Monday, July 19, 2010

Does God Sin By Allowing Evil - Part 4 (C.S. Lewis)

In Part 2 of this short series of blogs, I addressed the Calvinist idea that God's standards for Himself are completely different from the standards that we are held to. This reminded me of a section of C.S. Lewis' book, The Problem of Pain, which discusses a very similar dilemma: How we would even be able to recognize the goodness of God, if His standards are so much higher than ours.

Now, in a different book, Mere Christianity, Lewis discusses some other topics that are relevant to this series of posts. Lewis does believe that God allows sin in the world, and in this section of his book, He explains how God can be in charge, holy, and yet let sin happen: Free Will

I would strongly recommend that you all read these two insightful books, especially The Problem of Pain.

Except from Chapter Three of The Problem of Pain, "The Goodness of God:"

Any consideration of the goodness of God at once threatens us with the following dilemma.

On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgement must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.

On the other hand, if God’s moral judgement differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white’, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good’, while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what’. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot

give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear—and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity— when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing— may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.

The escape from this dilemma depends on observing what happens, in human relations, when the man of inferior moral standards enters the society of those who are better and wiser than he and gradually learns to accept their standards—a process which, as it happens, I can describe fairly accurately, since I have undergone it. When I came first to the University I was as nearly with- out a moral conscience as a boy could be. Some faint distaste for cruelty and for meanness about money was my utmost reach—of chastity, truthfulness, and self-sacrifice I thought as a baboon thinks of classical music. By the mercy of God I fell among a set of young men (none of them, by the way, Christians) who were sufficiently close to me in intellect and imagination to secure immediate intimacy, but who knew, and tried to obey, the moral law. Thus their judgement of good and evil was very different from mine. Now what happens in such a case is not in the least like being asked to treat as ‘white’ what was hitherto called black. The new moral judgements never enter the mind as mere reversals (though they do reverse them) of
previous judgements but ‘as lords that are certainly expected’.

You can have no doubt in which direction you are moving: they are more like good than the little shreds of good you already had, but are, in a sense, continuous with them. But the great test is that the recognition of the new standards is accompanied with the sense of shame and guilt: one is conscious of having blundered into society that one is unfit for. It is in the light of such experiences that we must consider the goodness of God. Beyond all doubt, His idea of ‘goodness’ differs from ours; but you need have no fear that, as you approach it, you will be asked simply to reverse your moral standards. When the relevant difference between the Divine ethics and your own appears to you, you will not, in fact, be in any doubt that the change demanded of you is in the direction you already call ‘better’.

The Divine ‘goodness’ differs from ours, but it is not sheerly different: it differs from ours not as white from black but as a perfect circle from a child’s first attempt to draw a wheel. But when the child has learned to draw, it will know that the circle it then makes is what it was trying to make from the very beginning.

This doctrine is presupposed in Scripture. Christ calls men to repent—a call which would be meaningless if God’s standards were sheerly different from that which they already knew and failed to practice.


drwayman said...

Rebekah - What a great series! You seem to present Pike's position accurately and clearly represent the Arminian position.

What struck me while reading (and along with other experiences I have had with Calvinists) is that Calvinists and Arminians are both after a definition of God's sovereignty. Calvinists tend to emphasize His sovereignty by emphasizing His transcendence. Arminians tend to emphasize His sovereignty by emphasizing His immanence.

God is high and lifted up and beyond comprehension. His ways are higher than our ways.

Yet, God is also close by, a friend that sticks closer than a brother. God is Emmanuel, meaning God with us. Jesus said if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. Jesus invites us into close fellowship.

I cannot get away from God's transcendence but I sense His immanence most in my life. I believe God wants us to know Him, not just about Him.

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