A Response to Stephen Fry from the Roberta Winter Institute

by: Brian LowtherFeb 17, 2015comments

Stephen Fry is an English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist. I’ve seen him in a few films, most memorably as Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft in the second of the two Robert Downey Jr. films. Recently he was interviewed on an Irish TV network by broadcaster Gay Bryne. In the interview Byrne asked Fry a question about God and the meaning of life. Fry’s response has now gone viral and garnered almost six million views in just two weeks.

Byrne asked Fry what he would say to God if he encountered “him, her, or it” at the gates of heaven. Fry responded, “I’ll 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’s not our fault. It’s not right. It’s 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?”

Undoubtedly Ralph Winter would have responded, “That is a perfectly logical conclusion when we insist [on God’s role] in nature without any comment on the equally clear evidence of intelligent evil design in nature.”

I say undoubtedly because those were Winter’s exact remarks about a quote by Harvard professor Steven Pinker. Pinker was featured in a TIME Magazine cover story about Intelligent Design in 2005. In addressing whether the Intelligent Design argument held any water, Pinker very logically said, “What kind of a divine sadist would create a parasite that would blind millions of people or a gene that covers babies with excruciating blisters?”

You can see the article here. It’s worth the read, succinctly covering four perspectives on the subject, including Francis Collins, Michael Behe and Albert Mohler – all three are respected people of faith.

Similarly, Winter touched on this subject when addressing evolution. He said, “Even Darwin pondered the paradox of an omnipotent God of love and the apparently gratuitous death of his little niece, the premature death of his father, and the rampant violence and suffering throughout the nature he knew so well. His resulting proposal of a purely natural, and random evolution was in one sense his method of absolving God of blame for the evident evil in nature. It might have been easier for him had he seriously considered the existence of the factor of intelligent evil opposition to God.”

Winter bemoaned the fact that when communicating about our faith to scientists or humanists, many of us don’t feel comfortable admitting that some of what we see in nature is evil design, not to be blamed on a supreme being. “Few people refer to Satan these days,” Winter once wrote, “perhaps due to the mountain of strange guesses about his role.”

For many centuries Satan was the embodiment and explanation of evil. But for most people today—even many Christians—he is something much more trivial, a “relic of a perished past, a ludicrous ham actor,”[1] or as Winter liked to point out, “a cartoon character in red tights carrying a pitchfork.”

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity did not have any trouble with the concept.
“One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism [to this extent] that this universe is at war ... Enemy-occupied territory—that is what the world is.”

Quoting Winter again, “This scenario is the very opposite of sitting back and assuming that God does all things both good and bad. Rather, it explains the urgent and momentous obligation to distinguish evil from good and to fight all evil and every evil with everything in our command.”

This absence of Satan in people’s minds is what spurs comments like Fry’s and Pinker’s. How can we reply to such thinking if we do not unmask and attack “the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8)?

[1] Andrew Delbanco, The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil​

Brian Lowther

Brian Lowther serves as the Director of the Roberta Winter Institute http://www.robertawinterinstitute.org. Brian was deeply influenced by Dr. Ralph Winter’s thoughts on evil, disease, and the cosmic war, so much so that he spent many years developing a yet unfinished novel to illustrate Dr. Winter’s thinking.