Culture

The Haphazard Theology of Louis C.K.

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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.

The production company named in honor of three-year-old arrogance.

The production company named in honor of three year old arrogance.

Among sincere atheists who deny the existence of God, it seems many more doubt God’s character. In another bit, Louis C.K. mocks the biblical account of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, portraying God as an insecure girlfriend demanding extreme tributes as proof of devotion. Louis’s sentiment echoes others made by the likes of Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins, who frequently question God’s morality.

This being they mock stands as the creator of everything, the Ancient of Days. To borrow Louis’s sentiment regarding his daughter, what are the odds that these men are right and God is wrong? “For who has known the mind of the Lord? For who has been His counselor?”

When we consider the arrogance of our children, our laughter and frustration proceed from the same source. A child’s defiance proves silly to us, but seems perfectly reasonable to them. Indeed, whether drawing upon our time raising a teenager or our memory of being one, we can attest to the fact that such arrogance gets worse as knowledge and ability increase. A teen’s rapidly expanding consciousness outpaces their experience, fostering a sense of infallibility and invulnerability. Many teens won’t yield to correction from elders, believing they somehow know better.

No evidence exists to suggest that aspect of human nature changes in adulthood. As we grow older, we simply run out of elders to doubt.

flat_earth

A lot of ideas sound reasonable until proven otherwise.

How silly might many of our beliefs prove if scrutinized by someone with a few centuries on us? We need not speculate on that question, because the answer presents itself whenever we wield modern knowledge against past beliefs like a flat Earth. What seems silly to us now seemed perfectly reasonable long ago. We believe differently now, not because we are any smarter than our forebears, but because we benefit from discoveries passed down over generations.

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?

The world isn’t perfect. Children starve. Women are raped. War and genocide ravage nations. Nothing seems fair or just. But when does anything seem fair to a child? When are teenagers ever satisfied? When do three year olds perceive the full context which informs their parents’ actions? Young people lack the capacity for such judgments, which is why they need parents in the first place. So too, we lack the capacity to judge God, and any effort to do so proves as silly as insisting Fig Newtons are pig newtons. We don’t know the precise reason God allows one life to thrive while cutting another short. We know only that He is God. As such, He defines good with the authority inherent in having made everything. What are the sheer odds that we know better than Him?