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a philosopher can run rings around this
on 8 April 2015
I share the dislike which many of my generation have for C.S. Lewis yet occasionally read him for what can be-gleaned that might be useful as apologetics, whilst aware that a competent philosopher could run rings around his arguments.
To believe in God is irrational, given the amount of pain there is and the fact that it is not getting any better; advances in medical science are matched by advances in disease and in man's capacity to destroy the world. Yet humans can sense awe and the fact that they protest against evil suggests that it is not the whole truth, that there is good against which it can be measured. Pain is only a problem, theologically, if one believes in a good god. Modern science accepts the irrational and that what is rational is so because of our attempts to find a pattern we can understand. God chooses to limit himself to allow us to have free will; this does not compromise his impassibility since he chooses to do it - supremely in Jesus. Four-fifths of this world's evils are the fault of humans - if we could not choose to do evil, how could we be free and human? (So far so good - and it allows a sinless Christ to be yet human - he had the choice but chose not to sin and was thus the most fully human to live because he surrendered himself to the will of the Father and thereby lives fully in tune with human nature as it was meant to be.)
A world in which wood turned into something as soft as grass if used to hit me and yet retained its hardness when I wanted to build a cabinet would be inconsistent - the advantages of creation have built-in disadvantages if we misuse materials. This is part of the choice-procedure.
Our reasoning is bent because of the fall so we cannot fully appreciate the justice of God and more likely to blame him for what is/our own fault. A man punishing his child because he is worth the effort, because he loves him and wants him to grow up betted so with God when he punishes - not by arbitrary acts but by a universe programmed by cause and effect. (I can see that we create our own hell by living selfishly yet this Elizabethan world-view seems out of touch with modern thought, not that the spirit of the age is necessarily right but surely apologetics should show some knowledge of modern thought, which Lewis doesn't apart from a few brief observations which he refutes without any reasons other than those which tie in with his medieval world view.)
When we are less than human, we are unhappy; our pain serves to remind us that there is something unhealthy about us, as does physical pain. With this I agree. Hence the Augustinian thing about our being unhappy until we find God.
Sin has a corporate aspect but this should not lead us to belittle our individual guilt - how true.
The chess player's freedom to play a good game with experience depends upon their being rules which are fixed - a good analogy.
Sin is still sin, even when we can't help it because we are caught up in it by structural evil (original sin redefined). A badly-behaved child is spoiled by his parents but we still desire his learning of manners.
God did not plan the Fall for a greater good. (Lewis here discounts considerable amounts of the writings of the early fathers who used the greater good idea to both keep God's omnipotence and man's status.)
Pain helps us to remember our dependence upon God. It is hard to remember God when all is well (really? I would argue that it is harder when in pain.)
Lewis goes on about the pattern of nature, dying to rise e.g. seeds, as showing the truth of 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness' (I don't accept that; the idea is repugnant and senseless to people not steeped in biblical imagery in such a depth that they cannot see it afresh but are conditioned by early bible stories to see it as logical.)
As for suffering producing character, I haven't seen enough of it to disprove him, but I suspect that it causes an equal amount of bitterness in many people.
Hell is argued for on the grounds that universalism denies man's right to choose if he is compelled to love God in the end. I do not see why. If the fully human is in tune with God's will and God wills all to be saved, can't he programme events so that free will will ultimately be exercised in the love of God? Not that free will is lost thereby but that God allows an infinite time (a purgatory for all?) for this process to take place and in which he allows men the freedom to reject him continually and yet still sets up new routes around the continual rebellions.
Condoning and forgiving aren't the same: forgiveness depends on man acknowledging his need of it? I don't think that's right - it is easy, indeed enjoyable, to for¬give someone who apologises profusely because it makes me feel superior. Where forgiveness is hard is where I know the person is hardened or ignorant and will continue but I love them just the same - if that is condoning so be it - but it is not complacency which makes me want to forgive, it is the belief that not to forgive is to harden them yet further and the make them more defensive whereas to love than unconditionally draws a loving response from them eventually because they are accepted as they are not to remain as they are but to respond.
Lewis knows some theology; he accepts the limited knowledge of Jesus for example, as part of what it means to be incarnate, but he is really an evangelical trying to argue the case for God whose love and justice are weighed in the balance and whose son pays the price for sin etc. This is a form of Christianity which moves many because its justice is clear, its ideas are readily understood but whose morality is that of a child of twelve who believes in absolute fairness and who, unlike St. Paul, cannot accept that 'while we were yet sinners', God went 'outside the law' - it is not about meeting the demands of a law, it is about accepting people as they are in order to draw from them the desire to become what they are made to be and in so doing find themselves.
If I want an acceptable book on theodicy, I turn to Rabbi Krushner's 'When bad things happen to good people;' in which he suggests that evil and pain are part of the teething problems of a world in evolution in which God has not finished and by which he has made mistakes in the course of his giving freedom to us.