of a terrible illness, God takes no pleasure in that, for he takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezek 18:32). But any death should remind us that this world is not right, because we are not right, and so we ought to look to the Lord for forgiveness, and seek to follow his ways, because we know that disobedience only brings sadness and suffering, and that in the world to come there will be no more of these things.

In short, I think the Christian response is simply to say ‘I used to think like you, that God was responsible for all the evil in the world. But now I see that my view of God was wrong. I came to see that I have caused my fair share of pain and suffering in other people’s lives, and that if God were to remove me as I might want him to remove cancer, then I would no longer exist. Indeed, it seems that with respect to evil God will either wipe it out, or redeem whatever causes the evil so that it may become truly good. That is why I came to Christ for forgiveness and to ask him to give me his Holy Spirit, that I might be changed, and made ready for the kingdom that is to come. This kingdom is promised to all who obey God, instead of disobey him - as my ancestors did, and as I used to do.’ I hope that helps. 

Hopefully that helps. (Sermon three in my book 'The First Eleven' expounds these thoughts further).

With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
For you save a humble people,

but the haughty eyes you bring down. (Psalm 18:25-27)