Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mere Arminianism – Free Will, Predestination, and CS Lewis – Part One

My toaster doesn’t have a love button!

“No! And neither does a robot!” [1]

I Love Toaster This exchange, neither written nor uttered by C.S. Lewis, certainly represents his theology concerning the notions of God’s sovereign decree in election and of man’s autonomous will to freely choose God. Discussions concerning the freedom of the will, and by contrast divine election, are visible throughout Lewis’ writings - from his fictional works to his BBC broadcast-inspired theological Mere Christianity.

cs-lewis-2 In his unpublished paper To Choose or Be Chosen: C.S. Lewis’ Contribution to Free Will and Predestination, Georgian pastor John Alexander attempted “to reconcile predestination and free will through Lewis’ works and examine Lewis’ impact on modern Christianity through this reconciliation.”[2] Such “reconciliation,” however, is not necessary to understand the impacts of both Reformed Theology and C.S. Lewis’ theology on Christendom as a whole. Lewis’ relevant writings clearly point to a synergistic soteriology, while the Reformed to a monergistic one. These views stand opposed at their roots of the nature and ability of man to obey God of his own free will.

This series will first give an introduction to the opposing views of Calvinism (predestination-based theology) and Arminianism (free-will based theology). Next, consideration will be given to the overall thread of predestination throughout the Biblical texts. Then, Lewis’ own writings relevant to the discussion will be brought out an analyzed in light of the given biblical texts. Finally, occasions of Lewis’ writings giving support to the opposing view he did not hold will be brought out, and attempted to be clarified.

 

Defining Terms

Before delving into either the biblical texts or what Lewis’ remarks directly related to the controversy at hand, it is important to first define the terms used in the discussion. Concerning this discussion, theologian Millard Erickson brings clarity to the relevant theological terms: “’Predestination’ refers to God’s choice of individuals for eternal life or eternal death. Distinction between the two is in that predestination deals with the foreordination of both salvation and reprobation; election is a part of predestination, focusing specifically on those chosen for salvation. ‘Election’ is the selection of some for eternal life, the positive side of predestination.”[3] In contrast, the notion of autonomous free-will is “the power of an individual to make free choices, not determined by divine predestination, the laws of physical causality, fate, etc.”[4]

There are two additional categories by which the discussion may be divided into: that of the monergist and that of the synergist. Both of these terms deal with the work of salvation in how it relates to God and the sinner. The monergistic position holds that only God works for the justification of sinners, with the sinners themselves playing no part in the process whatsoever.[5] In contrast, synergism is the view that justification is, to some extent,[6] the process of God and the human being working together. Plainly, the Calvinist position declaring God alone elects to be saved is the monergistic position, while the Arminian position is the synergistic position.

 

… to be continued…


[1] What’s In The Bible? #1: In The Beginning. Tyndale House Publishers 2010

[2] John Alexander. To Choose or Be Chosen, 1.

[3] Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology, 908.

[4] Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “Free Will.”

[5] While the term “monergistic” does refer to God being the only one who works, as mentioned above, this term could, in theory, be used by the Pelagian to describe salvation in terms of man’s work – apart from God’s grace.

[6] To what extent this synergism is – whether 50% God, 50% human or 99.9% God, 0.1% human – varies greatly depending on the individual Arminian. No such God-to-human work ratio has ever been officially declared.

8 comments:

  1. Mike00000000001May 8, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    Our free will is biologically determined. Its in our brain. Its strength varies from person to person and from situation to situation. It is made of neurons. Thus through our DNA God has laid out the map of history, yet we have some free will.

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  2. @Mike - I would love to see this specific theological system you hold to backed up by Scripture. Where do we see this "free will DNA strand" in Scripture? Surely our theology should come from God's Word as opposed to our own musings.

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  3. Truth that is in Gods world is not all contained in the Bible. Some of it is revealed in nature. Otherwise, we would never have invented cars, computers, robots, and many other things that simply are not talked about in the Bible. The primary concern should be one of truth rather than just theology alone. Your theology is based on reality. Reality is bigger than theology, though true theology points to true reality. You have to admit that the Bible does not contain instructions on how to do heart surgery or make a computer, yet we have found these things out. That is because truth is not contained only within the pages. The pages point to a real truth that exists in the real world. And not all truth or reality is revealed by those pages. Our truth should come from scientific proof that is capable of correcting our beliefs. If the word of God is true, it will withstand the scrutiny of science. And I am happy to inform you that in my life it has. There is however one confusing issue, that of the human soul. If my views are incorrect, then science itself would show this to me or maybe it simply cannot answer certain things. But if I am wrong and there is available proof, then I will be proven wrong. So, since we are so confident that the Bible tells the truth, what does the Bible say about the soul? True faith and true science agree at their final destinations because truth is truth. As for musings, these are not musings but theories based on a lot of research. Science and theology both need to enter this debate because true science and true theology are both friends of the truth.

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  4. Not theology, but truth, should be our concern. because theology is mans interpretation of the truth. The Bible is true, but we must understand and not misunderstand it. And true theology and true science point to truth, so if you believe that the Bible is true then it will not be unscientific. If I am wrong, even science will disagree with me. So far science proves that there is a creator and that since other dimensions are possible then an afterlife is also possible. I see no conflict there. Synergism is the most scientifically and not surprisingly theologically correct view, but with a slant towards the more deterministic side.

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  5. @Mike - I would never claim "SOLO SCRIPTURA" - that Scirpture is the ONLY thing we need PERIOD, that there is no revelation in nature. Obviously I would never claim that the Bible is ALL we need in ways of heart surgery.

    Where you error is in your trying to then use the revealed truth of Science and create a theology from that. No. THEOLOGY is centered around how God has chosen to to reveal himself in the inerrant and infallible words of the Bible. Your belief of a free will because you think there is some correlation between free will and genetics falls (terribly)short because it is not built on the foundation of Scripture.

    I am not anti-Science; you should know. I am a tech nut and I rather enjoy blogging on my laptop... all which would be impossible without Science.

    My "theology is based on reality, and reality is bigger than theology?" I'm not even sure that is relevant, even applicable in any sense. My theology is based, again, on the Word of God. God has revealed himself to the extent that he has chosen in the Bible. If we want to know about him... sure, we can see his mark on Nature... but that mark is not his full revelation.

    Why do you insist on pointing to Science (INSTEAD OF THE BIBLE) for some theological system... when God has given us EVERYTHING he wants us to know about HIM and HIS nature in the Holy Bible? It is silly to try to add to what God's word reveals about himself... which is what you do if you try to say that for a proper theology we must consult the Bible AND DNA.

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  6. I am sorry for so many comments, but I need to add that I am ok with "correct" interpretations of Scripture which usually happen when you are using a King James Bible. Ok, Ill let you respond now. Sorry for so many comments, but I did not want to be misunderstood.

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  7. @Mike - synergism is quite UNTRUE because it is NOT found in Scripture. Where do you get the impression one is to take scientific findings AND the word of God hand in hand? It is one thing for Rome to incorrectly try to hold Scripture and Tradition in equal esteem ... you try to hold Scripture and Science!

    Synergism is decidedly NOT biblical and even bourderline heretical. I do NOTHING to save myself. I can't. In my sinful state, I am spiritually dead and I hate God. I cannot please God in my spiritually dead state. A dead person can do NOTHING to save himself - he's already dead. All this you would know and recognize if you actually built your theology on the foundation God laid as opposed to Science, which is constantly in flux with what findings come to light.

    I don't want theology in flux. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I want the truth once for all delivered to the saints.

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  8. @Mike - the KJV is a weak at best translation which has origins in terrible manuscripts, which we now know due to our finding older and more accurate manuscripts. But let's not stray that far off the subject.

    Dr. James White's The King James Only Controversy may be helpful in this area, as well as his ministry's page on the topic: http://vintage.aomin.org/kjvo.html

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