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God's Sovereignty & Human Responsibility

This chapter was the first piece I wrote which eventually became Mere Theology. It was originally given as a Lenten lecture to the Anglican Society of Columbia, South Carolina. After refining it a bit, I delivered this chapter as a paper at a C. S. Lewis conference at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and it was originally published in the bulletin of the New York C. S. Lewis Society. Thus, this chapter has had a long and varied life so far! If I were writing it over again today I might put a few things differently, but that's another story.
Here are the questions for discussion. I look forward to hearing your responses. . . .
  1. What do you think of Lewis's answer to the question: Why did God give free will to human beings?
  2. What do you think Lewis means when he says in Perelandra that predestination and freedom are identical?
  3. How does Lewis use the concept of God being outside of time to explain the apparent contradiction between predestination and free will? Is this explanation convincing to you? Why or why not?
  4. Is Aslan an attractive portrait of God's sovereignty to you? Explain.
  5. What do you make of Lewis's statement that the most deeply compelled action can also be the freest action?
  6. What do you think of Lewis's assertion about his own conversion that he was decided upon?
  7. How would you summarize Lewis's view of the relation between God's sovereignty and human free will?


browning said…
1. Re: Lewis's opinion that God gave free will to us to make possible love between human beings and God and also between human beings and each other: it certainly sounds reasonable enough to me.

2. Re: Predestination being identical to freedom. If we are predestined we have freedom from the uncertainty of making a wrong choice or decision.

3. Re: The "outside of time" explanation of the contradiction between predestination and free will. This explanation is not convincing to me. I do not completely understand what outside of time means.

5. Re: Deeply compelled action being the freest action. (I consider this question to be similiar to number 2 above.) The most deeply compelled actions would be the most free of the need to make difficult decisions or choices.

6. Re: Lewis's conversion having been "decided upon". I think that if his conversion had been a proactive, positive choice - he would not have used phrases such as "mouse searching for a cat" and "kicking and struggling" to describe it. I was reminded of the choice made by a parachutist re whether or not to pull the rip cord.

7. Re: Summary of Lewis's view of sovereignty vs. free will. I liked the view in his his letter to Mrs. Arnold that " is best to leave discussion of the subject behind and get on with living and making choices." I was also somehow reminded of a Yogi Berra quote, "When the road forks, take it."
I think Yogi wins the day! And I think Lewis is saying something similar. It is not a matter of choosing between God's sovereignty and human freedom; it is "both and".

Of course, none of us humans can understand completely what it means to be outside of time, because we are in time and almost totally conditioned by it. But God certainly is not. After all, he created both time and space. He lives in an eternal now. All the actions of our entire lives and all of human history is present to him. Thus there really is no such thing as PRE-destination. The term itself is accommodated to our human way of looking at things in time. God destines that those who choose his Son should be conformed to the image of his Son. See Romans 8:29 ff.

Hope this helps!

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