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The Haphazard Theology of Louis C.K.

The stand-up comedy star offers accidental insight into our relationship with God.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

November 24, 2013 - 12:00 pm
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Louis C.K. may not be the first person you think of when considering the topic of theology. Nevertheless, his work contains at least one observation about the human condition which reflects a truth about God found in Romans 11:33-36. That passage reads:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,

For who has been his counselor?”

“Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Unpacking those verses in a recent Sunday sermon, my pastor illustrated our relationship to God as the relationship between a young child and her parent. He recalled the experience of driving around town with his nine-year-old daughter in the backseat. Whether correcting his navigation or critiquing his road etiquette, our pastor’s little girl believes she knows how to drive better than him.

The tale reminded me of a stand-up comedy bit by Louis C.K. where he details a dispute with his three-year-old daughter over the name of a popular cookie:

So I give her a Fig Newton. … I go, “Here, honey. Have a Fig Netwon.”

She goes, “There not called Fig Netwons. They’re called pig newtons.”

“No, honey, they’re called Fig Newtons.”

She goes, “No, you’ don’t know. You don’t know. They’re called pig newtons.”

And I feel this rage building inside. Because, it’s not that she’s wrong. She’s three. She’s entitled to be wrong. But it’s the [expletive] arrogance of this kid, no humility, no decent sense of self-doubt. She’s not going, “Dad, I think those are pig newtons. Are you sure that you have it right?…”

… I’m like, “Really, I don’t know? I don’t know? Dude, I’m not even using my memory right now. I’m reading the [expletive] box!… You’re three and I’m forty-one! What are the odds that you’re right and I’m wrong? What are the sheer odds of that?”

These stories make us laugh because we see them from an adult perspective. We come at them with the benefit of an adult’s knowledge and experience. Yet, in many ways, we prove no less arrogant as adults when we question the ways of our father, God.

“How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” the Apostle Paul wrote. Like young children, we all like to believe we have life’s answers, or at least the means to discern them.

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Top Rated Comments   
I have no problem with your response, Geoff. It's expected and rational, given the perspective you have. Let me offer an alternative perspective.

What would we say to a father who neglected to instil fear in his children, who let them play in the street, who said nothing as they approached a strange dog, or the edge of a cliff, or reached for a flame? What would we say to a judge who failed to apply the law, who let criminals get away with murder, theft, or fraud? Would we call either of those things love? Of course not. It's because God loves us that he instills fear in us. We should fear the destruction which comes from sin, both in this life and the life after.

It's true, God gave us discernment and free will. It's also true that we pass those qualities down to our children. Does their nascent ability enable them to make healthy decisions without training, without discipline, without first deferring to higher authority? If my four-year-old could discern the way he should go, he wouldn't need me. One day, he'll get there, and that will be the day he moves out. Acknowledging your point that the father analogy only goes so far, we will never mature to a point beyond which we don't need God. Our discernment will never equal or surpass his. So we ought to rely upon his judgments and trust in his authority as we expect our children to do with us. The great thing is, unlike fallable human parents, God is never wrong. He has perfect total knowledge, perfect total ability, and perfect total presence. He operates from the ultimate high ground, dispensing righteous judgements which we can't even fathom.

You confess humanity's corruption when you admit "every human will commit some sins." The problem is, God will tolerate none. He judges all guilty for every infraction, just as a judge condemns regardless of a convict's accumulated good deeds. The good news, the Gospel, is that God's infinite love prompted him to offer his son as atonement for our transgression. Someone had to pay the price, because along with infinite love God also wields infinite wrath against sin, a product of his infinite justice.

Again, I exhort you to turn to scripture and search earnestly for its doctrine. Romans is a good place to start, short enough to read in one sitting.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
We're all vile dirtbags by God's standard. Louis just happens to make it funny.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (31)
All Comments   (31)
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Theodicy is a very weak argument against the existence of god (or gods). But it's a moot point: I don't argue against the existence of an unobservable, ineffable, supernatural being. The onus isn't on me to disprove the existence of god(s) (a logical impossibility, anyway). Extraordinary (and in many cases, preposterous) claims require extraordinary evidence. I don't see any, therefore I don't believe. Simple as that. I'm open to persuasion, but so far I haven't met anyone very persuasive.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fool! God does not have to prove Himself to you. It is up to you to figure it out. He has already revealed Himself to Mankind. How many miracles do you have to hear about before you finally believe? Does He have to come down to each and every dullard and show him a miracle, only to have the dullard respond, "Oh, it must be some kind of trick!"?

You think this an exaggeration? Despite having witnessed numerous mighty miracles, despite having seen the fullness of God's power, did Pharaoh convert to Judaism? Of course not. Same with all the wicked throughout the ages. They saw the miracles, and still did not believe. Jesus was crucified, not despite the miracles, but because of them. The Pharisees witnessed Him healing people. They knew of the resurrection of Lazarus. He declared a prophecy fulfilled, and had evidence to prove it, and still they refused to believe that Jesus was God, as was prophesied. In fact, He had to die. He was a threat to their power. The wicked refuse to believe, because that would mean changing their ways.

I could give you all kinds of arguments, based on physics, chemistry, the nature of everything, even the many possible dimensions, but none of them would do any good, because your pride makes you obtuse. Even a miracle would not sway you. Dense as stone. It's human nature. Pride wins over all.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are looking at it wrong.

We start with what we know, namely things exist.

We ask how and why things -- complicated, interrelated things that follow consistencies -- exist.

That this circumstance came about by random happenstance is by any definition an extraordinary claim. Why would one accept it?

Once you conclude that there is a design and purpose to existence and realize that this design would obviously require power beyond the consistencies inherent in the designed, then you start considering the nature of the designer.

If you put your faith in Jesus you will be confident that the nature of the designer is loving and good despite the evil that surrounds us.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy David G
My belief in God starts with there being a Universe at all. If you prefer the term Prime Cause, I use that one too sometimes.
My understanding of God gets very confused from that point on down the line. There is much that is marvelous and so much that represents kindness, among humans and even among animals. But "He who made kittens put snakes in the grass" too.
I understand human foolishness and even wickedness based on free will. I can't make childhood leukemia fit any model of God, so I have to accept it as a mystery. That neither explains nor justifies.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Leukemia... and other things. Life is struggle. All kinds of competing life forms. It takes fire to forge a sword, and it takes struggle to forge a soul. God is in the soul business. Bodies are fragile and temporary. Souls are eternal. This life here? It is merely our souls gestating. We are being born. These are the birth pangs.

As long as you think this is the important life, then you will never understand. This is a mere moment in time, compared to your coming eternal life. However, a child being born knows only the now. Maybe, though, somewhere in its consciousness, it knows it is being born, and that makes it okay.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The most unappealing trait of atheists is their pride in their own intelligence. But how intelligent are they? Is there one atheist as intelligent as Newton, or Homer, or Michaelangelo, or Shakespeare, or St. Thomas Aquinas, or St. Paul? I haven't met him. Are there any great men of history who were atheists? I don't know who they are.
When I was a cab driver, I gave a ride to a woman from India. She professed to me that Jesus is Lord. And she was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, inside and out. Are there any beautiful atheists? I haven't met any.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy Patrick
Too wide a broom for my taste. I've known atheists who seemed to be that way from pride. I was such. Came around to Theism more than to Christianity. But I've known atheists and agnostics who were great thinkers and people of generous spirit as well as prideful ones.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
His name is I AM that I AM, He is eternal meaning He lives outside of time, His first words to us are "In the beginning" which beginning is the beginning of time. We are in time, for us events occur in sequence and to view all history at once is beyond imagination. For Him Abraham and Isaak were both in view as His Son was on the cross. For our sakes He used the event to foretell the future so we might fear Him. If it was too much to ask, even seeing it's forestalling, that would mean our salvation was too much to ask. He makes the wisdom of the wise foolishness.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"So if we know that superior knowledge and experience prove many beliefs silly, why would we presume to know better than our eternal Creator how his creation works? On what do we base such a notion?"

I'll speak for myself but also for so many other people I know who just won't even accept this as a valid question, let alone the premise:

Why would we presume in the first place that anyone knows what our "eternal Creator" thinks? Wouldn't this be a prerequisite to "knowing better"? And why do you start with the premise that such an entity - responsible for everything we observe in the Universe - can be thought about using such anthropomorphic paradigms as direct "advice-giver" to mankind. On what do you base such a notion?

If it all comes down to belief that the Bible, Koran, Torah, etc were inspired or content--created by someone or something other than man, and if you presume to know this because that is what it says in these books, then isn't that the flimsiest of circular reasoning?

Sorry if I offend you Walter (or any other person posting here) because you seem honorable, thoughtful and well read and you are obviously a person of faith. But for me, such discussions are very hard to take seriously. (And no I am not an Atheist which I see as just another belief system)
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The easiest way to find out what someone is thinking is for them to tell you. Why presume that our "eternal Creator" would not want us to know what it thinks?

As to whether the Bible, Koran, Torah, etc. contain its thoughts to any accurate degree, I'd argue that's where using our rationality comes in.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Can God make a burrito so hot even he can't eat it?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
By definition this would not be possible, but with GOD all things are possible...

A conundrum in search of logic...
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Walter , a superb ,succinct analogy. Fortunately we have a patient God .
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Specific to the story of Abraham and the interrupted sacrifice of Isaac: yeah, I've always had trouble with that one. Is it an act of faith or blindness to be swinging the knife toward an innocent, bound to a rock, because God told you to do it? Is it a test of faith or something bizarre that God would tell Abraham to do this terrible thing to begin with?
I know that God and God's plan are more than I understand. But some things I can understand; I think this story reflects an ugly view of God and I can't embrace the story as it is told. I just can't.
One of my own basic theological tenets is this: if you are shown a God that falls short of your own aspirations as a parent, you should question that. Regardless of the source.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is an important lesson in the Bible. Notice, God was never going to allow him to do it.

It is equivalent to a father telling his kid to walk blindfolded across a busy street, assuring him it will be okay. When the kid steps out into the street, the dad yanks him back and yells at him, "Idiot! How many times do I have to tell you, never go out into the street without looking!"

In Abraham's case, he showed his trust in God, but failed the morality test. "Idiot! What part of, 'Thou shalt not murder' do you not understand?"

The point of the lesson is to mistrust things which are clearly immoral, regardless of the source... even if it should come from God Himself! Abraham's response should have been, "No. My God commands me not to murder. He would never tell me to do this. Who are You?" Remember, His Adversary can take on holy aspect, too. Or, to put it another way, the Devil can quote scripture, too.

Or, you can look at it like they did in Star Trek.

Kirk - "Excuse me. Why does God need a starship?"

Bones - "Jim, you do not question The Almighty!"

Of course, Kirk was right to question, which is the whole point of the Abraham lesson. Abraham was supposed to question what God was asking him to do. He should have known better! Abraham failed the test! What an idiot!

God gave us commandments. These are to be our moral source. He wants us to rely on this source. We have so much evil in this world, because too few people are using their moral judgment. We simply have too many broken moral compasses, out there.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
An innocent? There's no reason (other than children's Bible illustrations) to think that Isaac was anything other than a strapping teenager or even young man at the time this happened. He was showing his obedience, too.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy CC TT
A strapping teenager can be an innocent. There is no description of anything Isaac had sinned so he deserved being stabbed and burned. In fact the implication of sacrifice is exactly the opposite: that Isaac was to be sacrificed because he was innocent or pure.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Does God want us to kill our children -- even in the Old Testament? No. Were people killing their children because they became inconvenient or to appease some supernatural element back in the Old Testament days? Yes.

I think God was making a point in a very dramatic fashion with Abraham and Isaac.

The point of Abraham and Isaac is not that you should kill your children but that you should not.

19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Lawrence:

God certainly does condone killing sassy children:
"From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. "Go up baldhead," they shouted, "go up baldhead!" The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two shebears came out of the woods and tore forty two of the children to pieces. (2 Kings 2:23-24 NAB)"
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Further to Bill Lawrence's comment, they also probably weren't "children" in the cute doe-eyed sense that word sometimes elicits, but "young people". And the fact 42 of them were wounded / killed by just 2 bears (hint: these wouldn't have been grizzlies) suggests they weren't running from the bears.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Elisha didn't kill those children. A couple of shebears did. God commands us not to kill children or anyone else (Exodus 20:13).

So, no, God does not condone killing sassy children. Do you really want to make a theological argument that it would be acceptable to shoot a neighborhood kid for mocking you?

In Christianity, of course, there is a specific command to turn the other cheek.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Turn the other cheek" means to stand up for yourself, not to be a doormat.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Believe it or not, you hit upon the point of God's test in your final comment. Judging God by a standard of virtue which we define, rather than accepting the divine authority upon which He acts, guarantees that we will reject Him. The point of God's test was to demonstrate whether Abraham trusted Him, his authority, and his monopoly on righteousness. From a human perspective, what God asked seems atrocious. Yet, from God's perch of holiness and absolute righteousness, every one of us deserves the fate prescribed to Issac. We're all sinners, and the wages of that sin are death. What's amazing is not that God asked Abraham to kill Issac, but that God stayed the execution! Though I believe these events actually took place, they serve as a symbol of the Gospel of Grace. Issac truly deserved death, as do we all. Yet, in the end, God provided a substitution to atone and die in Issac's place. He does the same for all who believe, through the finished work of his son Jesus Christ.

Keep going back to the scriptures with a heart open to God as He is. You'll find him greater than your aspirations.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy Walter
You may not like my response.
What would we say to a father who ruled his children by fear? What would we say to a father, of whom his children said, "We are so grateful that he does not beat us very often?" What would we say to a father who seemed pleased at the idea of destroying his children if he felt they had treated him with something less than awe?
If what God wants seems atrocious from a human's standpoint, maybe it is atrocious.
The Author of the Universe is more than a father and the analogy is only that. But it's still a good reference point. I believe in a God of infinite love, a God who gave us discernment and free will. I know every human will commit some sins. I won't sign up for us being corruption incarnate, worthy all of us of eternal destruction -- because I do believe in a God of power and love.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have no problem with your response, Geoff. It's expected and rational, given the perspective you have. Let me offer an alternative perspective.

What would we say to a father who neglected to instil fear in his children, who let them play in the street, who said nothing as they approached a strange dog, or the edge of a cliff, or reached for a flame? What would we say to a judge who failed to apply the law, who let criminals get away with murder, theft, or fraud? Would we call either of those things love? Of course not. It's because God loves us that he instills fear in us. We should fear the destruction which comes from sin, both in this life and the life after.

It's true, God gave us discernment and free will. It's also true that we pass those qualities down to our children. Does their nascent ability enable them to make healthy decisions without training, without discipline, without first deferring to higher authority? If my four-year-old could discern the way he should go, he wouldn't need me. One day, he'll get there, and that will be the day he moves out. Acknowledging your point that the father analogy only goes so far, we will never mature to a point beyond which we don't need God. Our discernment will never equal or surpass his. So we ought to rely upon his judgments and trust in his authority as we expect our children to do with us. The great thing is, unlike fallable human parents, God is never wrong. He has perfect total knowledge, perfect total ability, and perfect total presence. He operates from the ultimate high ground, dispensing righteous judgements which we can't even fathom.

You confess humanity's corruption when you admit "every human will commit some sins." The problem is, God will tolerate none. He judges all guilty for every infraction, just as a judge condemns regardless of a convict's accumulated good deeds. The good news, the Gospel, is that God's infinite love prompted him to offer his son as atonement for our transgression. Someone had to pay the price, because along with infinite love God also wields infinite wrath against sin, a product of his infinite justice.

Again, I exhort you to turn to scripture and search earnestly for its doctrine. Romans is a good place to start, short enough to read in one sitting.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Louis CK is a vile dirtbag. That's all anyone needs to know about him.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
We're all vile dirtbags by God's standard. Louis just happens to make it funny.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
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