C.S. Lewis quote of the day

"The fact that God can make complex good out of simple evil does not excuse - though by mercy it may save - those who do simple evil. And this distinction is central. Offences must come, but woe to those by whom they come; sins do cause grace to abound, but we must not make that an excuse for continuing to sin. The crucifixion itself is the best, as well as the worst, of all historical events, but the role of Judas remains simply evil. We may apply this first to the problem of other people's suffering. A merciful man aims at his neighbor's good and so does "God's will," consciously co-operating with 'the simple good.' A cruel man oppresses his neighbor, and so does simple evil. But in doing such evil, he is used by God, without his own knowledge of consent, to produce the complex good - so that the first man serves God as a son, the second as a tool. For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John."

-C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, chapter 7

It seems that lately I have been again and again approaching this question "(Where) Is God at work in the evil things people do?" I think Lewis is right - he essentially is asserting some kind of mystical double agency - God in his power and wisdom is able to take into account even the willful sins of men even while he is working "all things for the good of those who love him." On the other hand, we may freely choose to do good, yet we know that it is by his grace that he "works within us to will and to do his good pleasure." So that there too, both he and us are truly and freely at work.

It is as though when God's will is working through me this does not negate my own will, but most perfectly fulfills it, since my will was concieved by God and he knows, better than I, who I am and what I - when I am most truly myself (in him) - truly will.

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Blogger John T. Meche III said...

man are you walking a fine line on the Calvinism issue. I read that quote and see Calvinism all over it! haha. Maybe I am reading it wrong, but I would agree with Lewis that we serve God's purposes whether we do good or evil.

3:54 PM, December 28, 2006  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Yes, but we still choose what we do - it is not determined for us. Therein lies the mystery of "double agency." And that is why it is different than Calvinism - in some sense grace is resistible and so we may reject or fall away from it. And of course Lewis would say Christ died for all. Calvinism isn't the only way of thinking about things that gives God his due - of course we all believe "he works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes" - one way or another. The cross is, as he says, the ultimate example of God's using someone elses evil choices to serve his own good and redemptive plan. Yet their evil choices were nevertheless free, otherwise they could not be called evil (unless God is capable of doing evil).

4:04 PM, December 28, 2006  
Blogger Nance said...

copy cat.
I do like the commentary idea though... I've always assumed that anything I had to add to Lewis's writing in the post would simply bring it down, and thus have refrained.

6:08 PM, December 28, 2006  
Blogger Stephen said...

You struck upon on of my most difficult questions for Dr. Abraham in my systematics class. He was talking about this complex good or as he called it the "most good" I believe.

Anyway my question for him was to apply this abstract concept to a real life situation. Was the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Christians at the hands of Hitler and Nazi Germany the "most good"? And if so how is God working through Hitler to carry out his purpose?

Dr. Abraham said this question still plagues him a little bit last time I talked to him and that he still doesn't have a decent answer.

4:49 PM, January 01, 2007  

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