Stephen Fry's Issue With God: Intelligence vs. Morality
The intellectual side of it [evil] we can keep debating from now till kingdom come. We talk about the theory of origins... we talk about the specified complexity of the way human life is, sometimes that which falls under the genre of intelligent design. But nobody would ever convince you that a dictionary developed because of an explosion in a printing press. Why not? Not just because it is thick, not just because a lot of it makes sense, but the specificity and complexity of the nature of language to take you from the beginning to the end shows you that there is an intelligence behind it. An intelligence that needs you to put it all together. And that is only a handful of a few thousand words made up of 26 letters in the alphabet. How then does that compare to our DNA, with its 3.1 billion bits of information? - Dr. Ravi Zacharias
I wanted to make a comment on the remarks made by comedian Steven Fry this last week (you can find the video here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/stephen-fry-explains-what-he-would-say-if-he-was-confronted-by-god-10015360.html) that have recently gone viral. What I do find interesting is that this isn’t really anything new. Steven fry is repeating the same quandaries that Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and many other card-holding members of the new atheist movement have expressed for nearly a decade now.
I could write a post addressing the fact that the concept of “good and evil” is arbitrary in a materialistic worldview, that Fry has to borrow from my worldview to even make a moral statement of labeling one thing “good” over another being “bad”. However, I want to approach this from a different angle, because I don’t think that is Fry’s true dilemma in this situation.
The problems most atheists and agnostics have today is that their problem with God is not an intellectual problem at all but a moral one. We can debate the intellectual side of it all and get nowhere, simply because the real issue is not a battle of brains. The root of the problem most people have is that of a moral predicament.
The Greek philosopher Epicurus made the statement that, "Either God wants to abolish evil and cannot, or He can and He does not want to."
Many of us feel the way that Epicurus felt when he wrote that statement. Either God is powerless to stop it all or worse, He is wicked and does not wish to. If God is great and powerful beyond comprehension (as the God of the Bible is described) then how can this world be filled with so much pain and suffering?
I would like to flip the question on its head. I would counteract that statement by saying that pain and suffering is the most powerful example of why God does exist. How? The fact is that we cannot talk about evil, suffering, pain etc. in its fullness until we assume the existence of God.
Why? Well if God doesn't exist than there is nothing in this world that can be labeled as objectively good or evil. If there is no purpose or meaning in this world than there is no objective right or wrong. What we are left with is our socially constructed meaning of the world around us. What one group believes is right, another believes is wrong, but it is all socially constructed; there is no objective right.
One group holds to loving their neighbor, another to eating their neighbor. Without a moral standard one is no more right or wrong than the other. In this way, if there is no good there is no God.
What this does then is make this entire discussion meaningless… It would mean we are having a discussion about something that doesn’t exist. The fact is that everyone in this world intuitively has some concept of what is wrong. We know rape is wrong, we know genocide is wrong, we know that murder is wrong, but why? Social construction? I would beg to differ...
It would not matter if we professed a belief in a God or not, when it comes down to it we know that there is a right and a wrong in certain situations and circumstances. Why is this important? Because we have no right to believe that these things are right or wrong unless we believe in an objective standard of goodness in which to judge these things. But where does this standard come from?
C.S. Lewis stated that, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust, but how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’? A man does not call a line crooked unless he believes in a strait line to judge it by.”
The concepts of suffering and evil don’t make sense unless there is a God. He is the one that shines the light on the situation, illuminating the definitions. Evil, at its very essence is a corruption of the good, evil is a parasite unable to exist on its own in the absence of good. God created a good and perfect world and sin corrupted and perverted that sense of what is good.
We recognize rot in a tree because of the reality that there is such thing as a healthy tree.
We recognize tooth decay because there is such thing as a normal tooth.
We recognize the lie because there is such thing as the truth.
Evil is merely the distortion of good. It exists because objective goodness exists. But where did this concept of a standard come from? Every time we are outraged by evil we are actually acknowledging that there is an ultimate standard, and likewise, an ultimate standard-maker.
Why then would a great and good God create a world with evil?
There is so much about this issue that we do not know, that we may never know till we stand before our maker in glory. There is no simple clean-cut answer and to put it in a way that would make it sound as such would not be fair to those going through painful circumstances. There remains a lot of mystery to this discussion because of the distance that exists between our understanding and God’s understanding. In the end, we have to recognize that this is an issue of faith that we must trust, if there is a recognizable gap between an infant and a parent how much more of a gap is there between a finite human and an infinite God.
If we were to try it would be something to the tune of this... the world was never created to be like this, it was made and declared "good" by its Creator. Sin has marred a world made good, a world with intentions gone arry.
The biggest proof of this is what we read in places like the Psalms:
Lord, how long will you look on? - Psalm 35:17a
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me - Psalm 13:1,2
How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fires. - Psalm 79:5
The secret things belong to the Lord, the revealed things belong to us. - Deuteronomy 29:29
When a one year old falls and cuts their arm, the parent does not sit them down and explain the law of gravity so they better understand why their arm is cut. The gap is too great in that instance and the exposition of the answer unnecessary. The answer instead is comfort and love.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. - 1 John 4:8
God of Love, World of Suffering (Part 1)
God of Love, World of Suffering (Part 2)
God of Love, World of Suffering (Part 3)
A Relativist's Approach to Rationality
The Absolute Truth in Relative Terms: A Story of Faith (Part 1)
The Absolute Truth in Relative Terms: Unwinding Faith (Part 2)
From Darwin to Dawkins, the Incoherence of Atheism
A Manifesto to the Thinking Christian (Part 1)
A Manifesto to the Thinking Christian (Part 2)