God Can’t

Why?” is a poem written many years ago by my sister Margaret – who died soon afterwards when a driver came out of a side-road without looking and hit her and killed her. She was twenty-five.


Why did our God make a world full of hate?
Was it because he discovered too late
The power of the devil to order our fate
And gave the world to him?
No. This can’t be so.

Why did our God let His only Son die?
Was it that men might pass coldly by?
Or historical warning that man should not try
Loving his enemies?
This cannot be so.

Why did He promise the Church His own power?
Was it to last just until that dread hour
When in Satan’s weapons man’s new strength did tower
To destroy his brother?
No. This was not so.

Why does He bless us with bountiful store?
Why does he then show the millions more
Who starving collapse in relief at death’s door?
That we turn then away?
No, this can’t be so.

Does God then bid us to live for the day?
Is His love temporarily under the sway
Of the world? And its hatred, its standards, our way,
Our protection?
This can ne’er be so.

Must we still learn to hate people unseen?
Must we not learn from our evil routine
Of destruction and want and the suffering these mean?
Must we not care?
This we must do.

Can we then trust in our God’s power alone?
Do we believe He is still on the throne?
That love conquers all, and that victory is won
When secure in His keeping we follow the Son
Love our one weapon until life is done,
And till His kingdom come? –
This will be so.

So far as I know, none of us ever “blamed” God for her death. Should we have? Listen to Stephen Fry:

Hm. And now read an “answer” to Stephen that was published in the Guardian. It was written by Giles Frazer and you can find the full article HERE.

  • What greater example of speaking truth to power could there be than this? And for absolutely no reward. For if Fry is right about God being an omnipotent bastard, then he could hardly expect to be rewarded for his honest observations. He tells the truth then burns in eternity. In this scenario, Fry is entirely heroic in his truth telling.
  • Too many religious people actually worship power. They imagine the source of ultimate power, give it a name (God, Allah, Yahweh) etc, and then try and cosy up to it, aligning their interests with those of the boss. In this they are just the same as many non-religious people, except they believe that ultimate power is metaphysically situated. Whether it be a king or a prime minister or a CEO or God: the temptation is always to suck up to power.
  • This is why the Jesus story is, for me, the most theologically revolutionary story that there can be. Because it imagines God and power separated. God as a baby. God poor. God helpless on a cross. God with a mocking and ironic crown of thorns. In these scenes it is Caesar who has the power. And so the question posed is: which one will you follow when push comes to shove? You can follow what is right and get strung up for it. Or you can cosy up to power and do as you are told. By saying that he will stare ultimate power in the face and, without fear, call it by its real name, Fry has indicated he is on the side of the angels (even though he does not believe in them). Indeed, Fry is following in a long tradition of religious polemic, from Job to Blake and beyond.

This is no answer. In fact it is nonsense. It is nonsense because the man Jesus was not God, whom he normally refers to as “the Father” or “my Father”: at most Jesus is called the Son of God, more usually the Son of Man; what we mean by the word “God” is not “someone” whether a baby or a grown-up, poor or rich, helpless or powerful, mocked or mocker.

The truth is that the answer both to the questions Margaret asked in her poem and to the point being made by Stephen is:


If He could, He would.

Let’s go back to the nitty-gritty, the heart of Christianity: not “God helpless on a cross” as Giles Frazer would have us understand it, but the crucifixion of a man who had prayed “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me,” and on the cross “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, and who, at the end, cried out “Father, into they hands I commit my spirit!”


If God is good, He would have prevented the Crucifixion from ever happening. But He didn’t. Which means either He didn’t want to prevent it, or He couldn’t prevent it – it had to happen. In other words, either God is not omnibenevolent (wholly good) or He is not omnipotent (all-powerful).

What do I mean by “it had to happen”?

If you keep tossing a coin, it won’t keep coming down “heads”. It will eventually come down “tails”. It has to happen. And if you toss it often enough, it will eventually average 50% “heads” and 50% “tails”. It has to happen.

Now suppose that “heads” is Good and “tails” is Evil.

2 sides

That is how the universe is. There is nothing God can do about it.

One day, the sun will grow cold and that will be the end of the solar system as we know it. Energy cannot be given out without the source eventually becoming exhausted. It has to happen.

That, as I said above, is how the universe is. There is nothing God can do about it.

Don’t say He could have created a different universe. It is how any universe would be. Light without dark is impossible. As is heat without cold. Likewise, though more subjectively, joy without sorrow. And even more subjectively, beauty without ugliness. And how about intelligence without stupidity? Oh, that’s not the same! No? “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”

This is the only possible universe. No doubt there are hotter worlds and colder worlds, worlds that are all desert with a few oases or none at all, or all sea with a few islands or none at all; and worlds that are all ice or all molten lava (and each of them no doubt a “best possible world” in its own way: imagine a seal in a desert or a desert fox in the Artctic). That is part and parcel of the universe. If there are other universes – a multiverse – the same applies, but on a larger scale: that will be the only possible multiverse. What happens there will be what has to happen: there will be nothing God can do about it.


No, I’m afraid He isn’t.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: