The one time you won’t be bringing up the problem of evil

I heard this week that atheist Stephen Fry was asked what he would say if he were confronted by God. Fry’s response: “I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s the about?”

Fry imagines that if he were confronted by the God of Scripture he would challenge him with the problem of evil. “How dare you create a world to which there is so much misery that is not our fault?” Indeed, I do not claim that Fry’s question is wrong by itself. It’s a question I can imagine King David asking, or perhaps one of the Old Testament prophets. It’s a question you may have asked, and its one Christian theologians have wrestled with over the centuries. But it’s not what you, or I, or Stephen Fry would actually say if “confronted” by the living God.

In his suffering Job wrestled with the apparent injustice of his predicament but when God “confronted” him all his objections were silenced and he simply replies, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted… My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2, 5-6)

The prophet Isaiah, too, had an experience with the living God. How did he respond? “Who is me!” he cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5).

When the nation of Israel was in the desert and they stood before the mountain of God and heard his voice they were filled with awe and fear. “The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear’” (Heb 12:21).

In the last day all will see the glory of God and will be “confronted” by the risen Christ. At the name of Jesus “every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10).

This is a vision that Stephen Fry finds repulsive, even evil. And right now he has the luxury of thinking and feeling this way. The question of evil is a tough one, and it’s one we may ask today. But it’s not one we will ask when encountered by the living God. In that day we will all be undone by the majesty of his presence. We are wise to take the counsel God offered to Job: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you will answer me” (Job 38:2). Better yet, we are wise to find refuge in the place God himself has offered us salvation, His Son, Jesus Christ.

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