Stephen Fry, the British actor and comedian was interviewed about the meaning of life on a UK TV show called The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne. Here is a tiny bit of that interview:
GAY BYRNE: Suppose it is all true, and you walk up to the Pearly Gates and you are confronted by God. What will Stephen Fry say to him, her or it?
STEPHEN FRY: I will basically (what’s known as theodicy, I think) I’d say bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you! How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It is not right. It is utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?
In my on and off again research into the problem of evil, I encountered a fantastic resource from William Lane Craig’s ministry, Reasonable Faith. I would highly recommend watching this short animated video…. Multiple times.
It broke the problem of evil and suffering into two distinct veins: The logical problem and the probable problem. I mostly had dealt with the logical problem of evil whereby the arguer concludes that cannot be a God since there is all of this evil and suffering in the world. However, the more I encounter skepticism, I realize usually the issue is rooted in more of the second: the probable problem whereby the arguer, like Stephen Fry, will make the argument that it is improbable that God exists, given all of the evil and suffering in the world or, if God does exist, God is cruel and mean.
I have a great deal of sympathy for people who entertain this possibility. I remember when each of my children were born, the caring, sweet nurses kept checking on Elise and the baby. They told us that they wanted to do some tests to see how our baby was so we could be proactive if there were any problems. We took our little bundles of cuteness into the bright nursing station, excitedly taking in every new look and new noise the baby made, soothing the baby with our words and kisses. Then, like a horror movie, the nurse had informed us that she had to prick the foot of our baby and squeeze blood out on several pads of paper. As you would expect, the baby did not like this. Our first born, Eliana, cried so much she ran out of breath. I still remember the writhing and the quivering lips. Here I am talking and soothing her introducing myself to her; she’s learning the sound of my voice and then pain. I feared she would associate me with the pain. I kept thinking, “I’m sorry you have to go through this. I wish I could take this pain on instead of you.”
The process seemed to drag on because her foot was not bleeding enough to get a proper sample so the nurse kept squeezing the injured foot and rubbing it to get more blood flow. I hated the whole process. I could tell the the nurse did not enjoy it either but whether from the repetition of the job or the frequent looks of horror from new parents, the nurse seemed to grow calloused. With an air of, “It’s not that big of a deal. Get over it.” she kept squeezing the foot and rubbing it on the text paper.
If Eliana could have spoken at that time, I’m sure she would have concluded that she had been brought into a world of evil people who were focused on torturing her. Yet, as she has come to know her father, I believe now she would say that I want the best for her and many times, I have done what I could to ease her suffering and pain.
If people could get to know our good God, who did take on our punishment at the cross, who gave us life, who gives us beauty and pleasures, they would not conclude that God is evil. Without the proper framework on the pain and suffering, however, I can see how they could conclude that God either does not exist or is cruel. I do not want to grow calloused to the confusion and pain of others around me. I want to be patient and loving to those who, like a child are dumbfounded at the irony that a supposedly loving parent are seemingly causing them such great pain. Rather, with assurance and kindness, help them see the Father that so loved the world that He gave up His own son.