A couple of decades ago – yikes – I went to my first Christian Conference, an event called Greenbelt in the UK. The keynote speaker was Dr Tony Campolo, of whom I had never heard but since have come to respect enormously – even if I disagree with some of what he’s said, I still find his teaching provoking and inspiring.
One thing he said back then was that as a lecturer he would be challenged by his students from time to time as to how he could believe in God under the circumstances of the World in its current condition. Pain, suffering, injustice.
He said he would ask those who professed to be atheists a simple question: “describe for me the god you have rejected”.
Almost invariably their answer would effectively describe a leader of the ruling majority government of the day. A truly terrifying thought. The possibility in South Africa that God could in any way resemble Jacob Zuma scares the life out of me. Tony Blair or David Cameron in the UK are no better. For all his wisdom, even the Pope falls short.
But the answer reveals something. It reveals that the person has certain pre-existing notions of right and wrong. It shows that there is a glimpse of what ought to be as opposed to what is.
Stephen Fry, an intellectual man and renowned atheist, whom I also respect for his ability as an actor, his quick wit and his intelligence described in a recent interview the god he rejects. “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain. That’s what I would say.” was his answer.
Capricious. Mean minded. Injustice. Pain.
He attributes these qualities to the god he rejects. And well he should. John 10:10 answers the source of this pain: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” and His answer to it: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
I reject the notion of a capricious, mean spirited, unjust god. Actually, I accept there is a being that fits the description.
But at the moment, Stephen Fry can’t see that. The enemy has done a first-class job in Western Society of convincing the confused of his non-existence. If he doesn’t exist, then all suffering on earth has to have been created as some grand design by the one who did create it.
Oddly, these often highly intelligent people like Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins, seem incapable of spotting the flaw in their own argument.
If a man has no concept of what a straight line is, how can he declare the line he sees to be crooked [paraphrasing CS Lewis]. They fail to realise that they cry out against injustice from their ivory towers, blaming someone they don’t know or understand an iota of in the form of God, and attributing all the pain and suffering caused by the sin of man through Satan to God. He describes continuous praise and worship as a form of hell in the interview – much as the parody Dudley Moore and Peter Cook film “Bedazzled” (1967) shows it where Cook, playing the devil, has Moore dance around singing praises until he’s bored silly and says “can’t we swap places”. It seems Stephen Fry has this as the image of what heaven will be like – meaning if he has read the Bible, he’s completely missed the point. God’s perfection is designed to complete our self will, not destroy it.
Restoring Creation, the New Heaven and New Earth spoken of in Revelation, is the result of Judgement on Satan and the Love expressed through the Cross. Why would God force anyone who chose to reject that Love to spend eternity living in it? That would be unjust. So He will do what only a Just God can do. He will deny entrance to all who reject Jesus and His Sacrifice.
But I am close to digressing the point.
The description Mr Fry gives of the god he rejects, and the description I give of the work of Satan are almost word-for-word identical.
Perhaps he is closer to meeting Jesus than he realises.