Truth to Power

Recently, the ubiquitous Stephen Fry was asked on Irish TV what he would say to God if he met him face to face

So very, frightfully clever.
Fry’s eyes narrow. Clearly angry, he rages like a Hebrew prophet about bone cancer and insects that burrow into children’s eyes. He pulls out an arsenal of blame, dumping it unceremoniously at the doors of Heaven because if God is the creator of everything, he’s therefore all-powerful and consequently jolly well ought to have known better. He could have done something but chose not to. 
I found myself thinking that Stephen holds life to be worthy and precious. Why then did he get so very cross with a creature in whom he does not believe? It’s like getting angry with a garden gnome.
If Fry is right about God being an omnipotent and capricious despot, then in spite of his courage in speaking truth to power, he can hardly expect a reward for his honesty. He apparently tells the truth then burns in hell.
In churches, lots of songs are sung about the greatness of God. This is why the Jesus story is revolutionary because it imagines God and power separated. As a deliberate act, God laid aside his majesty. God as a baby.

Detail: Titian – Madonna of the Rabbit, 1525 (Louvre)

God poor. God helpless on a cross. God with an ironic crown of thorns. Furthermore, it is this very powerlessness that subverts Fry’s accusation of God’s iniquity. For if we imagine a God whose only power, indeed whose only existence, is love itself – meaning we’re forced to think metaphorically about a lot of the Bible – then God cannot stand accused as the cause of humanity’s suffering. Rather, by being human as well as divine, he fully shares in it. This is precisely the point of Christianity: that God is not some distant and uninvolved observer but suffers with us all. Which is why, even in the midst of absolute horror, he and he alone has the authority to whisper in our ear that all will be well.

Actions speak louder than words
The other problem with Fry’s argument is philosophical because there is no such thing as the God he imagines. His is the flying teapot orbiting a distant planet and such a nonsensical, flying-spaghetti-monster God doesn’t exist and Fry is right to insist that it does not. Thomas Aquinas observed that existence itself is a questionable predicate to use about God. C S Lewis argues similarly – “…as if God had nothing better to do than simply ‘exist’.” For God having metaphysical shape and form is a narrative woven from human dreams and fears. God is the shape of reality we try, sometimes fearfully, to make of our lives. God is the poetry and the music, not a command and control player responsible for some wicked hunger game.

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