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Book 3, Chapter 12

One chapter per week study of a book that profoundly influenced C. S. Lewis.

Book 3, Chapter 12

Postby magpie » 05 Dec 2005, 19:38

Chapter 12 serves both as a recapitulation of the arguments presented in Book 3 and as a bridge to the issues raised in Book 4. Boethius begins by confessing his faith in the absolute sovereignty of God.
This world could never have achieved its unity of form from such different and contrary parts unless there were One who could bring together such diverse things. And, once this union was effected, the very diversity of discordant and opposed natures would have ripped it apart and destroyed it, if there were not One who could sustain what He had made. Nor could the stable order of nature continue, nor its motions be so regular in place, time causality, space and quality, unless there were One who could govern this variety of change while remaining immutable Himself. This power, whatever it may be, by which created things are sustained and kept in motion, I call by the name which all men use, God.
For Boethius, God is far more than a deistic First Cause or Prime Mover, the impersonal Creator who sets all in motion and then withdraws from further involvement in that creation. Rather this is a theistic God who continues to sustain and manage the world and who, through the attributes of will and intention, thus functions as a "person." Note, however, that God's personal relationship is described as limited to interaction with creation as a whole, and that Boethius asserts no similar relationship between God and individual entities. Hence God is "personal" with reference to the cosmos, yet at the same time abstractly removed from mundane human affairs.

Philosophy amplifies the above description of God's unique sovereignty by insisting that the will of this self-sufficient and absolutely good deity is irresistable.
Since God is rightly believed to govern all things with the rudder of goodness, and since all these things naturally move toward the good, as I said earlier, can you doubt that they willingly accept His rule and submit freely to His pleasure as subjects who are agreeable and obedient to their leader?
This brings her to the following progression:
1. Nothing has either the desire or power to oppose God.
2. God rules all things firmly and sweetly.
3. No one can doubt that God is almighty.
4. Nothing is impossible to one who is almighty.
5. God cannot do evil.
Therefore evil does not exist.
Then evil is nothing, since God, who can do all things, cannot do evil.

It is this startling assertion which serves as the bridge to Book 4 where Boethius at last addresses the thorny issue of theodicy, the problem of reconciling faith in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God with the undeniable experience of evil in human existence. Philosophy's terse "logical" conclusion could hardly be expected to satisfy Boethius who is writing in prison under sentence of death after being condemned for treason on the basis of false testimony, and it is clear that there is much more to be said on the subject. Nonetheless, I cannot help wondering both why he took so long to arrive at this crucial topic and how any sufferer could find even temporary "consolation" in such a counterintuitive assertion. Nor is this puzzle illuminated by the poem which follows, a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice which concludes:
This fable applies to all of you who seek to raise your minds to sovereign day. For whoever is conquered and turns his eyes to the pit of hell, looking into the inferno, loses all the excellence he has gained.
I must admit that I am completely baffled by what possible relevance this might have to the previous discussion.
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