C. S. Lewis on God’s Sovereignty, Free Will, and Suffering

It turns out, judging by the notes in the margin, I had read C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain some time ago. I did not remember having done so, but perhaps it impacted my thinking more than it did my memory of the actual reading of it. Or perhaps I had already come to similar conclusions before I read his book. I have no way of knowing. Below are a few quotes from that work which lay out quite well the tension between a sovereign God and humanity’s free will. It is a tension that is present in the Bible, without being resolved, and is affirmed by Lewis. It is ironic, then, that Piper and his colleagues quote Lewis in defense of their warped view of God’s sovereignty.

“If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free-will and at the same tie withhold free-will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combination of words do not suddenly acquire meaning because we prefix to them the two other word ‘God can,’” p. 16.

“That God can and does, on occasions, modify the behavior of matter and produce what we all miracles is part of the Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore, stable world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare,” pp. 21-2.

“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself,” p. 22.

“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love,’ and look on things as if man were the centre of them,” p. 36.

The biblical world is the real world, full of tensions between the call of God and daily life. The miraculous occurs but, by definition, it is rare. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “That God can and does, on occasions, modify the behavior of matter and produce what we call miracles is part of the Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore, stable world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare.” So we should not be surprised that it is not obvious to us all that God is directing all events, because God is not, but nor should it surprise is when occasionally things do not occur in the “natural order,” that miracles do occur, because God does, on occasion, intervene.

 

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