Stephen Fry’s Theodicy. A few years back, Stephen Fry was doing an interview for the BBC. In the course of the interview, Mr. Fry was asked his opinion on God. Considering Mr. Fry is a staunch atheist, his reply shouldn’t be shocking.
Who Is Stephen Fry?
For those of you not familiar with him, Stephen Fry is an English actor, gay activist and atheist. He is probably best known in America for his acting rolls in the British television shows “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” and “Blackadder”. Fry was asked in an interview on the BBC what he would say to God if it turned out he was wrong, and stood before God at the pearly gates when he died. Here is just a part of his answer:
The fancy word for what Mr. Fry is arguing for here is called a Theodicy. The argument is that God is either not all powerful or not all loving, or he would do something about all the evil in the world. In this case, we are focusing on natural evil (earthquakes, disease, famine, floods etc.). These are things that cannot be attributed to God giving humans free will. They just exist as a natural part of the world we live in.
I showed this video to my Youth Group shortly after it aired, and one thing became apparent in our discussion pretty early on. Stephen Fry’s solution to the Theodicy didn’t solve the challenges or “evils” he was presenting.
What If Mr. Fry Is Right?
Let’s just say for sake of argument that Stephen Fry is right, and there is no God. Did bone cancer in children just disappear? Did the insects that eat children’s eyes wink out of existence along with God? Have all plate tectonics ceased, creating a world without earthquakes? No, none of that has happened. Stephen hasn’t solved the problem of evil; he just removed the solution to the problem of evil.
When making the claim that many atheists do about natural evil, they put a heavy burden on themselves. They must show that God could create a world without natural evil that would still function properly.
As it turns out, many of the natural phenomenon’s we call “evil” are necessary to maintain the natural order of the earth. The atheist must show that the earth would still function without plate tectonics, or that the insects that eat children’s eyes are completely unnecessary to the ecosystem. This is a tall order, and one that is all but impossible to prove.
Is This A Good Argument?
Not only has Mr. Fry not solved the problem of evil, but he has given a rather bad argument against God. I wonder what an atheist might think if the tables were turned. Suppose we take the argument given above, and substitute “Darwinian Evolution” in the places where God is mentioned.
So the argument now goes “Bone cancer in children, what’s that about? Why should I believe in a stupid theory called Darwinian Evolution that produces brain cancer in children? How dare Mr. Darwin create a system that allows for brain cancer in children?” Would anyone think that is a good argument against evolution?
What’s God’s Purpose Anyway?
The other problem here is that the atheist misunderstands the purpose God has for this world. Their view seems to be that if there is a God, His sole purpose for this world should be to maximize our pleasure, and minimize our pain. If that were true, they would certainly have a good argument that the world God created falls very short of its goal. But is this what God intends for us in this world?
It seems clear from scripture that the purpose of this world is for us to know and love God. If that is the case, then it should change the way we view evil in the world. What the atheist must now show is that God could have created a world with less pain, suffering and evil that would lead more people to faith in Christ than our current one. That’s an even greater hill to climb than simply getting earthquakes without plate tectonics.
Think of it this way. When are you most likely to rely on, pray to, or cry out to God? Is it when things are going well for you? No, it is in our deepest pain and anguish that we reach for God. For God to work in our lives there must be a need that has to be filled. The thing that would make God unnecessary would be a world without suffering or pain, for what would we need rescue from?
I hope this helps you think through some of the objections raised by natural evil, and gives you tools to respond to the objection should you encounter it. Have you ever run across this objection? How did you respond?
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