Monday, February 2, 2015

Is God capricious ... and mean minded?

Doing the internet rounds (I see) is this response of Stephen Fry to a question about his relationship with God:

In a media world keen for a mix of controversy, comedy and doing without God, Fry's punchy, witty dismissal of God is just what the secularization doctor ordered.

It is hardly original to say that it reminds us of C.S. Lewis' great observation (and title of a book of his articles) that whereas previous to the modern era humanity's relationship to God was that of the accused in the dock, desperately hoping to find mercy from the Judge, now it is God in the Dock. If God has an acceptable answer for the problems Stephen Fry says imply God is capricious then, according to Lewis, we might be merciful to God and let him off his charges!

Tim Stanley offers a response here.

Even better is this by Madeleine Davies.

(Added) Even better is this by Krish Kandiah.

What do you think?

On any approach to reading the Bible, whatever else judgement day means, it will not involve us questioning God!


Jean said...

Hmmm well first I admit i had to google who Stephen Fry was.

What struck me was a comment in the middle something along the lines of, "I don't like the terms of getting into that place".

Interesting given 'the terms' are not believing in a malicious God, but in Jesus (who always seems to be left out of these conversations) who was no stranger to suffering.

I have yet to fully comprehend the motivation of the latest atheist crusades. I can see why one might want to share their beliefs with others but to convince people their personal belief is no belief? Where is the incentive for the one being convinced except to validate what they may already think?

A lovely Wellington billboard reads:
"We are all atheists about most Gods some people just go one God further"....

Whom by chance would such people be : ) ....


Father Ron Smith said...

I think an even better expos'e of the much-loved Stephen Fry is here:

However, apropos of your own comment, Peter, about Stephen's 'atheism', it can hardly be compared with the intellectual brilliance of the performance by his colleague Christopher Hitchens, in their debate - on another link to the web-site you have provided. I watched this item in full, and was impressed by their human intellect, which, however, seems to have been influenced more by the overt arrogance of fundamentalist religion than by the experience of Christ crucified, risen and glorified.

Human intellectual arrogance can be a problem in any area of life - not only that of spirituality.

I think a lot of intellectual atheism can be put down to the experience of religious fundamentalism - whether from ISIS or The Christian Religious Right.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I don't want to argue the point with you per se, as I am sure the causes of atheism are multiple and complex, but when we invoke names such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry, we are talking about scions of the British establishment who must have had plenty of experience of the "CofE" approach to religion in all it moderation, mildness and middle-roadedness.

No doubt they are reacting in part to fundamentalism, but none of them are contenders for "I was brought up a Fundamentalist, never knew anything different and now I am reacting against it" awards.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter. When you quote the C. of E. as being moderate, mild and middle-roaded - on issues of gender and sexuality - there is evidence that you are mistaken.

Evidence for this is in the response to the current issue of the need in that Church to accommodate historic misogyny.

Also, the need for an ongoing process to discern whether sexual difference can be accepted within the Church.

I don't want to continue arguing this point. But you did challenge me on it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hmm, Ron, I am talking about the general state of the Christianity experienced by prominent British atheists ... not quite sure why the CofE's approach to homomsexuality comes into the discussion. I was not challenging you on that score ...

Kurt said...

Obviously, Mr. Fry, if God is going to create through natural selection then certain creatures, such as parasites will exist. Some of these parasites will be helpful to humanity, and some will not be helpful. And just because God has all power and knowledge that exists, does not mean that He has all power and knowledge that does not exist—but which exists only in your head.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Good comment, Kurt!

The main problem for us human beings is that God has given us free will - to act justly or unjustly. The Prophet Micah had something to say about this. We are in an imperfect world - not entirely the fault of the human race, but a challenge to us. The question might be: How do we react to one another in an imperfect world?

Anonymous said...

"And just because God has all power and knowledge that exists, does not mean that He has all power and knowledge that does not exist—but which exists only in your head."

This is not true at all. Omniscience means complete knowledge - knowledge of all that is true and knowledge of all that is not true, and middle knowledge (i.e. what would have happened if other antecedent conditions had happened). Look up Molinism.

If innocent suffering is to count against the existence of a good and all-powerful God (not against 'God' as such), it can only be if the complainant can show that it is IMPOSSIBLE that God could have a good reason for allowing such suffering. And of course, no finite person can make such a claim because it isn't like a mathematical theorem that can be indubitably demonstrated.
Kurt Hill seems to be saying that God doesn't have omniscience and foreknowledge.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
Please use a name, at least your first name.

I am not omniscient!!

Kurt said...

Hmm. Perhaps, Anon, you and Mr. Fry have more in common theologically than you think…

Kurt Hill
In cold and snowy
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Not in the slightest. I don't share any of his atheist opinions. His ideas are very unoriginal and show little or no acquaintance at all with 20th century popular Christian thinking on theodicy, such as Lewis, Craig and Plantinga, let alone the classical work of Irenaeus and the Church Fathers. But why should he know anything about this? He's just an actor and quiz show host. The sad commentary on society is that these jejune ideas are trumpeted as 'deep'.

Paul West

Father Ron Smith said...

"I have yet to fully comprehend the motivation of the latest atheist crusades. I can see why one might want to share their beliefs with others but to convince people their personal belief is no belief? " - Jean -

Sorry, Jean, have only just caught onto the gist of this thought of yours.

Surely you have heard of the hideous acts of cruelty that are being claimed as due punishment for not believing in the God of the ISIS contingency?

This may not be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ they are talking about - but atheists may see 'Him' as the very same God. In that case, the atheists have very could reason to warn people off belief in the sort of God that could be associated with ISIS.

Atheists, as a general rule, do not seem to separate out the fundamentalism of the various understandings of the God(s) claimed by different religions. What they do see is the problem of anyone believing in a God of vengeance - in any shape or form.

Jean said...

Hi Ron

Yes that is a point, or a justifying point for folk who do not understand the difference between religions, and put them on the one hand.

It does not, however, merit much wisdom in reasoning, given the horrors atheistic regimes are also currently and have previously inflicted upon people.

Saw your Taize service for youth advertised looks great.